KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- It was feast or famine for anglers fishing Day One of the first Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga.
Gerald Swindle's 30-pound, 13-ounce bag put him on pace to beat the all-time three-day tournament record of 85-8 set by Byron Velvick on California's Clear Lake in 2000, but he is only 14 ounces ahead of second-place angler Trevor Fitzgerald.
"I only had three days of practice, and I started by staying out from the bank and just casting," Swindle said. "I only had two bites in about nine hours of fishing, but I stayed disciplined and stuck with it. I'm learning how to fish this place. This is as good as I've ever caught 'em here." Swindle hauled in his hefty stringer with a crankbait. Hot on his heels is Fitzgerald, a police officer from Ocklawaha, Fla. Fitzgerald caught all of his 29-15 limit on a lipless crankbait, including a 9-16 lunker.
"That big fish was my second fish of the day," Fitzgerald said. "However, I didn't get a lot of bites so that kind of concerns me. I may go elsewhere tomorrow." Leaving a spot where you caught a 30-pound stringer takes some guts, but Fitzgerald believes it could be worth his while. "I've got a good reason to leave it," he said. In third place is Elite pro Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla.
It should be no surprise that Scroggins' pattern is eerily similar to Swindle's; the pair are fishing roughly 800 yards apart. Scroggins managed 25-5 on Day One. In fourth is Larry Cahan of East Palatka, Fla., with 24-9, and in fifth is Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., with 21-7. In his bag was an 11-8 , which earned him big bass honors for the first day. "I caught that fish off of a bed and afterward I was shaking so bad I couldn't rig another bait for five minutes," Lane said.
"That's the biggest fish I've ever weighed in a tournament." Leading the co-angler division is John Avalos of Jacksonville, Fla. Avalos' 12-4 limit was anchored by a 7-2 kicker that fell for a white Zoom Super Fluke dipped in J.J.'s Magic Dippin' Dye. "That's the only bait I threw all day," Avalos said. "I plan on doing it tomorrow, too, regardless of the weather."
In second place is Randy Gabel of Boyertown, Pa., with 12-2. In third is Daniel Lanier of Florida with 9-8, in fourth is Vance McCullough of Jacksonville, Fla., with 9-7, and in fifth is Brant Grimm of Tennessee with 9-0. Fishing fans are invited to daily launches and weigh-ins, located at Big Toho Marina, 101 Lakeshore Dr. in Kissimmee. Launch begins at 7 a.m. ET, and weigh-ins begins at 3 p.m. ET. On Saturday's final day, the weigh-in will start at 4 p.m. ET at Bass Pro Shops Orlando, located at 5156 International Drive in Orlando.
All events are free and open to the public.