KISSIMMEE, Fla.—Wesley Strader has moved into first place in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open #1 with a game plan that seems to change by the hour.
“I just have been kind of winging it the whole time,” said Strader, who leads the pro division with 37 pounds, 4 ounces. “I seem to do better when I can wing it, just go fishing and not have any preconceived notions of what I am going to do.”
Thursday, Strader went to a spot where he expected to catch just keeper-size bass to complete his limit but the spot produced heavyweight bass for him. Friday, the Spring City, Tenn., angler caught about a 10-pound limit from that spot and since he knew he had enough weight to make the Top 12 cut, Strader decided to try another place he found in practice.
After arriving at the new spot, Strader noticed his partner threw a “Hail Mary” out into the middle of the lake and caught a quality bass. “So I threw out there and caught a big one,” he said. “Then I threw out there and caught another big one.” Strader thanked his partner for putting him on those couple of bites that helped him complete a 15-11 limit.
“I kind of figured something out there at the end of the day so maybe it will pay off tomorrow,” he said. “It seems like the later in the day it gets the better the bite because Florida bass like it hot. So I could see as the water temperature got up to that 62 to 64 degrees the fish started getting a little more aggressive. “
Winter Springs Bassmasters club member Eric Panzironi celebrated his son Landen’s seventh birthday today by catching a 16-13 limit that moved him into second place with 34-4. “It just all came together,” said the 36-year old swimming pool maintenance man. “I found a spot that was holding fish and I caught a limit early and then got a couple of big bites."
“I went to the same exact spot (as yesterday) and I made about 10 casts and caught a decent one,” Panzironi said. “From there on I got a couple more. Then I caught a big one and that was pretty much it. I didn’t cull too much, maybe once or twice, but that was it.”
The Longwood, Fla., angler admits he had a terrible practice this week, but he has turned it around during the tournament. “I barely caught a limit on Monday and Tuesday,” he said. His bite has been early as he has caught his limit by about 9:30 each morning.
The rest of the Top 5 in the pro division includes Cody Detweiler, Orlando, Fla., third place, 34-11; Chad Morgenthaler, Reeds Spring, Mo., fourth, 34-4; and Jason Williamson, Wagner, S.C., fifth, 33-5.
Deland, Fla., boat mechanic Rob Walker leads the non-boater division with 17-14. He fishes the Kissimmee Chain often and is relying on a tactic that usually produces well for him this time of year.
Visit Kissimmee and the Central Florida Sports Commission are hosting this open. Saturday's launch will be held at the Lakefront Park/Big Toho Marina in Kissimmee. The weigh-in will move to the Bass Pro Shops in Orlando and will begin at 4 p.m. EDT.