Walton claims Day 2 lead at Douglas

JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. — Going with the flow may not always be the best strategy for tournament competitors, but doing so allowed Kevin Walton of Norfolk, Va.,  to tally a two-day total of 29 pounds, 14 ounces and move into the lead at the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Southeast Regional at Douglas Lake.

After posting 14-14 on Day 1, Walton added 15-0 — the event’s biggest bag. Entering Day 2 an ounce behind Day 1 leader Jordan Card of Knoxville, Tenn., Walton surged past Card by a margin of 1-13.

Returning to the waters that produced his second-place bag on Day 1, Walton fished a 150-yard stretch up the French Broad River. Targeting bushes in 8 to 10 feet of water, he found a different, but nonetheless productive scenario. 

“The shad spawn was gone, but the fish were still there,” Walton said. “I didn’t see any of the bait that was there on Day 1. I got an earlier boat draw today, and they were still gone. 

“I think with the river current the fish tend to stay put even if that bait moves. Today, I had everything I weighed by 9 o’clock. I had a limit in the first 20 minutes.”

Reporting that he and his nonboater found success on multiple topwater baits, Walton said he believes he has located something unique.

“I think it’s an area,” he said. “There are other boats around me and they’re not catching them.”

Walton also caught his weight early on Day 1 and then went scouting for additional areas. He tried some of that new water in the second round, but he was unable to upgrade his bag.

“I fished some of the spots I found yesterday, but I only caught small fish there today,” Walton said. “So, my success is very dependent on that early morning bite.”

Walton said Day 2 found his bass more aggressive and he ended up catching better numbers, including his biggest one of the week — a 4-pounder that was on a unique scenario within his main area.

“I don’t see anything in the weather that should alter the fish tomorrow,” Walton said. “As long as I fish clean and get them in the boat I should do good.

“I’ve only made one pass down this area both days. Tomorrow I’m going to stay there all day.”

Card, whose younger brother, Brandon, fishes the Bassmaster Elite Series, bolstered his opening bag of 14-15 ounces with another limit that weighed 13-2 for a 28-1 total.

Abandoning his Day 1 plan, which started with a shallow shad spawn, Card went directly to his offshore game. He didn’t have any trouble getting bit, but his day was defined by quantity, rather than quality.

“I went to my first spot and it had a boat sitting there,” Card said. “On my second spot, I had a limit in 30 minutes.

“I fished five other spots, but I just never got any big bites. That was the difference in my weight today.”

Card said his bait selection was similar to that of Day 1. He’s basically trying to show the highly pressured offshore fish baits they’re not likely to see.

Noting that he caught one quality bass on a bait he did not throw on Day 1, Card said he’s hopeful that Friday’s smaller field will expand his opportunities.

“I’m just going to fish deep all day,” he said. “With fewer guys out there tomorrow, maybe I’ll be able to put together a big bag.”

Zeke Gossett of Pell City, Ala., is in third place with 26-9. His daily weights were 13-12 and 12-13.

Focusing on the mid-lake region, Gossett said he fished within 5 miles of the ramp, both uplake and downlake. His action began early, but he amassed most of his weight in the afternoon.

“I started in the bushes on shad spawns and caught my limit in the first 30 minutes on a frog,” Gossett said. “Once the sun got up, I didn’t catch any fish until 12.”

Later in the day, Gossett caught his fish offshore over long points in 25 to 30 feet. He fished five to six schools and caught them deep cranking with a Strike King 10XD and 6XD, both in the barfish color. Gossett also caught fish on a Strike King 4.75 Rage Swimmer on a 3/4- and 1-ounce Strike King Squadron Head.

“The main thing I noticed was the fish had to be set up on the bottom,” Gossett said. “If they had just been hit by another boat, they’d be suspended off the bottom. I hit a couple schools today that were suspended and I didn’t spend much time on them.

“If the fish are glued to the bottom, I’d catch one or two from each school. I’d just run and gun between all those schools. More fish are coming out. One of my schools grew today and three of my fish came off that school.”

Chuck Howard of Elloree, S.C., is in the lead for Big Bass honors with a 5-6.

Larry Witt of Evington, Va., remains atop the nonboater division with 14-2. Witt took the Day 1 lead with a limit that weighed 8-1. He added at a second-round bag of 6-1.

Dale Robertson of Ponchatoula, La., holds the Big Bass lead among nonboaters with a 4-3

The Virginia B.A.S.S. Nation team won the team competition with 306-6. South Carolina finished second with 299-5, followed by North Carolina with 294-3, Alabama with 290-5, Kentucky with 283-1, Tennessee with 278-5, West Virginia with 264-9, Georgia with 255-13, Florida with 245-12 and Mississippi with 226-10.

After two days of competition, the final field comprises the Top 20 overall, plus the top two boaters and the top two nonboaters from each state team, if they are not already included.

Friday’s final takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. ET at the Dandridge Dock Boat Ramp. The weigh-in will be held at the ramp at 2:30 p.m.

The tournament is being hosted by the Jefferson County, Tenn., Department of Tourism.