Oklahoma angler and 2011 Bassmaster Classic qualifier Dale Hightower weighed a sack of five fish that tipped the scales at 17 pounds, 5 ounces on Wednesday, the first day of the Cabela’s B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Central Divisional. But when he looked over his shoulder, he saw Nebraska’s Jared Knuth a scant 10 ounces behind with 16 pounds, 11 ounces.
Their scores were close, but the anglers had little in common when it came to fishing strategies on the Atchafalaya Basin.
“I’ve been fishing real shallow in a big slough,” Hightower said, weighing every word so as not to give anything away. “I really don’t want to say where it’s at or what I’m catching them on, but I will say I’m moving my baits real fast. I’m not fishing on the bottom of the lake, that’s for sure.
“The fish have been there for a while. I had 12 keepers this morning before 9:30 and was able to leave by 10 o’clock. All things considered, I had a good day.”
Hightower said he thought he had enough fish in that one spot to support him through three days of tournament angling, so long as the tide doesn’t run them off.
Knuth told a very different story. “I’m making a long run and fishing really heavy vegetation. Without giving you the details, I will say that I’m punching in less than 3 feet of water with a 1 1/2-ounce tungsten sinker,” Knuth said.
Like Hightower, Knuth said he believes his fish will hold for three days. “I have several more areas that I haven’t touched yet so I think — hope — I’m in pretty good shape.”
Louisiana was the top team after Day 1 with 49 fish that weighed a total of 100 pounds, 5 ounces. Leading the state was Ryan Lavigne with 13 pounds, 2 ounces. Kansas was in second place with 79 pounds, 7 ounces. Preston Frazell led the charge for Kansas with 11 pounds, 10 ounces.
Oklahoma ranked third with 69 pounds, 11 ounces. Missouri was fourth with 61 pounds, 13 ounces; and Texas was fifth with 54 pounds even. Arkansas was right behind them with 53 pounds, 5 ounces; Nebraska was in seventh place with 45 pounds, 15 ounces; and Mississippi was in last place with 44 pounds, 7 ounces.
Big bass honors went to Kenneth Ryals of Hattiesburg, Miss., with a 4 pound, 15 ounce bass.