Morehead Holds Slim Lead In FLW Tournament

Morehead Holds Slim Lead In FLW Tournament
Morehead Holds Slim Lead In FLW Tournament
Dan Morehead leads the pack with a five-bass limit of 20-14.
Gary Mortenson/FLW

Variety was story of the day as the world's best bass-fishing pros opened the Walmart FLW Tour Major on Lake Hartwell. Anglers threw a number of different baits and different presentations were plentiful as the full field of pros from all across the United States, Canada, Spain and Japan began their four-day battle for a top cash award of up to $125,000.

The methods may have varied, but the results sure were close - less than 3 pounds separated first place from 10th. In the end, Dan Morehead of Paducah, Ky., crossed the stage Thursday with a five-bass limit weighing 20 pounds, 14 ounces to lead day one of the event. Morehead now holds a slim 2-ounce lead over Matthew Stefan of Park Ridge, Ill., who caught five bass weighing 20-12.

"I think these fish are in transition right now," said Morehead, who has career winnings of more than $1.2 million. "They're moving and they're wanting to go shallow. You always hear the same old story of 'If we were here next week it would be unbelievable.'

Morehead fished an area that hadn't seen much fishing pressure and is trying to take advantage of the lake's blueback herring as they migrate back into pockets in the mornings and out again as the sun gets higher. The bass follow the bait and suspend to ambush them as they move. Morehead said he threw a number of baits, including the original Alabama Rig, although the rig was not his primary weapon.

"I think tomorrow if we get some wind and clouds and rain it could be a real fun day," Morehead said.

Morehead said the first day of practice the wind blew hard and muddied the water and he had success with a crankbait, however the same conditions haven't been present since. Morehead said he would welcome the chance for a crankbait bite again.

"I could do no wrong today," Morehead said. "Well, except lose that one 5-pounder. Catching 20 pounds is obviously the icing on the cake, but I was really in the groove today. I was making the right decisions and going with the flow and fishing stuff I hadn't even practiced on."

Stefan's day was equally productive, but he went about catching his bass in different ways.

"It was a long, slow run," Stefan said. "I think I had nine or 10 bites. The smallest fish I had was probably 15 inches. It was just one of those things where you have to sit on them and grind on them."

Stefan said he was catching fish in anywhere from 20 to 50 feet. He added when the sun came out the bite would die and his bite depended on cloud cover. He targeted pre-spawn bass with a mix of techniques, but remained tight-lipped about how he was fishing his five or six spots, although he did indicate success with the jig.

"I caught them all day, but I didn't have a limit until noon," Stefan said. "I really feel like I'm going with the home-run swing. It wouldn't surprise me if I blanked, and it wouldn't surprise me if I came in with a similar weight tomorrow."

Rounding out the top 10 pros after day one on Lake Hartwell are:

3rd: National Guard pro Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., five bass, 20-4
4th: Blake Nick, Adger, Ala., five bass, 19-11
5th: Micah Frazier, Newnan, Ga., five bass, 19-7
6th: Clifford Pirch, Payson, Ariz., five bass, 19-6
7th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 19-2
8th: Shane Long, Springfield, Mo., five bass, 18-6
9th: Chevy pro Jay Yelas, Corvallis, Ore., five bass, 18-5
10th: Lancen Halbert, Enoree, S.C., five bass, 18-1

Brandon Coulter of Knoxville, Tenn., caught Thursday's big bass weighing 5-13 on the pro side to win $500.

Overall there were 724 bass weighing 1,694 pounds, 1 ounce caught by pros Thursday. The catch included 123 five-bass limits.

Pros are competing for a top award of up to $125,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup, the world championship of bass fishing. The top 35 anglers in the point standings from the six Walmart FLW Tour Major tournaments will qualify.

Jason Johnson of Gainesville, Ga., leads the Co-angler Division with five bass weighing 16-2 followed by Michael Tennison of Russell Springs, Ky., in second place with five bass weighing 16-1.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers are:

3rd: Philip Jarabeck, Lynchburg, Va., five bass, 14-2
4th: Brant Grimm, Kingsport, Tenn., five bass, 13-10
4th: David Kuykendall, Fletcher, N.C., five bass, 13-10
6th: Allen Murray, Reidsville, Ga., five bass, 13-6
7th: Richard Peek, Centre, Ala., five bass, 13-1
8th: Brook Pauley, Morgantown, W.V., five bass, 12-14
9th: James Dixon, Southfield, Mich., five bass, 12-12
10th: Rich Dalbey, Greenville, Texas, five bass, 12-8

Ralph Myhlhousen of Council Bluffs, Iowa, caught Thursday's big bass weighing 6-11 in the co-angler division to win $250.

Overall there were 485 bass weighing 935 pounds, 8 ounces caught by co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 55 five-bass limits.

Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $25,000 this week plus valuable points that could help them qualify for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup. The top 35 co-anglers in the point standings from the six Walmart FLW Tour Major tournaments will qualify.

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