"I haven't felt that nervous in a tournament in a long time," said Mark Tyler, who won this tournament last year, but was in third place yesterday with five bass for 14 pounds, 11 ounces. "Just from the element of time being so critical, there was a lot of pressure to catch fish."
Anthony Klonowski of Eagle, Idaho, leads after Day One with five bass totaling 18 pounds, 15 ounces. His stringer included a fine 7-pound, 9-ouncer.
Art Berry of Hemet, Calif., is second with 15 pounds, 3 ounces anchored by a 7-pound bass. Both fishermen said they stayed with their initial game plans despite the shortened day on the water.
"I went to the same first three spots I planned to go to at daybreak," said Klonowski, who didn't launch until after noon due to the blanket of fog. "I didn't get any fish at those areas, but my fourth one produced, and I found them."
Klonowski, a general contractor, said he avoided thinking about the added pressure of having to produce a quick bag of bass. Berry, who guides at Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet, also put the time limit out of his mind. As a guide, he's used to having to perform under pressure for clients.
"It was all about making the right decisions, and I was fortunate to make the right ones in a hurry," said Berry, who grew up fishing San Diego lakes as a youngster. He said he used crankbaits and other reaction baits to catch the bulk of his fish, including the 7-pounder that came from under a dock.
It was a day the anglers were very fortunate to get in any fishing time at all. Tournament manager Randy McBride waited until it was clear and safe before sending the 246 anglers out onto the lake at noon. Because of the short day, McBride said there won't be a cut to the top 50 boaters and top 50 non-boaters for the final day on Saturday. Everyone who fished Thursday will stay with their same partners for Friday, and all the anglers will be permitted to fish on Saturday.
"Safety is our top priority," McBride said. "Yes, there's a lot of money at stake, but we want to be sure it's safe when these fishermen go out. Not making the cut to 50 will make for a long day on Saturday, but we want to give these fishermen their time on the water."
Jack Farage of Discovery Bay, Calif., led the non-boater division with five bass for 14 pounds, 15 ounces. Farage said he convinced his pro, veteran Larry Hopper, that he had some areas close to the launch ramp that held fish.
"Larry had some areas farther away, but with the short day, we decided to try my areas first, and they worked out," said Farage, 34, a graphics designer who has a newborn baby at home in Discovery Bay.
Unlike many of the pros, Farage detailed what worked for him. He said he used crankbaits for most of his fish, but also drop-shotted plastic worms in deeper water for some other keepers.
"I'm just glad Larry was flexible and worked with me on fishing those areas close by," Farage said.
Zachary Thompson of Orinda, Calif., weighed in the boater division Purolator Big Bass, a husky 9-pound, 6-ounce Clear Lake largemouth that fetched him a healthy $1,000 check from Purolator. Farage's entire stringer of three fish totaled 11-pounds, 15 ounces, an indication of how tough it was and how important catching a big bass was on the abbreviated day of fishing. He managed to put himself in ninth place thanks to that big bass.
"I had a spot for big bass and only got to spend an hour there today," Thompson said. "I hope I get a chance to get back there for some more time tomorrow."
John Bitting of Westminster, Calif., who fished with local pro Skeet Reese, had the Purolator Big Bass in the non-boater division. His 7-pounder earned him $400 and helped ease him into second place in the non-boater standings with a total of 10 pounds, 14 ounces.
Reese lamented on how that bass Bitting caught in their boat behind him would have helped anchor his bag of four bass that totaled 14 pounds and put him in good shape in fourth place. Add that bass to Reese's bag, and he's leading the tournament by three pounds.
"It was a tough day because of the little time we had on the water," Reese said. "When they decided to go out at noon, my brain went into a tailspin. I've fished this lake for 20 years, so I have so many spots it's like going out there on a milk run for me. I had 100 spots, but I probably only got to 60 of them. At the one spot, where I knew there were some big fish, [Bitting] got the big fish behind me."
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Toyota, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, and Bass Pro Shops.
Local Sponsors include Konocti Vista Casino Resort & Marina.