OKEECHOBEE, Fla. —When you visit Lake Okeechobee, it's a good idea to bring your flipping stick, so it comes as no surprise that legendary flipper Terry Scroggins leads after Day 1 of the season-opening CITGO Bassmaster Southern Tour on the Big "O."
With 24 pounds, 5 ounces of bass, the Palatka, Fla., angler bested Alabamian Jimmy Mason by more than 2 pounds. But that's not to say Mason's 21 pounds, 13 ounces, isn't enough to give him a shot at a top-of-the-standings finish tomorrow.
But he'll have to fish hard to pull ahead of Scroggins, who typically excels at Florida fisheries — including a 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Tour win on Okeechobee.
"I guess you could say I am a pretty good flipper," the 37-year-old Scroggins modestly said. "And out here, to catch the big ones you have to work that flipping stick."
After the first day of the Jan. 26-28 event, Scroggins appeared sure about what he has to do over the next two days to win the tournament: "Obviously I am happy with my start and the lake really suits my style. I've just got to capitalize on opportunities when they present themselves."
If Scroggins can swing the Okeechobee event, his confidence is more than likely to be sky-high as he heads into next month's $1.2 million CITGO Bassmaster Classic, Feb. 24-26, on Florida's famed Lake Tohopekaliga.
Today Scroggins estimated he caught nearly 40 keeper fish by flipping into mats and working a spinnerbait. He is keying in on reed-studded water nearly three feet deep. He said he has a few spots located throughout Moonshine Bay, a popular stop for Okeechobee anglers, and feels that his one honey hole will produce fish throughout the tournament.
Like much of the field, second-place Mason of Rogersville, Ala., also got results with the flipping stick, but the 32-year-old is versatile. He said he's developed three successful patterns, all of which he used to boat a limit early in the day. His strategy includes keying in on the clear, protected water near Moonshine Bay.
"I caught a bunch of early keepers and this allowed me to expand on my water and try out some different things," Mason said. "It was definitely a good day."
The Day 1 weigh-in was highlighted by several fish in the 8- to 9-pound range. None was more impressive than Clark Reehm's 9-pound, 12-ounce bass. It earned the Leesville, La., angler a $1,000 Purolator Big Bass premium.
Rounding out the top five on the boater side were New Yorker Randy Yager (19-2), South Carolina's Marty Robinson (18-9) and Texan James Niggermeyer (17-10).
On the co-angler side, Georgian Jimmy Dudley (14-10) holds a slim margin over fellow Georgian Heath Pack (14-7) in the chase for a Triton boat package worth $30,000. Arkansas's Bob Snyder (12-3), Virginia's Randal Aldred (12-1) and Florida's Charlie Townsel (9-8) round out the top five.