GAINESVILLE, Ga. – Local angler David Nichol of Gainesville, Ga., took the Day 1 lead on Thursday in the fifth and final event of the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour.

On a day that proved to be tough for the majority of the field — only 28 five-fish limits were brought to the scales by the 137 pros — Nichol reeled in an impressive bag of 16 pounds, 9 ounces.

“I did a little better than I expected,” said Nichol, 46. “I hadn’t fished my key places in practice, but they did well today.” He said he fished a deep-water pattern on Thursday, but was tight-lipped about specifics.

Nichol, who grew up on the lake, said he’s fished it his entire life, but was quick to add that he didn’t feel his home-lake advantage was enough for a sure win. “The tournament is far from over,” he said. The Lanier Tour Stop is Nichol’s first BASS event.

Casey Ashley, 22, of Donalds, S.C., finished Day 1 in second place with 14 pounds, 14 ounces. Ashley said he flipped jigs near boat docks the entire day for his mixed bag of spotted and largemouth bass.

“I had my limit by 10 a.m., and then the bite went dry for about four hours,” said Ashley. “Then this afternoon the fish turned back on like a light switch.”

Sam Harris of Bogart, Ga., and Paul Driskell of Jefferson, Ga., were tied for third place with 13 pounds, 6 ounces. Harris said he made long casts into vegetation using hard baits and soft plastics. “I caught fish from 2 feet to 20 feet and everywhere in between,” he noted.

Clark Reehm of Leesville, La., rounded out the top five with 13 pounds, 3 ounces.

Among the pros fishing the Lake Lanier Tour event are five who also are CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series anglers: Florida’s Mark Rogers; current Southern Tour points leader Terry Scroggins of Florida; Alabama’s Timmy Horton; North Carolina’s Kevin Langill; and Florida’s Chris Lane. Only Rogers was in the top 50 after Day 1.

On the co-angler side, Ron Cochran of Maysville, Ga., took the Day 1 lead with his catch of 9 pounds, 11 ounces. Close on his heels was Sam Moss of Ackerman, Miss., with 9-8. Three Georgia anglers rounded out the top five: Terry Mintz with 8-9, Shaun Mulhall with 8-8 and Brad Benfield with 6-10.

Anglers on the pro side are vying for a first-place payout of $30,000 in cash and a Triton boat rig worth $45,000. Co-anglers are up against each other for a top prize of a Triton boat package valued at $30,000. Total payout for the tournament is $324,650 in cash and merchandise to the top 60 pros; the top 50 co-anglers share a payout of $68,800 in prizes.

The field cuts to the top 50 anglers and top 50 co-anglers for Saturday’s competition.

The Lake Lanier Tour is the final stop on the five-event 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour. Throughout the season, pros have been building points toward qualifying for the 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic and the next level of competition, the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series. On Saturday, when the Southern Tour’s season points standings are final, the three Classic berths will be awarded to the top three pros, and the top five points leaders will have earned eligibility for next year’s Elite circuit.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.Bassmaster.com.