MANY, La. — Jared Lintner went to extremes Thursday, the first day of the May 1-4 Evan Williams Bourbon Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend out of Many, La.
He was especially extreme in his choice of fishing lines from lightweight to unbreakable. “I caught them on 10-pound fluorocarbon and 80-pound braid,” said the Californian from Arroyo Grande. “I didn’t get very many bites with the braid, but they were good ones.”
Good enough to help him amass 25 pounds, 7 ounces of bass to take the lead by 7 ounces over J Todd Tucker of Moultrie, Ga., who weighed 25-0 for second place.
In third after one round was Elite Series rookie Jacob Powroznik of Port Haywood, Va., with 24-14. Fourth place was taken by another Californian, Chris Zaldain of San Jose. His weight was 22-6, including an 8-12 on 6-pound-test line in an around-the-boat chase that “took forever” but was, he said, probably less than two minutes in real time.
The 2014 Bassmaster Classic champion, Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., settled into fifth place at 22-4.
The opening day of the Elite event was a day of big bass and big bags: The Top 13 on the leaderboard all broke the 20-pound mark. Only four pros did not produce a five-bass limit.
Lintner, currently in second place behind veteran pro Mark Davis of Arkansas in the season-long Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, said he returned Thursday to a spot he found in practice, “and just got fortunate.”
When he arrived in the spot, he had a 12-plus-pound limit in his livewell. That was at about noon. Two hours later, he had culled all but one of those to build his weight to his 25-plus. The largest bass weighed 6-14.
“I happened on the right area at the right time,” he said. “The fish move in and out of the area. And with the wind blowing, the fish haven’t been pressured there. You couldn’t fish it the past two days with the wind. There were 3- to 4-foot waves blowing up there.”
Lintner said he fished exactly how he likes to Thursday. “Shallow” was the only detail he would reveal on that topic. But he did hint that he tapped into his experience on California fisheries to figure out Toledo Bend.
“The way the lake sets up now, it’s more like the Clear Lake and Delta fisheries — for me,” he said.
Tucker boated all his weight within the first 45 minutes of competition. His largest, a 7-10, was the fourth fish in a flurry that left him almost dazed.
“It was chaotic and crazy,” he said. “They were biting one after another, and they were all big. That’s probably the fastest I’ve caught that much weight ever in my life.”
Oddly enough, he had not intended to start on that magic spot.
“I stopped on my first spot and found (another angler) already there,” Tucker said. “I thought, ‘You know, I’m not going to do this.’ I took off about 300 yards away to my second spot. So he did me a favor by being there.”
The four-day competition resumes Friday when the full field will return to Cypress Bend Park for the takeoff at 6:20 a.m. CT. The weigh-in will start at 3:15 p.m. CT at the same location.
Elite pros are after a first-place prize of $100,000 and an instant qualification for the 2015 Bassmaster Classic. The pros are also competing for points that count toward a Classic entry and the 2014 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title.
With his 8-12, Zaldain became the frontrunner for the Carhartt Big Bass award of up to $1,500. Tucker won the Rigid Industries Jackpot of $1,750 as the angler registered for the bonus who broke the 25-pound mark. Lintner leads the event’s Berkley Big Bag bonus competition for $500.
On Saturday and Sunday, the Bassmaster Elite Series Expo will feature demos, giveaways and products from the tour’s sponsors, including free boat rides in Nitro, Triton and Skeeter boats powered by Yamaha and Mercury engines. The rides will be offered after takeoff is complete and continue until 2:30 p.m.
Saturday’s activities include the 3 p.m. screening of the newest GeoBASS video from Costa, musical entertainment beginning after the weigh-in, and a Jason Cassidy concert from 7 to 9 p.m., which will be followed by fireworks.
All activities are at Cypress Bend Park (GPS help: 3463 Cypress Bend Drive, Many, LA 71449). There’s no admission charge for Bassmaster events, and free shuttles from parking areas will be provided.
The local hosts include the Sabine Parish Tourist Commission, Louisiana Office of Tourism, Sabine River Authority, Cypress Bend Resort, TanMar and other local businesses.
The Bassmasters on ESPN2 will feature the Toledo Bend event May 18 from 8 to 9 a.m. ET.