MANY, Louisiana – Albert Collins thought an average weight of 12 or 13 pounds per day could put him in contention at the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional at Toledo Bend Reservoir.
After Day 1 of the tournament, he’s on target in both respects.
Collins, who lives in Nacogdoches, Tex. about an hour’s drive from Cypress Bend Park, caught five bass on Wednesday that weighed 13 pounds, 2 ounces. That total met his expectations, and it was enough to give him the lead on this mammoth 181,000-acre reservoir that’s part of the Louisiana/Texas border.
Collins has a slim 8-ounce lead in the boater division of this event, which features a field of 80 boaters from eight different states. An additional 80 non-boaters also are competing in the three-day tournament, which is the final B.A.S.S. Nation Regional before the season championship is held Nov. 11-13 on Alabama’s Pickwick Lake.
Oklahoma’s Austin Cranford, who weighed four bass for a 12-9 total on Wednesday, is in second place in the boater division, while Arkansas’ Jim Martin (four bass, 12-4) and his Natural State teammate Don Douglas IV (five bass, 12-2) hold down third and fourth place, respectively. Jesse Jordan of Kansas is currently in fifth place in the boater field with a limit that weighed 12-1.
Collins said he only fishes Toledo Bend about twice a year, but knowing he was competing in this regional, he’s made note of the winning totals from recent tournaments on the famed fishery.
“Louisiana B.A.S.S. Nation had their tournament here two weeks ago here and it took 24 pounds over two days to win that one,” Collins said. “There was a team tournament here last weekend and it took 25 pounds to win that one. So I knew it was going to be pretty tough.”
Collins, who will turn 56 on Halloween, said he only caught seven keepers Wednesday. He believes Hurricane Delta, which came ashore in southwest Louisiana last week, may have hindered the Day 1 haul on Toledo Bend. Of the 160 competing anglers, only nine caught double-digit totals on Wednesday, which is noteworthy for a place that produces lunker bass with relative frequency.
“I was on a little better bite in practice, but the hurricane has the water up,” he said. “I’m fishing offshore, but kind of at mid-depth, and it changed some things. I caught three fish early and the last of them, I had to grind pretty hard to catch.”
Collins said he favored plum-colored lures on Day 1, including a 6th Sense C10 crankbait (chartreuse back), a 6th Sense Ridge worm and a Mr. Twister Hang 10 worm.
Danny Fourr of Farmington, New Mexico caught three bass weighing 9-2 on Wednesday and leads the non-boater field.
Fourr qualified for the 2016 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Conroe in Texas, but he got sick during the tournament and didn’t perform well. Nevertheless, he said having that experience made him a better angler and he wants to prove it on Toledo Bend, and hopefully Pickwick.
“I’m here this week to get back (to the championship),” Fourr said. “I’m ready to go again.”
Jason Carpenter of Greeley, Colorado had a 6-11 largemouth for the heaviest catch of the day in either division. That was the only bass he caught, however, but he’s still in 27th place of the 80 anglers in the boater division. There is a $500 cash prize for the boater with the heaviest bass of the tournament and a $250 prize for the big bass in the non-boater division.
Team Arkansas led Wednesday’s action with its 20 anglers combining to catch 53 bass for a total weight of 115-5. Team Louisiana is in second place (40 bass, 90-8) and Missouri is third (38 bass, 75-13.)
Rounding out the Day 1 team standings are fourth, Oklahoma, (33, 74-9); fifth, Texas (32, 65-2); sixth, Kansas, (31, 64-2); seventh, New Mexico (31, 61-5); and eighth, Colorado, 27, 58-4.
The entire field will compete again on Thursday, and both divisions will be cut to their top 16 anglers for Friday’s final day of competition. Any competitors in first or second place for their state, but not in the top 16 in their division, will make the cut, as well.
The top boater of the tournament will win $5,000 and the top non-boater will win $2,500. The state with the heaviest total after Thursday’s weigh-in will win $5,000.
The total purse in this week’s regional is $24,000.
Day 2 of the B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional will begin at Cypress Bend Park at 7 a.m. CST on Thursday. Weigh-in is scheduled for 3 p.m. CST. The tournament is being hosted by the Louisiana Office of Tourism, Toledo Bend Lake Country, Sabine River Authority, DeSoto Parish Tourist Commission and Vernon Parish Tourism Commission.