MANNING, S.C. — With daily weights predicted to be in the 12- to 13-pound range, John Strider of Monroe, N.C., took everyone by surprise when he brought a 19-pound, 11-ounce limit to the scales.
Buoyed by warm weather, Strider felt the bite picked up just in time at the 2009 Bassmaster Southern Open season finale on Santee Cooper Lakes.
"It was a pretty good day," Strider said. "The warm weather has brought these fish I've been catching for two months back to where they're biting again. We caught fish all day."
This is Strider's first year fishing on the pro side — he has fished as a co-angler in past Bassmaster tournaments — and his best tournament so far he says. He was reluctant to share his pattern as his best area is full of traffic.
Behind Strider was Cliff Prince of Palatka, Fla., who finished the day with a 16-pound, 13-ounce limit, anchored by a 6-12 largemouth. Unlike Strider, Prince was willing to divulge the details of his pattern.
"I was throwing a Carolina rig, and I caught four fish on four casts first thing in the morning," he said. "I don't think the weather tomorrow should affect my bite too much."
Rain and clouds are predicted for Friday, which many anglers think could help the fishing.
In third was Mark McCaig of Oxfor, Ala., with 15-13. Patrick Pierce of Jacksonville, Fla., is fourth with 15-9, and rounding out the top five was Sumiyuki Takano of Winter Springs, Fla., with 15-3.
Takano's stringer was anchored by the biggest bass of the day, an 8-pound lunker caught in shallow water on a soft plastic.
Pro anglers are competing for a cash prizes and and points toward a berth in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic in Birmingham, Ala., Feb. 19-21 on Lay Lake.
Current points leader Terry Scroggins is in 15th place at Santee while Greg Vinson, who was second in the points race, sits in 96th after Day 1.
After Santee, the top two anglers in the points standings will receive berths in the 2010 Bassmaster Classic (Feb. 19-21, Birmingham, Ala., Lay Lake) while the top seven will be invited to the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series.
On the co-angler side, Mike Lumpkins of Charleston, S.C., managed 11-11 to put him in top position to take the top prize of a Skeeter/Yamaha boat and motor package. In second is Dwaine Williams of Greenup, Ky., with 10-12. In third was Earnie Jones of Dalzell, S.C., with 10-6.
Launch and weigh-ins will be at John C. Land III Boating and Sportfishing Facility, Greenall Road, Summerton, S.C. Takeoff will be at 7:15 a.m. ET; weigh-ins are set to begin at 3:20 p.m. ET.