Temperatures in the 90s and heavy humidity greeted anglers Wednesday. With very tough fishing conditions during practice, many anglers were less than confident heading into the tournament. As evidenced by the day-one weights, the bass did not make it easier for the pros. Most of the pros brought relatively small catches to the scales, although a few anglers broke the 12-pound mark.
"I got fortunate. I had a strong pattern during practice," Herren said. "I've been getting two or three good bites each day."
Herren said the key to hooking up with a hefty Lake Hamilton bass is just a matter of being in the right place with the right lure at the right time. In this case, the right time proved to be during the searing heat of midday, as Herren reported catching most of his bass between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
Herren is facing No. 45 seed Tom Monsoor of La Crosse, Wis., who caught a respectable limit of five bass weighing 8 pounds. With another day left before the first cut in the bracket, however, Monsoor cannot be counted out of the competition.
"There's lots of pressure," Herren said. "I have some water that I haven't fished yet, so I'll just have to go out tomorrow and do my best."
The brush-pile bite was the predominant pattern among the pros during the first day of competition, although a few anglers reported catching some schooling, early morning bass on topwater lures.
The four-day tournament will conclude Saturday with the winning pro walking away $500,000 richer. The top 48 anglers from the six-event 2005 Wal-Mart FLW Tour advanced to the championship, the most lucrative bass tournament in the history of the sport. Anglers were seeded according to their year-end ranking, with the No. 1 pro fishing head-to-head against the No. 48 seed, the No. 2 seed fishing against the No. 47 seed, and so on.
Six pros in the event are from Arkansas, but only two carried their brackets on day one. Most notably was Chevy Larry Nixon of Bee Branch - the No. 24 seed - who caught a five-bass limit weighing 9 pounds, giving him close to a 4-pound lead over rookie sensation, No. 25 seed Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla. Nixon said he had been on an early morning, shallow-water bite during practice, but that patterned waned, as the morning's takeoff wasn't until well after daybreak.
"I've caught some shallow and some deep," Nixon said. "I caught five keepers total and one small fish." The heavy haze that hung in the air on the first day hurt his fishing, but Nixon added that some cloud cover could help the bass bite.
No. 1 seed and 2005 Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year Greg Hackney of Gonzales, La., brought in four bass weighing 4 pounds, 7 ounces, giving him a comfortable lead over his competitor, No. 48 seed and Kellogg's pro Sam Newby of Pocola, Okla. Newby caught one keeper weighing 1 pound, 11 ounces.
Upsetting No. 2 pro Toshinari Namiki of Hachioji-City, Japan, was No. 47 seed Vic Vatalaro of Kent, Ohio. Namiki, who's had a fantastic season with four top-10 finishes, brought one bass weighing 2 pounds, 1 ounce to the scale, while Vatalaro weighed in 5 pounds, 1 ounce.
Vatalaro also caught his fish from deep-water brush piles, and he caught numerous bass during the course of the day few were keepers. Vatalaro targeted shallow-water bass with topwater lures early in the day, but that bite didn't pan out. Eventually, he moved out to deeper water and turned to fishing with spinning tackle - his favorite method of fishing.
Slipping under the radar was a shoot-out between two Western pros - No. 31 seed John Murray of Phoenix, Ariz., and No. 18 seed Ken Wick of Star, Idaho. Wick landed a respectable catch weighing 7 pounds, 11 ounces, but Murray boated a limit weighing 12 pounds, 10 ounces - one of only three catches to break the 10-pound mark during day one.
"I'm probably doing stuff that no one else is doing," Murray said. "The daytime bite can be really tough in Arizona, so I adapted some of the things I use out there to this lake. I flipped some shallow docks, but for the most part, I fished a drop-shot with a 5 1/2-inch curly-tail worm."
On the co-angler side, Russell Burroughs of Jacksonville, Ala., topped the field with a day-one catch of three bass weighing 6 pounds, 14 ounces. Co-anglers had a particularly tough competition on the first day, as only the top 32 anglers caught enough bass to break the 1-pound mark. The 48 co-anglers compete against thee entire field, with the top 24 advancing after day two. Co-angler competition concludes Friday with the winner taking home $25,000 cash.
In conjunction with the championship is a world-class outdoor show at the Hot Springs Convention Center and Summit Arena featuring more than 140 exhibits and free daily giveaways, including 500 hats and T-shirts, 500 tackle kits, 500 tackle boxes and 1,500 rods and reels courtesy of KATV in Little Rock. The outdoor show also features daily fishing seminars by Hank Parker, Chevy pro Jimmy Houston, Chevy pro Dion Hibdon, Guido Hibdon, Forrest L. Wood and other bass-fishing legends.
Admission is absolutely free and show hours run 2 to 8 p.m. July 14, noon to 9 p.m. July 15, and 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. July 16. One lucky fan attending the final weigh-in Saturday will win a new Ranger Z-20 Comanche bass boat powered by Yamaha courtesy of Allen Tillery Chevrolet. Qualifiers for the boat giveaway will be drawn daily, and you must be present to qualify and win.
Championship contenders will take off from Fish Hatchery Ramp, located at 350 Fish Hatchery Road in Hot Springs at 7 a.m. each day, and daily weigh-ins will be held at 5 p.m. in Summit Arena adjacent to the Hot Springs Convention Center.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour and seven other national tournament circuits offering a combined $30 million in awards through 214 events in 2005. The 27-year-old organization is the purveyor of America's largest and most prestigious fishing tournaments, including the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, EverStart Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League, Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Walleye League, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Tour and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series.
Wal-Mart and many of America's most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997.
For more information on FLW Outdoors and its tournament circuits, visit FLWOutdoors.com.
Day One Notes: - Do local anglers have home-field advantage? Of the six Arkansas pros that qualified for the Forrest L. Wood Championship, two are leading their bracket - Chevy pro Larry Nixon of Bee Branch and George Cochran of Hot Springs. - Skippy pro Art Berry of Hemet, Calif., caught one keeper in an unconventional manner. Berry set the hook on a bass and his line snapped at the reel. Berry noticed his broken line moving in the water, and then the bass jumped with the lure still in its mouth. Berry chased the bass down with his trolling motor, grabbed the line and pulled in the fish. Better yet, it was all caught on film. - Only three anglers weighed in catches topping 10 pounds - Matt Herren of Trussville, Ala., with 12 pounds, 15 ounces; Tyson pro Tracy Adams of Wilkesboro, N.C., with 12 pounds, 12 ounces; and John Murray of Phoenix, Ariz., with 12 pounds, 10 ounces. - Co-angler weights indicated how tough the fishing conditions were on day one. No co-angler caught more than 6 pounds, 14 ounces and the 10th-place co-angler only caught 3 pounds, 12 ounces.