Lead lingers for Lortz

DANDRIDGE, Tenn.  — North Carolina won the competition between 18 states and a New Yorker maintained his lead at the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors underway on Douglas Lake.

William Lortz caught 5 bass weighing 9 pounds, 13 ounces, to bring his overall total after two days to 31-7. He leads the tournament over Jonathan Carter of Maine by a margin of less than 2 pounds.

North Carolina's 20 anglers collectively caught 298 pounds, 8 ounces to beat Georgia by a margin of 9 pounds. Georgia took second place with 289-9. South Carolina was third with 288-15 and Virginia weighed 286-1 for fourth place. New Jersey was fifth with 278-6.

"We fished as a team, ate as a team, stayed as a team," said Chuck Murray, North Carolina B.A.S.S. Nation president.

North Carolina also added a new strategy to the team concept. Under the new format for this tournament an angler bringing a boat is paired with a non-boating fisherman. The boater gets to maintain control of the boat while both anglers share the fishing area. The two anglers are paired from different states.

North Carolina's non-boaters practiced with their boating teammates instead of fishing separately.

"That's likely what made the winning weight difference for us," added Murray, "We wanted our non-boaters to know how to fish behind their partners from other states during the tournament."

"All of our guys shared information at the meetings with the non-boaters," added Murray. "Everyone knew baits and strategies to keep our goal of winning the title in focus."

North Carolina won a Skeeter ZX190, matching trailer and Yamaha VF150LA outboard motor and accessories. Total value of the rig is $49,835.

Fishing was much tougher for leader Lortz, of Rochester, N.Y. By comparison his Day 1 catch was 21-10, about 12 pounds higher.

"The bass are still there but scattered across my area," he said. "It was really tough to make them bite."

Lortz and other top anglers lamented about the effects of an overnight cold front passing through the area. The front lowered water temperatures and slowed the metabolism of the bass.

"I think the front just caught up with the fish and slowed them down," he said

Lortz is fishing for actively feeding post-spawn bass migrating from shallow to deep water. The bass form large schools and congregate over offshore habitat during summer on this lake.

Lortz admitted to five areas he can try on Day 3 to maintain his lead and win the overall boater title.

"I'm using four different lures and need all of them to catch the bass," he said. "Today they hit short and I'll have to adjust again tomorrow."

On the plus side Lortz is growing more aware of the subtle differences on the bottom in his key areas. He knows the bass are still in the area and plans to keep his strategy.

"I can pull up on an area, scan it with my electronics, and have a good idea about what to cast into the school," he added.

Seventeen U.S. states and Ontario are competing in the regional tournament. On Day 3 the top 38 anglers and three highest-ranking boaters and non-boaters from each state compete on Douglas Lake.

To be determined is the overall winner and qualifiers to bass fishing's world championship. That event is the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors. The top boater and non-boater from each state advances to bass club fishing's championship competition.

The Livingston Lure Leader Award was presented to Lortz. He earned the $250 bonus by leading the tournament on Day 2. Josh Bernard, the leading non-boater, received a Livingston Lures merchandise package.

Bernard, of McKees Rocks, Pa., leads the non-boater division with 17 pounds, 13 ounces.

Boater Andrew Sams of Easton, Md., caught the big bass of the day weighing 5 pounds, 7 ounces. A 4-pound, 4-ounce largemouth caught by Geoffrey Hirsch took non-boater big bass honors.

The tournament begins at 6:30 a.m. EDT with boats returning in staggered flight times beginning at 2:30 p.m. Tournament launch and weigh-in is at The Point Resort and Marina.