Wesley Strader started the Lake Norman Eastern Open at a severe disadvantage after logging just seven hours of practice prior to the tournament beginning. His first cast during his abbreviated practice, however, yielded a significant clue that helped him get to where he's at entering the final day of competition – in the lead by more than 5 pounds.
Strader was a late arrival to the big North Carolina reservoir as a result of his victory at the Kentucky Lake Elite Series on Monday, but he's made the most of his limited time on the Catawba River impoundment. On Friday, he caught a tournament-best 17-06 to boost his total to 31-03.
“When it’s going your way it’s going your way,” Strader said. “I’m in disbelief, I only had seven hours to practice, and I caught a 6-pound bass on the first cast.
“I’m fishing a shad spawn in a current-driven area, and I had my weight by 10 a.m. both days. I could go out tomorrow and not catch one out of that area, but I feel like I have a backup plan.”
Strader is slinging the same spinnerbait that he won with at Kentucky Lake.
“I caught all of my fish, but one, on my 5/8-ounce signature series Zorro Bango Blade, the exact color, and blade combination,” he added.
His closest challenge is fellow Elite Series angler Jared Lintner, a California native who bagged 14-06 on day 2 and has 26-01 through two days.
“It’s tough to beat a guy with momentum like (Strader),” Lintner said. “I only had one bass at 11:30 today.”
Though Lintner is not sight fishing, he noted that seeing the bass during the latter part of the day has been key for his pattern.
“When the sun gets directly overhead, you get a little bit of a shade line,” he said. “It’s not that I can pinpoint them. But when you get a bite, it’s a good one. I’m covering a lot of water.
“I’m going out tomorrow and grinding it out; I’m not fishing for a 7-pound limit of spotted bass.”
Two other Elite Series regulars – Andy Montgomery (7th) and Chris Lane (9th) also made the top-12 cut.
Cody Pike fell one spot to 3rd with 24-13 after catching 9-07. Whitney Stephens is one ounce behind in 4th with 24-12 while Garrett Paquette is 5th with 24-5.
Here's a rundown of the 12 anglers who qualified for the final day:
1. Wesley Strader: 31-03
2. Jared Lintner: 26-01
3. Cody Pike: 24-13
4. Whitney Stephens: 24-12
5. Garrett Paquette: 24-05
6. Sam George: 24-04
7. Andy Montgomery: 24-03
8. Kurt Mitchell : 23-15
9. Chris Lane: 23-10
10. Will Evans: 23-10
11. James Moynagh: 23-07
12. Patrick Walters: 23-02