By BassFan Staff

Catching a 10-pounder goes a long way in any tournament, especially during a 1-day shootout on a new body of water.

That's how Skylar Hamilton will remember his first experience at Nickajack Reservoir as the 19-year-old Bassmaster Opens angler from Dandridge, Tenn., hammered a 25-13 stringer, including a personal-best 9-15 kicker, to claim top honors at the BASSFest second-chance tournament today.

Hamilton, who was 84th after 2 days at Lake Chickamauga, was the lone angler among the 90 competitors to hit the 20-pound mark on a stretch of Tennessee River that very few had ever fished before.

Nickajack is the mostly-overlooked reservoir located between Guntersville and Chickamauga best known for producing the world-record freshwater drum (54-08) caught in 1972. More recently, it hosted the BFL All-American last June when Kerry Milner caught 63-00 over 3 days to win the event.

Elite Series rookie Mike Kernan caught 17-15 for 2nd and Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley caught 16-13 for 3rd. Kota Kiriyama was 4th with 16-04 and David Mullins had 15-14 in 5th.

Here's a look at the 10 anglers who qualified to fish another day at Lake Chickamauga:

1. Skylar Hamilton: 25-13
2. Mike Kernan: 17-15
3. Charlie Hartley: 16-13
4. Kota Kiriyama: 16-04
5. David Mullins: 15-14
6. Tracy Adams: 15-09
7. Brock Mosley: 15-07
8. Steve Kennedy: 15-07
9. Matt Reed: 14-15
10. Mike McClelland: 13-12

Fifty-one anglers decided to bring their fish to the scale while the other 39 either didn't catch any or dumped their fish once they realized what they had wasn't enough to challenge for a Top-10 position.

Today's weights will not carry over to the rest of the tournament at Chickamauga and the 10 second-chance qualifiers will fall into places 51st through 60th based on where they sat following day 2. It's unlikely any of them will challenge for a spot in the Top-12 cut, but each will go home with at least $10,000.

Much of Nickajack's 46 miles is narrow and river-like, but there are classic Tennessee River ledges and shoals that produced today. Conditions were mostly cloudy, but the sun broke through on several occasions and the current seemed to be moving at a favorable pace for the field.

Hamilton Worked Mud Line

> 5, 25-13

Despite living in Tennessee, Hamilton had never wet a line at Nickajack until today and judging from his efforts, it probably won't be the last time either.

"I didn't have a real big opinion on it," he said. "I'd heard a lot of bad stuff, like it would take 15 pounds to make the cut. I was confident I could catch that. It just so happened I caught 25."

He only caught six fish today, but they proved to be the right ones.

"Other guys were catching 40 or 50 and I think with a little bit of practice, you could sack 'em up pretty good here," he said. "It's so underrated and you can see it has a lot of obvious places where they get when the conditions are right."

After initially starting his day by the dam, he decided there were too many boats there for his liking and he eventually settled on fishing a mudline in the mouth of a creek.

"There was colder water coming out of the creek and there were a couple good ledges out in front of it," he said.

He fished a Texas-rigged 10-inch Berkley PowerBait Power Worm (plum) all day and that’s what triggered the 9-15 to bite before 8 a.m.

"When it bit, I thought it was a catfish for sure," he said. "It took a while for it to jump and when it did, it was so far from the boat, I didn't think there was any way I was going to land it. I must've drifted a good half-mile downriver before I got it in."

He said it's the biggest fish he's ever caught and it helped him get to the 20-pound mark early on.

"I had four for about 20 pounds and one little 12-inch spot that I didn't cull until 12:30," he said.

He traded that one out for a 4 1/2-pounder to finish his day.

"I was sitting mostly in 7 feet of water and throwing out to 12," he said. "All of those fish were right on the mud line by a point. It was like a little eddy and there was a lot of bait fish in there, too."

He said he's not going to fish conservatively tomorrow back at Chickamauga.

"Even if I catch what I did today I couldn't move up in the money," he said.

2nd: Kernan Caught 'Em Deep

> 5, 17-15

Kernan began his day near the tailrace of the Chickamauga Dam, but it became pretty crowded and he headed downriver, stopping occasionally to flip and throw crankbaits on areas that looked good.

"I stopped on the first good shoal I came to and it had fish all over it," he said. "I started fishing for them, but after 10 minutes without a bite, I said, 'Heck with this,' and headed further south.

"It was a textbook area that I'd been fishing at Chickamauga – they were there, but they just weren't eating."

He eventually settled on an area where he found a ridge that runs through the middle of the lake. It was marked by rock piles and on top of the piles were the navigational markers.

He noticed there was a good bit of current and he started throwing a 1 3/8-ounce spinnerbait out in front of one rock pile. His first fish was a 3 1/2-pounder. He switched to a Strike King 10XD crankbait and caught three other solid keepers.

"I figured there was no sense in driving around any more," he said. "Evidently, I was on something decent."

