Oshkosh, Wisc. — A no-cull rule set up an interesting B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Northern Divisional, with anglers on Lake Winnebego forced to decide whether to keep the first five legal fish landed or gamble that throwing back marginal bass would be rewarded by big bites.
That wasn't an issue with Ohio's Brad Wall, who put together a quick five-fish limit weighing 17 pounds, 7 ounces on Wednesday (Aug. 13) to lead the tournament even though he had never fished the lake.
"My partner (Michigan's Garry Williams) had his limit by 9 a.m., and I had my limit by 10 a.m.," Wall said. "We were done. We came back and sat at the dock the rest of the day."
Wall said he picked off smallmouths from offshore structure on the northwest end of the lake.
"I told my partner that if he didn't want to go to his fish, and if we only fished my fish, in four hours we could each put 10 to 14 pounds together," he said. "He was great, and we never left these fish."
The pair bounced between several rock reefs Wall located in practice, and Wall said there should be plenty of bass for the final two days of competition.
"They're scattered in a 4-mile area," he said. "I have over 50 waypoints where fish are schooled. Nine of those are holding fish 3 pounds or better, and I only fished three of those today."
The Northern Divisional features anglers from eight states vying for individual and state-team championships. The winning team takes home a ZX180 bass boat/Yamaha outboard rig valued at $30,000.
Leading the team competition after the first day of competition is Ohio, which goes into the second day with a nearly 10 1/2 —pound lead on the strength of a combined weight of 108 pounds. Home-team Wisconsin was in second with 97-6.
The top finisher from each team earns a spot at the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation National Championship, from which the top finisher from the Western Division earns an invitation to the 2009 Bassmaster Classic scheduled for February in Louisiana.
Wall leads the Ohio team, while Randy Jo Keith leads Illinois and Ed Rounsaville begins Day 2 leading the Indiana team. Other team leaders were Iowa's Bob Garman, Garry Williams of Michigan, Minnesota's Bill Ludenia, Don Bryan of South Dakota and Wisconsin's Jim Barczak.
Daily launches and weigh-ins are being held at the Menominee Park on Millers Bay in Oshkosh, Wisc. Weigh-ins begin at 2 p.m. CDT each day.