TOWER, Minn. — Despite a slower day, Pat Schlapper of Eleva, Wis., maintained his lead at the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Northern Regional on Minnesota’s Lake Vermilion with a two-day total weight of 35 pounds, 9 ounces.
After taking the top spot on Wednesday with 19-4, Schlapper added 16-5 on Day 2. Even though today’s productivity was lower, Schlapper expanded his lead from 7 ounces on Day 1 to nearly 2 pounds heading into Friday’s final round.
“I was very fortunate to have what I have today,” Schlapper said. “I’m not really optimistic about tomorrow.”
Doing most of his work in Vermilion’s east end, Schlapper said his morning started off slower than he had anticipated. He found a day-making 4-pounder around 10:20 a.m., but that was the only bright spot in his day.
“I maybe had 12 pounds before I caught that good one,” Schlapper said. “I caught a couple more good ones before that, but overall, it was a struggle.
“I caught plenty of fish, but getting those fish over 3 pounds was really difficult today. We had more sun today and that helped the bite on some spots, but I just think I’m running out of fish.”
Struggling to establish consistency, Schlapper had to cover a range of depths from 5 to 17 feet. Two of his weight fish came from deeper spots, while three — including his biggest — were shallow bites.
For his shallow work, Schlapper fished a Texas-rigged tube or a craw bait on a shaky head or football-head jig. In the deeper spots he relied on a drop shot.
“I’ve been running a 1/4-ounce drop-shot weight when it’s calm, and I’ll go up to a 3/8 if I have to when it’s windy,” he said. “I don’t like to use that 3/8 because it gets hung up a lot more.
“I’m using a 4-inch green pumpkin worm and an 18-inch leader out here to keep it up off the rocky bottom.”
Getting quality bites was tough, and Schlapper lamented several moments when he had his opportunities but watched good ones swim away.
“It was a tough day; I left a lot out there,” he said. “I had a lot of missed opportunities that are probably going to haunt me. But these (smallmouth) are tough to catch.”
Richard Lindgren of Lakeville, Minn., is in second place with 33-10. Improving from seventh place on Day 1, he displayed noteworthy consistency by adding 16-12 to Wednesday’s weight of 16-14.
Fishing the lake’s east and central regions, Lindgren targeted various rock features in less than 10 feet. He kept his bait details guarded but noted that he’s power fishing with a mix of reaction baits and plastics.
“I ran some new water today and fished a couple different patterns, both shallow and offshore,” Lindgren said. “I had most of my weight by 10:30, and then I upgraded two times after that.
“It was just one fish here, one fish there, they’re not schooled up. I fished like 30 spots today.”
Lonnie Peterson of Chippewa Falls, Wis., is in third place with 33-9. After placing 12th on Day 1 with 15-15, he added 17-10 today. He fished the same areas he fished on Wednesday, but today’s sunnier conditions stimulated more active feeding and improved his opportunities.
“I’m fishing 8 to 16 feet of water in the lake’s northwest section,” Peterson said. “I was fishing isolated stuff or anything that’s bigger.
“I was fishing a drop shot with a green pumpkin worm and working it really slowly and methodically. I was picking apart each section.”
Dan Parker of Guttenberg, Iowa, is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his 4-14.
Matt Byrnes of Hudson, Wis., leads the nonboater division with 20-8. On Day 1, Byrnes placed 15th with 9-2 and took over his division’s top spot today by adding 11-6.
Dan O’Keefe of Prior Lake, Minn., holds the Big Bass lead among nonboaters with a 5-5.
In tomorrow’s final round, the Top 18 boaters and Top 18 nonboaters compete for the first-place prize and a spot in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Nov. 11-13 on Pickwick Lake.
In the state team competition, the Indiana B.A.S.S. Nation accumulated a two-day total of 402 pounds, 15 ounces and won the top prize of $6,250. Trailing by a mere 2 ounces, the Wisconsin B.A.S.S. Nation took second with 402-13 and won $3,750. Finishing third with 391-3, the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Nation won $2,500.
Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT from Fortune Bay Resort Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 2 p.m.
The event is being hosted by the Fortune Bay Resort Casino.