Friday, March 1, 2024

2024 AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork Day 1: Taku Ito Smashes 38lbs!

Canadians Cory Johnston 15th, Gallant 20th, Gustafson 60th  & Chris Johnston 66th

By Andrew Canulette

BASS Press Release

YANTIS, Texas — Just about everyone expected to see big bags of bass this week at the AFTCO Bassmaster Elite at Lake Fork.

Few, however, could have predicted the absolute slugfest that took place Thursday on this 27,000-acre jewel in the northeast corner of the Lone Star State.

A whopping 14 of the 103 anglers in the field caught 30 pound or better on Day 1 of the four-day tournament. Taku Ito, of Chiba, Japan, led the way with a five-bass total of 39 pounds, 1 ounce, including a personal best 10-5 lunker largemouth he brought to the stage at Caney Point Recreation Area.

His previous best was a 10-pounder he caught in Japan.

“Today was an incredible day,” Ito said. “I caught the big one about 10 a.m. I was throwing many types of baits — a jighead, a jerkbait, Texas rigs, drop shots. I was in different kinds of water, from 25 feet to about 5 feet.”

It was an unexpected turnaround for the 37-year-old Elite pro, who said he struggled mightily during his practice days on Fork.

“It was terrible,” he said. “I had four fish in one practice. Then I had three fish one day and two on another day. But today, I caught a bunch. Everything worked for me today.”

Ito wasn’t expecting Thursday’s cold and windy weather to help his cause, either, though it certainly did. Temperatures plummeted into the 40s on Wednesday, from the mid-80s a day earlier, and they stayed that way on Day 1 of this derby.

The weather is predicted to slowly warm throughout the the tournament, though Friday morning could be cold and windy again. The rapidly changing conditions make Ito uncertain he can come close to repeating the phenomenal 39-1 he caught Thursday.

“It’ll be hard,” he said. “The weather today helped me. I will go to the same places and try the same things.”

Stetson Blaylock, of Benton, Ark., is in second place with 37-6. He had a strong start, with bass weighing 6-10, 8-6 and 9-10 coming from the same small spot in the opening hours. Blaylock went cold for more than three hours, though, and didn’t catch his fourth and fifth bass until much later in the day.

He said unpredictable weather has him thinking he’ll try something new on Friday. And yes, he realizes it’s not too often you catch 37-6 and change tactics.

“This weather made the fish weird,” he said. “I found that one little area that really produced this morning. I knew it would be good, but I didn’t know it’d be that good … I don’t think I go there tomorrow … Things are gonna flip-flop. With the amount of 30-pound stringers caught today, I know I can go other places in the lake and catch big fish.”

Second-year Elite Kyle Norsetter, of Cottage Grove, Wis., is in third place with 35-8. He too said he struggled during practice, but a midday change of scenery helped him mount a strong Day 1 finish.

“We had about 35 bed fish marked, but I pulled into my first spot, and I only caught a 3-11,” he said. “I thought it was gonna be a decent day. I hit my spots, about six of them, and they were gone … I caught only one bedding fish today.

“So, I ended up switching gears,” Norsetter continued. “I saw something and made a cast, got it. Then I started LiveScoping. From there, everything went right. There were a lot of fish and some really nice fish, too. It was encouraging after having a really tough, draining practice.”

Trey McKinney, of Carbondale, Ill., is fourth after Day 1 with 33-11. Justin Hammer, of Northport, Ala., is fifth with 33-5. A total of 92 Elites had double-digit totals on Thursday and 69 of them caught at least 20 pounds.

Wesley Gore, of Clanton, Ala., caught the Phoenix Boats Big Bass on Thursday — a 10-9 giant he hooked just before 9 a.m

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