Fed Nation Eastern: Cooper leads

DANBURY, Conn. -- After three Connecticut anglers took turns at the lead during the BASS Federation Nation Eastern Divisional weigh-in, Maine's George Cooper emerged on top at Candlewood Lake.

The 43-year-old Cooper weighed in the biggest sack of the day (a 15-pound, 2-ounce limit) to surpass Connecticut anglers Paul Mueller, Abe Kalechman and Greg Tesch (yesterday's leader) with 29-7.

Scott Parker of Londonderry, N.H., also weighed in a limit late to take over second and drop the Connecticut connection into third, fourth, and fifth respectively.

Candlewood is unlike anything Cooper has fished back home. The Southern Maine Anglers club member said he has never fished a lake that receives so much pressure and has steep banks and milfoil.

"I came here for a couple of days (of prefishing) in August," said Cooper, who admits he has been unable to fish his strengths this week. "I've had to adapt to trying something else.

"I had a good first practice day then I had two real tough days," said Cooper, who is competing as a boater in his second divisional. "Then I got on the pattern that I am on and it has been good for five days so I am hoping it holds up. It is a grind. It is fishing eight hours for eight bites."

Whereas other top contenders in the tournament have been running and gunning, Cooper has been staying put because his fish are stationary.

"I think there is enough fish there, it is just a matter of if they will cooperate and bite," said Cooper, a mechanical engineer from Buxton, Maine.

The divisional features a team concept with BASS Federation Nations from seven states and a Canadian province battling for the top prize of the tournament, a $41,000 Skeeter bass boat/Yamaha outboard rig. Connecticut is still the leading team competition with an accumulative weight of 220 pounds, 11 ounces, while Maine is in second place with 179 pounds.

Individual anglers also have a chance to advance to the BASS Federation Nation Championship since each state or provincial team's top finisher earns a berth to the premier event for amateur bass anglers.

Competitors from the 12-man Maine squad have to overtake tournament leader Cooper to qualify for the championship. Other team leaders are Mueller of Connecticut; Parker, New Hampshire; Jason Ross, Massachusetts; Joe Matt, New York; Dave Rochette, Ontario, Canada; Chris Molineaux, Rhode Island; and Sean Alvarez, Vermont.

Individual and team winners will be determined tomorrow when the final weigh-in for the Eastern Divisional begins at 3 p.m. EDST at the Danbury Town Park.