The great Connecticut has given up some of its finest bass this week as the Bass Federation Eastern Division Championship wrapped up Thursday with team Connecticut in the lead for the second day with a total of 79 fish weighing 126 pounds, 9 ounces at Harbor Park in Middletown.
As sports fishermen — and a couple women — queued up with their day's catch for weigh-in beginning at 2:30 p.m., some of the livelier bass flopped mightily and nearly out of their breathable plastic bags.
Mike Dunkerley, senior vice president of the Bass Federation, joked with anglers who filed in after 2:30 p.m. for the weigh-in, asking each of they had an 18-pounder to win the day, and prodding them for their "secret worm."
Dozens of bass boats motored near the Mattabessett Canoe Club dock by afternoon after weighing in their catch and rain held off until early evening.
In the state standings, Massachusetts was second with 61 fish weighing 108 pounds and Maine took third with 62 fish weighing 100 pounds.
This eastern division event, sponsored by Cabela’s, TBF of Rhode Island and the City of Middletown, consists of seven state teams and the Ontario, Canada, state team.
On Wednesday, Keith Cleary of Bethel reeled in five bass weighing 12 pounds, 12 ounces, which put him in the lead. He maintained the top spot Thursday after pulling in five more bass weighing 8 pounds 2 ounces. The day's biggest catch was sixth-place Bob Rivet of New Bedford, Mass., who caught four fish weighing 9 pounds 15 ounces.
There's still time to watch the tournament Friday, as anglers set out at 6:30 a.m. from Harbor Park, weigh in at 2:30 p.m. and gather for prizes in the afternoon.
Sportsmen were limited to five fish fish daily, no more than one foot in length and all were released back into the Connecticut River in front of the Wesleyan and Middletown High crew boat house.
Fishermen and their families are staying at the Inn at Middletown, which is offering a special $99-per-night rate.
Anglers competed locally and on the state level for over a year to qualify for the no-entry fee division championship event, according to the TBF.
After three tournament days, the top two anglers from each state earn spots in the 2014 Federation National Championship. The 2013 Northern Division Champions will also be crowned in both the individual and overall state team standings.