Thursday, March 8, 2012

Walmart FLW Lake Hartwell Day 1: Morehead Leads Very Tight Tournament

Kentucky veteran claims top spot in Pro Division on Lake Hartwell, Johnson nets co-angler lead      
08.Mar.2012 by Gary Mortenson
Dan Morehead take lead but two others score 20 lbs sacks.
(Photos: Gary Mortenson FLW)
ANDERSON, S.C. – Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., arguably had the worst practice of the entire field heading into the FLW Tour Major on Lake Hartwell. It wasn’t so much that he couldn’t figure out how to catch fish, it was more that he couldn’t figure out how to stay on the water.
“My son brought home a stomach bug and I got it. Honestly, I’ve never had anything like this before,” said Morehead. “It really wiped me out. And by Sunday, I had no energy at all. I could barely lift up the trolling motor. So, I decided to lay down on my boat for a little bit. The next thing I knew I had fallen asleep on the deck of my boat for four hours. I wound up doing everything I could just to get back to the marina. Once I got back, I didn’t get out of my bed again until Tuesday. And that put me in a total panic.”
With virtually no practice time to speak of and facing off against the best anglers in the nation, Morehead clearly had his work cut out for him. But shortly after Thursday’s opening takeoff, something very interesting – and unexpected – happened.
“I found myself in a total zone,” said Morehead. “I could do no wrong. Every decision I made was the right one. It was truly a day given by God. As it turned out, getting sick like that just might have given me an advantage. Because I didn’t have any preconceived notions about this lake heading into today.”
Ultimately Morehead landed a total catch of 20 pounds, 14 ounces, chasing around bass relating to blueback herring.

“That was the key for me,” said Morehead. “Blueback herring like to migrate and the fish just follow them around. I caught some of my good fish on the Alabama Rig but I had a couple of other deals that were working as well. I was fishing deep and fishing shallow. I was basically running a pattern where I’d be literally running down the lake until I saw a place I liked. Then I’d pull over and fish it. For me, catching that 20-pound bag today was just icing on the cake.”
While Morehead didn’t want to get into too many specifics, he said that primarily targeted suspending bass.
“They weren’t in the middle of the lake, but the fish I was going after were staging in about 20 to 28 feet of water. They were really relating to those bluebird herring. I really hope that some of the places where I caught my better fish will reload. But we’ll just have to wait and see tomorrow.”
As far as day two is concerned, Morehead said he’s going to take the same general approach unless conditions changes dramatically.
“I’m fishing both deep and shallow but the fish want to go shallow real bad,” he said. “I feel like I’m in some good areas and if I get some wind and some clouds, watch out. So far though, the bluebird herring are the key. And I actually think a lot of the guys are making this more complicated than it needs to be. But that’s good for me.”
Stefan off the lead by 2 ounces
Matthew Stefan of Park Ridge, Ill., parlayed a total catch of 20 pounds, 12 ounces into a second-place finish at the conclusion of today’s weigh-in.
“It feels good but it was a real, slow grind out there for me today,” said Stefan. “I only had about nine or 10 bites all day and you really just had to sit on top of these fish and grind them deep. I’m rotating between about five or six spots but the fish aren’t very active. So it’s tough fishing. Today, I didn’t even have a limit until about noon.”
Stefan said that he’s basically fishing an entire arsenal of baits and has been moving around quite a bit.
“I don’t have one magic spot,” he said. “I go here, catch one. I go there, catch another one. I’m fishing anywhere from 20 to 50 feet. My fish aren’t even thinking about spawning and like I said, they’re not real active. So you have to have a lot of patience.”
Stefan said he’s throwing everything from swimbaits, to A-Rigs, to jigs and jerkbaits.
“I’ll throw something for awhile and if I don’t get bit, I switch to something else,” he said. “But the key for me is the sun. When the sun comes out, my bite really turns off. You could definitely say I’m basically fishing for a home run every time.”
Ehrler nets top-three finish
Bolstered by a total catch of 20 pounds, 4 ounces, Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., headlined a strong contingent of western pros making plenty of noise so far on Hartwell.
Ehrler ready to avenge his 2nd place last year.
“I’m ecstatic,” said Ehrler, who picked up a third-place finish by the end of weigh-in. “I told myself that I’d be happy with 15 pounds today so it was a good day overall. This is a really fun lake to fish. I really like this lake – you can run to a lot of spots you know well and run to spots that you’ve never fished before and have some success.”
Ehrler said that he caught fish in anywhere from 2 to 50 feet of water.
Nick keeps leaders in sight
At the end of the day, Blake Nick of Adger, Ala., parlayed a total catch of 19 pounds, 11 ounces into a fourth-place finish.
“I didn’t lose any fish today and made good decision all day long so I’m happy,” said Nick. “I figured if I could get a few big bites today I could get close to that (19-pound weight) and that’s pretty much what happened.”
Like many of the top pros, Nick said that he’s targeting fish with a variety of baits – Alabama Rigs, crankbaits, Shaky Heads, Tailspins and soft plastics.
“I’m fishing deep and shallow,” he said. “I’ve also fished one end of this lake to the other. I’ll catch one here and catch one there but I’ve basically been doing a little bit of everything. I did find this one area where if you can get the fish fired up, it’s fast and furious. But I wasn’t able to get any of my bigger bites from that area. So I wound up moving around quite a bit.”
So what’s the game plan heading into tomorrow?
“The fish here pretty much change everyday,” he said. “So I don’t have any preconceived notions as far as tomorrow goes. We’ll just have to wait and see.”
Best of the rest
Micah Frazier of Newnan, Ga., finished the day in fifth place overall with a total catch of 19 pounds, 7 ounces.
Rounding out the top-10 pros:
6th: Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., 19-6
7th: Michael Neal of Dayton, Tenn., 19-2
8th: Shane Long of Springfield, Mo., 18-6
9th: Jay Yelas of Corvallis, Ore., 18-5
10th: Lancen Halbert of Enoree, S.C., 18-1
Brandon Coulter of Knoxville, Tenn., took home the Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division after landing a 5-pound, 13-ounce bass. Coulter won $500 for his catch.

