March 24, 2010 by Gary Mortenson
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - While a combination of bluebird skies, low water levels, sparse wind and a recent cold front conspired to tamp down weights nearly across the board in Wednesday's FLW Tour competition on Lake Norman, Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., managed to buck the trend.
Relying on two nice kicker fish and a total weight of 16 pounds, Christie found himself standing alone at the top in first place in the Pro Division holding a 1-pound lead over his next closest competitor. And while a 1-pound lead might not seem like a lot, it is significant on Lake Norman. To underscore this point, after the first day of competition, the disparity between standing in 79th place and 18th place turned out to be a grand total of 2 pounds, 14 ounces.
In short, on Lake Norman, every ounce counts. And nobody knows that better than Christie.
"I got really lucky today," he said. "I was really fortunate to get those two big bites because that's what it takes to do well here. If I didn't catch those fish, I really wouldn't have done a whole lot today. I basically had a three- to four-hour drought where I didn't catch anything. Don't get me wrong, I'm happy with the way things turned out. I had a good day and caught a lot of fish. But I've led tournaments early before and you can't get too excited on the first day of a four-day event."
Christie said that he's targeting pre-spawn bass in 3 to 7 feet of water with a wide variety of baits.
"I'm fishing in places where I think the fish are (staging)," said Christie. "I'm covering a lot of water and hopefully I'll keep finding the places the fish are coming to. But it's tough fishing out there. Right now I'm fishing all over the map. I'm using a combination of jigs, shaky head worms ... a lot of different baits. You really have to mix it up. Right now it's just really hard to get big bites."
However, despite the difficulties of the current conditions on Lake Norman, Christie said he's cautiously optimistic about his chances of making a run at the title.
"I'm around a lot of fish and I think they're the right fish," said Christie. "There aren't a lot of boats in my areas and there are lots of shad where I'm fishing. I'd definitely be happy with 12 pounds tomorrow. But I'd sure love some wind or cloud cover - something to change it up a little bit. We'll just have to see what happens."
Morgan nets second place
Andy Morgan of Dayton, Tenn., posted a 15-pound catch to land in second place overall. But like most of the field, Morgan said the fishing was far from easy.
"I didn't catch a lot of fish today," said Morgan. "For me, it wasn't about until 1 p.m. when my fish started biting at all. I really had to run around a lot."
Morgan said that he ultimately targeted bass in 3 to 15 feet of water using a variety of techniques.
"I used crankbaits, spinnerbaits and finesse jigs," said Morgan. "I was trying to find fish that are coming into spawn. But I also caught fish on some secondary stuff. The fish were just about everywhere. I was targeting points, docks, logs, stumps - whatever was in front of me. But the key is getting those big bites."
Overall though, Morgan said he was generally pleased with the way things turned out in the end.
"I feel pretty good," said Morgan. "I know I'll catch them tomorrow. I just don't know how big they're going to be."
Best of the rest
At the end of the day, third place belonged to Andy Montgomery of Blacksburg, S.C. Montgomery finished Wednesday's competition with a total catch of 14 pounds, 5 ounces.
Incredibly enough, there was a three-way tie for fourth place between Ishama Monroe of Hughson, Calif., Greg Pugh of Cullman, Ala., and Nate Wellman of Jenison, Mich. All three competitors turned in identical catches weighing 13 pounds, 14 ounces to remain in striking distance of the leaders.
Rounding out the day's top-10 pro competitors:
7th: Tim McDonald, Lexington, Ky., 13-7
8th: John Devere of Berea, Ky., 13-5
9th: Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., 13-1
10th: Rusty Trancygier of Hahira, Ga., 12-11
Cook nets co-angler lead
Bolstered by a total catch of 11 pounds, 11 ounces, Mitchell Cook of Drexel, N.C., took over the top spot in the Co-angler Division. However, with only a 1-ounce lead over his next closest competitor, Cook knows that he has his work cut out for him over the next few days.
"It feels pretty good to be where I'm at," said Cook. "I'm really enjoying myself. Now if I can do this again tomorrow and Friday, I'll feel really good. But right now I'm only leading by an ounce so I still have a long way to go."
Cook said that he targeted his catch using a combination of jerkbaits, jigs and worms.
"I was mainly fishing in about 4 to 8 feet of water," he said. "And I was mostly fishing docks."
As for tomorrow, Cook says that he doesn't plan on changing things up too much.
"I'm pretty much going to throw the same baits I threw today and see what happens."
Best of the rest
Second place in the Co-angler Division belonged to Andrew Roberts of Spotsylvania, Va. Roberts ultimately recorded an 11-pound, 10-ounce catch.
J.R. Wright of Truckee, Calif., used a 10-pound, 11-ounce catch to grab third place.
Andrew Lemle of Whitehouse, Ohio, used a 10-pound, 8-ounce catch to net fourth place while Keeton Blaylock of Benton, Ark., finished in fifth place with a catch of 10 pounds, 6 ounces.
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers:
6th: Brent G. Evans of Calvert City, Ky., 10-5
7th: Mark Heatwole of Harrisonburg, Va., 9-14
8th: Tyrone Phillips of Little Rock, Ark., 9-13
9th: Stephen Smith of Glenwood, Ark., 9-6
10th: Naohiro Maruo of Takamatsu Kagawa, Japan, 9-5
Day two of FLW Tour competition on Lake Norman resumes during tomorrow's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:15 a.m. at Blythe Landing, located at 15901 N.C. Highway 71 in Cornelius, N.C.