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FLW anglers bide their time in Dayton

FLW co-angler Harold Driver hands off a few dollars to Tom Evans at Dayton Boat Dock. After Day One of the Costa FLW Series event on Lake Chickamauga was cancelled due to predicted high winds, Driver says he is glad to have a day to reast, even if he does spend money. (Photo: Richard Simms)

After day one of fishing was cancelled due to high winds at the Costa FLW Series event presented by Lowrance on Lake Chickamauga, out-of-town anglers could only bide their time today, waiting for action to kick off on Friday. The media crew is idle, too, so we cruised around town to find out how anglers are spending their unexpected off day.

Not surprisingly, Dayton Boat Dock has seen a crowd. It’s the official tournament headquarters this week, and includes a restaurant and tackle shop.

“On off days I spend money,” says co-angler Harold Driver with a smile.

Driver had just handed over a few dollars for new tackle at the Dayton Boat Dock.

“I'm kind of glad to have a day off,” adds Driver, from Powder Springs, Ga. “It won't really affect my fishing. I'm a co-angler, so I'm at the mercy of my boater anyway. I'll kick back, relax, watch TV and just get ready for tomorrow. I don't think the weather will have that big of an effect on tomorrow."

While foul weather had failed to materialize on Thursday morning, the tournament day was called off after the National Weather Service issued a wind advisory for the region, forecasting 15- to 30-mph winds with gusts of more than 50 mph. There is also a small craft advisory in effect for Lake Chickamauga. The passing cold front should drop temperatures into the low 50s by Friday morning.

"We'll have two days of rough weather no matter how you look at it anyway," says Jason Mullinax, also a co-angler. He was hanging out at the Boat Dock, too. "I also fish the Tour as a co-angler, and they have a mandatory off day before the tournament, so this is just similar to that."

Tom Evans was running the cash register on the off day.

"It's very good for business," he says. "We've probably had about 25 or 30 fishermen come through already this morning [by 9a.m.], and I expect to see a bunch more. It's also good for these boys to get a little extra rest."

FLW officials declared the tournament waters off-limits for the cancellation day, so even anglers who might have liked to practice are required to stay on shore.

FLW pro Wesley Strader, from the Dayton area, is using the extra time to prepare.

"I'll do what I do every day ... sit around, work on my tackle and think about fishing,” he says.

Another local, Michael Neal, plans to use the time for R&R.

"I'm going to enjoy the day off,” he says. “I've fished every day for almost four weeks straight.”

Dennis Tumlin is wearing two hats this week. Tumlin is the Rhea County Economic and Community Development director and is always busy promoting Dayton as a bass tournament destination. However, this week he is also fishing in the tournament as a co-angler.

"With the lake off limits the guys are in town buying meals, probably buying tackle, buying gas. So from an economic development perspective it's a good thing," Tumlin says. "From a fishing perspective, you're all fired up, geared up and ready to go, and it does sort of take the wind out of your sails. But I respect FLW on the decision they made."

This tournament is the final regular-season event of 2017 scheduled in the Southeastern Division. Pro anglers are competing for a cash prize and a new Ranger Z518C boat with a 200-hp Evinrude outboard if Ranger Cup qualified. The top 40 pros and co-anglers in the final point standings in each U.S. division advance to the 2017 Costa FLW Series Championship, provided they fished all three qualifiers in a division.

Currently, Buddy Gross from Chickamauga, Ga., leads the standings in the Southeastern Division with 493 points. Mikey Keyso Jr. is in the No. 40 bubble position with 377 points. A total of 394 anglers – boaters and co-anglers – are registered in the Lake Chickamauga event.

With one day of the event cancelled there will not be a cut to the top 10 for the final day. The full field will fish Friday and Saturday. Boats will take off from the Dayton Boat Dock, located at 175 Lakeshore St. in Dayton, beginning at 6:30 a.m. ET. Weigh-ins will be held at the marina beginning at 2:30 p.m. each day. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public. The event is hosted by the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council.

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