KISSIMMEE, Fla.—Team tournament partners Brad Knight and Wesley Strader got on big fish on the Kissimmee chain and are neck and neck in the pro division after the first round of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open.
Knight holds the lead with a 22-pound, 11-ounce limit that included a 9-06 bass, while Strader is in second place with 21-9. “Wesley is a great friend of mine,” said Knight. “We have fished team tournaments together. “
Both anglers found big bass either nesting or moving up to spawn. “I had a terrible execution day because I had a chance at four or five other fish that were of that (9-06) caliber or more,” said Knight, the reigning Forrest Wood Cup champion from Lancing, Tenn. Knight noted he lost most of his bass when they burrowed into the vegetation.
“I would have liked to have had another hour today but I just didn’t put it all together,” he said. “My fish kind of moved around and things are changing pretty rapidly for me out there. I am looking forward to going back out there tomorrow because I know where they are living. I figured out a few things this afternoon and hopefully I can put together another good bag. Some of the fish are prespawn, but they have really made a move the last day or two to spawn.”
Knight knew he was around big fish when he had a decent day of practice on Tuesday. The Tennessee angler verified that point when he caught his 9-pounder and another bass that probably weighed around 8 pounds.
Strader found his fish in practice when he visited an area he had done well at in last year’s Southern Open. “It is just a place where they come to spawn and I knew these fish are dying to spawn but the weather conditions haven’t been right for them to do it,” he said.
The Spring City, Tenn., angler tried other spots in the morning because he believed the place he found in practice was just loaded with 2-pounders. However when he didn’t have a fish in the livewell by 11:15, he decided to make a move to the keeper-size bass. “I just went to that area where I knew there were some smaller fish up spawning,” Strader said. “Those 2-pounders turned into great big ones so I am pleased with that.”
Rounding out the Top 5 in the pro division are Jade Keeton, Killen, Ala., third, 20-0; Chad Morgenthaler, Reeds Spring, Mo., fourth, 19-10; and Jason Williamson, Wagener, S.C., fifth, 18-8.
Winter Springs, Fla., angler Nate Bloom celebrates his 40th birthday Friday but he got an early birthday present when he got to fish with Koby Krieger, who was his partner when Bloom won the 2003 Southern Open at Lake Okeechobee. Krieger turned into a good luck charm again for Bloom who caught a three-fish limit weighing 11.10 to take the lead in the non-boater division. “My first day fishing with Koby Krieger and I am in first place,” Bloom said. “It is just meant to be.”
Hosting this event are Visit Kissimmee and the Central Florida Sports Commission. Friday's launch, weigh-in and the final day launch will be held at the Lakefront Park/Big Toho Marina. The final day weigh-in will shift to the Bass Pro Shops in Orlando.