(Editor's Note: The following article was written by Major League Fishing (MLF), and appeared first on their website.)
The small town of Dayton, Tenn., has put a stamp on the game of tournament bass fishing with its hashtag "#BassTownUSA".
As competition came to a close in Major League Fishing (MLF) Shotgun Round 1 of the Bass Pro Tour Econo Lodge Stage Four Presented by Winn Grips - and Top 5 anglers Dave Lefebre, Aaron Martens, Jordan Lee, Brandon Palaniuk and Bark Rose breathed a sigh of relief - it became clear that that hashtag is not hype.
Emerging from a flurry of afternoon lead changes, 705 scorable bass caught, and several anglers jockeying up and down inside the SCORETRACKER™ Top 10, Lefebre racked up 34 fish for 59 pounds, 14 ounces to claim the top spot in Group A competition on Lake Chickamauga.
"My average weight would have been a lot higher if I could get them in the boat," Lefebre admitted. "I'm doing something that's a little bit different than what the others are doing in the area that I'm in and it's generating some big bites. I lost 4-5 of them, one was a 6 pounder and I tried to swing it. The opportunity to get a good sack is there."
Martens finished second on the day with 57-3, Lee was third with 55-8, Palaniuk was fourth with 54-12 and Rose rounded out the Top 5 with 53-8.
Lefebre Pours it on Late
Martens entered the final period in the lead, thanks to a steady bite on a vibrating jig. That bite tailed off noticeably in Period 3: while Martens caught some quality fish (two 4s and a 3), he managed only four scorable bass in the final 2 1/2 hours of competition.
Lefebre, meanwhile, poured it on, putting 16 of his 34 scorable fish on SCORETRACKER in Period 3 and leapfrogging Lee, Rose and Martens with 23-15 in the period.
"My option A was blown out and I couldn't go there, so it was all plan B today," Lefebre said. "I kind of panicked this morning when I saw my water I wanted to fish (was blown out), and just made a real quick decision to keep running when others were already fishing."
Another Heavyweight Shotgun Round
The overall catch weight for the Group A field of 40 anglers was astounding: 1,396 pounds of bass. Six anglers recorded 50 pounds or more - one more than the first Shotgun Round slugfest at Stage Three Raleigh - and 14 caught 42-plus pounds.
"There seem to be more fish coming into my areas, and I hope that continues into the rest of the week," said Palaniuk, who added just over 13 pounds in the final 30 minutes of competition. "I came into this ready to play numbers. I had fished the same area most of the first two periods, and then decided to make a run in the last 30 minutes - I was fortunate to catch an almost-5 1/2 and got a lot of 1- and 2-pound bites. For me, the big key was making an area change in the final period."
Group B Up Next on Chickamauga
The 40 anglers in Group B will take their shots at Chickamauga on Wednesday in Shotgun Round 2. With weather and water stabilizing after Monday's deluge - and the number of spawning females on beds increasing by the hour - Group B is set up for a potential influx of the kind of behemoths that Chickamauga is known for.
"There were some good fish caught today - some 6s and 7s - but those ol' big ones are just about to show up," said Dayton native Andy Morgan, who fishes tomorrow in Group B. "It's getting warmer, and these fish are looking to spawn. We haven't seen the 10s yet, but we will by the end of the week."
Looking Ahead to the Week
The entire field will carry their Shotgun Round weights into Elimination Rounds on Thursday and Friday. The Top 20 anglers from each of those Elimination groups will advance to a 40-angler Knockout Round on Saturday - weights will be zeroed, making the Knockout a one-day scramble. The Top 10 anglers in the Knockout Round will advance to the Championship Round on Sunday, April 14.
How, When, Where to Watch
Competition begins daily at 7:30 a.m. ET, with live, official scoring available via SCORETRACKER on MajorLeagueFishing.com and on the MLF app. The MLF NOW! live stream starts at 10 a.m. ET, with live, on-the-water coverage and analysis provided by Chad McKee, JT Kenney, Marty Stone and Natalie Dillon until lines out at 3:30 p.m. The Berkley Postgame Show - hosted by Steven "Lurch" Scott - will start at 5 p.m. daily.
Final Standings - Shotgun Round 1
For Group A Shotgun Round standings and to keep up with cumulative results throughout the week, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com and click "Results."