He said the ledge nearby was in 16 feet and it had a lip on it and he probed that with a 1-ounce football jig, which produced several more keepers.

He totaled nine keepers on the day, the last four serving as upgrades.

Back at Chickamauga tomorrow, he hopes to be able to activate some of the schools of fish he'd found earlier this week.

"The problem is all the ledges I found had 10 boats on them," he added. "The fish there don't really want to bite. You have to get them to react to something and then hope to cash in."

3rd: Hartley Went Strolling

> 5, 16-13

Hartley used a technique he learned just yesterday to fish his way back to Chickamauga, where he was in 134th after 2 days.

While fishing a shoal yesterday, he hadn't caught any fish and Brandon Card was nearby using the strolling technique to trigger bites on a crankbait.

"He was kind enough to demonstrate to me how it's done," Hartley said. "I'd always bad-mouthed strolling because I'm so dang small that I thought I couldn't do it. I thought it takes a big guy with big arms and everything."

After spending some of his morning today flipping jigs and throwing Senkos around boat docks, he found himself struggling again.

He ran to a shoal that he looked at on a map last night and began strolling a crankbait across it.

"My first two strolls, I lost big ones," he said. "Then on my third pass, I caught my first-ever double – a 4-pounder and a 3-pounder. Then I caught another one.

"I'm a new proponent of strolling. This sport proves to me over and again, when you're doing poor it's your fault for the doing same old thing."

He knows he has very little chance of advancing a significant distance up the leaderboard tomorrow, but at least he knows how he's going to fish now.

"None of us really have a chance to move up all that far, so I'm going to find me some reefs and do my thing."

Kota Kiriyama
Photo: Kota Kiriyama

Kota Kiriyama was 80th after 2 days at Lake Chickamauga, but he earned himself another day on the water after his performance today.

4th: Kiriyama Showed 'Em Something New

> 5, 16-04

Kiriyama actually spent a day at Nickajack before it went off limits to learn more about the lake and his homework paid off.

He fished an area by the Nickajack Dam where he'd found some humps that were holding fish.

"I caught them on a jig and on an Owner Jig Rig and some on a dropshot," he said. "It took me a little time to locate them, but after graphing around I found them not far from where I had marked them before."

He said the conditions were "okay, but the bass weren't that aggressive."

He had to slow down his presentations and when they would stop biting his jig, he would come back with the Jig Rig. He used a 5/8-ounce weight with a split ring attaching it to the hook eye, then threaded a 6.8" green-pumpkin Jackall Flick Shake worm on the hook. He caught 10 keepers total today.

"They hit that pretty good probably because they haven't seen it much or at all," he said.

5th: Mullins Made a Long Run

> 5, 15-14

The extent of Mullins' experience at Nickajack prior to today amounted to one day of idling he did last year while helping a friend prepare for the BFL All-American.

"My buddy wasn't much of a deep fisherman and he knew that's what I like to do, so I came down and drove around with him and we crushed 'em," he said.

He ran all the way to the opposite end of the reservoir and fished in front of the Nickajack Dam.

"The farther I went the fewer boats I saw," he said. "I started on a place we'd fished last year, but didn't catch anything. Then I started running some other stuff and idling over some places and caught a 3-pounder and a 2 before I went to where I'd started and caught a couple other keepers there."

He mostly threw deep-diving crankbaits and swimbaits and caught most of his fish out of 15 to 20 feet of water.

"I was talking to Andy Morgan a while ago and was telling him, 'This is how structure fish are supposed to bite,'" he said. "It just shows how bad the fishing is on Chickamauga right now."

He probably won't be back on the ledges tomorrow as he's wanting to stay clear of anybody with a shot to win.

"I'll probably pick up a flipping stick and try to stay out of everybody's way," he added.

Notable

> Day 3 stats – 90 anglers, 37 limits, 3 fours, 6 threes, 1 twos, 4 ones, 39 zeroes.

Day 3 Results

1. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 5, 25-13 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 25-13

2. Mike Kernan -- Wylie, TX -- 5, 17-15 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 17-15

3. Charlie Hartley -- Grove City, OH -- 5, 16-13 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 16-13

4. Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, AL -- 5, 16-04 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 16-04

5. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 5, 15-14 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 15-14

6. Tracy Adams -- Wilkesboro, NC -- 5, 15-09 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 15-09

7. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 5, 15-07 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 15-07

8. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 5, 15-07 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 15-07

9. Matt Reed -- Madisonville, TX -- 5, 14-15 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 14-15

10. Mike McClelland -- Bella Vista, AR -- 5, 13-12 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 13-12

The following anglers did not make the cut and will not fish on day 4.

