PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Denny Brauer captured his lone Bassmaster Elite Series victory on Lake Champlain last year with a come-from-behind victory. If he is to repeat, he may not have terribly far to climb, after finishing Day One in sixth place with 17 pounds, 14 ounces.A "perfect day" would have netted him about 22 pounds, Brauer said. He lost the first five fish he hooked, and struggled through "execution" problems all day. "I got some areas," he said, "where the fish are very hard to catch."But, in all, he emerged in fine shape. Friday he intends to return to a spot he thought would be his best, that gave up no fish on Day One.Hard to believe, but jitters might have been a factor for the 58-year-old bass fishing legend."I was maybe a little too wired this morning," he said.
It's too early to tell whether Kevin VanDam will cede any ground to Skeet Reese in the Angler of the Year chase, but the results after Day One show that Reese needs to pick it up if he's going to catch VanDam.
Trailing VanDam by 62 points in the Angler of the Year standings, Reese topped VanDam on Thursday by a scant ounce. If their respective places hold, Reese will gain two points on his rival.
Still quite a catch
Steve Daniel and his wife will celebrate their 33rd wedding anniversary this week. Debbie was relaxing in the dry Chamber of Commerce sunshine of bucolic upstate New York while Steve pounded away at a 16-15 bag of smallmouth bass, a far cry from Clewiston, Fla., and the hefty green fish of Lake Okeechobee.
Daniel jokingly told the crowd a story about their relationship after his 12th-place weight was announced.
"I told Debbie a long time ago that if you ever want to leave," he said, "just pack my bags and I'll go with you."
And speaking of hitched
Kevin Langhill missed the cut and a paycheck by just a few ounces a few weeks ago on Grand Lake in Oklahoma. But luck may be on his side this week. After breaking down on the way in, Langhill gathered his fish and hopped aboard with Boyd Duckett, making it in with just four minutes to spare.His 15-5 limit of smallmouths puts him just a half-pound ahead of the 50-man cut, so even a brief late penalty — a pound is subtracted for every minute late — would have likely sunk him.How now brown bass?
The smallmouth vs. largemouth question played out in anglers' livewells all day.
Darrin Schwenkbeck (19th, 16-9) turned in a good mixed bag of fish and was noticeably pleased, but was scratching his head as to just how he pulled it off when questioned about his day on stage.
"I really had to scramble for them out there today," he said. "This is much better than I thought I would have. Hopefully I can go out there tomorrow and catch 12 pounds or so because, like I said, I really scrambled for these fish."
Lee Bailey makes his home in Alabama these days, but is from nearby Connecticut and knows full well the bounty of Lake Champlain. He regretted that his Day One weight of 13-15 didn't represent the lake well.
"Those fish are all smallmouths," he said. "I just couldn't get my largemouths to bite today. But I probably caught 40 fish today. You can't do that in a lot of places. When you come up here, you can do it every day."
Jason Quinn (23rd, 16-2) might have given in somewhat to a guilty pleasure in targeting smallmouths on the first day. But for him, it's turning out fine."I don't get to smallmouth fish very much, but I do know how to do it and really enjoy it," he said. "I put all my eggs in one basket and practiced all smallmouth. I caught about all I thought I could catch and hopefully I can do it tomorrow."
Flight or fight?
Angler after angler who brought good sacks to the stage talked about making the long run south to the Ticonderoga area. Dean Rojas knows why they're doing, but more importantly he knows full well why he's not doing it.
"I stayed close today and played the percentages," said Rojas (15th, 16-11). "The odds are against (successfully) making that long run four days in a row. I'm just going to try to keep on catching 16 pounds a day and see how it turns out." (As if we had to ask, Rojas caught his fish on his signature Spro frog bait.)Likewise, Fred Roumbanis (11th, 17-1) didn't make a long run south, in contrast to seemingly everyone else who targeted largemouthss. He did, however, make extremely long casts, staying as far back as he could from the shallow grass he targeted in order not to spook the fish.
Noticeably miffed with his 15-14 limit, Aaron Martens explained how disappointed he was in his catch and a planned tweak in his Day Two strategy."I figured on 18 to 22 pounds of largemouths today based on practice, but they really slowed down today," Martens said. "I'll probably go with smallmouths a little more tomorrow."
When asked by emcee Keith Alan why he would bother with the smallmouths if he was so confident of his largemouth population, Martens didn't hesitate in displaying his confidence in bronzeback pattern."I've got 17, 18 pounds of smallmouths, too," he replied. "The cold front really slowed them down today. They should do a lot better tomorrow."
Finally — a real answer! A noticeably edgy Bryan Hudgins took the stage with an 18-2 limit of smallmouths and was surprisingly upfront about the way he caught them."All week I've been killing the smallmouth on a bait that Git 'Em bait company makes called the Git 'Em Drop," Hudgins said.The bait is a small, flat-bellied finesse worm. Hudgins didn't give up the entire story, declining to say how he fished the bait.
Editor's note: Check in daily during the tournament for live video of the weigh-ins and a realtime leaderboard at 3 p.m. ET Thursday through Saturday. ESPNOutdoors.com will air Hooked Up, the live Internet shows, on Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET on Sunday. The 45-minute Hooked Up show begins at 3 p.m. ET on Sunday, leading into the final live weigh-in and a realtime leaderboard at 3:45 p.m. ET.
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