Lots of catches, but the wrong size

LACROSSE, Wisc. – Forty ounces.

If you’re counting, that is two and a half pounds.

It’s normally not a number of great importance, but it is important to the 99 Elite Series anglers who are fishing the Bassmaster Diet Mountain Dew Mississippi River Rumble presented by Power-Pole. That’s because here, on this section of the Mississippi, 40 ounces seems to be a key weight.

Catch a bass over 40 ounces (again, that’s two and one half pounds,) and you have a good one.

One that weighs less?

Well, you’re probably in the same boat as a lot of guys who are vying for the $100,000 booty that awaits the winner of this tournament in the southwest corner of Wisconsin.

Take reigning Toyota Angler of the Year Champion Brent Chapman, for instance, who had a five-fish limit on Thursday that weighed 11 pounds and 10 ounces. For the record, that’s an average of 37.2 ounces per fish – which, of course, is shy of a 2 ½ pound average.

“That’s the whole key here,” Chapman said. “Catch as many as you can and weed through them. You hope and pray for that one good quality bite. Last year on the first day, I had a four-pounder that gave me a really good start. Today my biggest one was 2 ½ pounds.”

It wasn’t for lack of trying, for sure. Chapman caught more than 50 fish on Thursday, but couldn’t find the keeper he sought. He’s in 59th place after the first day of fishing.

Chris Lane, who won a Bassmaster Classic catching big fish two years ago, found himself in a similar position at the Mississippi River Rumble, but the difference in a couple ounces per fish put him in a better place after Thursday’s weigh-in. Lane boated five fish for 13-7, which, of course, is better than 2 ½ pounds per bass. But Lane, after catching an early limit, went for broke looking for the kicker he needed.

It didn’t come, but he put himself in contention with a bag of bass that went over the 2 ½ pound average. He’s in a tie for 21st place.

“You have to go with what you know, and when it comes to grass fishing, that’s what I grew up doing. You put your head down and do it. One or two big bites in this one can make a huge difference.”

Ott Defoe said he had 50 bites on the Mississippi, and approximately 15 were keepers. He bagged 13-10 during the first day of competition. He’s in 19th place on the leaderboard.

“It’s kind of weird,” Defoe said. “The areas where I caught the 2 ½ pounders, I didn’t catch any big ones. You think you would….You have to upsize, that’s the first thing that comes to mind. I made a move later today and caught bait fish. It’s really about the water as much as anything. I’m trying to burn down the bank and fish as much area as I can.”

Paul Elias upped many of his fellow anglers with a bag that went 14-1, which was good enough for 13th place on Day One. Known as someone who lands the biggest of bass, he said there was no secret to what he did on Thursday.

“There weren’t many big ones, but all these that are bigger, I caught with a bunch of little fish,” Elias said.

Then there was Brandon Palaniuk, who bagged an 18-pound, 4-ounce sack on Thursday, which put him atop the leaderboard after Day One.

There also was no secret to Palaniuk’s early success – he caught two four-pounders within a 10-minute window just outside the launch on Thursday morning.

“For some reason, I felt like the fish I was fishing for were going to bite today,” Palaniuk said. “There wasn’t a whole lot of challenge, because what I planned worked.”

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