Hamann holds leads at Winnebago

MENASHA, Wis. — Adam Hamann has won at this level before, so his early lead in the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional at Lake Winnebago is not unfamiliar territory.

But the excitement that comes with derby fishing never goes away, he confirmed Wednesday after weighing a 15-pound, 10-ounce limit on Day 1 of this tournament on Winnebago — a 137,000-acre freshwater giant in central Wisconsin.

“Having won one of these before may help the nerves a little,” he said, referencing his victory in a 2021 B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional on the upper Mississippi River in Lacrosse, Wis. “But you better believe the nerves are still there.”

Still, Hamann pieced together the best bag on Day 1 on “Bago,” as he calls it, with a five-bass haul that included a pair of smallmouth bass and a trio of largemouth. 

Hamann, 30, lives in the small river town of Prairie du Chien, which straddles the Mississippi River border of Wisconsin and Iowa, and he generally knows what to expect in this area.

“Blastoff today was very windy,” Hamann said. “Things calmed down, but there was a little chop throughout the day which may have helped me. I caught the largemouths in grass, either frogging or flipping. And I took my time on that. With the smallies, we were running a lot of water, fishing deeper out on rocky reefs. Still, I pretty much had to grind all day to get what I did.”

A total of 35 of the 100 anglers in the pro division caught limits Wednesday. The closest to Hamman’s lead are Minnesota’s Dan Welsh, second, 15-4; Wisconsin’s Josh Wiesner, third, 15-2; Minnesota’s Jay Swanson, fourth, 14-11; and fifth, Illinois’ Curtis Samo, 14-10.

Wiesner had the heaviest catch of the day (4-5).

Leray Anderson II, fishing for South Dakota, fared best of the 100 nonboaters in the field, with a three-bass limit weighing 9-8. Rounding out the Top 5 in that division after Day 1 are Cameron Welch of Team North Dakota, second, 7-15; Indiana’s Chris Rhodes, third, 7-13; Illinois’ Wes Gehrt, fourth, 7-7; and Iowa’s Jacob Lange, fifth, 7-1.

Anderson’s 3-13 was heaviest among nonboater catches.

Anglers from 10 different states are represented on Winnebago — Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota, Nebraska, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota and Wisconsin. They’re fishing for a total purse of $40,650, with top prizes of $6,000 and $2,750 going to the top angler and nonboater, respectively, as well as $5,625 going to the state team that has the most collective weight after Day 2.

Illinois (123-8) and Wisconsin (121-14) have the early lead in team standings, which will be decided after Thursday’s action.

Leading “pros and cos” will advance to the 2023 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Hartwell on Oct. 18-20 in South Carolina. The winner there will earn a berth into the 2024 Bassmaster Elite Series as well as use of a fully-rigged, Nation’s Best Toyota Tundra truck and Nitro boat.

The Top 3 anglers from the Nation Championship will win spots in the 2024 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Toyota when it’s held March 22-24 on Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees in Tulsa, Okla.

This week’s tournament is the first B.A.S.S. Nation visit to Lake Winnebago since 2008, and it’s the fourth of five regular-season Nation stops in 2023, following tournaments on the Arkansas River in Oklahoma, Douglas Lake in Tennessee, and the Potomoc River in Maryland. The fifth will be held on Arizona’s Lake Powell on Aug. 30-Sept, 1, followed by the championship on Hartwell.

Action at Lake Winnebago will continue Thursday beginning at 6 a.m. CT, followed by weigh-in beginning at 2 p.m. CT at Jefferson Park. Follow along on Bassmaster.com.

The event is being hosted by the Fox Cities Convention and Visitors Bureau.