Al Gambardella is receiving multiple good-luck texts and phone calls from home, especially from his wife and 3-year-old daughter Sophia. The Day 1 leader of the B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional hasn’t seen them for two weeks — since he left his home in North Haven, Conn., to pre-fish Sebago Lake.
It paid off, though, when he took the Day 1 lead with 12 pounds, 3 ounces.
Gambardella’s weight is nearly 2 pounds ahead of his closest competitor, Paul Mueller, another member of the Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation state team. It helped that Gambardella’s limit was anchored by a 5-pound, 7-ounce largemouth. In fact, his whole bag was made up of largemouth. Most of the contenders brought in smallmouth only or mixed bags of the two species.
Jimmy Lowe, Maine’s tournament director, predicted that the Day 1 leader would have largemouth. But he also said the largemouth bite doesn’t stick around and that smallies will dominate on Days 2 and 3.
“My spot should hold up,” said Gambardella, “depending on the pressure it gets tomorrow. It will get tougher each day, but I think there should be enough fish there.”
Gambardella’s area is all largemouth. He has backup spots that are holding smallmouth, though. “They’re roaming around,” he said. “It’s tough to get on those smallies right now.”
He covered a lot of water in his two weeks of practice, and the spot he found has a lot of milfoil that he’s targeting. He was disappointed that his — and everyone else’s fishing time — was limited today because of an hour-and-a-half fog delay at takeoff. “If I had more time, I probably could have gotten another fish and culled one of my smaller ones.”
Gambardella, a member of Connecticut’s Statewide Bassmasters, is fishing in his 12th divisional. “I know what to expect in these tournaments,” he said. “From my past experience, I know how to go about managing fish.”
Overall, the Day 1 weights were small. The average fish was a little more than 1 1/2 pounds. The Top 10 had 7 pounds or more, but the majority of competitors brought in 1 to 3 pounds for their total weight. Only eight anglers boasted limits.
“We need wind and clouds,” said Lowe, “to make the fishing better. Bluebird skies like we had today are only easy on the tournament director, not on the fishermen.”
Gambardella’s team also is leading. The Connecticut B.A.S.S. Nation state team has three anglers in the Top 5 and a 12-pound lead for the state competition. Connecticut has 60 pounds, 14 ounces, followed by Maine, the host state, 48-13, and Massachusetts, 34-0.
If Gambardella maintains his lead for Connecticut, he’ll be invited to the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, next month on Arkansas’ Lake Dardanelle. Other state leaders as of Day 1 are Lawrence Hogue, Maine; Randy Phillips, Massachusetts; Alan Denise, New Hampshire; Randy Lamanche, New York; Gerard Ling, Ontario; Leo Bevelaqua, Rhode Island; Eric Corbella, Spain; and Skip Sjobeck, Vermont.
Gambardella won $300 today from Point Sebago Resort, which is awarding that amount daily for the biggest bag weighed in. His 5-7 bass is currently in the lead for Carhartt Big Bass honors, a $500 prize awarded to the biggest bass of the tournament. The competitor who has the overall tournament lead tomorrow will win a $250 Livingston Lures Leader award, which goes to the Day 2 leader.
Competition resumes tomorrow at 6:15 a.m. ET for the takeoff at Point Sebago Resort in Casco, Maine. The weigh-in will be broadcast live at 2:15 p.m. ET on Bassmaster.com.
Image courtesy Tyler Reed/ Bassmaster