MOUNTAIN HOME, AR (November 6, 2017) – Ten teams gathered in Mountain Home, Arkansas, for the two-day mystery format Bass Cat National Team Championship, and after Day One the Minnesota duo of Will Pappa and Austin Felix are on top by a little over a pound. Lake of the Ozarks qualifiers Chuck Campbell and Mike Szezechowski are in second, just over a pound back, and Bass Cat President Rick Pierce said that any of the top five or six teams has a reasonable shot of winning.
“It’s wide open,” Pierce said. “The schedule is the true wild card and tends to shake things up.”
North Star qualifiers Pappa and Felix weighed in a five bass limit for 12.11 pounds in the short morning session on Table Rock, and then added five more for 8.19 in the afternoon on Taneycomo. In the first round, they filled the livewell of Pappa’s 2017 Puma FTD using a Ned Rig and a Keitech swimbait, which earned them a lead of more than 5 pounds over Hunter Hayes and Jason Grape from the KABCOT division. The Minnesota team was the only pair to catch a limit at Table Rock. In the afternoon it took them longer to figure things out.
“We struggled,” said Felix. “It was tough, but eventually we started catching some fish with wacky Senkos and we caught our fifth one with 45 minutes to go.” Overall, despite a heavy rainstorm, the second round was more productive, with seven limits weighed in, and that final fish allowed the leaders to eke out a narrow margin heading into day two.
“Our goal is just to catch five each time,” Pappa said. “We haven’t been to the next two lakes so we’re going to fish by the seat of our pants.”
Campbell and Szezechowski had trouble getting on the board at Table Rock. They started off with moving baits, and Campbell conceded that they “probably spent too long doing that.” With scant time left on the clock, they “backed out and slowed down” with a jig, and that resulted in two keepers for 4.15 pounds. The longer session at Taneycomo went much better for them, as they flipped tubes to visible cover for 12 keepers, with the best five weighing a day’s best 14.96 pounds.
“I’ve fished Lake of the Ozarks and I lived up in Minnesota, so if we get to flip tomorrow, we’ll be in our element,” Campbell said. He credited the “coffin lids” on his 2011 Eyra with helping them use their time efficiently, grabbing new lures and retying quickly when necessary. They practiced on Norfork Sunday, but only landed one keeper, so they admitted that they’re concerned about making a push for the win.
Pierce said that tomorrow’s first venue, 645 acre Crown Lake, has a substantial population of Florida-strain bass and Florida-strain mixes. With temperatures expected to start at 39 degrees and rise no higher than 53, that could throw Crown’s fish into a funk, and the team that figures them out quickly may be able to establish an insurmountable lead. Conversely, Norfork, the afternoon fishery, is a typical Ozarks-region impoundment, and cold temps tend to make the fish more active.
The fourth place team, Roger and Cory Cook, won this event in 2015 and in past years they’ve qualified through the Lake of the Ozarks Division. This year they were unable to attend that event, and fished the TOC instead, opening up a lane for Campbell and Szezechowski. “They’re great fishermen and great guys,” Campbell said. Additionally, the Cooks have experience with this whirlwind format, and at just over 5 pounds out of the lead, they’re within striking distance. So too are the third place pair of Hunter Hayes and Jason Grape from KABCOT. They’re within 3 pounds of the leaders after a 10.65 pound afternoon catch that included the only two trout weighed in from Taneycomo.
Tomorrow’s final day of competition will see a winner crowned and presented with an all-expenses paid trip to Lake Picachos courtesy of Ron Speed Adventures.
About Bass Cat: Bass Cat, owned by Correct Craft, manufactures the industry’s premier bass fishing boats from its headquarters in Mountain Home, Arkansas. Family operated since it’s founding in 1971, Bass Cat is the longest continuously operating tournament bass boat company in the United States. For more information visit www.basscat.com.
About Correct Craft: Celebrating 92 years of excellence in the marine industry, Correct Craft is a Florida-based company with global operations. The Correct Craft family includes Nautique, Centurion, Supreme, Bass Cat, Yar-Craft, SeaArk, and Bryant boat companies, Pleasurecraft Engine Group, and Aktion Parks. For more information please visit www.correctcraft.com.