EUFAULA, Ala. – Like the rest of the 175-boater field in the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Busch Beer, Pete Ponds grew increasingly frustrated as a fog delay on Lake Eufaula stretched into the fourth hour Thursday morning. But it didn't take long for the Mississippi pro's personal fog to lift as he made the best of the remaining fishing hours by catching a 19-pound, 2-ounce, five-bass limit to claim the open-round lead.

“I was getting more anxious by the minute to go fishing, but everything seemed to play out in my favor,” Ponds, 44, said. “Because of the delay, there was a boat sitting on my primary spot when I got there so I had to start on my secondary area. And that's where I caught fish pretty much all day.”

Ponds, a former CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier, said he developed three bass-catching patterns during the short fishing day. They produced a pair of 6-pound-plus largemouths.

“To get yourself in a position to win one these tournaments is pretty rare,” he said. “I'm on my way, but I've led these tournaments before and didn't win.”

Close friends and roommates Gerald Swindle and Marty Stone are second and third, respectively, with 15-14 and 13-11. David Cook of North Carolina is fourth with 11-13 and Alabama's Randy Howell rounded out the top-five with 11-4.

“I hadn't caught many fish in practice so I really wasn't expecting a whole lot today,” said Swindle, the reigning CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year from Alabama. “Dealing with the fog delay, I just tried not to panic. I've learned that over the last six or seven years through a little bit of time and maturity.

“When there's a fog delay, I used to get in a hurry. I'd look at my watch and think, ‘Oh, God, I've only four hours. I've got to catch them all in the first hour.’ And that's a tragic mistake. Now I'm getting a little older and a little wiser, so I told my partner we needed to fish real slow. If we don't panic and get a few bites, we'll stay in the hunt. If we panic and zero, we're out. So I fished a little slower than I wanted to and it worked.”

Stone was asked if he and his roommate entered the tournament with the same game plan.

“Absolutely not,” the North Carolina pro replied. “I didn't have a real good practice so I had 11 rods lying on my front deck when I went out today. And I used every one of them. I caught my fish on three or four different baits.”

Louisiana's Roger Boler took Thursday's Purolator Big Bass award with a 7-pound, 5-ounce largemouth.

Overall, famed Lake Eufaula was stingy in the opening round, surrendering just eight limit catches.

On the amateur side, Larry Bryant, a 52-year-old firefighter from Nashville, Tenn., is in the lead with three bass weighing 10-15 (buoyed by a 5-1 largemouth). Illinois' Bob Marek is second with 8-2.

“Terry was a good guide today,” said Bryant, in reference to pro partner Terry Scroggins. “I didn't really do anything different from him, except I tried to throw in different spots from him.”

Daily weigh-ins will begin at 2:30 p.m. and launch will be at 6:30 a.m. at Lakepoint State Park and are free to the public.

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 Northern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, and Bass Pro Shops.

Local Sponsors include Eufaula/Barbour County Chamber of Commerce.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.