UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Potomac River

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Lake leader

Lake leader
Pro Steven Lake of Lowell, Ark., caught four bass weighing 15 pounds, 3 ounces Wednesday to lead the four-day, $253,325 EverStart Series Central Division event on Alabama?s Pickwick Lake.

Arkansan tops pros at Pickwick EverStart day one; Wendlandt lands enormous smallmouth

FLORENCE, Ala. - Despite never having fished at Alabama's Pickwick Lake before, Steven Lake of Lowell, Ark., took over the top spot in the Pro Division on opening day of EverStart Series Central Division competition Wednesday. Even further conquering the odds, Lake leads the 63 other pros who caught full, five-bass limits while he managed to catch only four keeper fish.

But they were all solid fish. Lake's four bass weighed in at a collective 15 pounds, 3 ounces, nearly a pound more than second-place pro Clay Fritts' 14-6.

"The fish bit for me today," Lake said. "It feels good."

It must have felt pretty good for Lake. He came to this part of the Tennessee River, his first visit here, never having caught a smallmouth bass before. But he evidently adapted quickly since his leading stringer was anchored by a smallmouth that weighed around 5 pounds. Three other nice largemouths filled out his catch.

"I thought I only had about 13 pounds, not 15," he said.

Competitors are focusing on bass that are still in the prespawn stage on the Wilson-Wheeler-Pickwick chain of lakes. Many had hoped the nice weather that led up to the tournament would continue so the fish would move up to spawn, but that wasn't the case Wednesday morning as a steady drizzle and colder temperatures descended upon the river. So anglers are having to hunt for bass that are still suspended in anywhere from 5 to 15 feet of water.

"I think the rain is messing me up a little bit," Lake said, despite his lead. "Compared to practice, it hurt me. ... I hope to do it again tomorrow. I'm just going to go fishing like I did today."

Second-place Fritts, a rookie angler from Florence who moved up into the Pro Division from the Co-angler Division Tuesday night to fill an empty slot, also battled the shifty weather Wednesday. He didn't catch the final three fish of his limit until the last 15 minutes of the day.

"I've been catching them when it's been pretty, but this cloud cover messed me up," he said. "If the tournament was next week, you could probably get on a pattern. Right now (the bass) are just scattered. But these smallmouth could go up on the bank (to spawn) any minute."

It's not like they're not catching them. A number of 5-pound smallmouths came across the scale on day one, but it was FLW standout Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, who caused jaws to drop when he weighed in a single 8-pound, 4-ounce smallmouth bass to win the Snickers Big-Bass Award Wednesday. Wendlandt placed third with a five-bass weight of 13-8.

"That was the most excited I've ever been to catch a bass - and I've caught a lot of bass," said Wendlandt, who added that several locals told him the fish would have broken the Mississippi state smallmouth record, which currently stands at 7 pounds, 15 ounces. Problem was, he caught it in Alabama just two miles away from the Mississippi state line. The Alabama state smallmouth record is 10-8.

Pro Jonathan Newton of Rogersville, Ala., a finalist at last month's Central Division event at Texas' Sam Rayburn Reservoir, came in fourth with five bass weighing 12 pounds, 5 ounces.

"It's fortunate, that's what I call it," he said. "You've just got to keep chunking it in there."

Past EverStart champion (again, Sam Rayburn, 2002) Jim Tutt of Longview, Texas, rounded out the pro top five with a limit weighing 11 pounds, 15 ounces.

The rest of the top 10, in fact the top 12, remains a tightly bunched group. Twelfth-place Bill McDonald is within a pound of the top five with a weight of 11 pounds, 1 ounce.

Phillips tops co-anglers

Shane Phillips of Franklin, Ky., took the Co-angler Division lead and big-bass award Wednesday. His catch, also just a four-bass stringer, was anchored by his 5-pound, 10-ounce kicker largemouth and weighed a collective 10-6.

"It feels good. I'm just having fun," he said. "I didn't think he was that big until he got to the boat and he made a run."

Phillips, a tour rookie who's also fishing at Pickwick for the first time, caught all of his keeper largemouth except one on a spinner bait. He said he caught "some early, some late" in the day.

Following Phillips in the Co-angler Division are Tim Krier of Indianola, Iowa, (second place) with five bass weighing 9 pounds, 7 ounces; Robert Garner of Florence (third) with five bass weighing 8-15; Doug Caskey of Madisonville, Ky., (fourth) with five bass weighing 8-13; and Terry Pettle of Wagoner, Okla., (fifth) with three bass weighing 8-5.

Competition resumes at 6 a.m. Thursday as competitors take off from McFarland Park on James M. Spain Drive in Florence for the second half of opening-round competition. The top 20 anglers in both divisions following tomorrow's fishing will advance to Friday's semifinal round.

Click here for a preview of day two.

Day-one links:

Photos
Results
Tomorrow's pairings
Press release

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2003-03-26-pickwick 

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