Wisconsin team leads Bassmaster Team Championship

LEESBURG, Fla. - If Wisconsin anglers Pat Schlapper and Wade Rickey had started Wednesday's opening round of the Bassmaster Team Championship using sturdier fish hooks, they likely would have a considerably heavier weight than the 22-pound, 3-ounce limit they carried to the weigh-in.
Still, that limit of five bass was enough to put the Wisconsin tandem atop the leaderboard heading into the second and final day on the Harris Chain of Lakes in central Florida.
Schlapper and Rickey had never fished in the Sunshine State, and they believed 3/0 hooks would be enough to boat the hefty Florida bass they hoped to catch. But when they did stick big bass early on Wednesday, the fish literally straightened those hooks and slipped away.
Frustrated, but undeterred, Schlapper and Rickey switched to beefier 4/0 hooks, and they started putting big bass in the boat. Rickey’s 6-pounder was the largest, and the duo rounded out their bag with a quartet of solid 4-pounders.
Schlapper and Rickey, who fish with the Major League Series back in Wisconsin, are 10 ounces ahead of the Anglers Choice team of Virginia’s William Samples and North Carolina’s Charles Purcell, who are second with 21-9.
Brothers Travis and Shannon O’Quinn of Team Morristown Marine are in third place with 20-8. Eddie Levin and Ryan Mallory of the Ohio B.A.S.S. Nation Team Trail are fourth (20-6), and Dean Alexander and Tom Martens of the Texas Bass Nation Team Trail are fifth (19-15.)
“We’ve never been fishing down here, so we didn’t know what to expect,” Schlapper said. “We lost some nice fish, but we ground it out. We only fished that one spot, and we stopped fishing it hard about 10 a.m.”
Schlapper and Rickey said they found big bass on another half dozen spots they scouted in practice, but they’re not sure those places will be unoccupied when they arrive Thursday morning. The duo was, however, aboard the 151st of 197 boats to launch on Wednesday. Since the takeoff order is inverted on Day 2, they’ll get an earlier start on Thursday.
Duos from 35 different states and three foreign countries (Australia, Canada and South Africa) are competing in the Team Championship. Each team consists of two anglers trying to amass a shared five-bass limit in the team portion of the championship.
The tandem with the heaviest two-day combined weight will be crowned team champion after Thursday’s weigh-in, and also will win a Nitro Z20 boat and Mercury 225 Pro XS boat/motor combo valued at $42,000.