MANY, La. — Albert Collins “didn’t change a thing” on Thursday after staking himself to the Day 1 lead in the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional at Toledo Bend Reservoir.
The repeat performance paid dividends.
Collins caught a five-bass limit Thursday that weighed 9 pounds, 9 ounces, following the 13-2 limit he caught a day earlier. The 55-year old Nacogdoches, Texas, angler remained atop the boater division with a 22-11 total and finds himself one solid bag away from a tournament title on this 181,000-acre reservoir straddling the Louisiana/Texas border.
The only difference between Day 1 and Day 2 was that Collins lacked the 5-pound largemouth that anchored his bag Wednesday.
“I ran the same spots I did yesterday,” Collins said after Thursday’s weigh-in at Cypress Bend Park. “I caught seven keepers yesterday, and I caught six today. It’s been a grind, but I’ve been able to find the fish I need.”
A cold front is expected to move across Toledo Bend late Thursday evening, dropping temperatures from the low 80s to the mid-50s by the 7 a.m. takeoff on Friday. Rain is forecast overnight as well, and a stiff north wind could make it prohibitive for Collins to motor to the northern edge of Toledo Bend where he’s built his lead this week.
“I’ll still go north, I just won’t go as far north, I think,” Collins said.
A total of 160 anglers from eight states started this three-day event — 80 in both the boater and nonboater divisions. Both fields were cut to the Top 22 anglers after Thursday’s weigh-in, including the Top 16 overall, as well as any others who aren’t in that number but are first or second on their state team.
Jared Miller of Norman, Okla., is in second place among boaters with a two-day total of 21-1, and Blake Sylvester of Plaquemine, La., is third with 20-4. Josh Ray of Alexander, Ark., is fourth with 20-1, while Missouri teammates Rick Carroll and Adam Johnson both have 19-8 heading into Friday’s finale.
Miller caught five bass for 12-13 on Thursday, which was the third-heaviest sack of the day. Like Collins, he’s making a long run north on Toledo Bend and said wind could reduce the time he can fish on Friday.
Miller said he’s working in an area thick with cypress knees, and it is taking him as long as 90 minutes to idle into the spot, then another 90 to idle out. That follows a 30-plus mile run north and another back to Cypress Bend.
“I don’t have an alternate plan,” Miller said. “I found the spot in practice. It’s where I’m going. The spot is huge, with thousands of trees. I just wish I had more time.”
Sylvester also is fishing the northern part of the reservoir in “shallow, dirty water like we fish back home on the Atchafalaya Basin,” he said.
“I may have to scrap everything and just go fishing tomorrow,” he said. “But if (the wind) doesn’t blow hard, I’m going all the way again.”
Trace Day of Denham Springs, La., leads the nonboater field after catching three-bass limits each day for a total of 13-6 overall. Connor Rushing of Pride, La., is second in the division with 13-4 and Phil Clopton of Macks Creek, Mo., is third with 13-2.
Clopton boated the biggest bass of the tournament to date (6-13) while fishing with Sylvester on Thursday. The hefty largemouth was the only bass he caught on Day 2, but he leads for the $250 cash prize that will go to the nonboater with the heaviest bass of the tournament.
Jason Carpenter of Greeley, Colo., maintains his Day 1 lead for heaviest bass in the boater division (6-11). Big bass in that field comes with a $500 cash prize.