GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. - Anglers awoke to find two inches of snow on their boats Thursday morning as they prepared to launch for the first day of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour event presented by Busch Beer on Alabama's Lake Guntersville.

The cold and the wind, however, didn't dampen too many anglers' spirits, particularly when fishing turned out to be exceptional for the conditions. 2001 CITGO Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam walked out of Day 1 with a 2-pound lead over 2003 Classic champ Michael Iaconelli's 24-3.

VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Mich., had a leading weight of 26-3, marking the first time this year that he has held the lead in CITGO Bassmaster Tour competition and also giving him the $1,000 Busch Heavyweight award for the heaviest catch of the day.

"(The Busch Heavyweight poundage) has got to hold for the entire Tour and Elite 50 (seasons)," said VanDam, who will earn an invitation to the Busch Showdown in September if his weight remains among the top 10. "It could, but I'd be surprised if we didn't see some 30-pound sacks come in here the rest of the week."

VanDam had high hopes for Day 2, but admitted that he had an early struggle. The change in weather patters that will slowly move into the area may change the habits of his fish, but he has a back-up plan or two that will afford him some leeway.

"I don't know how it'll be from day to day," VanDam said. "I didn't do all that well in practice, but I hooked one today that kind of got me started. It kind of sets you off. I got a key bite first thing today fishing a certain bait a certain way and somehow when I got that bite, I knew that that was what I needed to do. Then it was real easy. I've never had a day that it went easier.

"That's kind of how it's always been with me," he added. "You get one little clue and if you're smart enough to pick up on it (you do well). I'm trying to kind of put the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out the migration. I've still got a lot of key spots to fish and I would just love to catch a good string tomorrow and be able to go out there with just 12 guys on the water."

Iaconelli, who had a rough morning that started with boat trouble, had a 5-fish limit by 10 a.m. and is also taking aim at Friday's cut to 12.

"I don't know what's going on with my boat," Iaconelli said. "It was overheating this morning. The mechanic got it to stop overheating and by this afternoon it would only run 4,000 RPM's. It would barely get up on skid, so I have to get that figured out by tomorrow."

Iaconelli is working fish that are beginning to move up to spawning areas, a pattern that has worked well for him in the past.

"I'm catching fish that are kind of holding up out there," Iaconelli said. "There's lots (of fish) together. The fish I'm catching are actually lethargic, meaning that they aren't very active and they're not feeding. I'm catching them on a reaction strike. That means that a lot of these fish don't even want the bait that I'm throwing them but I'm force-feeding them. They eat it, just out of instinct. I probably cast past more bass than anything, but the key is to trigger their strike.

"This is one of those tournaments that, I think, every day you learn more about what you're doing and hopefully that will be indicative of me doing better every day."

The Purolator Big Bass of the Day went to Georgia's Danny White, who takes home an additional $1,000 for his 9-pound 3-ounce lunker on the pro side, and $500 goes to Kentuckian Bruce Luckett who brought in a 7-10 bass that earned him the amateur bonus.

Arkansas's Larry Nixon, Texas's David Wharton and Ohio's Charlie Hartley rounded out the top five for Day 1 with weights of 23-1, 22-3 and 21-15 respectively.

Vermont's Larry Butler walked away from day one with a commanding lead on the amateur side with a 22-pound, 12-ounce sack.

Day 2 at Lake Guntersville gets under way Friday with launch at 6 a.m. from Lake Guntersville State Park. Friday's weigh-in will begin at 2:45 p.m. also at the State Park.

Fans can watch "The CITGO Bassmasters" telecast of the Lake Guntersville tournament on Saturday, March 6 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.

The CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season feature the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday at Lake Guntersville State Park.

The CastingKids program, presented by CITGO will be held in conjunction with the BASS Sponsor Expo Saturday, from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Lake Guntersville State Park. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 can participate in the contest with the chance to earn a scholarship.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. This April, BASS introduces the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer 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.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer 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, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.

Local Sponsors include Local Sponsors include the City of Guntersville, State of Alabama Conservation Department, Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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