CARTERVILLE -- Crab Orchard Lake gave up bass reluctantly on the first day of the Bill Harkins/Don Sanders Four-Man Tournament.

The quartet of Tim Norman, Jack Yates, Dale Dodd and Tim Murphy weighed in 31.87 pounds earn the first day lead. They were the only team to top 30 pounds.

They have just a 2.61 pound lead over the second place team of Mark Jelley, Matt Swalls, Danny Clark and Rick Cheatham. However, the separation grows rapidly as the leaders have more than a 10-pound lead over the fifth place team.

Out of the 96-boat field, only three limits were weighed in all day.

“It’s probably better than I thought it would be,” said David Guill of the third place team including Dennis Drust and Boo and Zach Guill. “It’s been rough out year the last three or four weeks. You scrounge to get a bite. It’s just a slow day. They’re healthy when you catch one.”

Guill said his boat worked shallow grass beds and deadfalls, but the bite was tough.

“The water has been going up and down,” he said. “It’s muddy. The fish haven’t gotten used to it yet. They’re starting to, the water is down and clearing up. When you see a lot of bags with one or two fish in them, that’s tough.”

If anyone understands the dynamics of the Bill Harkins/Don Sanders Four Man Tournament, it’s Guill. He has fished the tournament 45 of 48 years. Carterville’s Fred Washburn has fished the tournament every year.

While a couple teams solved the Crab Orchard riddle Saturday, most did not. The majority of boats weighed in just a fish or two.

“I really thought today with the clouds there would be more caught than what we had, but it turned out to be pretty tough,” said tournament director Mike Tompkins.

The top of the leader board should be competitive in today’s finale, but even with the four-man format it will be difficult for a middle of the pack team to take a serious run.

“Typically it takes 50-55 pounds to win,” Tompkins said. “They’re (the leaders) on par, but the guys that struggled, it was slow.”

The tournament is sponsored by the Williamson County Shrine Club. Proceeds from the tournament benefit the club. Participation was up slightly this year.

“We’re up six teams over last year,” Tompkins said. “We were hoping to get 50, but we just couldn’t quite get there. We had some conflicting circuit tournaments going on. That always draws some of our contestants away.”

les.winkeler@thesouthern.com / 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler

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Sports editor

Les Winkeler is sports editor and outdoors writer for The Southern Illinoisan.

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