OKEECHOBEE, Fla. — Flip, flip, flip. That's the big word at Lake Okeechobee for the inaugural Southern Open of 2010. After two weeks of unseasonable low temperatures and lethargic largemouths, Day One kicked off sunny, bright and warmer than in recent memory.
Still, the fish weren't feeling it. The water is still cold, and the leaders used that knowledge to their best advantage by slowing down and pitching and flipping to bass that were entrenched in heavy vegetation.
J.T. Kenney has the first day lead with 15 pounds, 13 ounces. He caught them flipping a Gambler Ugly Otter to some of the thickest vegetation he could find.
"The grass and vegetation didn't have to be matted to hold bass," Kenney said, "but it had to be thick."
Elite Series pro and 2010 Bassmaster Classic qualifier Bobby Lane echoed Kenney.
"It's tough out there," Lane said. "I caught my fish (a five-fish limit weighing 12-4 — good enough for a tie for fifth) flipping a Berkley Crazy Legs Chigger Craw and worked hard all day to catch just six bass."
Lane admitted to fishing heavy cover and said he pinched the legs off his Chigger Craw so that it would slide through the surface vegetation more easily. Baits with numerous or lengthy appendages are notorious for hanging up near the surface and not reaching the open areas beneath the vegetation — where the bass live and feed.
The biggest bass of the day was caught by 21-year-old Kyle Fox. It weighed 10-3 and was caught — that's right — flipping heavy vegetation. Fox was using a bait of his own design manufactured by Culprit. The "Foxy Craw" lured the lunker out from under matted vegetation that was in 2 1/2-feet deep water.
Fox's giant was one of just three keepers the young pro brought to the scales. They totaled 15-6 — good for second place, but his position seems tenuous. Being two fish short of a limit and with one of those bass weighing more than two-thirds of his total tally, Fox will have trouble duplicating that weight on Day Two.
Other anglers in the top five include Alabama's Russ Lane (14-6) and David Kilgore (13-12) and Florida's Terry "Big Show" Scroggins, who is tied with Bobby Lane for fifth at 12-4.
Three of the Top 10 anglers are Bassmaster Elite Series pros. After Friday, the field will be cut to the top 30 anglers, who fish the final round on Saturday.
On the co-angler side, Rodney Glunt is pacing the field with three bass weighing 7-13. Michael Bradford and Aaron Gengler caught the big bass on the co-angler side in the first round. Each brought 5-11 lunkers to the scales, but nothing else. Their single bass were good enough to put them in a tie for eighth.