TAVARES, Fla. — The talk all week was that a cold front would slow the fishing and anglers would be lucky to bring 15 or 16 pounds to scales at the Harris Chain of Lake in the first Bass Pro Shops Southern Open of 2012.
The talk was mostly right, but fortunately for Tim Frederick, he wasn't listening. The Leesburg, Fla., pro had a limit weighing 28 pounds, 3 ounces to take a commanding lead over 196 other anglers. He is nearly eight pounds ahead of Bassmaster Elite Series pro Chris Lane.
Frederick was mostly tight-lipped about his day. After all, there are still two days of competition left and tens of thousands of dollars and a berth in the 2013 Bassmaster Classic at stake. He did say that he was expecting the tournament to be a sight-fishing event, but that a recent cold snap had thwarted most spawning efforts.
"I decided to play a hunch and go to a staging area I know about," Frederick said, referring to a spot where bass hold prior to moving to the spawning grounds and laying their eggs. "Within half an hour I had about 20 pounds."
Frederick said he caught his limit fishing a variety of ways and noted that another 20-pound-plus catch is possible in his area tomorrow. In fact, most of the top anglers from Day One were optimistic that fishing would improve as the tournament went on.
Though Frederick was in the tournament's first flight of boats (and therefore left the launch earliest and returned to the ramp earliest), most of the top weights were caught later in the day.
Lane, who grew up in Florida and now hails from Guntersville, Ala., is in second place with 20-8 and believes the bass are beginning to move shallower to spawn. He's hopeful he can repeat his success tomorrow.
"The Harris Chain is notorious for good fishing one day and tough fishing the next," he said.
Lane admitted that his most successful area had been heavily pressured on the first day and that he'd need to make adjustments to his location and methods if he was to do as well in the second round.
The big bass of Day One belonged to Steve Wisdom and weighed 8-15. The fish, which made up more than half of his total of 15-1, was his first catch of the day.
"I didn't fish very well today," Wisdom said. "I lost a bunch of fish."
Fortunately for Wisdom, he caught the best of them. His lunker fell to a 1/2-ounce Strike King Redeye Shad (gold with a black back).
Heath Smith's 8-11 largemouth made a run at Wisdom's daily lunker and helped to put Smith in fifth place with 18-11.
"I was catching little ones in practice and just hoping to finish in the money," he said. "The big one was my second bass of the day. I'm fishing a perfect prespawn area that should reload, so I'm looking forward to tomorrow."
If the weather stays warm for the next two days of competition, large females will likely move into their spawning areas. That should mean big weights at the scales.
At the moment, Frederick is on pace to surpass Byron Velvick's record for a three-day catch in the 5-bass-limit era. In 2000 on California's Clear Lake, Velvick had 83-5.
On the co-angler side, Avery McCormick of Mobile, Ala., leads the way with a three-bass limit weighing 12-7, and George Hirapetian has the big bass at 8-2. His only fish put him in 10th.