CARTERVILLE — Mother Nature apparently has no sense of tradition.
On a day the Bill Harkins/Don Sanders Four-Man Bass Tournament was celebrating its 50th anniversary, Mother Nature threw a nasty cold front complete with gusty winds and cold rain at the 38 teams.
The miserable conditions had an effect with many teams weighing in just one or two fish. Yet, Crab Orchard Lake being Crab Orchard Lake, some anglers thrived in the difficult conditions.
The team of Hunter Grounds, Andy Rametta, Zach and Jacob Zeigler lead the two-day event. They weighed in 30.69 pounds, about 5.5 pounds more than the second place team Dennis Drust, Zach, Boo and David Guill.
Grounds was surprised to see his team atop the leaderboard.
“I didn’t think what we had and what they had, I figured somebody would have a big bag of them,” he said. You have to do it again tomorrow. It’s going to be different, totally different conditions. We’ll see what happens.”
And, Grounds is also aware of the history of wild leaderboard swings at the Four-Man. The 5.5-pound lead is hardly commanding.
“That’s one fish out here,” he said. “Hopefully, both boats can get a couple early bites and just kind of grind from there. It’s going to be a grind all eight hours. Every bite is so critical. Like today, we only had five keeper bites and we were fortunate enough to get them all to the boat. Three of them came off in the net.”
And, Grounds was correct, several big fish were caught despite Saturday’s tough conditions.
Scotty Edwards of Carterville took big fish honors with a 6.85-pound bass. His four-fish bag weighed in at 13.48.
“We caught 15 fish, four of them kept and we didn’t lose anything,” Edwards said. “We had a pretty good day.”
Edwards said his team pre-fished four days and caught just five keepers.
The day’s big stringer belonged to David Guill and Dennis Drust who weighed in a limit of 16.32 pounds.
Justin Lamb of Herrin also weighed in a solid four-fish bag weighing 15.41 pounds.
“We just caught one here, caught one there,” Lamb said. “We didn’t do anything special, just fished some areas that have been good to us in the past. We picked up one here or there. We caught three of them in about a 30-minute period and the last one 10 minutes before weigh-in.
“I was very pleased we caught four. You always want to catch a limit, but I was happy to catch four for sure.”
In the second day of competition, anglers will be faced with opposite conditions. The forecast calls for sunshine and temperatures near 70 degrees.
And, with less than seven pounds separating the first three teams, there could be some serious migration on the leaderboard.
“It’s absolutely wide open,” said tournament director Mike Tompkins. “Some of those big stringers, their partners only had one fish. Some of those top teams historically in the past didn’t do all that well today. They can come on strong tomorrow.”
Weigh-in is at 3 p.m. at the Prairie Creek Recreation Area at Crab Orchard Lake.