MORGAN CITY, La. – After thunderstorms ravaged the Atchafalaya Basin Wednesday morning, delaying launch for an hour, anglers rallied to have a solid first day at the CITGO BASS Federation Central Divisional presented by Busch Beer.

Two anglers, Texan Tony McBride and Nebraskan Dennis Kotas, currently share first place with 11 pounds and 14 ounces. Kotas’ total weight was 12 pounds, 2 ounces, but suffered a 4-ounce dead fish penalty and was forced to share the lead, at least for one day.

“I think the area I’m in, I can get a limit the last two days,” Kotas said. “There’s plenty of fish there. I don’t know what happened to the one fish. He had some bad marks on him. It looked like a gator or something had got after him.”

While the eight teams gathered at the Central Divisional are competing for a cash prize purse based on each team’s cumulative weight over three days, the other big prize will go to just eight anglers.

Each team’s top angler based on his individual cumulative weight after Friday’s final round will earn a berth in amateur bass fishing’s world championship, the CITGO BASS Federation Championship presented by Busch Beer next spring. Five anglers from the Federation Championship earn berths in the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, the only amateurs to qualify for the world championship.

McBride, a machinist by trade who is fishing in his first Federation Divisional, was less happy with his catch, but knows there are two days left to catch them.

“I caught quite a few fish today,” McBride said. The bite seemed to be a little bit off, though. I was thinking the rain this morning might have helped them, but it really didn’t. I think tomorrow will be a better day for me.”

The Mississippi team jumped out to the early lead on the Atchafalaya River Basin with a team weight of 77 pounds and 7 ounces.

Currently, Kent Priel of Nebraska is leading the race for the Purolater Big Bass of the Tournament. Priel brought in a 4-1 bass that, if it holds out to be the largest of the tournament, will earn him $1,000 from Purolator.

Competition for the CITGO BASS Federation Central Divisional presented by Busch Beer will continue Thursday. Launch will be at 6:15 a.m. with weigh-ins starting promptly at 2:45 from the Belle River Landing.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

BASS Federation Sponsors Include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, Evan Williams and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats.

Local Sponsors include Cajun Coast Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit