Delaware’s nickname is “The First State” and its anglers won first place on Thursday in the Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Eastern Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors.
Team Delaware’s 20 anglers (10 boaters and another 10 non-boaters) finished with a two-day total of 114 bass that weighed 172 pounds, 9 ounces. That gave them a narrow 1-pound margin over hometown favorite Team South Carolina, which caught 108 bass totaling 171-9 pounds.
The Delaware B.A.S.S. Nation earned a Triton 189 TrX boat powered by a Mercury 150 Pro XS engine with the victory. In all, 17 states from the Eastern U.S. fielded teams, as did the Canadian province of Ontario.
The tidal system of Winyah Bay here in coastal South Carolina closely resembles the tidal waters Delaware anglers know well, and that likely assisted the winning squad.
“This area is very similar to what we fish back home,” said Delaware B.A.S.S. Nation President Shawn Taylor. “There are a lot of cypress knees and a lot of rivers like home. I think there’s more depth to the water here, but it’s a lot alike.”
Jason Vaughn led Delaware boaters with a two-day total of 10 bass that weighed 18-8 and has him in fourth place overall. Jimmy Myers caught three-bass limits on both days of fishing for a total of 12-12, which is good for second place in the non-boater division.
The top three boaters and non-boaters from each state advanced to fish on Friday, as did the Top 34 anglers in the money line. Fifty-six boats (112 anglers) will compete Friday.
“I’m speechless,” Myers said of his team’s victory, as well as the chance to compete individually Friday for a berth in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship later this year. “It’s like a double win.”
Florida finished third in team standings with 108 bass for 168-9, North Carolina was fourth with 105 bass for 155-3 and Pennsylvania placed fifth with 97 bass for 154-11.
Dave Turner of Team Florida maintained the lead among individual anglers with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 21-3. The Crystal River resident managed a limit weighing 6-15 on Thursday, to follow his Day 1 total of 14-4 (still the heaviest bag of the tournament.)
“I think a couple of factors affected my area today,” Turner said. ‘Number 1 is pressure. I had maybe double the number of boats around me today. I’m pretty sure that (as well as) the physical conditions with the (99 degree heat) didn’t help me. The tide was really high today too.”
Still, Turner is in the pole position heading into Friday’s final day of competition. He said he has to keep an open mind when he’s fishing tomorrow.
“I may have to start over (with a new game plan,)” he said. “I’ll probably go to the same area I was today to start, but I have to be willing to make a move if I need to.”
Tyler Webb of Team West Virginia is in second place with 19-15 and David Boyd of Florida is third with 19-10. Delaware’s Vaughn is fourth and he’s followed by North Carolina’s Norman Mullinax with 18-5.
Georgetown resident Gary Pope also maintained the lead in the non-boater division after a lackluster limit of 3-9 on Thursday. He has a 13-13 total.
Pope said he and his boater had trouble with their bow lights at Thursday’s launch and were delayed approximately 30 minutes while the problem was fixed.
Still, Pope wasn’t blaming faulty lights for his Day 2 output.
“I tend to spin out a little bit when things like that happen, so I had to get my head screwed on straight,” he said. “B.A.S.S. really worked with us well, and came up with some solutions to get out there fishing safely.”
As a hometown angler, Pope said he has what he thinks is a good spot to fish Friday. But where he goes tomorrow, of course, will depend on which boater he draws.
“If I have any input at all, I’m going to suggest we switch rivers,” he said. “We fished the Pee Dee, the Little Pee Dee and the Waccamaw today. We were searching all over today. It was tough.”
Delaware’s Myers is second in the non-boater field. He’s followed by Virginia’s Travis Lugar with 11-14, Georgia’s Weston Wilkes with 11-6 and Maryland’s Brandon Forsman with 11-0.
The top overall boater after Friday’s action will win $6,000 and the winning non-boater will earn $3,000. The leading boater and non-boater from each state also will advance to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship which will be held later this year at a yet to be disclosed location.
Launch for Day 3 of the B.A.S.S. Nation Eastern Regional will begin Friday at 6 a.m. at Carroll Ashmore Campbell Marine Complex in Georgetown. Weigh-in, which can be watched on Bassmaster.com, will begin at 2 p.m.
Georgetown County is hosting the event.