Accompanied by a full complement of boaters, 51 of the world's best anglers set out on Oneida Lake Thursday, knowing that one of them will be $250,000 richer by week's end.
The four-day Bassmaster Memorial is one of three major tournaments on the B.A.S.S. schedule in 2007. No points for Angler of the Year are on the line, but the cash prize, plus a unique format, adds excitement to this event.
Everyone fishes the first two days on Oneida Lake. Following Friday's round, the top 12 anglers move on to Onondaga Lake to fish a six-hole "course". The top six finishers then move on to Sunday's finals, where the big prize will be handed out.
Since none of the totals of the first two days carry over, the lead is not as important as 12th place, the cutoff mark for the weekend.
Still, on day one, Steve Kennedy fared best, as he was the only competitor to find five largemouth bass on Oneida Lake, adding up to 17 pounds 12 ounces. He also caught the biggest fish of the day, one that went 5 pounds 1 ounce.
As with each B.A.S.S. tournament, five fish are weighed in. No one in the field had any trouble catching the limit in the bountiful waters of Oneida Lake, but most had difficulty finding largemouth, since the smallmouth bass fought so hard on the lines.
Hundreds came to Onondaga Lake Park for the first-day weigh-ins, where anglers raved about how much fun it was to catch lots of fish, but added that the largemouths, for the most part, remained elusive on a warm, windless day.
That wasn't the case with Kennedy. He was so prolific, in fact, that he finished nearly two pounds ahead of Kelly Jordon, who settled into second place with a total of 15 pounds 11 ounces.