Minnesota professional fisherman Seth Feider registered five smallmouth bass weighing a hefty 22 pounds, 8 ounces on Mille Lacs on Thursday — and still finished tied for 10th on the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year Championship leaderboard the first day.
Scant wind and flat water greeted 50 qualifying B.A.S.S. Elite Series anglers from throughout the U.S. at daybreak on the 133,000-acre lake.
At stake in the three-day competition are a $1 million total purse, a $100,000 top prize and designation as Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
Keith Combs, 41, of Huntington, Texas, recorded the day’s heftiest five smallmouths, tipping the scales at 24-15.
Twenty-nine anglers weighed more than 20 pounds of smallies Thursday. Many, if not most, were caught while “drop-shotting,” a technique Feider, 32, used in the same event a year ago on Mille Lacs to weigh a three-day, first-place bag of 76-5.
Brandon Palaniuk, 29, of Hayden, Idaho, topped the field in yearlong points heading into Mille Lacs, and maintained that position, however narrowly — by 22 points — over Oklahoman Jason Christie by registering 21-4 of smallies. Christie’s five bass weighed 20-8.
The angler with the most points after the Mille Lacs competition wins the $100,000, and is named Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year.
Aaron Martens, 45, of Leeds, Ala., caught the largest smallmouth Thursday, a bulbous specimen weighing 6-1. He was Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year in 2005, 2013 and 2015, and is tied for 10th with Feider.