DANDRIDGE, Tenn. — Dewayne Wilson put his custom-built rods to the ultimate test by catching a heavyweight limit and taking over the lead in the Bass Pro Shops Northern Open at Douglas Lake.
The owner of Dixie Custom Rods set the pace in the pro division with a 21-pound, 12-ounce limit of Douglas Lake largemouth. “It worked out early for me but after about 10 o’clock I couldn’t get bit,” Wilson said. “Luckily we caught them early.”
Competing in only his second Bassmaster event, the 47-year-old Wilson frequently fishes Douglas and knows several deep spots that hold fish this time of year. While practicing last week with his buddy tournament partner, Wilson caught fish deep in several spots. “We had a lot of places that had fish but it seems like they are drying up,” he said.
The La Follette, Tenn., angler caught his limit by about 7 a.m. and then culled out three or four keepers while fishing three spots. “There were a lot of fish in the one spot and in the other two spots there were only a few fish but they were bigger,” he said.
He had the spots to himself early but then the crowds started moving into his area and the bite stopped for him. “It got so bad I just let them have it,” said Wilson, who left the area to try some other spots.
With the fishing pressure he encountered Thursday, Wilson is unsure what to expect for Day 2. “I could have 6 pounds or I could have 20 again,” he said.
Touring pros Brent Ehrler and Shin Fukae moved into a tie for second place as each caught a 20-12 limit. Ehrler said he caught fish throughout the day but it was a grind for him. “I had only a flurry in the morning and then it was just kind of scratching the rest of the day,” said the Redlands, Calif., pro. “I could tell the fish weren’t really set up right like they should be. I feel fortunate to catch what I caught.”
Despite starting in a late flight, Fukae got to his first spot and had it to himself. He boated a 6-9 largemouth on his first cast and two more quality fish on the next two casts. “I caught 17 pounds in about 30 minutes,” said Fukae, who fished about 25 spots the rest of the day.
The rest of the top five in the pro division includes Todd Schmitz, Goshen, Ind., fourth, 20-10; and Derrick Snavely, Rogersville, Tenn., fifth, 20-6.
Madisonville, Tenn., angler Paul Palmer moved into the lead in the co-angler division with a three-fish limit weighing 11-12. The 41-year-old maintenance manager said he was catching fish in practice until about 10 a.m. but Thursday he caught his keepers throughout the day. “I kind of changed up tactics a little bit and it worked out for me,” he said.
Hosting this tournament is the Jefferson County Chamber of Commerce. Friday's launch, weigh-in and the final day launch will be held at The Point Marina at 122 Boatdock Drive. The final day weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops at 3629 Outdoor Sportsman’s Place in Kodak, Tenn.