A backup plan paid big dividends Wednesday for tournament leader Chris Price of Maryland during the B.A.S.S. Nation Mid-Atlantic Divisional on Lake Erie.

Like most of the contenders, Price was expecting to fish on the lake Wednesday, but a small craft warning with winds of 25 knots changed everyone’s plans. Before the takeoff, B.A.S.S. Nation Tournament Director Jon Stewart consulted with the team captains and announced that the tournament waters would be restricted to Presque Isle Bay.

The 40-year-old Price had an idea that one day of the tournament might be restricted to the bay, so he spent a half day there in practice.

“I got real lucky in practice and pulled into a spot, and the first few cast I made I put together a pattern,” said Price, a member of the Three Rivers Bass Club and the Del-Mar Bassmasters.

The pattern produced all day for him today as he caught 18 keepers and brought in a four-fish limit (Pennsylvania has a black bass possession limit of four fish) weighing 10 pounds, 12 ounces to lead the tournament.

“I just happened to come across a couple of good spots real quick right out in the middle of the bay,” said Price, a two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier. The roofing contractor from Church Hill, Md., caught all of his fish 6- to 8-feet deep along the edges of grass with a 7-inch ribbontail worm, the same lure that produced for him in practice.

Calmer weather is predicted for Thursday, so Price plans on targeting the smallmouth he found in practice on the main lake. Although he has never fished this section of the lake before, Price has some experience at catching Lake Erie smallmouth near Buffalo, N.Y.

The five-time divisional qualifier thought he had only an 8-pound limit of largemouth today, so Price is hoping he has also underestimated the size of the smallmouth he was catching in practice.

Price is striving to finish as the top angler on his Delaware team, which would earn him a berth in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship. Other state leaders bidding for championship berths include Matt Becker of Pennsylvania with 10 pounds, 7 ounces; Michael Sentore, New Jersey, 10-6; Bill Pioch, West Virginia, 9-8; Bryant Copley, Virginia, 9-6; and Brett Quader, Maryland, 9-3.

The host Pennsylvania squad leads the team competition with 83 pounds, 10 ounces. Delaware is in the runner-up spot with 81-5.

Becker caught the 4-pound, 2-ounce bass currently in contention for the tournament’s Carhartt Big Bass award.

The Mid-Atlantic Divisional contestants will take off at 5:45 a.m. ET Thursday at Presque Isle State Park and will weigh in at the same location at 2 p.m. ET. The final competition day is Friday, July 26.

2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Official Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha

2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Supporting Sponsors: Boat US, Carhartt, Diet Mountain Dew, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Luck-E-Strike, Power-Pole, Shimano

Image courtesy B.A.S.S.

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