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McAbee wrangles top spot at FLW Series Western

McAbee wrangles top spot at FLW Series Western
Randy McAbee Jr. of Bakersfield, Calif., pounded out a hefty 27 pounds, 11 ounces to take the early Pro Division lead in FLW Series Western Division competition at Clear Lake. This kicker fish weighed in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. - At Northern California's Clear Lake, this is what "tougher" fall transition fishing does for you: A 20-pound limit of bass was only good enough for 14th place on opening day of Wal-Mart FLW Series competition in the National Guard Western Division. Despite what he called a "rough start," pro Randy McAbee Jr. pounded out a hefty 27 pounds, 11 ounces to take the early Pro Division lead in another monster fest that is typical of this amazing fishery.

"Today started out really slow," McAbee said. "By about 1 o'clock, I only had a small 15-pound limit."

John Alimpic caught this 9-pound, 5-ounce kicker largemouth for the pro Snickers Big Bass award.Such as it is here at Clear Lake, a place where 15 pounds of fish is considered a "small limit." Indeed, compared to last spring's record-setting Stren Series tournament here, today's catches could be considered small. The pros "only" caught a total of 2,754 pounds of fish, compared to last April's record of 5,217 pounds weighed in on day one. Still, the limits were plentiful as ever, with 184 out of 196 pros bringing in a full sack of five bass.

Christopher Dixon of Northridge, Calif., won the Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to this monster 10-pound, 7-ounce largemouth. This fish was so big that it was uncertain who caught whom in this photo.And a few patented Clear Lake monsters crossed the scale as well, though certainly in fewer numbers than seen in the past. John Alimpic notched a 9-pound, 5-ounce kicker for the pro Snickers Big Bass award, and co-angler Christopher Dixon won it from the back of the boat with a 10-7 whale. Additionally, anglers brought in a handful of other 9-pounders and countless 8- and 7-pounders.

One of those was caught by McAbee. Though discouraged by his slow start, the pro from Bakersfield, Calif., managed to squeeze his way past a crowd and settled into his big-fish spot in the early afternoon. There, he said he threw a combination of baits ranging from reaction baits, jigs and a "big swim bait" to start mining Clear Lake's treasures.

"Once we got in there and we had enough room, I concentrated on a little ledge with a big boulder on it," he said. "I caught a 5- and a 6-(pounder) there, and then we went to my second-favorite big-fish spot, which has the same kind of structure. Within five minutes there, I had an 8-(pounder) and another one that weighed almost 5."

Officially, McAbee's kicker largemouth weighed in at 8 pounds, 10 ounces and stretched his big stringer into a 1-pound lead over second-place Sieg Taylor. Not only that, McAbee stretched out what appears to be a solid lead in the Angler of the Year race. He came into the event ranked second, just four points behind Western Division leader Clayton Meyer. However, Meyer placed just 55th Wednesday with a weight of 15-15, and he clearly has a lot of ground to make up to hold on to the points title. McAbee's next-closest points competitor, third-place Brent Ehrler, placed 33rd Wednesday with 17-1.

But McAbee said he was none too concerned about that.

"I didn't come in here thinking about the points. If I do my job and they beat me the next couple days, that's the way it goes," he said. "I'm just very happy with today."

Pro Sieg Taylor of Clearlake, Calif., amassed five fish weighing 26-11 Wednesday and placed second. His kicker weighed 8-6.Dangerous Taylor loses big one, still lands over 26 1/2 pounds

Taylor - the local pro from Clearlake, Calif., who two years ago set a one-day weight record at this fishery with just four bass totaling more than 30 pounds - amassed five fish weighing 26-11 Wednesday and looks poised to make another title run on his home lake.

But, like McAbee, he had a rough start.

"First thing this morning I caught one. I saw her, and I'm telling you, she was way over 10 pounds," Taylor said. "But she came off, and I thought that was going to hurt me pretty bad. Luckily, it didn't."

It didn't hurt him because Taylor eventually managed to hook into a kicker weighing 8 pounds, 6 ounces - and this one he got into the boat. Sprinkle in a few 4-, 5- and 6-pounders for good measure, and he was off to a second-place weight of more than 26 1/2 pounds.

"The fish are kind of in transition. I know the fish are there, it's just getting them to eat and getting them to stay on that's the tricky part," he said. "Right now they're in the process of starting to bunch up, and you've got to hit them in the head to get them to bite."

