Cold start for Nation event in Kansas

JUNCTION CITY, Kansas – Never say never when it comes to the weather, but snow in late April isn’t exactly common in Kansas.

Six inches of the white stuff, however, turns more than a few heads in these parts, and turns out it also keeps many of them fully rested on their pillows.

A record amount of snow for this late in the spring fell on Kansas overnight Monday and into Tuesday morning, according to the National Weather Service. That meant Tuesday’s final day of practice started late for many of the 160 anglers competing in the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional.

“Most of them stayed inside and waited until the snow melted before they headed out,” said B.A.S.S. Nation Director Jon Stewart, who grew up in Kansas. “We get some snow this time of year, but not like that.”

Stewart made sure there was no sleeping late on Wednesday, however, when Day 1 of the regional began here on Milford Lake in central Kansas. The competitors were ready for some action after Tuesday’s weird weather, anyway, but they really did get a wake-up call when the 1st Infantry Division of nearby Fort Riley started Day 1 of the regional by firing Old Thunder – a replica 1855 3-inch cannon modeled on ones used in the Civil War.

The cannon’s report echoed through Acorns Resort on Milford Lake at 6:30 a.m. to signal takeoff. The U.S. Army installation had additional presence, with Col. Kevin Forester, Command Chaplain at Fort Riley, saying the invocation. The 1st Infantry Division Band played the national anthem and the 1st Infantry Division Commanding General’s Mounted Color Guard presented the flag as well.

“It was a great way to start what should be a really good tournament,” Stewart said.

Expectations are higher now that the weather has warmed. The high temperature on Wednesday was expected to hit 51 and climb into the upper 50s both Thursday and Friday. The wind was blowing at about 14 mph Wednesday and is expected to be possibly stronger on Thursday.

Anglers familiar with Milford Lake were expecting bass to be caught this week in prespawn, spawn and even postspawn conditions, but the recent freezing temperatures might change that, Stewart said.

“It’s probably a little too cold (for bass) to be bedding right now,” he said. “If the weather would have kept warming up like it was, you might have seen them in all three stages. But I’d expect most of the fish will be in prespawn right now.”

Eighty boats — each carrying a boater and a co-angler — shot onto Milford Lake this morning to find out for sure. They’ll be back later this afternoon with weigh-in beginning at 3:30 p.m. ET. The three-day tournament has anglers from eight different states competing, including Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, Louisiana, Missouri, New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.

A total purse of $34,500 will be distributed among the top finishers this week, with $5,000 going to the top boater courtesy of Ranger. The second-place boater will win $3,000 and $2,000 goes to the angler who finishes third in the division. The top co-angler will win $2,500 courtesy of Yamaha, with second place earning $1,500 and third place claiming $1,000.

The individual winners will be determined Friday, after the field is cut to the top 16 boaters and another 16 co-anglers. The top two anglers from each competing state (and in each division) will also make the cut if either isn’t among the leading 16 heading into the final day.

The state with the heaviest total weight of all 20 anglers on its team will win a $5,000 prize, courtesy of both Ranger and Yamaha. Second place in state competition wins $3,000 and third place brings home $2,000.

There’s also a cash Big Bass Award of $500 to the angler who lands the heaviest bass this week and another $250 going to the co-angler with the heaviest catch.

The Geary County Convention and Visitors Bureau, as well as Acorns Resort, are hosting the regional, one of five on the B.A.S.S. Nation tour this year. The top anglers in each will secure berths in the TNT B.A.S.S. Nation Championship to be held on the Ouachita River in Louisiana Nov. 3-5.

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