BUFFALO — Brad Brodnicki, a tenth-grade earth science teacher at Buffalo's Lafayette High School, didn't claim his scientific background gave him the advantage in catching 13 pounds, 2 ounces of smallmouth bass on Thursday's Day One of the Empire Chase presented by Farmer's Insurance. Indeed, the 35-year-old co-angler believed his performance came from something else.
"I'd say it's just time on the water," Brodnicki said after mentioning his previous performance in the BASS Federation Eastern Divisional in 2007. (He finished in fourth place.)
Brodnicki, a Niagara Frontier Bassmasters club member, has fished competitively in a number of other tournaments around the Northeast for the past 13 years. On Thursday, his experience paid off to give him the early co-angler lead.
But it's close at the top of the leaderboard.
Trailing Brodnicki by just two ounces, Tim Creighton led for most of the weigh-in, catching 13 pounds even to finish Day One in second place. In third place with a 12-11-pound stringer was Marcos Malucelli. Russ Licata, finished in fourth place with 12-10 while Shawn Maynor and Frank Tully tied for fifth place, each with 12-8.
Brodnicki enjoyed the luxury of fishing with Brian Snowden amidst Lake Erie's building afternoon swells. The Elite Series pro brought a walleye boat to guard against possible rollers swamping the deck as other anglers were forced to endure in traditional bass boats. The surprise made co-angler very happy.
"It was definitely a lot more comfortable out there," he said about his Snowden's ride.
Mostly dropshotting his way along Lake Erie's contours behind the Elite Series pro, Brodnicki caught a 3-fish limit, highlighted with a healthy 4-pound smallmouth in the mix.
After finishing in ninth place at last year's Empire Chase, Brodnicki knew his familiarity with the water could be an advantage for him during this tournament. Married with a 5-year-old daughter, the co-angler admitted it only took him 20 minutes this morning to reach the launch site from his Buffalo-area home.
"When it's in your backyard you've got to go fishing," he said.
When he's not spending time with his family or searching for smallmouths in a tournament, Brodnicki enjoys hunting and watching his Buffalo Sabres hockey team do battle on the ice. And with just a few pounds separating the crowd atop the co-angler leaderboard, the teacher could learn a thing or two from his hockey team about how to protect a lead; by duking it out.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Empire Chase with weigh-in host Keith Alan, July 31-Aug. 3, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 5:00 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 4:15 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 12.00 p.m. and 4:20 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 5:00 p.m. ET.