The Bergen Basmasters kicked off their 1999 tournament season with an opening event on Candlewood Lake in Connecticut. With a late spring and water temperatures that hovered at or below 50 degress, conditions would be tough. Add to it cold gusty winds that had the lake white-capping at 7am and it made for an extremely tough tournament.
Always a threat but seemingly even more so when conditions are tough is this year's Tournament Director, Nick Albano. Nick had pre-fished the lake the week before and while he may have selected Candlewood as the first tournament, he could not have forecast the adverse wind conditions. Nick jumped ahead to recapture the Angler of the Year award which he had won back in 1997 by taking first at Candlewood. Nick managed three fish including 2 largemouth and 1 smallmouth for a total weight of 8 pounds 8 ounces. All three were caught on his specially doctored Rattlin' Rogues. The baits were custom painted by his wife Sylvia who was heard tro be threatening to sell the hot new colors if he dosen't split his winnings with her. This was Nick's second time winning an opening tournament on Candlewood and 7th overall club victory.
Finishing in second place behind Nick seemingly for the 100th time was Brian Mahoney. Brian is an excellent spring fisherman and the tough conditions were not enough to keep him from bagging the only limit of the tournament. Brian's limit of smallmouth weighed a total of 7 pounds 10 ounces and was caught using Luhr Jensen crankbaits in the Danbury arm of the lake. Brian managed a fish on the first cast and had three in the first 10 minutes of the tournament. Off to a start like that and having the skills that Brian does, he managed his limit by the early afternoon.
Placing third is a consistant finisher in Bergen's top 5, Eric Lehmann. Eric is known to be deadly with a 4" worm and he used that bait to nail 3 largemouth in the afternoon that totaled 7 pounds 8 ounces. Eric caught his fish in the New Milford arm of the lake despite the water temperature there being on 47 degrees.
Placing fourth and taking the lunker honors was Rich Gerken, another member of the tournament committee. Rich had a total of 3 largemouth weighing a combined 7 pounds 7 ounces. The lunker weighed in at 4 pounds 13 ounces and was caught in the Sherman arm on a brown jig and pig. Proving the it's never over until the last cast, Richie caught the bubba fish on the second to last cast of the day.
Rounding out the top five was last year's Candlewood winner, Elliott Liardo. Elliott landed 4 largemouth in the north end of the lake out of 12' of water on a brown twin tailed jig. His total weight of 7 pounds even has Elliott once again off to a good start.