11. Kevin Short -- Mayflower, AR -- 5, 13-10 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 13-10

12. Billy McCaghren -- Mayflower, AR -- 5, 13-09 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 13-09

13. Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, AL -- 5, 13-08 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 13-08

14. Mike Elsea -- Mooresville, IN -- 5, 13-05 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 13-05

15. Joel Baker -- Talala, OK -- 5, 13-00 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 13-00

16. Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, KS -- 5, 12-15 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 12-15

17. David Kilgore -- Jasper, AL -- 5, 12-13 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 12-13

18. Keith Poche -- Pike Road, AL -- 5, 12-12 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 12-12

19. Jonathon VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 5, 12-04 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 12-04

20. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 4, 12-04 -- 0
Day 1: 4, 12-04

21. Zell Rowland -- Montgomery, TX -- 5, 12-03 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 12-03

22. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 5, 12-00 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 12-00

23. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 5, 11-15 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 11-15

24. John Murray -- Phoenix, AZ -- 5, 11-10 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 11-10

25. Kurt Dove -- Del Rio, TX -- 5, 11-05 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 11-05

26. Gerald Spohrer -- Gonzales, LA -- 5, 11-03 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 11-03

27. James Biggerstaff -- Odessa, TX -- 5, 11-01 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 11-01

27. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 5, 11-01 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 11-01

29. Brian Clark -- Haltom City, TX -- 5, 11-00 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 11-00

30. Byron Velvick -- Boenre, TX -- 3, 11-00 -- 0
Day 1: 3, 11-00

31. Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, LA -- 5, 10-15 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 10-15

32. Kendall Newson -- Decatur, GA -- 3, 10-15 -- 0
Day 1: 3, 10-15

33. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 10-13 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 10-13

34. Brian Potter -- Claremore, OK -- 5, 10-11 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 10-11

35. Fletcher Shryock -- New Philadelphia, OH -- 5, 10-10 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 10-10

36. Pete Ponds -- Madison, MS -- 5, 10-07 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 10-07

37. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, AR -- 4, 09-14 – 0
Day 1: 4, 09-14

38. Michael Simonton -- Fremont, OH -- 5, 09-10 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 09-10

39. J Todd Tucker -- Moultrie, GA -- 5, 09-05 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 09-05

40. Jamey Caldwell -- Carthage, NC -- 5, 09-02 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 09-02

41. Chad Pipkens -- Holt, MI -- 5, 08-08 -- 0
Day 1: 5, 08-08

42. Tommy Durham -- Whitney, TX -- 3, 07-11 -- 0
Day 1: 3, 07-11

43. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 3, 07-08 -- 0
Day 1: 3, 07-08

44. Powell Kemp -- Scotland Neck, NC -- 3, 07-05 -- 0
Day 1: 3, 07-05

45. Shaw Grigsby Jr. Gainesville, FL -- 1, 07-01 -- 0
Day 1: 1, 07-01

46. Derek Fulps -- Broken Arrow, OK -- 2, 06-10 -- 0
Day 1: 2, 06-10

47. Chad Wiley -- Pineville, LA -- 3, 05-12 -- 0
Day 1: 3, 05-12

48. Morizo Shimizu -- Osaka JAPAN -- 4, 04-11 -- 0
Day 1: 4, 04-11

49. Josh Bertrand -- Gilbert, AZ -- 1, 03-13 -- 0
Day 1: 1, 03-13

50. Kevin Hawk -- Guntersville, AL -- 1, 03-08 -- 0
Day 1: 1, 03-08

51. Patrick Pierce -- Jacksonville, FL -- 1, 00-01 -- 0
Day 1: 1, 00-01

52. Scott Ashmore -- Broken Arrow, OK -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Jeff Cloud -- Lubbock, TX -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Gary Clouse -- La Vergne, TN -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Jim Dillard -- West Monroe, LA -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. James Elam -- Tulsa, OK -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Paul Elias -- Laurel, MS -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Charlie Evans -- Gilbertsville, KY -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Al Farace -- Cockeysville, MD -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Grant Goldbeck -- Boerne, TX -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Kenyon Hill -- Norman, OK -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Jamie Horton -- Centerville, AL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Randy Howell -- Springville, AL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Rich Howes -- Oviedo, FL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. JT Kenney -- Palm Bay, FL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Bobby Lane -- Lakeland, FL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Matt Lee -- Auburn , AL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Jared Miller -- Norman, OK -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Yusuke Miyazaki -- Forney, TX -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Ish Monroe -- Hughson, CA -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Chad Morgenthaler -- Coulterville, IL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Rick Morris -- Lake Gaston, VA -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Paul Pagnato -- Reston, VA -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Lucas Ragusa -- Gonzales, LA -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Derek Remitz -- Grant, AL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Trevor Romans -- Plano, TX -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Bradley Roy -- Lancaster, KY -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Joseph Sancho -- New Windsor, NY -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Casey Scanlon -- Lanexa, KS -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Steve Sennikoff -- Forney, TX -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Dennis Tietje -- Roanoke, LA -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Bill Weidler -- Helena, AL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Boo Woods -- Oneida, KY -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00

52. Chris Zaldain -- San Jose, CA -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00