Lortz leads Nation regional

DANDRIDGE, Tenn.  — William Lortz can either go chasing bass or just let the fish come to him. Choosing the second option was a wise move as the New Yorker leads after Day 1 of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.

Lortz, of Rochester, N.Y., caught a 5-bass limit weighing 21 pounds, 10 ounces, to claim a narrow lead in the regional competition between bass clubs underway on Douglas Lake.

Close behind with 18-10 is Casey Smith of Macedon, N.Y., followed by Greg Dipalma of Millville, N.J., with 17-7. Ivan Morris of Virginia Beach, Va., is fourth with 17-5 and fifth place is Jonathan Carter of Glenburn, Maine with 17-3.

"I want the fish to come to me," said Lortz. "I didn't want to be where they are leaving."

Translated into layman's terms means Lortz is fishing for post-spawn bass. Those are the most reliable bass of all in springtime fishing. His fishing area holds the highest concentration of bass with the most activity. Following the spawning cycle those bass are hungry, aggressive and easiest to find.

Finding bass under the conditions favored by Lortz also means the bass are in deeper water and not migrating into shallow water. Tracking those bass is time consuming.

"Tomorrow it will be a hero or zero for me," added Lortz.

That's the downside of his strategy. Timing is everything and being on spot when a wave of post-spawn bass means boom or bust.

Dipalma is fishing the same type of strategy and he echoed the comments made by Lortz.

"There are easily 100 bass in the school of fish that I'm targeting," he said. "Where I am fishing is a typical staging area, a path used by spawning bass coming and going from deep into shallow water."

He added, "what's the big issue for me tomorrow is will I be in the right place at the right time when they are feeding."

Weather is another big unknown for Day 2. The forecast calls for a frontal passage to drop temperatures overnight into the low 40s. Following a night of rain the daytime high is expected to be in the low 50s, or about 20 degrees colder.

"My research on this lake shows the bass are easily turned off by cold fronts," said Dipalma.

Competing on Douglas Lake are B.A.S.S. club anglers from 18 U.S. states and Ontario. To be determined are overall winners, the top finishing state team and qualifiers to bass fishing's club 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 advance to the championship.

New Jersey's 20 anglers collectively caught 151 pounds, 14 ounces to lead the team standings after Day 1. Virginia holds down second place with 148-5. North Carolina is third with 142-2 and Georgia has 139 pounds for fourth place. Maryland is fifth with 136-14.

The state team with the most weight is awarded a new bass boat and trailer. That is a Skeeter ZX190, matching trailer and Yamaha VF150LA outboard motor and accessories. Total value of the rig is $49,835.

On Day 2 the tournament field is cut to the top 38 boaters and non-boaters from each state to include each state's top 3 anglers. That group competes on Day 3 for championship berths and the overall boater and non-boater winners.

Two anglers are paired with the boat owner allowed to keep 5 bass. The accompanying angler can keep 3 bass. A keeper largemouth is 12 inches and smallmouth must measure at least 15 inches.

Leading the non-boater division is Scott Murphy of Edison, N.J., with 11-8. Murphy has non-boater big bass of the day honors with a largemouth weighing 6 pounds.

Lenny Beebe of Griswold, Conn., has boater big bass of the day with largemouth weighing 6-1.

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.