KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- The story of the day was a fairly tight-lipped fishery as the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #1 began on Lake Tohopekaliga in central Florida.
The combination of brisk winds, cooler than average temperatures and a glut of anglers making their way south to Lake Kissimmee made life difficult on the nearly 200 professionals and an equal amount of co-anglers on Thursday. In fact, of the 187 pros, only 45 weighed a sack that weighed double digits.
The leader of the bunch was Daniel Lanier of nearby Winter Springs, Fla. After nearly two hours of relatively small weigh-ins by the field, Lanier brought the crowd at Big Toho Marina to life with a five-fish limit that totaled 27 pounds, 11 ounces. Like nearly everyone else in the field, Lanier locked down toward Lake Kissimmee and worked his way back toward Toho as the afternoon progressed. His biggest fish, a 9-11 lunker, came early in the morning, he said – a good sign that the fish was found somewhere else in the chain besides Toho.
Terry Seagraves, who lives in Kissimmee and is a well-known Elite Series angler, said the slightest variation in temperature or wind can have an adverse effect on the fickle Florida bass.
“It’s just shallow lakes, that’s 90 percent of it,” Seagraves said. “That, and these are Florida strain bass. There are better days ahead for them. They’re not going to come out to play on a day like this.”
Terry Scroggins, another Elite angler from Florida, said despite the slim bite many anglers had on Thursday, the Kissimmee Chain can light up at any minute. Lanier proved that with his haul.
“There’s a 30-pound bag out there,” said Scroggins, who sits in 128th place with three fish totaling 5 pounds, 1 ounce. “We all just have to go back to work to find it.”
Brett Myers also felt the pinch on the opening day of this Southern Open. He caught a five-fish limit, but the sack weighed in at only 5-10. After a series solid practices, he was perplexed…for a while.
“I had forgotten what a cold front can do,” he said. “I was expecting some 30 pounds bags, so this was tough. We had some that were going nine, 10 pounds in practice. And today, catching a fish wasn’t the issue. It was finding quality fish for me. In the first 20 minutes today, I felt a blast of cold air and right then, I knew it could be really bad. For me, it was.”
Though fishing was tough for many on Thursday, everyone can take heart in this fact – in 2001, Dean Rojas caught a five-bass limit here that weighed 45 pounds, 2 ounces. And that monster of a day came even earlier in the year (January 17) then this tournament.
Co-angler Johnny Pittman of Alabama wowed the crowd at Big Toho Marina late in the afternoon with a 3-fish limit that tipped the scales at 19 pounds, 1 ounce. His biggest fish weighed 10-4 – the largest to be had on Day 1 of the Southern Open.
“NOT SO LUNKER” MADNESS
Brazil native Marcos Malucelli caught five fish on Thursday, but the catch only weighed 5 pounds, 12 ounces. While giving a shout out to his wife, who he said was watching the action on Bassmaster.com, he gave this word of advice: “Honey, don’t spend no money. My fish are no good.”
Malucelli sits 122nd after the first day of fishing in this tournament.
ADVICE TO MIND
When asked to give a tip to anglers and fans, Elite Pro Derek Remitz offered this pearl of wisdom when fishing in the Sunshine State: “I’ve been fishing here for six years or so now, and it took me some time to learn this. But my one tip would be ‘Go where you caught them in practice and stay there. Eventually, you’ll get a big one.”
The same group of anglers and co-anglers launch Friday at 7 a.m. The launch order is in reverse from Day One, meaning that those who took off first on Thursday will go last on Friday.
The top 40 pros, as well as the top 40 co-anglers, will be guaranteed a check after tomorrow’s weigh-in concludes.