Graham powers his way to first place in $185,000 EverStart tourney - Major League Fishing

Graham powers his way to first place in $185,000 EverStart tourney

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Jason Graham of Coleman, Mich., shows off part of his 20-pound, 5-ounce catch. Graham was in first place in the Pro Division after the opening round of competition. Photo by Gary Mortenson. Angler: Jason Graham.
July 25, 2001 • MLF • Archives

Michigan native records personal best on route to Pro Division lead, Kazmierczak grabs top spot in Co-Angler Division

CLAYTON, N.Y. – On the strength of a 20-pound, 5-ounce catch, Pro Jason Graham of Coleman, Mich., jumped to the head of the pack in the opening round of competition at the EverStart Northern Division tourney on Lake Ontario. Fishing in only his second season on the EverStart circuit, Graham fished remarkably well as he recorded his best-ever one-day limit. After landing five keepers by 11 a.m., Graham never looked back as he stormed ahead of his fellow competitors.

“It feels really good. This is the biggest sack of fish I’ve ever caught in my life,” said Graham. “I don’t think I’ll be able to duplicate this performance tomorrow, but I think I have a really good chance at making the cut.”

Although anglers will probably need a two-day total of 27 to 30 pounds of fish in the Pro Division to make Friday’s cut, Graham appears to have placed himself in a strong enough position to advance to the semifinal round of competition.

“There’s a lot of fish in this lake and I have about 13 spots that I should be able to catch limits off of,” said Graham. “In my opinion, I have enough fishing spots to last me all four days of the tournament. And that’s a big confidence boost.”

Fellow Michigan native, Scott Dobson, found himself in second place after recording a total catch of 18 pounds, 11 ounces.

“It was a great day. I felt right at home,” said Dobson, a native of Waterford, Mich. “Fishing here is a lot like fishing in Michigan. It’s very similar to Lake St. Clair, one of my favorite lakes.”

Dobson said that as the tournament progresses, the challenges facing all anglers will continue to build.

“There’s a lot of good competition here. And there is going to be a lot of strategy in the days ahead,” said Dobson. “Because this lake has a good supply of largemouth and smallmouth bass, people are going to have many decisions to make over the next few days. It’s going to get really interesting.”

Best of the rest

David Lauer of South Bend, Ind., finished the day in third place after recording a total catch of 18 pounds, 4 ounces. Hometown favorite Dean Meckes of Clayton, N.Y., grabbed fourth place after landing an 18-pound, 2-ounce stringer. Meckes also won $750 after winning the day’s Big Bass award in the Pro Division with a 6-pound largemouth.

Neil Vandebiezen of Portage, Mich., and Mark Zona of Sturgis, Mich., tied for fifth place after recording identical catches of 18 pounds.

In general, Michigan anglers had a banner day, snatching up five of seven top places in the Pro Division.

Kazmierczak vaults atop the leaderboard in the Co-Angler Division

Despite registering for only one EverStart tournament for the 2001 season, Rick Kazmierczak of Orchard Park took over first place in the Co-Angler Division after recording an impressive 17-pound, 4-ounce catch. Kazmierczak, who usually fishes in the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League in the Northeast Division – designed primarily for weekend anglers – said he was more than happy with his performance.

“It was really unexpected. It feels great,” said Kazmierczak. “I had a great partner who put me on fish and all I had to do was catch them. If I can catch 6 pounds tomorrow, I should be in good enough shape to make the cut.”

Kazmierczak, who fished primarily for smallmouth bass today, said he is going to have to switch up strategies tomorrow because his new pro partner will likely go after largemouth bass on Thursday.

“I’d probably feel a little more comfortable fishing for smallmouths, but then again, I probably don’t need that much more weight to qualify for the next round,” he said. “In any event, I’m having a lot of fun. I’m not going to put any pressure on myself. I’m just here to learn.”

Warren Thomas of Lakewood, Wisc., finished the day in second place after recording a catch of 17 pounds, 2 ounces. Jason Knapp of Uniontown, Penn., was in third place after landing a 16-pound, 14-ounce catch.

Mark McNeil of Ledyard, Conn., and Kevin Rathke of Albion, Ind., tied for fourth place with identical 16-pound limits. James Liechty of Fort Wayne, Ind., finished in sixth place after recording a 16-pound, 6-ounce catch.

Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled to take place at 5:30 a.m. at the French Creek Marina located at 250 Wahl Street in Clayton, N.Y.

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