Friday could get loopy

MANY, LOUISIANA – Things could get really interesting later today during the final weigh-in of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.

Not to state the obvious, but Toledo Bend can turn an angler’s fortune around in a hurry. Just ask any of the guys who hooked up with the 6-, 7- and 8-pounders the past few days. There was a 9-pound lunker in the mix too, and the big bass of the tournament (so far) weighed a whopping 11 pounds, 6 ounces.

Trophy bass galore, ya’ll.

Big bites like those are the reason Iowa’s Bob Blumenstein leads the boater division. His two-day total of 10 bass weighing 42-11 is quite the haul, and the 25-13 limit he weighed Thursday is the big bag of the tournament.

He’s fishing today with Louisiana’s Charlie Hewitt, who is the non-boater leader after two days with six bass weighing 26-7. Hewitt’s Day 1 total of three bass for 18 pounds was an extraordinary sight.

Anything close to a repeat of those bags almost certainly would secure for both anglers a spot in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship later this year. And it just might win them individual championships here, as well as the cash prizes ($6,500 and $3,250 respectively) that go to winners in both divisions.

But here’s where things could get a bit loopy for the leaders.

Blumenstein said that his Thursday bite was successful in part because of a lack of wind. He located a honey hole in practice, but couldn’t access it on Wednesday because of steady winds, and conditions are quite the same today with consistent 13 MPH winds and higher gusts.

No telling if that hinders Blumenstein’s bite or not. Only time will tell.

For his part, Hewitt was hoping his boater would be fishing grass someplace in the Toledo Bend Reservoir. It appears that’s not what Blumenstein has been doing however, so things could be equally tough for Hewitt. Both men may have to adjust if they’re going to hang onto their leads.

There’s a host of anglers, of course, who would like nothing better than to knock both leaders from the pole positions. But the field has work to do.

Blumenstein started the day with a 4-pound, 1-ounce lead over Team Iowa’s Greg Vance (38-10) and is more than 7 pounds up on Minnesota’s Corey Brant (currently in third place with 35-9.)

Hewitt also has some wiggle room. Team Wisconsin’s Josh Crededio is in second place (22-9) and Louisiana teammate Todd Newchurch (21-15) was in third heading into the third and final day here on Toledo Bend.

Who wins? It’s anyone’s guess, but there’s a sure-fire way to find out!

Stay tuned for the live weigh-in beginning at 2:30 p.m. CST right here on Bassmaster.com. Later this evening, we’ll have complete results from both the boater and non-boater divisions, photos and more.

Toldeo Bend bass

Tim Cartwright, co-angler from Oklahoma, with two Toledo Bend bass.

Names to know

MANY, LOUISIANA – There are 380 anglers competing in the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.

Every one of them has a story, something unique that makes them special.

Here are a few that caught my attention on Day 1.

TERRY MCWILLIAMS – McWiliams has been on the competitive bass fishing scene for a long while, with the apex of his career (to date) coming at the 2007 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake in Alabama.

McWilliams, who hails from Greenfield, Indiana, finished fourth in that Classic with a three-day total of 15 bass that weighed 45 pounds, 3 ounces. The three guys that finished ahead of him that year all have won Classics – Boyd Duckett (the eventual champion), Skeet Reese (who got his piece of the pie in 2009) and some guy named Kevin VanDam who has four Classic titles to his credit.

McWilliams is fishing on the non-boater side of this tournament on Toledo Bend. He finished Day 1 in 97th place of the 180 anglers in the division. He caught a limit of three bass that totaled 4 pounds, 13 ounces.

That may seem like too steep a hill to climb to get past the cut to the top 38, but McWilliams is less than 3 pounds away from 38th place. Catching a limit on Day 1 says he may be on to something. If he can find a couple with some weight to them, that would make a really compelling story.

TOM ALSOP – As soon as I heard the name and saw the hometown of Overland Park, Kansas, I thought “I wonder if he’s related to that kid from Kansas State who won the college championship a couple years ago?”

Turns out he is.

Alsop’s son, Kyle, teamed with Taylor Bivins to lead the Wildcats to a national title on Kentucky’s Green River Lake in the summer of 2016. I caught up with them a few days later on Kentucky Lake where they fished the College Classic Bracket. I remember Kyle had a million-dollar smile and that he’d make a great addition to the pro ranks one day, should he choose that route.

The elder Alsop is doing pretty darn well for himself, too, as he sits in a tie for 45th place in the boater division with a five-bass limit weighing 13-13. That puts him atop the Team Kansas standings currently and gives him a great chance at representing the state on Friday during the final day of competition. It also puts him in the driver’s seat for a spot in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship should his good fortune continue today.

GENE HOOVER – As a Louisiana guy and a fan of youth fishing, I was tickled to see my friend in the boater field here on Toledo Bend.

Hoover, who lives in Gonzales (attention Greg Hackney fans), is the youth director of the Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation. That means he’s usually busy helping stage tournaments around the state. But he’s taking his own turn to fish this week. He had a limit of bass on Day 1 Wednesday, but the bag was a relatively light 8-13, which put him in 124th place in the boater division.

Come on, Gene! The kids are rooting for ‘ya!

A nice Toledo Bend bass

Caught Day 1 of the 2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.

Day 1 cull

Update by Josh Miller

19 state teams in Louisiana

MANY, LOUISIANA – Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas and Kentucky.

Louisiana, Michigan, Minnesota, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio and Oklahoma.

Nebraska, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. 

No, that's not some new-fangled NCAA Football Super Conference. It's a quick list of the 19 different states competing in the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.

There are 380 anglers swinging sticks the next three days on Toledo Bend Reservoir in northwestern Louisiana. And those folks fish on some vastly different bodies of water, stretching from the Canadian border all the way to the Gulf of Mexico. 

I love a good finish as much as anyone, but to me, Day 1 is almost always the most interesting in just about any tournament we host around the U.S. It's the day you get to see which strategies are being employed and which one looks like it might be most successful.

It's also a chance to see someone set the tone for the rest of the week. And if what I heard this morning from the guys in the small armada that launched onto Toledo Bend, there should be some quality bites – beginning today. 

"I've seen the water come up roughly 4 feet since I got here on Feb. 22," said Indiana boater Dave Schneider Jr., who drew the No. 2 boat in the 190-boat navy. "The water got muddy, but since then, the fish started to prespawn and go into spawn. The water started lowering, so I've been fishing shallow."

Schneider said he boated a 7 1/2-pound bass during practice, which ranks right up there with the heaviest catches that anglers showcased with “Grip and Grin” photos on the tournament blog. Most of the other anglers I spoke with at Wednesday's launch at Cypress Bend Park said their heaviest bass was in the 5-pound range. 

But as one boater called out to me from the water: "All it takes is five of those, and you've got one heck of day on your hands." 

Day 1. 

Opening Day.

Always filled with surprises.

Stay tuned! Live weigh-in begins at 2:30 p.m. CST right here on Bassmaster.com.

First fish

Emily Johnson poses with her first fish.

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