PADUCAH, Ky. - After a night that saw over 4 inches of rainfall bring the Ohio, Cumberland and Tennessee Rivers up to flood stage, anglers on the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer found a changed fishery for the first day of the Bassmaster Elite 50 series' final event.

Despite the unwelcome changes, Louisiana's Greg Hackney brought in a five-fish limit that tipped the scales at 14 pounds, 15 ounces and gave him the lead heading into Thursday's round. Although the limit was small by normal standards on the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, Hackney was happy to have it.

"I thought, coming into it, that 16 or 17 (pounds) would make the cut," said Hackney, who qualified for the elite field as the reigning CITGO Bassmaster Rookie of the Year. "But now I don't know. It was one of those deals where, coming into the tournament, it could either be really good or be really bad. I thought that I had the potential to catch the fish that I had today, but I didn't know."

After Thursday's round, the field will be cut to the top 12 anglers. Although the full field will fish on Friday for the opportunity to improve the anglers' final places in the standings, only the top 12 will have the opportunity to make Friday's cut to the Super Six and fish in the championship round. With so much at stake - including more than $1 million in prize money and 10 berths to this summer's CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, the anglers are more than a little nervous about any change to the conditions.

"When the water came up, it really scared me this morning because I didn't think I could catch them as well today," Hackney said. "I think I could have caught them better had it stayed down, but I did better than I thought I could do today with it coming up. The fish have moved around and they've gotten into some stuff so that I can't present a bait to them now. I can present a bait to them, but not the one that I need to.

"I'm just going to play it day by day, because it's going to change. I'm going to go back to that same place tomorrow and try to get five and make the cut. I'll worry about the rest then."

Hackney's big catch also earned him $1,000 for the Busch Heavyweight award, the prize given for the largest sack of each tournament day, and contained a 4-pound, 15-ounce bass that earned him another $1,000 for the Purolator Big Bass of the Day. If the 4-15 holds out for the remainder of the event, Hackney will take home an additional $1,000 for the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament.

Michigan's Kevin VanDam followed Hackney's lead Wednesday with a limit of his own. VanDam's 14-pound, 4-ounce limit was good enough to put him in second place and also allowed him to keep the Bassmaster Elite 50 series points lead.

"I just got to a spot where they were biting," VanDam said. "I caught one fish off this one spot in practice when I fished with my dad and I told him then that they should stack up there.

"The area has got current and it's got some good rocks on the bottom and that's what those smallmouths like. It's really tough on this river right now, though. With all these great anglers, you never know what can happen with the championship."

Arizona's Dean Rojas (12-3), Texas' Alton Jones (11-3) and Arkansas' Mike Wurm (10-5) rounded out the top five after day one.

The points race continues to cast a long shadow over this series, with the eventual points champion taking home a $150,000 grand prize for the four events.

Competition continues Thursday. Launches will be daily at 10 a.m. at the downtown Paducah Riverfront with the indoor weigh-ins at J.R.'s Executive Inn and Convention Center beginning at 7 p.m.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, 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 Bassmaster Elite 50 series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.

Local Sponsors include the J.R.'s Executive Inn/McCracken County Convention & Visitors Bureau.

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