TAVARES, Fla. — John Kremer, 41, of Sanford, Fla., weighed in a whopping 29 pounds, 13 ounces of bass on Thursday, far exceeding anyone's expectations at the season opening Bassmaster Southern Open tournament on the Harris Chain of Lakes. Kremer says the fishery will prove to be feast or famine for the majority of the nearly 200 pro competitors over the next two days.
Kremer rode a hot flipping bite to a comfortable lead. He opened up more than 4-pound margin over his nearest competitor, Bassmaster Elite Series pro Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala. The newly-minted Elite pro weighed in 25-9, and his limit included the biggest bass of the day, a 10-5 lunker.
Rounding out the Top 5 were Elite pro Tim Horton of Muscle Shoals, Ala., in third with 23-0; Bryan Hudgins of Orange Park, Fla., in fourth with 22-14 and Elite pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., with 20-0.
Kremer caught his limit flipping into shallow vegetation, and his bag included two fish that weighed more than 9 pounds each. He played it close to the vest on his lure selection.
With a cold front slated to move in before launch on Day 2, some anglers were at a loss in identifying a plan.
"Who knows what it'll do to the fish," Kremer said. "I'm going to go back out and start the way I left off. If that doesn't work, I'm not sure what I'm going to do."
What began as a promising day turned sour when rain began falling around noon, but the leaders weighed in catches that were much heavier than anticipated. Nevertheless, limits were hard to come by on both the professional and co-angler sides.
The erratic weather made it hard for anglers to nail down a pattern. Instead they needed to cover lots of water to scratch out a meager catch. The 76,000 acres of water that make up the Harris Chain proved to be such a challenge that the Sunshine State natives credit a home field advantage for their good showing.
"I'm really excited it's going so well. I got a good draw for tomorrow, too," said Lane. "So we'll get back out there and keep doing the same thing.
In the co-angler division, another Florida angler, Marlon Crowder of Tampa led the way with a limit weighing 20-1. Crowder has a significant lead over Jon Jezierski of Troy, Mich., who weighed in 13-6 and Dwaine Williams of Greenup, Ky., with 11-9.
At stake for the pros is a top prize of $45,000 and valuable points toward qualifying for the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series and the 2010 Bassmaster Classic. Co-anglers will compete in the Opens for the top prize of a boat and motor package valued at $32,000.
Fans are invited to the Open's Friday and Saturday takeoffs and weigh-ins at Wooton Park, located at 200 South Rockingham Avenue in Tavares. Anglers will launch at 7 a.m. ET, and the weigh-ins are scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. All activities are free and open to the public. Fans can also follow the action on Bassmaster.com with live, streaming video of the weigh-ins, photo galleries and more.