By The Associated Press
TULSA, Okla. — Cliff Pace of Petal, Miss., and 2003 Bassmaster Classic champ Michael Iaconelli of Pittsgrove, N.J., tied for the first-day lead at the world championship of bass fishing on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.
They both brought 21 pounds, 8 ounces to the scales at Tulsa’s BOK Center on Friday, the first of three days of competition for the $500,000 top prize of the Bassmaster Classic.
Pace pulled off his big weight in the last few hours of competition by adding a 6-pound, 8-ounce bass. That big one and another fish came after a nerve-racking lull of almost two hours without a bite.
“I don’t know if I just wasn’t around them, or they weren’t in the right frame of mind to bite. But then I caught two pretty good fish in the last couple of hours,” he said.
If Pace can keep his momentum and win, it would be his first Classic victory. For Iaconelli, his 21-8 on Friday showed him a path to a possible second Classic crown.
“It’s the kind of start you have to have to win the Classic,” he said.
Iaconelli, and other Classic competitors, weren’t bothered by a passing cold front and the chilly temperatures.
“A lot of time after a very, very cold night like we had, the fishing gets better,” he said.
In third place after the first round was a Classic rookie, Hank Cherry of Maiden, N.C. He brought in 20-15, trailing the leaders by 9 ounces.
In fourth place with 19-12 was four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam of Kalamazoo, Mich. Just 2 ounces behind VanDam was Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., who had 19-10. Local favorite Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., was sixth with 18-12.
The Carhartt Big Bass of the day was a 7-pound, 4 ounce largemouth by Mark Pierce of Clarksville, Tenn. The biggest bass brought to the scales over three days of Classic competition could be worth a $2,500 bonus from Carhartt.
After Saturday, the field will be cut to the top 25 anglers. They’ll return Sunday to Grand Lake for the final day of competition. The Classic champ will be crowned at the BOK Center on Sunday.
Classic competitors will launch their boats Saturday and Sunday at Wolf Creek Park in Grove, Okla. The anglers will leave the docks at 7 a.m. local time.