Ford leads Chickamauga Lake Hawgfest

Anthony Ford from New Smyrna, Fla., leads the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division finale on Lake Chickamauga with five bass that weighed 26 pounds, 14 ounces. Local favorite Andy Morgan is 5th with 23-7. (Photo: Matt Pace, FLW)

Anthony Ford from New Smyrna, Fla., came to the weigh-in stand with the biggest bag of fish Friday in the Costa FLW Series Southeastern Division finale presented by Lowrance on Lake Chickamauga. Ford’s limit of five bass weighed 26 pounds, 14 ounces, besting second-place angler Mike Miller from Trinity, N.C., who had 25 pounds even.

Friday was day one of competition, although it was supposed to be day two. Thursday fishing was canceled due to predicted high winds.

Ford admitted he was tired and a little stressed when he came off the weigh-in stand.

“I’m beat up a little bit, yeah,” he says. “Just nervous from catching big fish and trying to get them back here.”

A stiff south wind against a strong current created some hefty swells on the main channel of Lake Chickamauga, creating challenges for the offshore anglers.

Ford says he was concentrating in 10 to 12 feet of water, but he’s holding other details of his pattern close to the vest for Saturday’s final day of competition.

With temperatures in the 50s, drizzling rain and stiff wind, Ford did say he thinks the weather helped his bite.

“I had not caught them that good in practice, so it must have helped,” Ford says. “I only caught one short and didn’t lose any or miss any fish I know of.”

This week is Ford’s first time on Lake Chickamauga, and he’s enjoying the experience.

“I’ve caught them shallow and deep on this trip,” he says. “Of course, I fish Okeechobee a lot, so if you get over 8 feet it’s deep for me.”

This tournament is the final regular-season event of 2017 scheduled in the Southeastern Division. Pros are competing for a top award of up to $50,000 in cash and a new Ranger Z518C boat with a 200-hp Evinrude outboard if Ranger Cup qualified. Co-anglers will cast for a Ranger Z175 boat with a 90-hp Evinrude outboard and an additional $1,250 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 for the Strike King Angler of the Year in the Southeastern Division with 493 points. Gross was in eighth place following Friday’s weigh-in, so he should be able to remain in contention for AOY. However, Randy Haynes, currently with 471 points, came in fourth place Friday and could be challenging Gross depending on Saturday.

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 on Saturday. With other good-sized Saturday tournaments on Lake Chickamauga, some anglers are concerned about crowds and competition.

Boats will take off from the Dayton Boat Dock, located at 175 Lakeshore St. in Dayton, beginning at 6:45 a.m. ET. Weigh-in will be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public. The event is hosted by the Rhea Economic & Tourism Council.

Top 10 Pros

  1. Anthony Ford – New Smyrna, Fla. – 26-14 (5)
  2. Mike Miller – Trinity, N.C. – 25-0 (5)
  3. Chad Prough – Chipley, Fla. – 23-13 (5)
  4. Randy Haynes – Counce, Tenn. – 23-12 (5)
  5. Andy Morgan – Dayton, Tenn. – 23-7 (5)
  6. William Weidler – Bessemer, Ala. – 22-15 (5)
  7. Clay Batson – Fernandina Beach, Fla. – 22-14 (5)
  8. Buddy Gross – Chickamauga, Ga. – 22-11 (5)
  9. Jared McMillan – Belle Glade, Fla. – 22-10 (5)
  10. Barry Wilson – Birmingham, Ala. – 22-10 (5)

Complete results here.

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