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Fitzpatrick grabs early pro lead on Lake of the Ozarks

Fitzpatrick grabs early pro lead on Lake of the Ozarks
Pro leader Roger Fitzpatrick fished jerkbaits & jigs to sack up his limit.

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. - Lake of the Ozarks saw a lot of jerks during day one of the American Fishing Series Central Division opener, but that's no reference to FLW competitors. The well-behaved anglers just sent a bunch of jerkbaits flying into the chilly Missouri water, and fortunately enough bass cooperated to make for a decent showing.

As many testified, the day was challenging to say the least. For starters, a chowder-thick fog sat on Lake of the Ozarks and delayed the scheduled 7 a.m. launch until 9:15. Cloudless skies allowed for full solar impact, and the fog was gone by late morning. Nevertheless, losing two hours is always tough - especially when the early bite is the best bite.

Clouds had draped the area for a week prior to the tournament, and anglers reported good action during theA Lucky Craft jerkbait produced the day dim conditions. Today, with skies clearing soon after the delayed launch, the fish got a little squirrely in the transition, and the bite slowed as the clock advanced.

Sunshine warmed the shallows, and a few anglers mentioned that this enhanced the shoreline patterns. However, the day's light breezes robbed anglers of that rippled to slightly choppy surface that jerkbaiters prefer. Only nine pros and one co-angler caught limits. Missouri pro Shane Long won the AFS event on Lake of the Ozarks in October, but he fell one fish short of a limit in his 17th-place effort on day one.

Roger Fitzpatrick gets some rejuvenating water on his fish after taking the Day One lead."It was rough out there today - these were the only four keepers I caught all day," Long said. "I was on them early (in practice), and the fog this morning really hurt me."

Roger Fitzpatrick of Eldon, Mo., leads the pro field with a limit weighing 16 pounds, 3 ounces. Adjusting to the day's conditions meant pulling back on his fishing speed.

"I had to fish slowly," Fitzpatrick said. "The sun came out and there was no wind, so I had to just let it sit. I had two largemouth and a 12-inch Kentucky (spot) at 12:30, and I really had to slow down.

"Most of the time, I'd go through with the stickbait first, and if I had confidence in a spot, I'd go back around and go through it with a jig," he said.

Hefty kicker anchors Kowal's second-place bag

Trailing the leader by just 7 ounces, Linn Creek, Mo., angler Shawn Kowal bagged limit weighing 15-12. He fishedSticking with the jerkbait all day, second place pro Shawn Kowal targeted small shoreline nooks. custom-painted Megabass jerkbaits. His catch included a 6-6 kicker that bit around 10 a.m.

Kowall spent part of his day near the launch site, but also made a big run later in the day. In both areas, he focused on particular spots he found in practice. The morning bite was better for him.

"I just keyed in on little nooks in coves," he said. "It seemed like the higher the sun got, the lighter the bite was. They were just slapping at the bait. They'd get foul-hooked and come off."

Third-place Garrison secures his `big catch'
Adding to the excitement of placing third on Day One, Earl Garrison IV proposed to this girlfriend Jennifer Swackhammer got a OK, let's get the business stuff out of the way first. Earl K. Garrison IV of Bull Shoals, Ark., caught five bass totaling 15-12. His weight was just an ounce behind Kowal's, but Garrison drew the biggest applause of the day with his onstage marriage proposal to his girlfriend Jennifer Swackhammer.

"It's her 30th birthday today, and I thought, as a surprise, I'd ask her to marry me, and luckily she said `yes,'" Garrison said. "I've been planning this for a month. I knew she was coming up here, so I thought what a better way with the catch of my life - just go ahead and land her today."

Garrison caught his fish on Megabass jerkbaits. He concentrated on secondary points.In fourth place, David Burks stayed close to the launch site and had his limit by 11 a.m.

Best of the rest

David Burks of Fordland, Mo., placed fourth with 14-8, and Joe Partain of Farmington, Ark., took fifth with 14-6.

Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the American Fishing Series Lake of the Ozarks event:

6th: Bub Taylor of Tontitown, Ark., 13-9
7th: James Dill of Laurie, Mo., 13-0
8th: Steve C. Ives of Rockford, Ill., 12-4
9th: Marcus Skoda of Osage Beach, Mo., 11-6
10th: Lloyd T. Pickett Jr. of Barletta, Tenn., 11-2

Taylor earned Big Bass honors with his 7-7.

Bohlen blows away co-angler field

Co-angler leader Marty Bohlen Jr. of Nixa, Mo., had a simple, yet poignant, analysis of his phenomenal day-one effort: "It was the right bites at the right time."

Co-angler Marty Bohlke Jr. stole the show with his 23-pound, 3-ounce bag - the dayIndeed, how about five big bites that tallied 23 pounds, 3 ounces? Bohlen's catch was nearly double that of his nearest competitor and it topped the pro field's best bag by a clean 7 pounds. Notably, 7 pounds was also the weight of his largest fish - the one that earned him the Big Bass prize for day one.

Bohlen caught his fish on white and bond Megabass jerkbaits fished about 10 feet deep around bluff ends and other lake transitions. With the lake's fish still leaning toward lethargic, he found that winding his bait down and killing it for up to 15 seconds proved most productive.

"I caught a couple early, then I had two or three around 11:30 (a.m.), and I caught the big one at 1 (p.m.)," Bohlen said. "I also lost one over 6 pounds, so I should have had about 26 pounds."

Best of the rest

Mark Martin of Ozark, Mo., finished second with 11-13, and Jeffrey Grisinger of Bridgeton, Mo., took third with 11-11. In fourth place, Michael Premix of Lewisburg, Tenn., had 11 pounds, and Rickey Alexander of New Lenox, Ill., was fifth at 10-10.

Rounding out the top 10 co-angler leaders at the American Fishing Series Lake of the Ozarks event:

6th: Mark Horton of Nicholasville, Ky., 9-5
7th: Jesse Wolfe of Nelson, Wis., 8-0
8th: Wilby Hawkins of Hickory, Ky., 7-14
9th: Carl Cassens of South Fulton, Tenn., 7-11
10th: Mike Youngblood of St. Louis, 7-10

Day two of American Fishing Series action on Lake of the Ozarks continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. CT at Grand Glaize Recreation Area PB No. 2 boat launch located at 711 Public Beach Road in Osage Beach.

Tags: david-a-brown  headline-story  2010-03-18-lake-of-the-ozarks 

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