Biffle's 1-pound, 4-ounce lead over defending Lake Okeechobee champion Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, was anchored by a 14-pound, 11-ounce limit Thursday. On Wednesday, Biffle finished the day in third place with five bass weighing 17 pounds, 14 ounces. He was flipping thick mats in Moonshine Bay both days.
"I really don't have a good spot," said Biffle, who has earned nine FLW Tour top-10s since 1997, including three runner-up finishes and a victory in 2001. "I mark every fish I catch on my Lowrance GPS, because where there is one fish there are usually two or three. The next day, I go back and hit those spots. That's what I've been doing every day."
If not for missing several fish on opening day, Biffle's lead may have been much more commanding. "I lost eight in a row at one point," he said. "I was just being too aggressive pulling them out of the mats."
Jordon, who won the FLW Tour opener on Lake Okeechobee in 2005, is using the same bait that produced for him last season. He caught five bass weighing 17 pounds, 12 ounces on opening day to finish fourth and five bass weighing 13 pounds, 9 ounces Thursday to qualify for the finals in the No. 2 spot. His bait of choice: a Lake Fork Craw Tube mated with a 3/4-ounce Lake Fork Mega weight. Unlike 2005, however, when he opted for a Junebug color while fishing in the Monkey Box, he is flipping a Blue Bruiser Craw Tube in Moonshine Bay this year.
"This is my favorite way to fish," Jordon said. "I love flipping mats. I'm fishing the thickest cover I can find."
When asked about his prospects for successfully defending his title, Jordon replied: "I'm not going to even entertain the thought. When you do that, you set yourself up for disappointment. I'm fishing and having fun. I just remind myself that there are a whole lot of guys out there who would like to be in my place doing this for a living, so I enjoy every fish as they come, and I don't worry about the rest."
Rounding out the top five pros are Shinichi Fukae of Mineola, Texas (10 bass, 29 pounds, 10 ounces); Mark Hardin of Jasper, Ga. (10 bass, 28 pounds, 13 ounces); and Chip Harrison of Bremen, Ind. (10 bass, 26 pounds, 6 ounces).
Also making the top-10 cut were pros Dale Teaney of Williamsburg, Ohio; Chad Grigsby of Maple Grove, Minn.; David Fritts of Lexington, N.C.; Sean Hoernke of Magnolia, Texas; and Keith Pace of Monticello, Ark.
Hardin earned the Energizer Keeps on Going Award of $500 for coming from behind to make the cut after finishing 102nd on opening day with five bass weighing 8 pounds, 1 ounce.
Spider Wire pro Bobby Lane of Lakeland, Fla., who finished second in the Stren Series opener on Lake Okeechobee earlier this month finished 43rd and earned $10,000 with 10 bass weighing 19 pounds, 5 ounces.
Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., earned the day's Snickers Big Bass award of $750 in the Pro Division thanks to a 9-pound, 2-ounce bass.
Darrell Stevens of Roseland, Va., leads the Co-angler Division in the chase for a top award of $20,000 with an opening round total of eight bass weighing 18 pounds, 14 ounces. He caught four bass weighing 8 pounds, 4 ounces while fishing with Toby Hartsell of Livingston, Texas, Wednesday and four bass weighing 10 pounds, 10 ounce while fishing with Land O'Lakes pro Karen Savik of St. Louis Park, Minn., Thursday.
Stevens, the first co-angler to break $100,000 in FLW Tour career winnings, caught his bass flipping reeds with Hartsell and casting a Rat-L-Trap and Kinami Flash with Savik.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C. (10 bass, 18 pounds, 1 ounce); Fred Martin of North Little Rock, Ark. (eight bass, 17 pounds, 1 ounce); Jerry Goble of Sherrills Ford, N.C. (10 bass, 16 pounds, 11 ounces); and James Fredieu of Saint Martinville, La. (eight bass, 16 pounds, 5 ounces).
Also making the top-10 cut were co-anglers Rob McMurray of Troy, Mich.; Lee Teeter of Hickory, N.C.; Tim Johnson of Dallas, Ga.; Randy Clark of Mobile, Ala.; and Ron Chapman of Lake Quivira, Kan.
Interestingly, Thrift won the Stren Series tournament on the lake earlier this month while fishing the Pro Division. His final-round total in that event was 10 bass weighing a hefty 36 pounds, 9 ounces.
Jake Deeds of El Dorado, Ark., earned the day's Snickers Big Bass award of $375 in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 9-pound, 2-ounce bass. He also tied with Pirch for the tournament's overall Snickers Big Bass. Both men earned an additional $500 for catching the overall biggest bass of the opening round.
Overall, 1,110 bass weighing 1,887 pounds, 3 ounces were caught Thursday, including 108 five-bass limits.
Anglers competing in the $900,000 tournament will take off from Roland and Mary Ann Martin's Marina in Clewiston each morning at 7. Weigh-ins Friday and Saturday will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston beginning at 4 p.m.
The community is invited to attend the free Family Fun Zone Friday and Saturday outside the weigh-in tent in the Wal-Mart parking lot. The Family Fun Zone, which opens at 2 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday, features interactive displays, product samples and games for the entire family to enjoy.
Weights are cleared for day three, and co-angler competition concludes following Friday's weigh-in. The top 10 pros continue competition Saturday, with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from days three and four.
In FLW Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day, with pros supplying the boat, controlling boat movement and competing against other pros. Co-anglers fish from the back deck against other co-anglers.
Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be broadcast to 78 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States as part of the "FLW Outdoors" television programs airing Feb. 19 and Feb. 26. "FLW Outdoors" airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time. "FLW Outdoors" is also broadcast internationally to more than 300 million households in such countries as Germany, China, South Africa, Australia, Malaysia, Russia, Hungary and the United Kingdom, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoor-sports television show in the world. Additionally, FLW Outdoors is proud to provide tournament coverage to more than 800,000 servicemembers stationed around the world in 177 countries and aboard naval ships through broadcasts on the American Forces Network.
Named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood, FLW Outdoors administers the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, Wal-Mart FLW Series, Stren 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, Wal-Mart FLW Kingfish Series and Wal-Mart FLW Redfish Series. These circuits offer combined purses exceeding $36.5 million through 235 events in 2006.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournament programs, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000.
Wal-Mart and many of America's largest and most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its tournament trails. Wal-Mart signed on as an FLW Outdoors sponsor in 1997 and today is the world's leading supporter of tournament fishing. For more information about Wal-Mart, visit Wal-Mart.com.