RUSSELLVILLE, Ark. — Doug Thompson, who leads the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Dardanelle on Day Two, knows exactly what he wants.
“I went to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship before, on Toho in 2007,” said the Arkansas angler. “I finished ninth, only a couple pounds out of making the Bassmaster Classic. When I was leaving the boatyard after it was over, you could just tell the ones who made it to the Classic by the looks on their faces. They were just floating on air.
“I told my wife, ‘I want to look like that one day,’” said Thompson. “That feeling has just stuck with me.”
And that feeling is with him now after taking the overall lead at the championship.
Thompson started the day in third place with 16 pounds. After the Day Two weigh-in, he added 12 pounds, 3 ounces to make his total 28-3. He took the top spot in the tournament and —more important — in his division. Ryan Lavigne, the Day One leader, was the Central Division leader on Day One. And division winners earn berths in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.
Thompson won the Arkansas B.A.S.S. Nation State Championship on Lake Dardanelle in October 2012 to qualify for this event, and he calls the Arkansas River his home water.
“People think if you’re fishing your home water in a tournament that you should just be able to go catch them,” said Thompson, “but that’s not how it works.” Yes, he’s more familiar with Dardanelle than many of the anglers are, but he said he doesn’t think that helps him that much. At least, it doesn’t make him a shoe-in for the Classic.
However, this has been a big year for Thompson. This is his third national championship in 2013. He took fifth place in the TBF National Championship and 14th place in the BFL All-American. But for both of those, he was competing as a co-angler. The stakes are higher here: A win on Dardanelle would give him a chance to hoist the coveted Bryan D. Kerchal Memorial Trophy above his head, knowing he was going to Lake Guntersville, Ala., in February to compete against the biggest names in the sport in the Bassmaster Classic.
“I don’t even want to think about it,” said he computer technician, who spends his days in a data center and his weekends (and every bit of his vacation time) on the water. “This tournament has consumed my whole thought process since I qualified for it a year ago.”
Thompson has a lot of work to do on Day Three to hold his lead and get the opportunity of a lifetime.
“If it clouds up, it will hurt my bite,” he said, “and it will help the guys fishing shallow.” If that happens, Thompson says he knows how to adjust. “There are a lot of other things I could do.”
Currently, Thompson has a 5 1/2-pound lead in the Central Division. That’s not wrapped up by any means; his competitor Ryan Lavigne, who caught 17-1 on Day One, weighed in on Day Two with only 5-3. That kind of a swing can happen to anyone.
Other division leaders and potential Classic contenders are Paul Mueller, Eastern Division; Jeff Lugar, Mid-Atlantic; Mark Dove, Northern; Drew Sadler, Southern; and Jeremy Percifield, Western.
Sadler still leads in the Carhartt Big Bass competition with the 6-1 he caught on Day One. But Jason Vaughn of Delaware brought in a 5-1 on Day Two that won Carhartt Big Bass daily honors worth $250. Thompson wins $250 for leading on Day Two as part of the Livingston Lures Leader Award.
Overall, the weights were down for Day Two. Three anglers zeroed, and seven fewer weighed in limits than on Day One. With the same number of anglers as competed on Day One, the overall weight brought in was 100 pounds lower on Day Two, with a total weight of 355-11.
Fewer anglers complained of short fish on Day Two; more lamented the wrong species and lost fish. Several anglers — including Juan Ro Chagollan Jr. of Mexico, Mike Moran of Pennsylvania and Chris Blair of Georgia — claimed to have monster fish on, but they didn’t make it into the boat. All three of them are looking for those same fish Saturday and hoping they stay hooked.
Competitors will meet again for Day Three at 7:15 a.m. CT at Lake Dardanelle State Park for launch, and they’ll weigh in at the same place as launch at 3:30 p.m. CT. Stay tuned to Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the event.