Southern Open notes: Bass move up

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Despite overcast skies and intermittent rain from an approaching cold front, at least some of the bass on the Kissimmee Chain moved up onto the spawning beds between the end of the Day One and the start of Day Two.

Trevor Fitzgerald was in second after weighing in a 29-pound, 15-ounce bag on Day One, many of which he caught cranking a Rat-L-Trap in Lake Toho, yet he decided to scrap his offshore bite to concentrate on bed fishing in Lake Kissimmee. The move paid off for Fitzgerald, who brought in a 20-5 on Day Two to put him in third place with 50-4, just 5-1 behind leader Gerald Swindle.

Fitzgerald caught all his fish Friday off spawning beds using a tube lure. "I marked a six and two fives when I left that were just pulling up, so I'm going to go back and try that in the morning," Fitzgerald said. "I guess it was a good move. I caught one fish over nine pounds today, so there are definitely some big fish in the area."

Elite Pro Bobby Lane caught a five-fish limit that weighed 30-6, bumping him from fifth to second. He caught all bed fishing in Lake Kissimmee. "They were still up on the beds and I started looking around and some areas that had only two or three beds had 20 beds today," Lane said. "A new wave had moved in and I found the right ones at the right time. Tomorrow, who knows?"

Saturday's forecast is for northwest winds at 15 mph and temperatures in the low 60s, which could push the fish off the beds. That would play into the strengths Swindle, who caught most of his fish in deeper water.
After a Day One catch of 15-13, Elite Series Rookie Ott Defoe of Seyeville, Tenn., picked away at fish all day, but the fish that anchored his second day weight came on the last cast of the day. "I was planning on leaving at 2:15 p.m. to give me time to lock through into Lake Toho and make it back to the weigh-in in time, and I was trolling around casting and looking when I saw a big hole," Defoe said. "My co-angler saw the fish and said it looked like it was as long as his leg. So I got set up and fished the fish but never could get it to bite." When Defoe finally did get a bite, it was from the male bass that was also on the bed.

That fish was around 13 inches in length. Defoe had been throwing a Berkley 4-inch Power Bait Power Hawg on a 1/2-ounce weight in junebug color, when he decided to pick up another rod and make a few casts to the bed with about three minutes before he had to leave. That rod also had a 4-inch Power hawg in watermelon/red with 3/16-ounce weight. "I made two or three casts and felt a bump, bump, and it started swimming off," Defoe said. "It was the last cast of the day. Once we got her in the livewell, we buckled everything down and ran."

That fish weighed 10-9, boosting Defoe's bag to 29-11 which put him in fifth place. In all, six bass weighing more than 9 pounds and six bass over 10 pounds were caught on Day Two. Elite pro Charlie Hartley's 10-10 was big bass of the day.

Well-known co-angler Billy Graham caught only one fish on Day One, a bass weighing 1-pound. Going into the second day, he set his sights on beating that score. At 84 years old, Graham has fished as a co-angler in more than 50 tournaments. "I had eight or 10 blow-ups today, and missed them," Graham said. "It's just one of those things, but any time you get to go fishing it's a good day." Graham scored another single fish on the Day Two, this one weighing 1-1, keeping good on his plan to improve his catch.

Dustin Bozeman of Lakeland, Fla., is only 16 and fishing his first professional event. After a disappointing Day One catch of a single bass weighing 1-8, Bozeman was hoping to do better on a lake where he's caught 18 pounds of fish. "It was a lot better today, I got four or five bites and capitalized on all of them," the co-angler said. "I had a couple of short fish and a couple of nice fish. I feel good." A three-fish limit of 10-4 Friday gave him 11-12, allowing the angler who just met the minimum age requirement to fish as a Bassmaster Pro finish 34th. After a five-year absence from bass fishing, Roland Martin of Naples, Fla., was in 8th place after Day One with 18 pounds but had a tough Day Two. He only managed 9-7 and was 18th with 27-7, missing the cut by only six spots. ... Tim Ezell grew up in Texas bass fishing, so when he moved to Key West 21 years ago, he wasn't going to let the fact that there was no fresh water stop him from pursuing the fish he loves. Competing against the pros, Ezell came all the way from the Southernmost Point in the United States to finish 179th out of 194 entrants.