FORT WORTH, Texas — Many of the 55 anglers competing in the Bassmaster Memorial know that if they're to survive Friday's cut to 12, they'll have to pull a fairly sizable bag of fish from Eagle Mountain Lake.
The 9,000-acre lake and its bass toyed with many of the anglers during Thursday's opening round of action. Only 20 of the 55 men managed to land more than 10 pounds of bass and there were only 23 five-fish limits caught. Some of the anglers said it may be more difficult to land quality bass Friday after the elite field had a full day of competition on the relatively small fishery.
There are encouraging signs, however.
On Thursday, Mark Menendez pulled a 7-pound, 1-ounce lunker from the lake and Kelly Jordon landed two giant bass — one that weighed 6-12 and another that was 6-11. Fish such as those can change an angler's fate in a hurry and catching them may be necessary to winning the trail's first Major championship and the $250,000 prize that goes with it.
Dave Wolak took the first step to claiming the Memorial on Thursday when he weighed in a limit that totaled 16 pounds, 14 ounces. Mike McClelland is in second place with 16-9 and Jordon is third with 15-6. Scott Rook (15-0) and Skeet Reese (13-15) round out the top five anglers.
But with a large portion of the field trailing the leaders by only a few pounds, a shake-up may be in store.
"It's the lake we're fishing on. If you're in the spot where the fish move up, you catch them...If you're there when they're biting, it's on."
With that in mind, Monroe said he doesn't plan on making any major changes to his game plan. He just hopes a little luck is on his side Friday.
"I'll stick with the same baits and pretty much the same patterns I fished," he said. "I think if you just grind it out, you'll get five bites."
Shaw Grigsby (25th place with 8-7) said it was just as likely that someone would catching nothing on Thursday than they would land 18 or 20 pounds of bass.
"I was zeroed until almost 1 o'clock in the afternoon," Grigsby said. "You want to talk about fun. Before noon, I had caught at least 20 largemouth before I caught my first keeper. I caught at least 45, maybe pushing 50, hybrid white bass. It's one of the things where you'll get bit every second. You just don't know if it's going to be a good largemouth. And these are in the same places where in practice you'd have a good 3-pounder, a 2-and-a-half pounder. So you can't give up on it."
Alton Jones, who caught 11-12 on Thursday and is one place out of the cut in 13th, said his key to success on Friday is being thorough.
"I have to get in areas that I know have fish and fish them thoroughly," he said. "That doesn't mean staying in one spot all day. But there are certain key docks that are consistent. I've got a little milk run, about 25 spots, that I'm going to fish real slow to get those bites."
Dean Rojas (37th place, 6-9) said Friday's anticipated south wind could help his chances of gaining on the leaders.
"It's supposed to come out of the south again today at about 15 to 20 (mph), so it could play into my hands," he said. "I know I'm in the right areas."
Wolak knows his lead is slim, but plans on doing the things Friday that put him atop the leaderboard Thursday.
"I'm hoping it holds out for me," he said. "The key is going to be sticking it out and getting a few key bites. They're pretty hard to come by in this lake right now. Yesterday, the big thing was my 5-pounder and the 3-and-a-half pounder on the buzzbait early in the morning. Hopefully, I'll get a couple extra quality bites mixed in."
Weigh-in is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. CT at Will Rogers Coliseum.