BRANSON, Mo. -- The world's top anglers were fighting fish and the weather Thursday, in hopes of eventually landing a $100,000 dollar pay day.
The Bassmaster Elite Series kicked off at 6:30 in the morning on Table Rock Lake. The skies were clear over Taney and Stone Counties, in the early going, but the waters quickly became choppy after 60 mile an hour winds brought in rain and lightning.
"This is truly an athletic event, these guys will endure this," says Branson Fish Tales, fishing guide, Shane Pierce.
Pierce spends nearly every day on the water finding honey holes of fish for visitors, and had been caught in a thunderstorm before, like many of the anglers on the water were Thursday,
"You don't want to be out there when the static electricity is so much that when you cast your line, your line actually rises in the air," says Pierce.
"They are professionals... so they need to know how to read weather," said BASS Director of Operations, Eric Lope, referring to 108 anglers that traveled to Table Rock Lake from across the globe.
Lopez says the tournament has precautions in place when the weather gets bad: it can delay the start of the tournament or contact each angler by text through out the day. He says the problem is, due to the grand size of the Lake, not every angler will experience the same weather patterns.
The top prize for the four day tournament is $100,000, and points that will help decide the "Angler of the Year" award, similar to the Sprint Cup in NASCAR.
"We’re known for doing things up big," says Lopez referring to the Expo that will be held this weekend at the Branson Landing. In addition to helping the tournament pump some $1.5 million dollars into the local economy, it also gives spectators and visitors a chance to talk with professional, check out the latest fishing gear, and see the final weigh-in.
"So it’s really a carnival, slash festival, slash fishing expo, slash food festival," said Lopez.
The weigh-ins will be held Thursday and Friday at Table Rock State Park Marina, and at the Branson Landing on Saturday and Sunday at 3:15 p.m. The field uses its five heaviest fish each day, and will be cut down from 108 anglers to only 12 by Sunday.
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