Kentucky’s Bill Smith Leads Bassmaster Elite Series Finale on Lake Tohopekaliga

Bill Smith of Somerset, Ky., was just looking to kill some time Thursday morning. He ended up catching the biggest limit on the opening day of the Bassmaster Elite Series’ Sunshine Showdown presented by Allstate Boat Insurance on Lake Tohopekaliga. With 18 pounds, 6 ounces, Smith leads by less than one pound over tournament favorite Terry Scroggins of San Mateo, Fla., who had 17-13.

Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., leader of the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings entering the final Elite Series event of the season, was 16th with a limit weighing 9-11. Kalamazoo, Mich., pro Kevin VanDam, who is second in the standings, was 18th at 9-0.

“I’m fishing the only thing I’ve got,” Reese said. “If I had an area to catch 15, 18 pounds, I’d be there. My spot has 2-pounders and right now, those 2-pounders look pretty good.”

Smith’s leading weight was anchored by a fish weighing 6-7. Scroggins, who won a Bassmaster Southern Open on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes in March, was trailed by Ben Matsubu of Hemphill, Texas, with 16-1, followed by Elite rookie Glenn Delong of Bellville, Ohio, with 15-7 and Bernie Schultz of Gainesville, Fla., with 14-5.

Only the top-50 anglers will move on to Saturday’s competition. The top 12 will move on the final round of action on Sunday and compete for the $100,000 top prize.

Smith said he was headed to Lake Kissimmee, but he had about an hour’s wait to go through the lock at the southern end of Lake Toho. So he decided to fish a nearby spot until the lock opened.

“My second cast I caught the 6-pounder,” said Smith, 36. “My next cast I caught my second biggest keeper. I caught 12 or 13 keepers pretty quick. I quit fishing it hard about 8:30 and just stayed there to keep other people out, but nobody even tried to pull in there.

“It’s a real obvious spot. I don’t know why nobody’s fished there.”

Smith hopes to have the spot to himself again Friday.

“From what I saw [Thursday], there are plenty of fish there,” said Smith, who located the spot during practice Wednesday, hooking and shaking off two good fish before moving on.

He said he caught his big bass on a topwater lure, but played it close to the vest on the detail of his other bait.

“I’m throwing a bait not made anymore,” Smith said. “It’s worked for me in Florida several times and I bought 300 of them. It’s something different.”

There’s no secret about what Scroggins is doing: One of the best flippers on the Elite Series trail flipped a cooter brown-colored Yum Big Show Craw with a 1.5-ounce tungsten weight in mats of vegetation at the south end of Lake Kissimmee.

“The Chain of Lakes is as tough as I’ve seen it,” said Scroggins, who has claimed two BASS victories on Toho. “There’s a bunch of fish under those mats, but they’re not wanting to eat at all. I had seven bites. I swung on two of them and caught the other five. I was fortunate I had the right bites.”

Meanwhile, Bryan Hudgins of Orange Park, Fla., had his Thursday catch disqualified for violation of Rule 3.ii. The applicable part of the rule states, “During both the official practice and the tournament, a competitor may not have the assistance or advice of anyone…. who has been on the tournament waters during the off-limits period.”

Co-angler division leader Harry Potts of Alabama caught the biggest limit of the tournament so far with five fish weighing 20-8. Frank Mealer of Alabama was second at 13-11 in the co-angler standings, followed by Allen Burkhalter of Georgia at 10-0. The co-anglers are vying for a first-place prize of a Triton/Mercury boat package valued at $50,000.

As with every Elite-level tournament, is providing live, streaming video of the daily weigh-ins. Additionally, visitors to the site can access analysis, photo galleries, blogs from Elite Series anglers and abundant coverage of events. On Sunday, fans can catch Hooked Up with ESPN2 Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders at 2:30 p.m. ET to preview the final weigh-in.

Local sponsors: Central Florida Sports Commission and the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau.

Bassmaster Elite Series sponsors: Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series include Toyota Tundra, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Advance Auto Parts, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Evan Williams Bourbon, Ramada Worldwide and Costa Del Mar.

Live, streaming video of the Sunshine Showdown’s daily weigh-ins begins at 3 p.m. ET at Also live on, the pre-show Hooked Up will preview the final weigh-in Sunday. ESPN2 Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders return as the Hooked Up hosts.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Visit for ESPN's latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video and audio clips and more.

BASS is the worldwide authority on bass fishing, sanctioning more than 20,000 events through the BASS Federation Nation annually. Guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans, BASS sets the standard for credibility, professionalism, sportsmanship and conservation, as it has for nearly 40 years.

BASS stages bass fishing tournaments for every skill level and culminates with the Bassmaster Classic. Through its clubs, youth programs, aquatic resource advocacy, magazine publishing and multimedia platforms, BASS offers the industry's widest array of services and support to its nearly 530,000 members. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.