WADDINGTON, N.Y. — Giant limits of smallmouth bass exceeded expectations during Thursday’s opening round of competition as Matt Lee of Guntersville, Ala., weighed a tremendous 27-pound, 12-ounce limit of smallmouth bass to take an early lead at the Huk Bassmaster Elite at St. Lawrence River presented by Black Velvet.
Lee’s staggering limit, anchored by a behemoth 6-plus-pound smallmouth, is the heaviest single-day smallmouth limit in Bassmaster Elite Series history.
With so many big smallies coming in, it’s worth mentioning that a four-day total consisting of only smallmouth topping the 100-pound mark has never been caught during an Elite Series event. New records could be set at Waddington this week, as 52 five-bass limits exceeding the 20-pound mark were brought to the scales Thursday.
That’s an unprecedented number — and nothing short of impressive.
A first-place prize of $100,000 will go to the winner after four days of competition — and since Lee has never claimed an Elite Series victory, he is looking to expand his lead during Friday’s second round. He can also earn more valuable points in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
This tournament marks the conclusion of the 2018 regular Elite Series season. The Top 50 anglers in the points race will advance to the AOY Championship scheduled for mid-September on Georgia’s Lake Chatuge.
“What an amazing day,” Lee said. “Things literally went perfectly for me today, and that seldom happens in this sport. On every spot I fished today I caught a big one, and plenty of them. It was amazing.”
Lee has the lead by over a pound, and he is confident the bite will stay consistent if the forecasted weather also remains consistent.
“For some reason, I have a better batting average on fisheries that turn into slugfests,” Lee said. “I don’t know why that is, but you won’t hear me complain about it. I can’t say duplicating today’s weight is possible, but from what I saw today, it’s certainly not impossible. I’m excited to get back out there and make it happen.”
Tennessee veteran pro David Walker also enjoyed a fantastic day that produced a five-bass limit that weighed 26-8.
“I really don’t know what to say. I absolutely can’t believe that happened,” Walker said. “That was, without a doubt, the best day of smallmouth fishing I’ve ever had. I’m so happy.”
Just like Lee, Walker’s day went perfectly.
“So many times in this sport, things happen beyond your control that affect the outcome of your time on the water,” he said. “Not today. Every decision I made worked out, and I really hope my luck continues into tomorrow.”
Second-year pro Tyler Carriere of Louisiana will begin Friday’s round in third place after weighing 26 pounds of smallmouth.
“I knew catching a big limit over 20 pounds was possible after my practice,” he said. “But today was certainly beyond my expectations. My bite lasted all day long, and I was able to make a key upgrade in the afternoon to help push my weight up another pound. I’m very happy with the results, and I'm ready for tomorrow.”
Arizona’s Josh Bertrand and Scott Rook of Arkansas tied for fourth place with 25-11.
Brett Hite of Phoenix, Ariz., is leading the Phoenix Boats Big Bass competition, thanks to a 6-12 smallmouth. If the big bass holds through Championship Sunday, Hite will win a $1,500 bonus paycheck.
Competition will resume Friday morning with takeoff beginning at 6:15 a.m. ET at Whittaker Park in Waddington, N.Y., and weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. at the same location.
2018 Huk Bassmaster Elite At St. Lawrence River Title Sponsor: Huk
2018 Huk Bassmaster Elite At St. Lawrence River Presenting Sponsor: Black Velvet
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Platinum Sponsor: Toyota
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Premier Sponsors: Nitro Boats, Power-Pole, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Huk,
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: T-H Marine, Academy Sports + Outdoors, Carhartt, Livingston Lures, Lowrance, Phoenix Boats
2018 Bassmaster Elite Series Elite Partner: Black Velvet
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