MANY, La. — Alabama’s Bruce Sargent was tight-lipped on Wednesday during the opening round of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.
His bass, however, were not.
Sargent, who hails from Gardendale, Ala., boated a five-bass limit that weighed 23 pounds in the first round of the tournament on Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Louisiana/Texas border. That gave him a 1-pound lead over Iowa’s Ron Kingsbury (22-0) and a 3-pound lead over Indiana’s John Roth (20-0.)
There were 24 additional anglers who caught 15 pounds of bass or more on this fabled fishery today, but none put together a bag quite like Sargent’s. He put himself in prime position to not only nab one of the Top 3 spots on Team Alabama (which is one way to get into Friday’s cut in this three-day event), but also to give his squad a good chance at winning a Triton/Mercury boat package that will go to one of the 19 states represented here that has the highest cumulative weight after Thursday’s action.
“I’ll tell you everything you need to know on Friday,” Sargent said, before divulging a little bit of his day.
“I caught them all day long,” he said. “I had a limit by 9 o’clock and was able to cull from there. I’ve been here five days, and I’ve caught a 5-pounder every day. I’m catching them all over the lake. It’s not just in one creek. I’m running a pattern.”
Sargent’s big bag has Team Alabama in fourth place with 64 bass weighing 180 pounds, 3 ounces. That’s the cumulative total caught by 10 boaters and 10 nonboaters (each team has 20 anglers and can a weigh in a total of 80 bass — five each for boaters and three for nonboaters).
Host state Louisiana leads the team standings with 65 bass weighing 196 pounds, 3 ounces. Arkansas is in second with 65 bass and 184-12 and Iowa is in third with 63 bass and 182-2.
As impressive as Sargent’s limit was, the most impressive bag of the day may have been weighed by Charlie Hewitt of Prairieville, La.
Hewitt, who is fishing in the nonboater division, caught three bass that weighed 18-1. His biggest bass weighed 7 pounds and his other two fish averaged 5 1/2 pounds apiece.
Nick Coleman, who is the president of the Kentucky B.A.S.S. Nation, is second in the nonboater division with three bass that weighed 16-1. He, too, boated a 7-plus pound bass that anchored his bag.
“I don’t want to give away too much, but it took quite a while to get that fish in,” Coleman said. “I was using really light line. I actually caught it on a drop shot; something I didn’t expect to use here. It was midmorning. My bass bit good until about noon today.”
Josh Crededio of Team Wisconsin is third in the nonboater division with a 14-15 limit.
Nonboater Michael Nobile of Destrehan, La., caught the biggest bass of the day — an 8-15 bucketmouth that qualifies for Lunker Class prizes in Texas’ Toyota ShareLunker program.
He too wasn’t saying much about the bass that dropped jaws throughout the crowd gathered at Cypress Bend Park on the shore of Toledo Bend.
“It didn’t take long,” he said of the struggle his big bass exhibited on Wednesday morning. “I was about 15 feet from it when it bit.”
Leland Sanders of Team Oklahoma had the biggest bass in the boater division, a 7-14 largemouth. The boater with the biggest bass of the tournament will win a $500 prize on Friday. The nonboater with the heaviest bass will earn $250.
Exactly 380 anglers will test their luck on Toledo Bend Reservoir again Thursday when launch begins at 6:15 a.m. CT from Cypress Bend Park. There will be a cut when the day is complete and the remaining field will be composed of the leading 38 boaters and the Top 38 nonboaters. The number of remaining boats will almost certainly be higher, however, as each state’s Top 3 in each division make the cut, as well.
Those who do survive the cut will fish for cash prizes. The boater with the heaviest three-day total weight will earn $6,500 and the top nonboater will take home $3,250. Each state’s leading boater and nonboater also will qualify for the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors which will be held later this year on an undisclosed date and fishery. From there, top anglers can earn a spot in the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods.