2008 Elite Series Sunshine Showdown: Experience pays

LEESBURG, Fla. — If it was your first time on a boat with a pro Thursday, you might as well have stayed off the water in the co-angler competition of the Sunshine Showdown.

Jim McDevitt, Wes Hood and Jimmy Sparks, the top three, have all spent a lot of time fishing over the motor. McDevitt travels all over with BASS and was the top co-angler in the Northern Opens in 2006, including a win on Lake Champlain.

He seemed happy but focused after weighing in four fish for a total of 16 pounds, 13 ounces, which gave him a 1-4 lead over Hood.

"I know some things," McDevitt said as he smirked, his long gray hair escaping out of his 40th Anniversary BASS hat. "My pro Jeff Kriet [7-8, 82nd] knows a lot of stuff and he was on some good fish. He had four or five that got off. I think he's going to be a force to be reckoned with."

He liked the hole Kriet was fishing, but McDevitt gave the majority of the credit to 2007 Rookie of the Year Derek Remitz, who only weighed in 9-11. He practiced some with the pro before this tournament and picked up a couple of pointers, to which he credits his success.

"He gave me a little hint," McDevitt said. "This little thing called a line stopper that keeps your weight from sliding up and down. He told me to put that baby on and it really made a difference."

Hood has been fishing co-angler tournaments for 17 years. This is his 25th entry, but he's never finished higher than ninth. He said it feels good to be this close to the lead, and he attributed the majority of his success on Thursday to his experience in these types of tournaments.

"I think just understanding how the game is played and how the pros want to approach things," he said. "It's important to be respectful of their water and their time."

Both Hood and McDevitt had a typical Florida limit: four average fish and a nice kicker. Hood anchored his limit with a 5-3 and McDevitt's lead can be contributed to the 6-9 that fattened his bag.

But, in the world of kickers, Sparks is king. At around 2 p.m., Sparks filled out his limit with an 8-6 monster fishing behind Charlie Hartley.

"It was the one place Charlie didn't throw," he said. Sparks, a member of the now Dirty Half Dozen, has spent almost as much time on the water as the pros over the last two years, including a career best second-place finish on Lake Guntersville last season.

"If you fish behind these guys for three years, you got to pick up a little something," he said.

All three said they're optimistic about Day Two, and think that their style of fishing will hold up no matter who they are paired with. McDevitt said he was pleased, but he knows four-fish bags won't hold up over three days.

"It usually takes five fish a day to beat these guys," he said. "I've got like three different plans from pre-fishing, so I should be ready for anything. But if they are way out in the middle of the lake, I'll have to come up with plan four."

Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Sunshine Showdown on the Harris Chain of Lakes, from Leesburg, Fla., March 6-9, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 4 p.m. ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 3:30 p.m. ET. Daylight Savings Time starts Sunday, so remember to set your clocks.