HARTFORD, Conn. — Steve Pickard had never fished on the Connecticut River until four days ago, but that didn’t stop him from taking the first-day lead on the river in the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Divisional.
“When I got here on Saturday, I ran as much water as possible,” said Pickard, of Fulton, N.Y. “I got on a deal on Sunday and started working my way up and down the river to see where it works.”
The “deal” he’s talking about is a pattern he figured out on the waterway that’s really not much different than what other competitors are doing — except for one thing.
“I have one distinguishing feature, one key ingredient,” he said, declining to say what the pattern or the secret tweak is. “That’s what is making the difference.”
It’s no surprise he’s not divulging much information about his tactic. The tournament is in its first day of three, and the winner will likely have only a margin of ounces based on the weights here on the Connecticut River.
Only 12 anglers out of 108 managed to collect limits of five bass in today’s opening round, and the average weight of each bass is a scant 1 pound, 6 ounces. Twenty-three anglers didn’t weigh in a bass.
Pickard, however, got two really good fish that he wasn’t expecting — a 2 1/2-pound largemouth and a 4-pound smallmouth. Those two, added to his three average-size bass, added up to a leading weight of 9 pounds, 8 ounces. Currently, he’s more than a pound up on his closest competitor.
“It will be hard to get another 9 or 10 pounds,” Pickard said. “This river is extremely tough. I’m hoping for a good couple of days. The mornings have been a better bite, as long as the tide is moving.”
Pickard is competing to win the tournament, of course, but he’s also working toward winning the top spot on his team. The best performer from each state B.A.S.S. Nation qualifies for the 2015 Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Nov. 5-7, on Louisiana’s Ouachita River. He’s ahead in the New York B.A.S.S. Nation now by 1 pound, 2 ounces. If he can maintain it, he gets an invitation to compete in the championship, and if he wins there, he’ll get to move on to the biggest stage in bass fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro in March 2016.
Other competitors in a position to move on are Alex Wetherell, Connecticut; Mark Desjardin, Maine; George Barnes, Massachusetts; David LeBlanc, New Hampshire; Larry MacPhail, Ontario; Philip Casto, Rhode Island; Cesar Ventura Pecellin Munoz, Spain; and James Knox, Vermont.
Each state is in competition, too. The state whose team members weigh in the heaviest cumulative weight wins a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at $38,000. Pickard’s catch helped propel the New York team into the first-round lead with 52 pounds, 2 ounces. Behind New York are Connecticut with 44-10 and Ontario with 38-11.
The biggest bass brought to the scales so far in the Eastern Divisional is a 4-pound, 10-ounce bass caught by Dave Andrews, who is fishing for the New Hampshire state team.
Competition resumes Thursday. Anglers will take off from Riverside Park at 6:15 a.m. ET, and they’ll weigh in at the park at 2:15 p.m. Keep up with the action at Bassmaster.com.
2015 B.A.S.S. Nation Title Sponsor: Old Milwaukee
2015 B.A.S.S. Nation Premier Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, GoPro, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Nitro Boats, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha
2015 B.A.S.S. Nation Supporting Sponsors: A.R.E. Accessories, Carhartt, Dick Cepek Tires & Wheels, Huk, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Nationwide, Power-Pole, Rigid Industries, Shimano
B.A.S.S. is the worldwide authority on bass fishing and keeper of the culture of the sport. Headquartered in Birmingham, Ala., the 500,000-member organization’s fully integrated media platforms include the industry’s leading magazines (Bassmaster and B.A.S.S. Times), website (Bassmaster.com), television show (The Bassmasters on ESPN2), social media programs and events. For more than 45 years, B.A.S.S. has been dedicated to access, conservation and youth fishing.
The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the most prestigious events at each level of competition, including the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series presented by Allstate, Old Milwaukee B.A.S.S. Nation events, Carhartt Bassmaster College Series presented by Bass Pro Shops, Costa Bassmaster High School Series, Toyota Bonus Bucks Bassmaster Team Championship and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by GoPro.