CLARKSVILLE, Va. — Tropical Storm Hannah swept through North Carolina and Virginia on Sept. 9, dumping heavy rains on the region and leaving behind a rising John H. Kerr Lake.
That rising water, along with residual cloud cover, challenged the field of the B.A.S.S. Mid-Atlantic Federation Nation Divisional. Only six of the 72 anglers weighed limits during the first day of competition.
"It's really changed the way I've had to fish," first-day leader David "Ben" Halcomb said of the changing conditions. "It was cloudy Monday, but it's been cloudy since then and that's definitely changed the fishing."
West Virginia's Halcomb, who put five fish on the scales weighing 11 pounds, 14 ounces, said he discovered he had to split time between deep-water bass and those that have moved shallow.
"I think with the rising water some of the fish are moving up from deeper to shallow," he said. "I had to cover a lot of water, and I caught them deep and shallow."
Delaware's Greg Alexander said that was the key to his limit, which put him in less than 4 pounds out of the lead.
"I'm just going 100 mph," Alexander said. "I'm machine-gunning targets."
Such a fast-moving approach is necessary to keep up with roaming bass, Halcomb said.
"Every day seems like it's different," he said. "You will find fish in an area one day, and they won't be there the next day. It's like they're moving all the time."
So instead of spot fishing, the angler focused on patterns.
"I tried to duplicate the same type of places, and eventually you'd find some fish," he said.
Halcomb admitted that he was worried about maintaining the lead, however.
"It's just been different every day, so I don't know what I'm going to find," he said.
The Mid-Atlantic Divisional actually is three competitions: One for the overall win, another among the members of each of the six participating state teams and a third competition to determine which team comes out on top.
While the overall winner takes home cash and prizes, state team winners earn the right to advance to the BASS Federation Nation Championship slated for November on Kansas' Milford Lake. Those anglers then compete for a coveted spot at the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.
Joining Halcomb as state-team leaders were Delaware's Alexander, Maryland's J.R. Knight, New Jersey's Scott Weiland, Ken Baumgardner of Pennsylvania and Virginia's Ivan Morris.
In the team competition, the state team accumulating the most weight by the third day earns top dollar for their BASS Federation Nation chapter.
Virginia pulled ahead of the pack after the first day of competiton, logging a total of 55-13 for a 5-pound, 6-ounce cushion. West Virginia was in second with 47-7, followed closely by Delaware with 47-2. Pennsylvania sat in fourth with 39-2, New Jersey was in fifth with 27-11 and Maryland was in sixth with 32-10.
Daily launches begin at safe light at Occoneechee State Park, with weigh-ins beginning there each day at 3 p.m.