KISSIMMEE, Fla. — He wasn’t wearing track shoes, but Daniel Lanier Jr. of Winter Springs, Fla., is running away from the rest of the field at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in Central Florida. He leads 197 other pros with 27 pounds, 11 ounces. His closest challenger is two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Tracy Adams of North Carolina who is more than nine pounds back with 18-7.
Dreams of 30-pound catches and a new BASS three-day catch record are mostly out the window after a cold front passed through the night before competition began. Water temperatures dipped, the wind blew and the water muddied. The result? Fishing was challenging; catching was downright difficult.
“I caught ‘em early,” said Lanier, whose best finish in six previous Bassmaster Opens was fifth on the same body of water in 2011. “Most of my best fish came out of four or five feet of water on topwater baits.”
Lanier also had the biggest bass on the pro side of the tournament with a 9-11 largemouth. A co-angler, Alabama’s Johnny Pittman, leads the race for Carhartt Big Bass honors with 10-4.
Lanier was understandably reluctant to share too much information after the first day. There are still two more days of fishing left before a champion is crowned. At stake for the winner is $10,000 plus a Skeeter boat and Yamaha motor combo, critical points toward a spot in the Bassmaster Elite Series and a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic for a champion who competes in all three Southern Opens this season.
Tied for third place are Elite pro Derek Remitz and former Elite angler Todd Auten with 18-1. More than half of Remitz’s catch came in one bass, and the Alabama pro is skeptical of his chances at a repeat performance in the second round. “I’m fishing every piece of cover that’s in front of me,” he said. “If it gets colder, I’ll probably go flipping and pitching the heaviest cover I can find.”
Michael Murphy is in fifth place with five bass weighing 17-6. “I caught one off a bed today,” he said. “A lot of my shallow fish are going away. I’m mostly flipping and pitching matted vegetation with a Texas-rigged Reins soft plastic bait behind a 2-ounce Reins tungsten sinker. It seems like the better fish are burying up in the heaviest cover.”
On the co-angler side, Pittman leads the way with 19-1, anchored by the day’s biggest bass.
All 198 pros and 198 co-anglers will be back for the second round on Friday. After that, the field will be cut to the top 12 anglers in each division.