Taylor said he caught his fish on two spots today, spots that aren't even his primary areas on the lake.

"I just had a blast today," he said.

Pro Mike Folkestad of Yorba Linda, Calif., came in third with a limit weighing 24 pounds, 13 ounces.Folkestad third

Perennial pro finalist Mike Folkestad of Yorba Linda, Calif., came in third with a limit weighing 24 pounds, 13 ounces.

"It was a beautiful day. Since the weather's been warming, the bite's gotten better and better each day," said Folkestad, who weighed in a 7-pound, 6-ounce kicker largemouth. "I got to my good water today, and it was just sort of a steady bite. I'm just fishing a little deeper because these fish are more structure-oriented right now. You can catch them as long as you know where they're moving."

Jeff Billings of Clearlake, Calif., placed fourth for the pros with a limit weighing 23 pounds, 6 ounces. His catch included this 8-11 kicker largemouth.Billings fourth

Jeff Billings, another local from Clearlake, placed fourth for the pros with a limit weighing 23 pounds, 6 ounces. His catch included an 8-11 kicker largemouth.

"I just ran around and hit a lot of spots. I caught most of my fish pretty much on rock piles, and most of them came early," he said. "I'm already 6 pounds behind the leader, and it's only day one. I thought 20 pounds a day would do it this week, but now I don't think so."

Pro Brian Carpenter of Livermore, Calif., rounded out the top five pros with a limit weighing 23 pounds, 4 ounces. His kicker weighed in at 8-2.Carpenter fifth

Pro Brian Carpenter of Livermore, Calif., rounded out the top five pros with a limit weighing 23 pounds, 4 ounces. His kicker weighed in at 8-2.

"It was really tough this morning," he said. "I just hope that I didn't clean them all out."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros after day one at Clear Lake:

6th: Ronald Hobbs Jr. of Graham, Wash., 22-0
6th: Chris Zaldain of San Jose, Calif., 22-0
8th: Robert Lee of Angels Camp, Calif., 21-14
8th: Zack Thompson of Orinda, Calif., 21-14
10th: Ed Arledge of San Diego, 21-11

Justin Lucas of Folsom, Calif., caught a Co-angler Division-leading 20 pounds, 8 ounces Wednesday at Clear Lake.Lucas starts where he left off, leads co-anglers

Fresh off his victory at the Columbia River, Justin Lucas of Folsom, Calif., continued to steamroll the Western Division from the back of the boat by catching a Co-angler Division-leading 20 pounds, 8 ounces Wednesday at Clear Lake.

"I just fish as hard as I can every day and make as many casts as I can," Lucas said. "When you do that and you can make 10 or 15 more casts than the other guy, it's going to pay off for you sometimes."

Lucas caught his fish, which included a 7-pound, 4-ounce kicker largemouth, off deep rock piles. He was understandably guarded about his baits, but he said he did catch at least one keeper fish on a hand-poured Berkley worm. He credited his pro partner Wednesday, Del Orton, for giving him the chance to fish for deeper structure fish throughout the day.

"It's really nice when they do that," he said. "There's good water everywhere, and you can cast all around."

Fontaine second

Buoyed by the strong pattern of his pro partner, pro leader McAbee, Paul Fontaine of Brentwood, Calif., placed second for the co-anglers with a limit weighing 20 pounds, 5 ounces.

"Man, he put on a clinic today," Fontaine said of McAbee.

Rest of the best

Co-angler Hideki Maeda of Japan placed third with a limit weighing 18 pounds, 1 ounce.

Kenny Williamson of Peoria, Ariz., took fourth place for the co-anglers with 17 pounds, 14 ounces.

Rounding out the top five co-anglers was Shawn Carnahan of Chandler, Ariz., with 17 pounds, 11 ounces.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers:

6th: Kirk Beardsley of Huntington Beach, Calif., 17-5
6th: James Lima of Reno, Nev., 17-5
6th: Bill Scharton of Oakdale, Calif., 17-5
9th: Christopher Dixon of Northridge, Calif., 17-4
10th: Edgar Uyema of West Hills, Calif., 17-0

Each of the top 10 co-anglers caught limits Wednesday. Out of the field of 196, a total of 135 co-anglers weighed in limits on day one.

Day two of FLW Series Western Division competition at Clear Lake begins as the field of 196 boats takes off from Konocti Harbor at 7:30 a.m. Pacific time Thursday.

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2007-10-24-clear-lake 

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