NORTH EAST, Md. For a field wrought with Bassmaster Elite Series pros, it was former Elite Series pro Frank Scalish of Cleveland and other anglers who came out and carried Day 1 at the season-opening Bassmaster Northern Open presented by Oakley.
Scalish sits atop the leaderboard with 22 pounds, 14 ounces. Scalish managed to find quality fish positioned away from several clusters of boats. Scalish edged out Canadian Curtis Richardson, who managed 22 pounds, 1 ounce of smallmouth bass.
"I was fishing in and around some grass," Scalish said. "I had to downplay what I was catching because there were a few other guys nearby who'd swoop in given a chance."
In third place is Kalamazoo, Mich., native Jonathon VanDam, who hauled in 21 pounds, 12 ounces. VanDam is the nephew of four-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam, also of Kalamazoo. Ryan Park of Mount Joy, Pa., is in fourth with 21-10, and Dave Mansue of Robbinsville, N.J., is fifth with 19-9.
At stake for the pros is a top prize of $45,000 and valuable points toward qualifying for the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series season and two berths in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic, set for Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake out of Birmingham, Ala.
Scalish's good practice left him more optimistic than most competitors about what sort of weight would take the day.
"I knew that if I could have these few areas to myself that I could get anywhere between 17 and 20 pounds," he said. "I have a few more spots for tomorrow, but while it's nice to be leading now, I wish today was Saturday."
Richardson, out of Ontario, Canada, brought in the only limit composed strictly of smallmouth bass, with the largest being 5 pounds, 11 ounces.
"I hope the weather stays cold like it was today so that the smallmouth bite keeps up, otherwise some of the largemouth guys will have a chance to catch me when that bite turns on," Richardson said.
Richardson is using a custom lure made by an Ontario bait maker, but would not reveal what type it was. Believing his spot to be prime real estate for tomorrow as well, he didn't disclose details of the area.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ken Cook of Meers, Okla., who won the 1991 Bassmaster Classic on Chesapeake Bay, is 11th place. Other Bassmaster Elite Series pros in the top 20 are: Kotaro Kiriyama of Moody, Ala., (7th); Kevin Short of Mayflower, Ark., (tie for 16th); Dave Smith of Del City, Okla., (15th); and Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Ohio, (19).
On the co-angler side, Ed Guidon of Bethlehem, Pa., found 16 pounds of Chesapeake Bay largemouth, enough to hold off Thomas Nolf of Pittsburgh, Pa., in second place with 15 pounds, 3 ounces. Guidon and Nolf were the only co-angler's who managed a five-fish limit on Day 1.
Co-anglers will compete in the Opens for the top prize of a boat/motor package valued at $32,000. After Day Two, the field will be cut to the top 30 pros and co-anglers, who will advance to Saturday's final day of competition.
Fans are invited to the Open's daily takeoffs and weigh-ins through Saturday at Anchor Boats Marina, 36 Iroquois Drive, North East, Md. Anglers will launch their boats at 6:15 a.m. ET and the weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 2:20 p.m.
All activities are free and open to the public. Fishing fans can also follow the action on Bassmaster.com with live, streaming video of the weigh-ins, photo galleries and more.
The next stop in the three-tournament Northern Open division is the Aug. 20-22 event on Lake Champlain out of Plattsburgh, N.Y.