Reese Holds Opening Day Lead at Bassmaster Elite Series Event on Lake Guntersville
Working through more than 200 bass and burning nearly 10,000 calories, Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., was looking for a frosty beverage and some empty calories to rejuvenate the senses after a scorching Thursday on Alabama's Lake Guntersville. And the 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year certainly deserves a mild celebration after toting 29 pounds, 3 ounces, to the scales, at the Synergy Southern Challenge, which put him in the familiar position at the top of the leaderboard.
This week, Reese is bidding for his fifth consecutive top 5 finish in Elite competition, which is unprecedented territory. But he will have to hold off two decorated veterans and fellow AOY winners Gary Klein (second) and Mark Davis (third) to accomplish that feat.
Perhaps the only thing that can steal the headlines from Reese is fish-factory Lake Guntersville. Guntersville is turning on at the opportune time, cranking out 40 limits that weighed more than 20 pounds. And if anyone knows how to take advantage of a primed Guntersville, it's Reese, who scored a second-place finish here in 2009.
"I'm dog-tired right now," said Reese, a five-time Bassmaster winner. "It's an absolute grind. My hands are so shredded right now from catching fish, it's crazy. It's almost every cast. My first cast, literally, I caught a five-plus off the bat."
Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the Southern Challenge on The Bassmasters, which airs Sunday, May 16, at 10:30 a.m. ET on ESPN2 (re-airs Sunday, May 30, 11 a.m. ET). The daily weigh-ins for all regular-season Elite events and the two postseason events will air live on ESPN3.com. Bassmaster.com will follow the Charge each day with BASSCast, BASSCam and real-time leaderboards during weigh-ins.
If not for two lost brutes, Reese said his limit would have weighed more than 30 pounds, but all in all, he was pleased with his execution. He was keying in on schools of bass that he located in practice and was milking them until he felt it became counter-productive.
After practice, Reese - similar to many others in the field - felt that weights would be significantly down from last year's slugfest on Guntersville. The 40-year-old was finding schools in practice but wasn't exploiting the areas, instead saving them for competition. Initially, he thought 18 pounds a day would get an angler into the top-47 cut, but after his first cast, he knew he needed to change his mindset.
Amazingly, Reese is fishing all different areas than the ones he used to post the second-place last year. He still has some back-up water that he hasn't visited but felt that his schools would regenerate and would concentrate on those areas first-thing Friday.
"I've saved some schools but that doesn't mean that I will need them," said Reese, who declined to reveal specifics of his pattern. "It was a fun day but I'm going to need to keep it up to have a shot."
Klein, the 1989 AOY, registered 28 pounds, 4 ounces, and is less than 1 pound behind Reese, a gap that means little on Guntersville. With a late launch position, Klein, who located a number of productive areas in practice, knew he had to nail his decision and pick the right one or risk having to scramble. He picked correctly, finding himself alone and caught his entire total by Noon. He spent the rest of the day defending his spot and didn't see another boat come into the area.
He is fishing a transition area that sets up so the fish come directly to him. He knew he could have totally milked the area and perhaps built a bigger total, but the 52-year-old decided to save the area in hopes of it remaining productive throughout the four-day event.
The Weatherford, Texas, pro is having a stellar season, heading into Guntersville in 16th in the AOY standings, and in good position to qualify for the Bassmaster Elite Series Postseason.
"You can pretty much catch them anyway you want to," said Klein, 52. "I've got a little deal that's working and I just hope it holds up Friday.
Davis, the 1995 AOY, was the first angler to weigh in, coming back to the check-in point 1 hour early. The Mt. Ida, Ark., pro quit fishing at 10 a.m. and essentially practiced the remainder of the day.
"I had the best practice I've ever had in 28 years of tournament fishing," said Davis, who amassed 27 pounds, 12 ounces. "The sheer numbers of fish are so astounding. It's going to be a four-day horserace and it should be exciting."
Behind Davis in fourth was Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla., with 27-11. Rounding out the top five was 1982 Bassmaster Classic champion Paul Elias of Laurel, Miss., with 26-12.
After Friday, only the top 47 anglers will qualify for Saturday. And of those, only the top 12 will move on to Sunday.
Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., took home the $100,000 first-place prize and the Southern Challenge trophy last year for his fifth career BASS victory. Martens struggled Thursday, posting a 43rd-place finish.
Guntersville has been the site of 20 top-level BASS events, including the 1976 Bassmaster Classic, won by Elite Series pro Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo. The Elites competed at the fishery in 2009, when the top four overall weights for the four-day tournament crashed the scales at more than 100 pounds. Elite anglers caught nearly 1,300 fish and more than 5,300 pounds over the course of four days.
Along with the top prize of $100,000, the Southern Challenge awards valuable points in the 2010 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title race. The public is invited to attend the daily launches at 6 a.m. CT at Lake Guntersville State Park, 1155 Lodge Dr., Guntersville, Ala., 35976. After Day 2's competition Friday, the field will be cut to the top 47 anglers for Day 3. Only the top 12 will go on to compete in Day 4. Also free and open to the public, the daily weigh-ins are set for 3:30 p.m. CT at Lake Guntersville State Park.
Local sponsor of the Southern Challenge: Marshall County Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Bassmaster Elite Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Skeeter and Yamaha.
Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Lowrance and Triton Boats.
For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. The organization advances the sport through advocacy, outreach and its expansive tournament structure while championing efforts to connect directly with the passionate community of bass anglers through its Bassmaster media vehicles.
As the flagship offering of ESPN Outdoors, the Bassmaster brand and its considerable multimedia platforms are guided by a mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer; comprehensive Web properties in Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com, ESPNOutdoors.com and ESPN360.com, and ESPN2 television programming, Bassmaster provides rich, leading-edge content true to the lifestyle.
BASS oversees the prestigious Bassmaster Tournament Trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, BASS Federation Nation and the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing, the Bassmaster Classic.
BASS offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
Source: bassmaster.com (2010-05-06)
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