Kennedy Holds 4-Ounce Lead After First Day of Elite Series on Lake Champlain

PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. – Steve Kennedy traveled as far south as he could go Thursday on Lake Champlain and the long trip was worth it: The Auburn, Ala., angler caught a 21-pound, 6-ounce limit to hold a 4-ounce lead over Timmy Horton of Muscle Shoals, Ala., after the first day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Champion’s Choice presented by Toyota Tundra.

The Champion’s Choice presented by Toyota Tundra will be aired on The Bassmasters at 9 a.m. ET July 21 on ESPN2. The eighth event of the Elite Series season will end Sunday with a $100,000 prize for the winner.

Kennedy, last year’s Toyota Rookie of the Year on the Elite Series, scored his first career win earlier this year at California’s Clear Lake, setting the BASS all-time record weight for a four-day tournament with more than 122 pounds.

Thursday on Champlain he targeted largemouth bass while many anglers in the field fished for smallmouths.

“I had a great practice and I really didn’t think it was all that good today, so I’m excited to have what I have,” said Kennedy. “I thought I could have about a 20-pound bag, so I caught about what I expected. I didn’t get nearly as many big bites as I thought I would, but I had a 5-5 and that helped the average a little.”

The 5-pound, 5-ounce bass Kennedy boated was taken in the massive lake’s South Bay area, a trip of several hours from the Plattsburgh, N.Y., launch point. “It was worth the ride,” he said.

“There’s a lot of guys doing what I’m doing, but I worked hard on getting a different color (bait) than everybody else is throwing,” said Kennedy. “My bait is definitely a little different and I think it’s got something to do with the bigger bite.”

Horton, a three-time BASS winner, said he caught the majority of his 21 pounds, 2 ounces on a Zara Spook, Vibra King Tube and Booyah jig.

“I caught them at different stages of the day and had three really good bites,” said Horton. “I’m looking forward to (Friday) to see how things shake out. I’ll try the same things.”

Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark., was third with 19 pounds, 6 ounces. Tied for fourth with 18 pounds, 2 ounces were 1999 Bassmaster Classic champion Davy Hite of Ninety Six, S.C., and Elite Series rookie Bryan Hudgins of Orange Park, Fla. Denny Brauer of Camdenton, Mo., who won the 2006 Champion’s Choice, was sixth with 17 pounds, 14 ounces.

Kevin VanDam, leader of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings, was 22nd with 16 pounds, 3 ounces. Skeet Reese, who is in second place in the AOY race, was 21st with 16 pounds, four ounces.

In the co-angler division, New Yorker Craig Daino led the field competing for a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at $50,000. He weighed in 16 pounds, 9 ounces. Trailing Daino were Lawrence Laclair of New York with 15 pounds, 15 ounces; and Brandon Pedigo of Oklahoma with 15 pounds, 12 ounces.

Fishing fans can watch live, streaming video of the daily weigh-ins of the Champion’s Choice presented by Toyota Tundra at www.ESPNOutdoors.com beginning at 3 p.m. ET. On Sunday, fans can also monitor www.ESPNOutdoors.com throughout the day for live updates and Hooked Up with Tommy Sanders and ESPN Outdoors personality Mark Zona.

Local sponsors: Local sponsors include city of Plattsburgh.

Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors: Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series include Toyota Tundra, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Evan Williams Bourbon, Ramada Worldwide and Costa Del Mar.

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 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.