Elias, of Pachuta, Miss., weighed 20 pounds, 5 ounces of bass in front of crowds at the What's Up Dock Marina, said a good practice early in the week gave him a leg up, despite severe weather that delayed Thursday's launch by an hour.
"Where I caught these fish, I knew they were in there," Elias said. "I caught a few good ones in there in practice and left them alone, and there's still some fish in there. I had four others hit my bait today. They hit it pretty hard, but didn't get it, didn't even touch a hook.
"I think I can catch some, but the wind is really going to howl (Friday). It won't hurt me there. I had some jerkbait fish, and it'll hurt me there."
Elias' catch was the heaviest of the day, earning him the $1,000 Busch Heavyweight award, given to the participating angler with the heaviest catch each day of the event. Elias is currently qualified for September's Busch Shootout, a $100,000 tournament on a mystery lake. Pros with the top 10 Heavyweights after the Tour and Bassmaster Elite 50 seasons will qualify for the tournament. Elias's catch bumped Oklahoma's Edwin Evers out of the top 10.
Mark Tucker of Arkansas was second Thursday with 18-10, and considered himself lucky to have boated that many fish after the delayed takeoff. Despite the delay, he was grateful for the stormy weather.
"A delay always hurts you because you lose fishing time," he said. "I think the fishing's getting a little bit better. I caught some fish in practice, but I didn't catch fish quite this size. The fish have gotten a little bigger. I think the water warming up has helped it quite a bit.
"I'm not catching them any one way, but I'm cranking some, I'm fishing a jig some, I'm doing a lot of different things with some isolated schools of fish, but it's not a deep, dark secret or anything. Wind and rain are always good on these lakes."
Missouri's Chad Brauer, Arizona's John Murray, and Florida's Roland Martin rounded out the top five Thursday with weights of 16-6, 15-9 and 15-3, respectively.
On the amateur side, Arkansas's Billy McCaghren Jr. leads after day one with 12-2. Missouri's Jeff Stevens and Arkansas's John Harris are close on his heels with 12-1 and 11-1, respectively.
Jarrett Edwards of Del Norte, Colo., had the big bass Thursday earning him $1,000 on the pro side for the Purolator Big Bass of the Day. If his 6-18 lunker can hold out for all four days of the tournament, he will earn an additional $1,000 from Purolator. On the amateur side, Ohio's Mitchell Lakes caught a 5-11 bass that put $500 in his pocket for the Purolator Big Bass.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Table Rock Lake will continue through Sunday. Friday's launch begins at 6:30 a.m. from the What's Up Dock Marina. Weigh-in will also be held at the What's Up Dock Marina beginning at 2:45 p.m.
Fans can watch "The CITGO Bassmasters" telecast of the Table Rock Lake tournament on Saturday, March 13 at 10:30 a.m. ET/9:30 a.m. CT on ESPN2.
The CITGO Bassmaster Tour events this season feature the highly interactive and family friendly BASS Sponsor Expo area. Sponsors present interactive exhibits and provide a fun family experience for all ages. The Expo will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday and from 12 p.m. until 6 p.m. on Sunday at What's Up Dock Marina.
The CastingKids program presented by CITGO will be held in conjunction with the BASS Sponsor Expo Saturday, from 10:30 a.m.-1 p.m. at the What's Up Dock Marina. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 can participate in the contest with the chance to earn a scholarship.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. This April, BASS introduces the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer 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 Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats and Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning.
Local Sponsors include Kimberling City Lodging Association.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.