Doug Thompson, who leads the 2013 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Dardanelle on Day 2, knows exactly what he wants.

“I went to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship before  — on Toho in 2007,” said the Arkansas angler. “I finished ninth, only a couple pounds out of making the Bassmaster Classic. When I was leaving the boatyard after it was over, you could just tell the ones who made it to the Classic by the looks on their faces. They were just floating on air.

“I told my wife, ‘I want to look like that one day.’ That feeling has just stuck with me.”

And that feeling is with him now after taking the overall lead at the championship.

Thompson started the day in third place with 16 pounds. After the Day 2 weigh-in, he added 12 pounds, 3 ounces to make his total 28-3. He took the top spot in the tournament and, more importantly, in his division. Day 1 tournament leader Ryan Lavigne was the Central Division leader on Day 1. Division winners at the championship will earn berths in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic.

Thompson won the Arkansas B.A.S.S. Nation State Championship on Lake Dardanelle in October 2012 to qualify for this event, and he calls the Arkansas River his home water.

“People think if you’re fishing your home water in a tournament that you should just be able to go catch them,” said Thompson, “but that’s not how it works.” Yes, he’s more familiar with Dardanelle than many of the anglers, but he said he doesn’t think that helps  much. At least, it doesn’t make him a shoo-in for the Classic.

However, this has been a big year for Thompson. This is his third national championship competition in 2013. He took fifth place in the TBF National Championship and 14th place in the BFL All-American. But for both of those, he was competing as a co-angler. The stakes are higher here. A win on Dardanelle would give him a chance to hoist the coveted Bryan D. Kerchal Memorial Trophy above his head, knowing he would be going to Lake Guntersville, Ala., in February to compete against the biggest names in the sport in the Bassmaster Classic.

“I don’t even want to think about it,” said the computer technician, who spends his days in a data center and his weekends (and every bit of his vacation time) on the water. “This tournament has consumed my whole thought process since I qualified for it a year ago.”

Thompson has a lot of work to do on Day 3 to hold his lead and get the opportunity of a lifetime.

“If it clouds up, it will hurt my bite,” he said, “and it will help the guys fishing shallow.” If that happens, Thompson says he knows how to adjust. “There are a lot of other things I could do,” he said.

Currently, Thompson has a 5 1/2-pound lead in the Central Division. That’s not wrapped up by any means. Lavigne, who caught 17-1 on Day 1 and was in the lead, weighed in on Day 2 with only 5-3. That kind of a swing can happen to anyone.

Other division leaders and potential Classic contenders are Paul Mueller, Eastern Division; Jeff Lugar, Mid-Atlantic; Mark Dove, Northern; Drew Sadler, Southern; and Jeremy Percifield, Western.

Sadler still leads in the Carhartt Big Bass competition with the 6-1 he caught on Day 1. But Jason Vaughn of Delaware brought in a 5-1 on Day 2 that won Carhartt Big Bass daily honors worth $250. Thompson wins $250 for leading on Day 2 as part of the Livingston Lures Leader Award.

Overall, the weights were down for Day 2. Three anglers zeroed, and seven fewer weighed in limits than on Day 1. With the same number of anglers competing on Day 1, the overall weight brought in was 100 pounds lower on Day 2 with a total weight of 355-11.

Fewer anglers complained of short fish on Day 2, but more lamented the wrong species and lost fish. Several anglers — including Juan Ro Chagollan Jr. of Mexico, Mike Moran of Pennsylvania and Chris Blair of Georgia — claimed to have had monster fish on, but they didn’t make it into the boat. All three of them are looking for those same fish on Saturday and hoping they stay hooked.

Competitors will take off on Day 3 at 7:15 a.m. CT at Lake Dardanelle State Park, 100 State Park Drive, Russellville, AR 72802. They will weigh in at the same location at 3:30 p.m. CT. Stay tuned to for full coverage of the event.

Image courtesy Shaye Baker/Bassmaster

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