JUNCTION CITY, Kan. — Battling increased wind gusts and all-around unfavorable conditions, only 18 of the 55 amateur anglers in the BASS Federation Nation Championship brought legal fish to the scales.
It was a hometown favorite, Kansas' Matt King, who was able to persevere catching two largemouth bass weighing 5 pounds, 4 ounces to lead the event.
Anglers are competing for the title and top prize of a Skeeter/Yamaha boat package valued at more than $64,000.
Additionally, six amateurs from this event will advance to the Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
Anglers are separated into six divisions and the top finisher in each division secures a Classic berth.
King, of Olathe, said he knew how much the wind would affect the 16,000-acre fishery during competition, so he made several trips to the lake during the past year to key in on preferred locations. Competing in his first BASS Federation Nation Championship, the direct marketing professional is looking forward to better weather conditions Friday, the final day of the competition.
"Definitely being this close helped allowing me to come down to the lake more often to scout it," King said. "I was just trying to learn the layout of the lake as best as I possibly could. I knew it was going to be tough, and with this wind you can't just really rely on a few areas. I probably fished 20 spots today and there was one I could not get to as it had at least 5-foot swells. I didn't want to jeopardize getting back."
King, also the Central Division leader, has long dreamt of competing at the Bassmaster Classic, professional fishing's premier event. The winner in each of the six geographic divisions of the Federation Nation Championship will receive a coveted berth in the 2009 Bassmaster Classic, scheduled for Feb. 20-22 on the Red River out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La.
"The Classic is a dream of any Federation Nation member," said King, a five-time BASS Federation Division qualifier.
Scott Parker of Londonderry, N.H., brought one fish to the scales, but his 4-pound, 1-ounce smallmouth was good enough to put him in second place heading into the critical Day Two. Parker, who leads the Eastern Division, used a mushroom head jig with a 3-inch senko and fished slowly and diligently throughout the day.
"That big fish drilled it about 8:30 this morning," said Parker, competing in his third Federation Nation Championship. "I'm really trying to slow down and make multiple casts in very small areas, making about 25 casts.
"I tried to make some long runs to other spots today but the weather was so bad that I turned around. The water was so dirty and muddy that I felt it was necessary to slow down."
Jay Evans of Corvallis, Mont., who is a research scientist, was the only other angler to bring in two fish, weighing in a total of 3-4. Evans, who leads the Western Division, is in third in the overall standings after Day One.
"It was a really tough day with high winds and big swells," he said. "I tried to get in to fish places out of the wind. I planned on hitting about 15 spots today, but ended up fishing in about six spots."
Leading the other divisions were David Halcomb of Elkview, W.Va., with 2-2 (Mid-Atlantic); Terry Fitzpatrick of Waukon, Iowa, with 2-2s (Northern); and Waine Pittman of Villa Rica, Ga., with 1-15 (Southern).
The Championship was shortened from a three-day event because of unsafe weather conditions Wednesday. Tuesday's official practice was also canceled. Anglers are competing for the title and the top prize of a Skeeter/Yamaha boat package valued at more than $64,000.
Anglers will launch their boats at 8 a.m. ET Friday from Milford State Park South Ramp, 3612 State Park Road, Milford, Kan. The weigh-in will begin at 4 p.m. ET in Heritage Park in historic downtown Junction City. All events are free and open to the public.
Also, the 2008 Junior Bassmaster World Championship and Bassmaster CastingKids National Championships will be held Saturday, Nov. 8, in Junction City.
Bassmaster.com will present live, streaming video and real-time leaderboards throughout the competition beginning daily at 3:45 p.m. ET.