Escanaba, Mich. -- Fishing from the back deck has been very good for Brian Mailot the first couple of competition days of the BASS Federation Nation Northern Divisional at Bays de Noc.
After catching a 19-pound, 13-ounce limit the first day, the 41-year-old non-boater took over the tournament lead by weighing in a 19-4 sack full of smallmouth bass.
"This is a great fishery," said Mailot, a hydrologic technician with the U.S. Geological Survey. "It was just tough figuring things out (during practice) because it is such big water. I am pretty new at fishing the Great Lakes and smallmouth so I am still learning this."
He is proving to be a fast learner as the Columbus, Ohio angler has emerged as the tournament's pace setter with 39 pounds, 1 ounce.
Mailot mainly fished for largemouth in the past, so he practiced with Ohio teammate Steve Smith before this event to learn more about the smallmouth patterns here.
"There are a lot of fish mixed around (both shallow and deep)," said Mailot. "The fish are pretty much on the bottom."
The Outcast Bassmasters club member has been catching his fish on two lures each day.
"We fished the same kind of deal (today), but things were a little slower and it took a little bit longer to get a limit," said Mailot.
First-day leader Jim Johnson of Wisconsin added another limit today, but he had some big fish come unglued and his smaller bag dropped him into seventh place. Mailot said he also lost a few fish, but caught about 10 keepers to bolster his limit.
BASS Federation Nations from eight states are battling for the top prize of the tournament, a $41,000 Skeeter bass boat/Yamaha outboard rig. Wisconsin is the leading team with an accumulative weight of 351 pounds, 10 ounces, while South Dakota is in second place with 336-6.
Northern Divisional anglers also have a chance to advance to the BASS Federation Nation Championship since each state team's top finisher earns a berth to the premier event for amateur bass anglers. Mailot has an inside track on a championship berth since he leads the tournament and his 12-man Ohio squad.
Other state leaders are Robert Perkins (Minnesota), Wes Haney (Wisconsin), G.W. Ekroth (South Dakota), Gerald Woodard (Michigan), Harry Heins (Iowa), Dave Hedge (Indiana) and Barry Panfil (Illinois).
Winners in the individual and team competitions will be determined tomorrow when the final weigh-in for the Northern Divisional begins at 2:30 p.m. CDST at Escanaba Harbor.