True rookie takes co-angler lead
Fishing in the very first FLW Tour event of his career, Jason Johnson of Gainesville, Ga., made the most of it – parlaying a 16-pound, 2-ounce catch into a first-place finish.
“It was just a great day,” said Johnson. “I’ve wanted to tournament fish for a long time and I finally decided to give it a try. And I couldn’t be happier right now.”
Johnson said that having Brent Ehrler as a partner didn’t hurt either.
“During my first ever day of tournament fishing I draw Brent Ehrler,” he said. “So you can’t do much better than that.”
As far as fishing was concerned, Johnson said he targeted bass in deeper water with a combination of drop-shots and jigs.
“I’m from Lanier, so (Ehrler’s) style of fishing fits my style pretty well,” said Johnson. “We’re really mixing it up today. We fished anywhere from 2 to 50 feet of water. So it was a lot of fun.”
Tennison nets runner-up spot
Like Johnson, Michael Tennison of Russell Springs, Ky., was fishing in his first-ever FLW Tour event. And like Johnson, Tennison will probably remember this day for the rest of his career. Using a total catch of 16 pounds, 1 ounce, Tennison finished the day in second place overall.
And he couldn’t have been happier.
“Boy it was a nice day out there. This is my first FLW Tour Major and I’m in second place by an ounce,” said Tennison. “I’m freaking excited right now.”
Tennison said that not only did he have a great day on the water and wind up in second place, but he also learned plenty of new fishing techniques as well.
“Brett Hite was my partner and he taught me a couple of new things that I really didn’t know about today,” he said. ‘If I didn’t learn from him, I wouldn’t have caught what I caught. So it was a really good day for me.”
Tennison said that he targeted both deep and shallow water using a combination of Shaky Heads and split-shot rigs to land the majority of his catch.
Best of the rest
Philip Jarabeck of Lynchburg, Va., finished the day in third place with a total catch of 14 pounds, 2 ounces.
Meanwhile, Bryant Grimm of Kingsport, Tenn., and David Kuykendall of Fletcher, N.C., tied for fourth place overall with identical catches weighing in at 13 pounds, 10 ounces.
Ralph Myhlhousen of Council Bluffs, Iowa landed the day’s Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division with a catch of 6 pounds, 11 ounces. Myhlhousen won $250 for his efforts.
For a complete list of the day’s results, click here.
Bass-fishing fans take note
FLW Tour action continues during Friday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. at Portman Shoals Marina, located at 1629 Marina Road in Anderson, S.C.
Fans who can’t make tomorrow’s weigh-in in person can also tune into FLW Live on shortly before 3:00 p.m. Eastern Time to watch live streaming video and audio of Friday’s weigh-in.

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