PARIS, Tenn. — When soaking rains and cold temperatures moved across western Tennessee earlier this week, people wondered how the changing weather would affect fishing in the Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship on Kentucky Lake.
On Wednesday at Paris Landing State Park, Ken Thompson and Brad Weese provided the answer.
Though the duo has only fished together less than a year, they looked like lifelong partners. The team from the Angler’s Choice Team Trail boated a five-bass limit that totaled 24 pounds, 10 ounces and gave them a solid lead after the opening round of the national team championship.
Weese, who is from Petersburg, W.Va., caught the two biggest bass of their creel; each weighed approximately 6 1/2 pounds. Thompson, of Raysburg, Pa., provided the rest of the weight with a 4-pounder and two 3 1/2-pound bass. They didn’t catch many fish in practice rounds when the weather was extremely disagreeable, but found three spots today that lit up after they ditched their initial fishing area earlier in the morning.
“We complement each other in that we both like fishing the same style,” Thompson said. “If I’m doing something, I know he can do it. And if he has something working, I can fish the same way. We’ll hit those same spots tomorrow. There are fish out there.”
Thompson and Weese comprised one of only four two-person teams weighing-in more than 20 pounds of bass on Wednesday. Mark McCaig and Tim Hurst of the Sylacauga Big Bucks Buddy Trail in Alabama are in second place with a limit of 22-8. They are closely followed by Ty Faber and John Gardner of the Ultimate Bass Team Trail in Colorado, third with 22-0, and Derrick and Dustin Compton of the (South) Carolina Bass Challenge Team are fourth with 20-3.
Twenty-five teams are within 10 pounds of Thompson’s and Weese’s lead. In all, 159 of the 186 teams registered in the Bassmaster Team Championship caught at least one bass today, and 58 of them had limits.
Surprisingly, Faber and Gardner, who currently are in third place, were without a limit. They caught four bass on all day, two of which came among their first casts of the day. One of the throws boated a 6-10 lunker to boost the bag.
“This is our first time here, so we don’t know the lake at all,” Gardner said. “So this was good fishing for us today. There were a lot of fish (on our spot,) and we literally stayed on it all day.”
With 160,000 acres to explore, Kentucky Lake offers plenty of territory for anglers to cover. But Faber and Gardner may have found what some pundits said would be the key to success in this tournament — a spot that replenishes itself throughout the day.
“When you don’t have another spot to go to, you stay where you are,” Faber joked.
“So we’ll start in the same spot again tomorrow, for sure,” Gardner said.
McCaig and Hurst had the big bass of the day — an 8-3 lunker that Hurst said was caught on a crankbait following the shad bite on Kentucky Lake. Both men said they didn’t catch much in practice, but felt like it would take at least 20 pounds a day to make the cut after Thursday’s action.
“This is the Tennessee River, so you know it’s going to take a good weight to win,” McCaig said. “The first place we started today, we caught an 8-pounder, then a 4-pounder. So why leave?”
“We had three spots in mind, we hit one, and it produced,” Hurst said. “Hopefully we can do it again tomorrow.”
Rain Monday and Tuesday gave way to partly cloudy skies, 50 degree air temperatures, and slack winds on Wednesday. Conditions are supposed to be significantly colder for Thursday’s fishing, after which the team champions will be crowned.
The Top 3 teams will qualify for the Bassmaster Team Championship Classic Fish-Off to be held on Friday and Saturday, also on Kentucky Lake. In that event, each angler fishes individually, teammate against teammate. The competitor who brings in the heaviest daily catches will earn the final available space in the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic when it is held in March on Lake Conroe outside of Houston, Texas.
This week’s event marks the third year B.A.S.S. has held a team championship. The tournament is composed of winning pairs from team trails throughout the U.S. that are sanctioned by B.A.S.S.
In all, 194 teams from 31 states and one Canadian province are represented.
The Day 2 launch will begin at 6:30 a.m. CT at Paris Landing State Park, and weigh-in will follow at 2:30 p.m.
The Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship is hosted by the Henry County Alliance.