UPCOMING EVENT: YETI FLW COLLEGE FISHING - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Beale, Loughran battle for overall lead, Mid-Atlantic Division

TBF National Championship day-one leader Kenny Beale Jr. holds up two from his 20-pound, 7-ounce limit.

Lake Nickajack gave up plenty of limits ­ 49, to be exact ­ for the 94 anglers in the 2011 Bass Federation championship, but one stood head-and-shoulders above the rest. Virginia angler Kenny Beale Jr. weighed a whopping 20-pound, 7-ounce limit, besting fellow Mid-Atlantic Division angler Ed Loughran by 2 1/2 pounds. Beale, a 34-year-old truck driver from Danville, Virginia had a phenomenal day, thanks in large part to conditions that fit his favorite style of fishing.

"I love flipping and I love fishing shallow water, so everything is working into my strengths right now. My partner and I probably caught 20-plus keepers," he said. "I just happen to be in an area that not only fits my style, but has lots of good fish."

Even better, Beale has his spots to himself, spots he stumbled into on Wednesday's official practice day, his only time ever spent on the lake.

"I ran the entire lake on Wednesday just looking. I fished these spots and hooked a couple of good ones and shook off several others, so I felt pretty good about it," he recalled.

Day-one leader Kenny Beale Jr. relied primarily on a jig, but he caught a 5-pounder on a floating worm. He spent nearly the entire first day of the tournament in two areas flipping a black and blue jig in just a few feet of water, although he caught one of his biggest fish on a floating worm. Beale thinks the bass are bedding, but he's not sight-fishing. He is, however, seeing some bass cruising, a good sign.

"That tells me there are more fish getting ready to move up," he says. "I plan on doing the same thing tomorrow."

There is, however, a twist. Instead of the top seven boaters and co-anglers advancing to the final day after tomorrow's weigh-in, only one boater and co-angler from each of the TBF's seven divisions advance to the final day. Therefore, tomorrow's headline story is likely to be a shoot-out between Beale and Loughran. Only one of them will advance to the final day and the shot at the Living The Dream package, valued at over $100,000.

Things are even tighter in other divisions, including the Central, where Texan James Biggs holds a narrow lead-1 pound, 4 ounces--over Louisiana angler Billy Graves. Biggs, who is third overall, caught his 17-pound, 8-ounce limit on crankbaits and soft plastics in 4 to 10 feet of water.

"I had five keepers by 8 and my final limit by 9," he said. His sack was anchored with the day's biggest fish, a 6-pound, one-ounce largemouth. Although he had boat trouble, Biggs caught an estimated 20 keepers as he limped his way back to the Shellmound Day Use Area boat ramp.

TBF National Championship second-place angler Ed Loughran is also second in the Mid-Atlantic Division behind overall leader Kenny Beale Jr. after day one. "I could go about a mile before it would overheat, so I would just fish for awhile. I actually caught fish just about everywhere I stopped," he said. "I did not fish my ace-in-the-hole though, so I feel good about tomorrow."

Fourth-place angler Don Boeger of Idaho also has high hopes for Day 2. He has a 2 1/2-pound lead over Chris Ferry of Washington and expects to catch bedding fish tomorrow. He hoped to catch them today, but water poured through the Chickamauga Dam, raising Nickajack just enough to hide the bedding bass Boeger found on the official practice day.

"I couldn't find them today, so I ran (to a different spot) and just started pre-fishing all over. Fortunately, I caught three over 3 pounds and seven keepers total," he said.

David McNary of Massachusetts has a 1-9 lead over Carl Andrade in the Eastern Division. The Northern Division is even tighter with Ohio angler Dean Hill leading Andy Wegner of Illinois by just six ounces. One pound separates Robbie Robertson from Greg Hoskinson in the Southern Division, and Larry Hardy's lead in the Southwest Division is just 13 ounces over Joe Raferty.

Holding down the top spot on the nonboater side is Dennis Hastings from Flower Mound, Texas, with a limit of bass weighing 15 pounds, 4 ounces. Leads will likely change hands in the co-angler division, as well. The overall leader is Dennis Hastings of Texas, who has a 3-3 lead over Mike Zachary in the Central Division. Nick Anguillo of New Jersey leads former Living The Dream winner Robert Harkness of West Virginia by 1 pound, 11 ounces in the Mid-Atlantic, and Casey Casamento is on top in the Easter Division. Jason Myers of Ohio leads the Northern while Darrel Shull is first in the Southern Division. Washington Angler Gene Lippincott leads the Northwest and Rhett Fornof is first in the Southwest Division.

Even with so many close races within the divisions, all eyes will be on the two sticks from the Mid-Atlantic. Loughran, who caught a limit early, left his prime spots before noon once he caught 17 pounds, 15 ounces. It was a decision he may regret.

"I figured I'd be leading my division with 18 pounds, but I will say I was worried about Kenny (Beale). He's a very good fisherman," he said. "The good thing is that the spots I was fishing have a good chance of replenishing. I would catch just one or two off of each and then leave. They are isolated, no one else is fishing them and tomorrow's weather could play right into my pattern."

That may not be the case for many of the other anglers. The front originally expected to arrive later on Friday now appears to be bearing down on the region earlier. Southeasterly winds could reach 20 miles per hour by early afternoon, and strong thunderstorms are predicted for later in the day.

Anglers will launch at 6 a.m. Friday and Saturday from the TVA's Shellmound Public Use Area near Jasper, Tennessee, and Friday's weigh-in will take place starting at 3 p.m. at Kimball Park in Kimball. The final day weigh-in will include just seven boaters and co-anglers, one from each of the TBF's divisions. All seven earn a berth in the 2011 All-American, and the top boater and co-angler also earn a slot in the 2011 Forrest Wood Cup. Many Federation anglers consider the Living The Dream package the grand prize. It goes to the top boater and includes paid entry in the Walmart FLW Tour, the use of a wrapped Ranger boat and Chevy tow vehicle, sponsor merchandise and expense money for a total value of over $100,000.

The winner will be crowned at the Chattanooga Convention Center on Saturday. The 3 p.m. weigh-in will take place on the same stage as the Walmart FLW Tour Major event, which is taking place on Chickamauga Lake, one pool above Nickajack on the Tennessee River. In addition to the weigh-ins, the convention center is also the site of the FLW Outdoor Expo Saturday and Sunday.

Tags: david-hart  headline-story  2011-04-14-national-championship-nickajack 

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