Lucas Oil Pro Billy McDonald of Greenwood, Ind., brought a five-bass limit to the scale Thursday weighing 29 pounds, 12 ounces – the third-largest stringer ever weighed on Lake Chickamauga in FLW competition – to grab the lead on day one of the Walmart FLW Tour at Lake Chickamauga presented by Igloo Coolers. McDonald will start the second day of competition with a 3-pound, 10-ounce lead in the nationally televised tournament, hosted by the Rhea Economic and Tourism Council, that features 146 of the top bass-fishing anglers in the country competing for a top cash award of up to $125,000.
“Today was one of those days where every decision that I made was the right one,” said McDonald, who has 17 career top-10 finishes in FLW competition. “I caught fish all day long. I caught some fish shallow and some fish deep. I didn’t stay in one spot, I just kept moving.”
McDonald said that he started his day targeting grassy areas near deep water, then mixed it up and headed offshore for a bit before returning to the shallow grass. Of the five fish that he brought to the scale, three came deep and two came shallow. He declined to mention any bait specifics.
“I’ve got eight rods on the deck, and I’m catching fish on three of them,” McDonald said. “I’m still trying to mix things in.”
McDonald was confident that the fish would replenish in his key areas overnight and plans to approach day two exactly the same.
“These areas are reloading; there is not a doubt in my mind,” McDonald said. “I’m already out of contention to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup, so I’m rolling the dice in this one and I’m going for the win. I hope I can go back out tomorrow and catch another good bag. If I don’t it won’t be due to lack of an effort, I can guarantee you that.”
The top 10 pros after day one on Lake Chickamauga are:
1st: Bill McDonald, Greenwood, Ind., five bass, 29-12
2nd: Michael Wooley, Collierville, Tenn., five bass, 26-2
3rd: John Cox, Debary, Fla., five bass, 23-9
4th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 23-6
5th: Alex Davis, Albertville, Ala., five bass, 22-11
6th: Jacob Wheeler, Indianapolis, Ind., five bass, 22-10
7th: Brad Knight, Lancing, Tenn., five bass, 22-9
8th: Darrell Davis, Dover, Fla., five bass, 22-7
9th: Rayovac pro Cody Meyer, Auburn, Calif., five bass, 22-4
10th: Quaker State pro Matt Arey, Shelby, N.C., five bass, 21-0
For a full list of results visit FLWFishing.com.
Wooley won the Bridgford Big Bass Award on the pro side Thursday with a bass weighing 8 pounds, 11 ounces, to win the $500 prize.
Overall there were 671 bass weighing 2,063 pounds, 3 ounces caught by 143 pros Thursday. The catch included 121 five-bass limits.
Pro Chris Neau of New Orleans, Louisiana, withdrew from the competition Thursday morning due to medical illness.
Zachary Francis of Abingdon, Virginia, leads the co-angler division with five bass weighing 21 pounds, 3 ounces followed by Stephen Crawley of Bush, Louisiana, in second place with five bass weighing 19-4.
The top 10 co-anglers on Lake Chickamauga are:
1st: Zachary Francis, Abingdon, Va., five bass, 21-3
2nd: Stephen Crawley, Bush, La., five bass, 19-4
3rd: Tom Stark, Angola, Ind., five bass, 18-0
4th: Gary Runyon, Decatur, Tenn., five bass, 17-15
5th: Cecil Wolfe, Scarborough, Ontario, Canada, five bass, 17-8
6th: Mike Comeau, Jericho, Vt., five bass, 17-2
7th: Jim Austin, Lithonia, Ga., five bass, 16-13
8th: Richie Eaves, Nauvoo, Ill., five bass, 16-11
8th: Cody Frazier, Soddy Daisy, Tenn., five bass, 16-11
10th: Benjie Seaborn, Guin, Ala., five bass, 16-8
Francis won Thursday’s Bridgford Big Bass Award in the co-angler division with a bass weighing 8 pounds, 9 ounces to earn the $250 prize.
Overall there were 448 bass weighing 1097 pounds, 9 ounces caught by co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 48 five-bass limits.