DEL RIO, Texas While most of the bass fishing world's attention was focused on 106 of the top professional bass anglers that make up the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series, there were 106 non-boaters just as eager to show fans how they could perform on the heralded Lake Amistad.
Allan Chandler of Texas is leading the non-boater field after Day 1 of competition on the clear, blue Lake Amistad.
Chandler reeled in a limit of three bass weighing an impressive 14 pounds 2 ounces. That is an average of 4 pounds 9 ounces per fish caught by the leader in the amateur division.
What's even more impressive, is that Chandler managed to get the heavy bag while fishing with the Elite Series Power Index leader, Kevin VanDam.
"I called my wife last night after they announced at registration who we would be fishing with," said a grinning Chandler. "When I told her I was partnered with Kevin VanDam she said, 'Well, I guess you're going to whack 'em then.'"
And whack them they did.
VanDam caught almost double the weight of his non-boater, bringing 27 pounds 3 ounces to the stage, which put him in a solid 8th place on the leaderboard.
"Fishing with Kevin today was an incredible experience," praised Chandler. "He is an unbelievably accomplished angler, and I learned so much just watching him."
Albert Hudson of Austin, Texas, currently holds the Purolator Big Bass of the non-boater division, with a lunker weighing 7 pounds, 14 ounces. That weight only trails the boater big bass by 2 pounds, 7 ounces. Only 1 pound separates the fifth spot from the first spot on the non-boater leaderboard, and every angler in the top six hails from the state of Texas.
In second place after Day 1 is Mark Wright with 13 pounds, 15 ounces, third place is occupied by Gordon Karstedt with 13 pounds, 10 ounces, fourth place goes to the big bass leader Albert Hudson with 13 pounds, 6 ounces (more than half of his bag was his big fish), and rounding out the top five is David Stewart with 13 pounds, 2 ounces.
Each Bassmaster Elite Series angler was paired with an amateur angler during the first day of competition of the inaugural Elite Series tournament in Del Rio, Texas.
A possible record of 65 limits was brought to the stage during the first day's weigh-in, something that can only be attributed to the abundance of fish in the Lake Amistad fishery.
Nothing but praises as consistent as a broken record came from the mouths of boaters and non-boaters alike, and the most used phrase of the afternoon had to be, "This is the best lake I have ever fished on."
The tournament format is set up to where the non-boaters fish out of the back of the boat while the Bassmaster Elite Series angler runs the boat and has priority on the water. Another stipulation of every Elite Series event is that non-boaters are only allowed to catch a limit of three fish while boaters will attempt to pull in a bag of five fish.
All 106 non-boater entrants will fish again tomorrow and then after the weigh-in, the field will be cut to the top 50 amateur anglers. The field on Saturday will compete for over $115,000 in merchandise and cash, with $45,000 going to the winner in a boat and motor package.