UPCOMING EVENT: TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT - 2020 - Lake Erie

Leuthner leads the way at Lake Okeechobee

Leuthner leads the way at Lake Okeechobee
Jimmi Leuthner of Vernon, Vt., grabbed the overall lead in the Pro Division with a two-day catch of 32 pounds.

FLW Tour rookie creates quite a stir during second round of competition

CLEWISTON, Fla. - Before the start of the FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee, few would have blamed Jimmi Leuthner if he had been content just to rub shoulders with some of the greatest fishing legends of all time. After all, Leuthner, a rookie in the truest sense of the word, was fishing in the very first FLW tournament of his career. However, by the end of the second day of competition, it was clear that the native of Vernon, Vt., had much bigger plans.

On the strength of a monstrous two-day, 32-pound catch, Leuthner not only found himself in the lead, but also found himself garnering unprecedented respect, name recognition and confidence. Not bad for a rookie.

"It's incredible. It's the best feeling I've ever had," said Leuthner, who recently quit his job of 13 years as a pipe-fitter to take up professional angling full-time. "My goal was to make the top 20 once this year. And I managed to do it in the very first tournament. It's definitely a dream come true."

Although a first-place finish heading into the semifinals is quite an accomplishment for someone who has never fished a tour event before, Leuthner didn't find himself atop the leaderboard by accident.

"After I quit my job, I decided I needed to spend as much time on the water as possible," said Leuthner, who qualified for the FLW Tour after spending only one year fishing the EverStart Northern Division. "So I decided to come to Lake Okeechobee as soon as I could and start fishing. I've been here 35 days now if you count practice fishing."

It appears that his dedication is paying off. Not only did Leuthner catch five-fish limits on both days before 9:30 a.m., but he also argues that he has "too many" quality fishing spots to count.

"It's kind of crazy, but right now I feel like I can't do anything wrong," he said. "I have a lot of spots that are working for me, including a 2-mile stretch of shoreline that seems to produce no matter where I throw my bait."

However, despite his success, Leuthner knows all too well that competition is ready to take advantage of any rookie mistake the Vermont native makes in the next two days.

"I'm confident, but I'm also extremely nervous. I mean, these guys fish for a living," said Leuthner, briefly forgetting his own decision to quit his job. "Well ... I guess I fish for a living now too. We'll just have to wait and see what happens."

Klein makes his move

Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, used a two-day catch of 30-pounds, 10-ounces to move up from the sixth spot to the runner up position heading into tomorrow's all-important semifinal round of competition.

"I got pretty lucky the last two days. But I was able to land some quality fish and that's what got me here," said Klein, who already has two FLW tour event titles to his name. "But from here on out, it's definitely going to get interesting."

Despite finishing in second place, Klein said he experienced problems all week with heavy boat traffic. However, with only 40 anglers - 20 in each division - remaining in the tournament heading into tomorrow's competition, Klein says he should be able to find enough breathing room to make the final cut on Friday.

"The biggest factor for me is that there won't be as many boats moving around," he said. "And if the wind doesn't blow too hard, I should be able to exploit my areas and come back with some good fish. If everything works out, I wouldn't be surprised to catch a 25-pound limit tomorrow."

However, Klein has been in the fishing business long enough to know that nothing is guaranteed either.

"I wish I could say that I had a honey hole that I could run to tomorrow to catch a 20-pound limit no problem," said Klein, who has been relying primarily on his flipping technique throughout the tournament. "But I can't. And that's why you can never be too confident on this lake. The important thing is to focus on making the next cut and nothing else."

Best of the rest

Terry Baksay of Monroe, Conn., finished in third place after landing a two-day catch weighing 30 pounds, 3 ounces. Jerry Rhyne of Denver, N.C., grabbed the fourth spot with a catch of 29 pounds, 1 ounce, while Keith Green of Arkadelphia, Ark., took fifth place with a catch of 28 pounds, 11 ounces.

Jim Carnell of Muskogee, Okla., won the day's Big Bass award and a check for $750 after netting an 8-pound, 4-ounce largemouth bass. Carnell, who missed the top-20 cut by a mere 3 ounces, finished in 21st place.

Bruce follows in father's footsteps

Relying on years of angling experience from his father and some expert fishing savvy of his own, John Bruce of Buford, Ga., managed a two-day catch of 22 pounds, 15 ounces to grab hold of the lead in the Co-angler Division heading into the semifinals.

"I expected to make the cut, but I never thought I'd wind up in first place," said Bruce, the son of FLW Tour pro Mickey Bruce. "It feels really good though."

Bruce's confidence was further bolstered by the fact that he took more than 3 hours off from fishing this afternoon and still wound up on top.

"I feel confident. I've got confidence in my lures and I should have a really good fishing partner tomorrow," said Bruce, who has one FLW co-angler title and three final-day appearances to his credit. "The question is whether or not I get the big bites. But no matter what happens tomorrow, I'll be satisfied."

Rounding out the top five qualifiers in the Co-angler Division were Richard Lowitzki (second place) of St. Charles, Ill., with a two-day catch of 22 pounds, 7 ounces; Troy Pickett (third) of Roberta, Ga., with a total catch of 21 pounds, 10 ounces; Ken Keirsey (fourth) of Owasso, Okla., with a catch of 19 pounds, 15 ounces; and Bruce McClamroch (fifth) of Crawfordsville, Ind., with a catch of 18 pounds, 13 ounces.

Leroy Arnold of Little Rock, Ark., won the Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division after landing a 7-pound, 14-ounce largemouth. Arnold, who finished in 58th place, won $500 for winning the award.

Tomorrow's takeoff is scheduled to take place at 8 a.m. at Roland Martin's Marina, located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston, Fla.

Related links:

Quick Bites: FLW Okeechobee, Day 2
Photos
Results
Day-two pairings
Day-three pairings
Press release

Tags: gary-mortenson  headline-story  2002-01-23-lake-okeechobee 

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