MARBURY, MD — Kelly Jordon won last year's Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on the Potomac River without weighing-in 18 pounds any of the four days, like he did Thursday when competition started in the Capitol Clash presented by Advance Auto Parts.
However, Jordon's 18 pounds this year got him only a tie for fourth place after Day One. Despite all the complaints about the heat and tough fishing during practice, two 20-pound-plus, five-bass limits were caught Thursday. Skeet Reese had the biggest — 20 pounds, 5 ounces. But Gary Klein almost matched him with 20-2, including an 8-2 largemouth that was over two pounds bigger than anything caught a year ago.
"I had a great day," Reese said. "I'm pretty fired up right now."
But maybe not as fired up as Klein, who caught his biggest-ever northern-strain largemouth Thursday.
"To catch an eight-pounder, that's just special," Klein said.
Although a much-welcome thunderstorm moved onto the Potomac during the afternoon and dropped temperatures about 15 degrees, most of the leaders caught their fish before then, when the heat was on.
Jordon had his first five keepers by about 7 or 7:30 a.m., Thursday.
"I did a lot of different stuff," Jordon said. "I just bobbed and weaved all day long."
Jordon was feeling pretty good about his day until Reese followed him on the weigh-in stage.
"Seeing Skeet with 20, I don't like that at all," said Jordon, who is from Mineola, Texas.
Reese, the current leader in Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year standings, didn't start his day nearly so fast. His fourth keeper didn't come until about 10:30 a.m., then he moved to his second spot. He was able to fill out his limit, cull a couple of smaller fish there, and was just about to move again.
"Literally on my last flip I caught a five-pounder," said Reese, who is from Auburn, Calif. "That allowed me to cull about a two-and-a-half-pounder."
That's always the key at the top of the leaderboard in these Elite Series events — catching one or two five-pound-plus fish.
But no one expected to see an 8-2 lunker here this week, like Klein brought to the weigh-in stand Thursday.
"Big fish just have to happen," Klein said. "I think I only caught about eight or nine keepers."
Klein wasn't confident after practice, and he's still not confident after catching 20 pounds Thursday. All those fish came from one area.
"I'm totally committed to one area," Klein said. "I don't have anything figured out, so you can't run around."
Keeping quiet and methodically working that one area were important factors in Klein's success.
"The fish are so skittish," Klein said. "Length of cast and being very stealthy were the keys."
Grant Goldbeck of nearby Gaithersburg, Md., stayed on one spot too when bagging his third place total of 18-5. But Goldbeck has lots of other places to fish. He was excited about the possibility of all his local knowledge paying off on the Bassmaster Elite Series tour.
"I've won a bunch of small tournaments here with bags that would win big tournaments," Goldbeck said.
He decided to simply hold his hot spot Thursday rather than check out any of the other places he knows on the Potomac River.
"I thought if guys saw me there all day, they would respect me and leave it alone," he said.
"I'm doing something a little bit different than most everybody else. I'm finesse fishing (with a spinning rod and 10-pound test line). A lot of the guys are throwing braid."
Goldbeck caught a 5-12 bass on that light gear Thursday. Last year, he took big bass honors in the Capitol Clash with a 5-15 fish caught on 8-pound line.
Casey Ashley, an Elite Series rookie from Donalds, S.C., matched Jordon's total with 18 pounds Thursday. He had that weight by 9 a.m., only three hours after he sang the national anthem to start Thursday's launch. The first time he sang the anthem at an Elite Series event, he caught 22 pounds at Clark's Hill in April, finished eighth overall and had the big bag of the tournament.
After Thursday's weigh-in at the Potomac, Ashley smiled and said, "I went ahead and told them I'd sing it again (Friday)."