Friday, January 20, 2017

2017 BASS Southern Open Harris Chain of Lakes Day 1: Marty Robinson Takes Lead over 200 Pros.

Star studded field descend on Florida
By Andrew Canulette
Florida bills itself as the “Fishing Capital of the World,” and the Harris Chain of Lakes is one of its crown jewels.
Robinson leads with 23-11lbs on Day 1.
(Photo: BASS)
On Thursday in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open No. 1, the acclaimed Florida fishery showed off a bit – for mid-January, at least.
From the time Alabama pro Deron Patrick started the 3 1/2-hour weigh-in with a 16-pound, 2-ounce limit, until the last of the field of 400 checked in, a steady stream of fish came across the stage. It made for an impressive display and for a momentous first day in the first Bassmaster tournament of the 2017 season.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Marty Robinson of Lyman, S.C., had the heaviest bag among the 200 boating anglers, with five bass that weighed 23-11. The total gave him a narrow lead in the three-day tournament being held on this 80,000-acre network of lakes.
But he wasn’t the only one who was successful Thursday. Thirty-three pro anglers boated at least 15 pounds of bass, and eight of those bags weighed more than 20 pounds. Closest to Robinson are Hunter Shryock (second place, 22-1) and former Elite Series pro Ken Iyobe (third, 21-14). Others catching 20 pounds or more were fishing legend Paul Elias (fourth, 21-12); Justin Lucas (fifth, 21-11); Jordan Lee (sixth, 21-0); John Pollard (seventh, 20-11); and Chris Heath (eighth, 20-8).
A couple of options were available to the anglers Thursday, as both prespawn and bedding fish were located. Partly cloudy skies, temperatures in the low 80s and light winds made conditions similar to what the rest of the U.S. finds in spring.
Robinson had the right mix. His bag included two 6-pounders he caught sight fishing and three other sizable bass caught by other means later in the day. He said he’ll have to start someplace different Friday, because it’s likely the beds he hit Thursday won’t replenish in time for him to turn the trick on back-to-back days.
Still, being in the lead is a nice problem to have.
“I wasn’t sure I would be able to get to my big fish because of my draw (number 95 of 200 boats to launch this morning),” Robinson said. “But I was able to reach them in time, and the spots were pretty close together. I didn’t have to run far at all after I got the first one. That helped to be able put those two in the boat early.”
Shryock was one of the pros taking advantage of the near ideal conditions. Like Robinson, he caught
some big bass while sight fishing, and then lit into the rest of his limit in several different areas he found productive in practice. He was encouraged by what he saw Thursday.
“I didn’t get to go to the area I wanted to today, being in Boat 165,” Shryock said. “So I went to a backup area and it turned out to be better than I expected it to be. I was around a lot of activity and a lot of shallow fish.”
Lee, another Elite Series pro, weighed the biggest bass — a 9-4 monster which is the largest he’s ever caught. The catch came at about 10 a.m. when he only had a few small bass in the livewell.
“I was just pitching a worm around, and all of a sudden, line was coming off,” Lee said. “Then ‘Boom!’ I was shaking a little bit. You can’t help it when you catch one that big … It wasn’t bedding, so it was a bit of good fortune, for sure. I just went to an area where I had caught a few fish (in practice). But the rest of them were small. I’ll have to go back to work tomorrow.”
As will all 400 of the anglers in this event. They know they have to keep grinding, as all it takes is a couple of monster bass to vault someone from the back of the pack to a place among the leaders.
“I love coming to Florida this time of year to fish,” said Elite Series pro Chad Morganthaler, who was in 33rd place with a 15-1 total. “When these fish are in the prespawn and spawn mode, you can make up a lot of ground in a hurry. I’m excited about getting out there tomorrow.”
The winner on the boater side will be awarded $51,400 in cash and prizes. The champ also will earn a berth into the 2018 GEICO Bassmaster Classic, provided he or she fishes in all three Southern Open events this year. On the co-angler side, Louisiana’s James Simmons is in first place with a three-fish limit of 12-15. Alabama’s Richard Arnold is in second with 11-3, and William Gaston is third with 10-14.
All 400 anglers and co-anglers will launch Friday from Venetian Gardens, 250 Ball Park Road, in Leesburg. The Day 2 weigh-in will begin at 3 p.m. ET at Ski Beach Park on Lake Harris Drive, also in Venetian Gardens.
Saturday’s championship weigh-in, which will feature the Top 12 anglers after Day 2, will be held at Bass Pro Shops, 5156 International Drive, in Orlando beginning at 4:15 p.m. ET.

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