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New A-A leader catches 20-pound stringer

New A-A leader catches 20-pound stringer

SENECA, S.C. – After the first day of competition of the 40th annual BFL All-American Championship on Lake Hartwell, Emil Wagner of Marietta, Ga. sat in second place behind leader Elijah “Buddy” Benson of Dahlonega, Ga. Wagner predicted he would need 18 pounds a day with a 20-pound limit at least one of the days to win the tournament.

On Thursday, Wagner got his 20-pound weight – 20 pounds, 2 ounces to be exact – and now holds a 12-ounce lead going into the final day.

Wagner has a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 38-04. Matthew O’Connell of Brooks, Ga., weighed in a two-day total of 10 bass for 37-08 to finish Day 2 in second place and easily within striking distance of the title, while Day-1 leader Benson rounds out the Top 3 with a two-day total of 35 pounds even.

There was a boat on my best place when I pulled up there (this morning),” said Wagner. “I hadn’t seen anyone there, so I went to another place that I found late yesterday and caught quite a few there.”

Wagner said he started culling fish when he changed locations and caught one of the fish he weighed. After a few more keepers, he boated a 4 1/2-pound spotted bass. Wagner said at noon he hit a stretch where he caught two big largemouth within 10 minutes of each other. He estimated he hit about 40 spots during the day and caught one more spotted bass to add to his livewell late in the afternoon.

“I did the same thing today that I did yesterday – fishing offshore,” Wagner said. “I put in about seven days graphing and looking around before the cutoff and did the same thing in the official practice. I’ve just been running all the places I found.

“The fish move around a lot,” Wagner added. “I’m sure tomorrow will be different and I’ll have to adjust.”

Second-place angler O’Connell said he hit 50 to 60 spots during the second day of competition and keyed in on one-hour bite windows.

“I’d cull three or four times in an hour and then go maybe an hour without culling,” O’Connell said.

O’Connell said he was mimicking Lake Hartwell’s blueback herring with topwater baits and swimbaits to fill his limit. He said he knows it will take a solid weight on Friday and predicts a total 3-day weight of 55 pounds to secure the title.

“I think Emil or Buddy will catch a big bag again,” O’Connell said.

After leading the first day, Benson chalked his slide to third place on Day 2 up to missed opportunities.

“I lost a couple of big ones and broke one off in my trolling motor,” Benson said. “I could have had at least 18 or 19 pounds. Hopefully tomorrow I can get the same bites and not break them off and get them in the boat.”

The top 10 boaters advancing to the final day are:

1st: Emil Wagner, Marietta, Ga., 10 bass, 38-04
2nd: Matthew O’Connell, Brooks, Ga., 10 bass, 37-08, $500
3rd: Buddy Benson, Dahlonega, Ga., 10 bass, 35-00
4th: Jesse Wiggins, Addison, Ala., 10 bass, 31-03
5th: Anthony Johnson, Excelsior Springs, Mo., 10 bass, 30-12
6th: Tyler Trent, Nathalie, Va., 10 bass, 27-10
7th: Jimmy Neece, Jr., Bristol, Tenn., 10 bass, 26-14
8th: Nick Ubelhor, Jasper, Ind., 10 bass, 26-09
9th: Brian Laclair, Denton, Md., 10 bass, 26-04
10th: Ian Leybas, McAlester, Okla., 10 bass, 25-05

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