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Michigan's Nate Wellman Whacks 'em Day 1 on Erie

Surprises himself with a 22-pound, 4-ounce bag on Erie

Michigan's Nate Wellman Whacks 'em Day 1 on Erie
Michigan's Nate Wellman Whacks 'em Day 1 on Erie

SANDUSKY, Ohio — Lake Erie’s highly mobile smallmouth bass had much of the field scrambling for bites on Day One of the second 2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open, but several pros were able to adapt and crack the 20-pound mark.

No one was more surprised at leader Nate Wellman’s Day One weight than Wellman himself.

“My weight was a complete shock. I really thought I had 18 pounds, but as I got to the scales, they felt a lot heavier,” he said. “But, I’m sure glad they put on that weight.”

In practice, Wellman found two areas that held fish bigger than the ones he caught today, but they weren’t home when he arrived this morning, so he fell back on Plan B.

“I caught 25 keepers today, and I threw back probably eight before I put one in the box,” he said. “I just tossed the 2- and 3-pounders back because they won’t help you here. Call it confidence or call it what you want, but that’s not that good of a fish here.”

Wellman kept a drop shot rig in his hand all day, and said that he’d get into more specifics about baits as the tournament progressed.

Wellman is one of the many Elite Series pros entered into this Open looking for a berth in the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, the prize awarded to the pro winner.

Behind him is Bryan Coates, who was also surprised at the weight he caught, which was 21-5.

“Today was better than I expected. I usually shoot for about 19 pounds or so, and I beat that, so I’m happy,” he said. “I started off on my first spot and I didn’t get a bite for an hour and a half, so I asked my co-angler if he was afraid of the big water, and he said no, so we headed out to my other spot. After we got there, we both had limits inside of 45 minutes.”

Coates believes that weights will increase tomorrow if the winds are calmer than today, which they’re predicted to be.

In third place is Chris Malone of Ironton, Ohio, with 21-0. He suffered an 8-ounce fish-care penalty that cost him second place. Like Wellman and Coates, Malone’s first spot turned out to be a dud but his second spot was “stacked with fish.”

In fourth place is 23-year-old Kyle Fox of Lakeland, Fla., with 20-11. Fox is a newcomer to the smallmouth game, having caught his first smallie when he was 19. Rounding out the top five is Kyle Kempkers with 20-5. Only one other angler, Elite Series pro Derek Remitz, cracked the 20-pound mark with 20-0.

In the co-angler division, a brand new, fully rigged Triton bass boat with Mercury outboard is at stake, and the competition is stiff.

Jonathan Shoemaker of Elyria, Ohio, caught a three-fish limit that weighed an astounding 14-12 to take the lead on Day One. Shoemaker admits that much of a co-angler’s success hinges on his pro’s ability to be around fish.

“I’ve done this co-angler game long enough to know that you need to be with a pro who’s on fish,” he said. “Then you need to get a few lucky bites.”

Just off the lead pace is Mike Chunko of Alliance, Ohio, with 14-11; in third place is Jon Jezierski of Troy, Mich., with 13-13; in fourth is Chris Van Vliet of Cleveland, Canada, with 13-11; and in fifth place is Brian Mailot of Columbus, Ohio, with 13-05.

The City of Sandusky, Ohio is hosting this Open, with daily launches leaving from Battery Park Marina, 701 E. Water St., Sandusky, OH 48870 at 6:30 a.m. ET. Weigh-in for Day Two will be held at Shelby Street Boat Launch, 101 Shelby St., Sandusky, OH 48870 at 2:30 p.m. ET. On Day Three, the weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops in Rossford, Ohio, located at 10000 Bass Pro Blvd., where the weigh-in will begin at 3:30 p.m. ET

2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Official Sponsors: Toyota, Bass Pro Shops, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Yamaha

2011 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Supporting Sponsors: Humminbird, Luck “E” Strike, Minn Kota, Nitro Boat

About B.A.S.S.

For more than 40 years, B.A.S.S. has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and an expansive tournament structure while connecting directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.

The Bassmaster brand and its multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications — Bassmaster Magazine and B.A.S.S. Times — comprehensive website, ESPN2 and Outdoor Channel television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.

The Bassmaster Tournament Trail includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open Series, B.A.S.S. Federation Nation events presented by Yamaha and Skeeter Boats and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.

B.A.S.S. offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members and remains focused on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.

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