High Winds and Waves Don’t Keep Balog From Amassing an 8-Pound Cushion
SANDUSKY, Ohio – Joe Balog of Harrison Township, Mich., took the Day 1 lead in the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour event on Lake Erie with 23 pounds, 12 ounces of largemouth bass, besting second-place holder Paul Noechel of Lost Creek, W.Va., by more than 8 pounds.
Heavy winds and high waves plagued anglers on Thursday, the first day of the three-day event. Several said they were forced to give up on planned runs to key water and instead stayed inside Sandusky Bay, which offered more protection. But Balog was one of the few who braved the open water and made a long run. He said his destination was near the Canadian border.
“I’ve been fishing here since 1988 and this is the toughest day I’ve ever fished,” said the 32-year-old, who estimated he’s fished more than 100 tournaments on Lake Erie. But while the conditions were difficult, he said the fishing was phenomenal.
“This time of year, the fish get on deep structure and start going deep for the winter,” he said. “The fish are feeding for the fall. The key is to get the bait vertical. Once it’s down there, you just wait.”
Balog said he targeted rockpiles, going 28 to 32 feet deep with a drop-shot rig to bring in his five-fish limit.
Noechel, 50, finished the first day in second place with a limit of largemouth that weighed 15 pounds, 7 ounces. He may be a West Virginia native, but he considers Lake Erie his home water because he makes the trip to Erie eight to 10 times a year. Noechel said that during practice earlier in the week, he focused on locating an area he felt would produce a limit no matter how badly weather might kick up the water on Thursday.
“The key is to fish very, very slowly,” he said. “I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m fishing a Senko and dead-sticking it.”
Joe Cox, 20, of DeBary, Fla., held third place with a limit of largemouth bass weighing 14 pounds, 10 ounces. He was one of only 13 pros who brought a limit to the scales on Thursday. In fourth was Sam Lashlee of Camden, Tenn., with 13-12. In fifth was Bassmaster Elite Series pro Jami Fralick of Martin, S.D., with 12-14.
On the co-angler side, Mark Harcharik of Cleveland, Ohio, led on Day 1 with 13 pounds. Included in his limit was a 4-10 largemouth that took Purolator Big Bass co-angler honors and earned him a $400 bonus. Trailing Harcharik were Craig Schmidt of Columbus, Neb., with 8-9; Brad Brodnicki of Buffalo, N.Y., with 8-6; Lee Pilz of Wawaka, Ind., with 6-14; and John Terry of Mansfield, Ohio, with 6-7.
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 Lake Erie tournament is the fourth of five events on the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour circuit. In addition to earning enough points to capture one of three 2007 CITGO Bassmaster Classic berths, Northern Tour pros are also building points toward eligibility to move up to the next level of competition, the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series.
The field cuts to the top 50 anglers and top 50 co-anglers for Saturday’s competition.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.Bassmaster.com
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CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour Stop #4
81 pros, 81 co-anglers
Cut to top 50 after Day 2
Day 1 Purolator Big Bass
Pro: Jason Welch, Royse City, Texas, 5-12
Co-Angler: Mark Harcharik, Cleveland, Ohio, 4-10
Local Sponsors: Local sponsors include the city of Sandusky.
Shelby Street Boat Launch
101 Shelby St.
Sandusky, Ohio 44870
Launch: 7:30 a.m. ET
Weigh-in: 3:30 p.m. ET
CITGO Bassmaster Northern Tour sponsors: CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics and MotorGuide.
BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.
BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit www.Bassmaster.com.