BETHEL ISLAND, Calif. — Under normal BASS tournament circumstances, a 26-pound bag is considered an excellent day of fishing, but excellent doesn't do justice to Russ Meyer's day. The cool Californian produced a 26-pound, 2-ounce catch despite the fact that the creel limit has been reduced to four fish for the event in order to comply with California fishing regulations.
That didn't stop Russ Meyer. It didn't even slow him down. He holds a commanding seven-pound, seven-ounce lead over fellow Californian Ricky Shabazz.
"I've fished a lot of tournaments, and you just never know what's going to happen after the first day," Meyer said of his Day One catch.
"I know where some fish are," Meyer added, significantly understating his performance. "Sometimes you catch them and sometimes you don't. Today I caught them."
Meyer is no stranger to success in California. He placed second on Lake Shasta and eighth on Clear Lake in the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Open Series.
Meyer's bag included a 9-4 behemoth that was good enough to take Purolator Big Bass honors for the day. He'll get a check for $1,000 for the big fish, capping off a banner day. Also included in his bag was an 8-5 lunker. The average bass Meyer brought to the scales was better than 6 1/2 pounds!
Meyer used his practice time to sight fish and locate the areas that could produce lunkers during the tournament. He caught all of his fish in and around vegetation.
For Meyer's pattern to hold up, the Delta tides will be a key. He caught a limit very early by flipping during the high tide period and then threw reaction baits as the wind increased in the afternoon. Although it would have made little difference, Meyer's first round did include some disappointment. He broke off a six pounder.
"I just like to fish," the low-key Meyer said. "No matter what kind of day I have out there, I just like to keep fishing."
It's tough to be disappointed with four bass weighing 18-11, but when you find yourself trailing by better than 7 pounds, it's also tough to be cheerful. That's exactly the situation that Ricky Shabazz is in. Nevertheless, the second place angler is optimistic about his chances.
"There are 30 fish in my area that are as big as the ones I caught today," Shabazz said. "It's just a matter of execution tomorrow."
Shabazz's continued success depends on the consistency of the topwater bite he was able to generate today. He plans to stick with it for the rest of the tournament.
"To be honest, I'm from Southern California," Shabazz said, "and I don't know much about this water, so I'll stick with what's working."
In third is Western bass fishing legend John Murray who brought four bass weighing 17-11 to the scales. Murray was flipping on high tide, much like Meyer, and threw a Yamamoto Senko when the tides shifted.
"I threw the trolling motor down and just beat up my area," Murray said. "I probably didn't burn ten gallons of gas out there."
Murray, who is from Arizona and the only non-Californian in the top five, is a worthy adversary for the locals. He won the Busch Shootout in 2004 and also captured the 2003 Open Championship on famed Toledo Bend Reservoir.
"I just want to get to that Open Championship again," Murray said. "That's what I'm here for, and this day helps my chances."
Rounding out the top five are Bobby Barrack (17-9) and Brett Leber (17-7).
It was a banner day for Californians on their home water. Nine of the top ten anglers are from the Golden State.
That California domination also took place on the non-boater side. Three of the top five non-boaters call California home. Ryan Wake (12-13) leads Merl Nunes (12-1), Hideki Maeda (10-13), Jack Farage (10-11) and Nate Troia (10-9). Another Californian, Brandon Silvey, had the Purolator Big Bass of the day on the non-boater side with a 5-11 lunker. That fish will put an extra $400 in his pocket.
Daily weigh-ins will be held at Russo's Marina beginning at 2 p.m.