FLORENCE, Ala. — Californian Randy Pierson has found much to like about his first trip to Alabama’s Pickwick Lake — Pierson took the lead today in the second round of the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Championship presented by Magellan Outdoors.
Pierson of Oakdale, Calif., added 19 pounds, 12 ounces to Thursday’s catch, yielding an overall weight of 40-3 for two days of fishing on the Tennessee River impoundment. Joshua Miller of Roberts, Wis., held onto second place with an overall weight of 36-5, while Jacopo Gallelli of Firenze, Italy, moved into third place with 32-14. Kyle Dorsett of Odenville, Ala., is fourth with 32-8 and Mark Pierce of Cadiz, Ky., is fifth with 32 pounds.
Stronger current created by more water released upstream from Wilson Lake into Pickwick greatly benefited the top anglers on Friday.
“It definitely made the bite better while it lasted,” said Pierson, a member of the Oro Madre Bass Anglers. “I didn’t have a fish until 9:30; then the current turned up, and I had a flurry of activity until noon.”
Pierson is fishing specific areas where the bass are seeking refuge from the strong current behind rocks, where they feed on passing baitfish.
“My success is all about timing,” continued Pierson. “Being on the right place, at the right time, is the key.”
The same theory applied to the strategy in play for Miller, who caught 14-3 today after weighing 21-8 on Thursday.
“They were there again but my execution as an angler was off,” said Miller, a member of the St. Croix Bass Anglers. “I was just really nervous and wanted to make the Top 10 cut, which I did.”
. On Thursday, Miller fished flawlessly, catching his five-bass limit weighing 21 pounds in his first seven casts of the day. On Saturday, there will be no holding back.
“I’m going to drop the hammer on them,” he said. “The early bite was off because they didn’t release as much water, but when they did, the fishing really picked up.”
Stronger current also made Dorsett’s fish mad more active. After catching 13-7 Thursday, he added 19-1 today to grab fourth with a total of 32-.
“I had three bites yesterday and six today,” said Dorsett, a member of the Coosa River Anglers. “The bite slowed back down when less water was generated.”
Being on his best spots when the most water is generated is a must.
“I have the area to myself so I can really try and dial into the fish on Saturday,” he added.
After taking the Thursday lead with a limit weighing 22-4, Pierce only caught three bass today weighing 9-12. Pierce’s self-described “hero or zero” strategy held true today as he dropped to fifth place.
“It’s the Tennessee River in the fall,” said Pierce, a member of the Montgomery County Bass Club in Clarksville, Tenn. “When you are fishing river flats covered in grass, it all comes down to being in the right place at the right time.”
Pierce knows all too well the nuances of this river as a regular club tournament angler on the fishery nearer his home.
“I believe the cold front has already impacted the bite, slowed them down in my area,” added Pierce.
Today the non-boater champion was determined. Tim Ward won the title with 30-3 after catching 15-14 today and 14-5 on Thursday. Ward of Sylacauga, Ala., advanced to the championship round on Saturday.
Ward won a Skeeter ZX190 with trailer, Yamaha outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics. He also received paid entry fees in the Basspro.com Bassmaster Opens Series division of his choice.
Ward gets to compete on Saturday from his boat as the non-boater champion. Coincidentally, that was his goal for the tournament.
“I came here with that in mind and practiced really hard from my boat,” he said. “I prepared for this to happen, so I already have a plan in place for tomorrow.”
That makes winning the tournament his new goal. That is not a long shot, either. Louisiana non-boater Ryan Lavigne won the 2016 Championship, and Ward hopes to repeat the feat.
On Saturday the Top 3 pros earn invitations to bass fishing’s most prestigious event, the 2019 Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods. The Classic is March 15-17, 2019, in Knoxville, Tenn.
Those anglers also receive the “Nation’s Best” package, which includes paid entry fees into the 2019 Opens division of their choice, and the use of a fully rigged Phoenix boat for the year.
The overall winner receives an invitation to fish the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series, and $16,000 toward entry fees. He also receives a Nitro Z20, custom trailer with Mercury outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics.
The second-place finisher receives a Skeeter ZX190 with trailer, Yamaha outboard, Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics. The third-place angler wins a Triton 189 TrX and trailer, Yamaha outboard, and factory-installed accessories.
Takeoff begins at 6 a.m. CT Saturday at McFarland Park. The final weigh-in at the park begins at 2 p.m.
The Florence/Lauderdale Convention and Visitors Bureau is event host.