CASCO, Maine — Mark Hogan of Milford, Del., came up one fish short of his five-bass limit, but the quality he found was evident in a quartet that weighed 11 pounds, 13 ounces and gave him the lead on Day 1 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional on Sebago Lake.
Sebago holds smallmouth and largemouth, but Hogan said he felt most comfortable with the latter. He said he was not going to be picky, given Sebago’s tough summer conditions, but ending up with four green ones suited him just fine.
“I target anything that’s biting in this place, but I’m a tidal water largemouth fisherman, so I stayed in the shallow water,” Hogan said. “I tried messing with the smallmouth, but I just couldn’t make it happen.”
Hogan kept his specific bait selection under wraps, but he said he caught his fish by slowly dragging soft plastics.
“It was the same type of fishing I do back home in Delaware, that’s why I was so comfortable fishing here,” he said.
Hogan said he’s hopeful he can get back on the largemouth bite for Day 2. But with a front bringing cooler weather, he’s unsure what to expect. Also, the lake got a good workout today, so the second round will likely see a natural contrition.
“Tomorrow’s another day; at this place, you can go from four fish to no fish very easily,” Hogan said. “That’s how my practice went, so I was very fortunate to have what I had today, for sure.”
Hogan said his day got off to a quick start. He dialed in an attractive area with a mix of rock and wood, but the flurry was short-lived.
“I got on that one little area and caught them quickly,” he said. “They bit a little better after the sun came out, but then I fished the rest of the day and didn’t get another bite.”
Lawrence Hogue of Kennebunk, Maine, is in second place with 11-12. Living just 30 minutes away, he said he knows the lake well, so his strategy was one of patience and perseverance.
“I got on a spot where I know there’s always fish and stayed there all day, made a lot of casts to pieces of structure and got some bites,” he said. “It was shallow rocks where I caught largemouth on a reaction bait and a couple of smaller smallmouth on dropshots to fill out my limit.
“The thing about those largemouth is that they don’t really replenish. You’re a hero one day and you struggle the next. I may have to go chase smallmouth tomorrow.”
Hogue said despite his local knowledge, he still faced a challenging day.
“I’ve been fishing this lake for 25 years and Sebago is fishing tougher than normal; this is the toughest I’ve seen it fish. Usually, our tournaments are 70 to 80 boats, so you double the field and there are no secrets.”
Brandon Morris of Harrisonburg, Va., is in third place with 11-8.
Edwin Bartlett of Casco, Maine, leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass competition with his 8-7.
Aaron Russell of Hoschton, Ga., leads the nonboater division with 11-14. Stating that he fished a mix of reaction baits and slow baits, Russell said he caught most of his fish during the morning’s dim, rainy conditions.
“I was just fishing the conditions, but the morning was the best time of the day for me,” he said. “We fished deep and shallow. The key was being open to fishing spontaneous changes. The bait I caught all of my fish on, I didn’t even have tied on this morning.”
Russell leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass competition among nonboaters with a 5-4.
Thursday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. Eastern at Point Sebago. The weigh-in will be held at Point Sebago at 2:15 p.m.