Schmitt leads Day One of FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee
Published By OutdoorsFIRST Media Published January 26, 2018
Maryland Pro Bryan Schmitt surprised even himself on Thursday. The six-year FLW Tour veteran caught a five-bass limit weighing 24 pounds, 11 ounces, to take the lead on opening day of the 2018 season at the FLW Tour at Lake Okeechobee. The event, presented by Evinrude, features a field of 376 of the world's best bass-fishing professionals and co-anglers casting for top awards of up to $125,000 cash in the pro division and up to $25,000 cash in the co-angler division.
The weather conditions in central Florida were good Thursday despite a brisk north wind that prompted Tournament Director Bill Taylor to advise anglers to use the protected canals and rim ditches instead of trying to make a run across the middle of the lake. The main challenge for tournament anglers was finding clear water.
Bryan Schmitt. (Andy Hagedon/FLW Fishing)
"This was not expected," said Schmitt, a two-time Forrest Wood Cup qualifier who has 10 wins in FLW competition - all on rivers and tidal fisheries. "The final afternoon of practice I found one spot where I got a ton of little bites. I decided to go there today and I guess that they have grown up a little bit."
Schmitt caught all of his bass - including a pair of 6-pound, 13-ounce largemouth - from his one spot, throwing just one bait.
"I hammered it, all day," he said. "An hour and a half in, I changed the bait and started throwing something that I hadn't thrown, but it's a bait that I have a lot of confidence in. It was like a lightbulb went off and every one of my fish came on that bait.
"I really hope it doesn't get dirty," Schmitt continued. "Towards the end of the day the wind was starting to put mud in there and if it (wind) changes a hair, it's done. The problem is that my only other place where I caught any fish in practice is so far away that I don't know if I'll have enough fuel to make it there. That's a big problem."
Schmitt credited his "lucky" co-angler Darlene Ferguson of Tehachapi, California, as another factor that contributed to his success.
"She caught two fish and she's really good luck," he went on to say. "She has a reputation among some of the pros as being really good luck to have in the boat with you."
The top 10 pros after day one on Lake Okeechobee are:
1st: Bryan Schmitt, Deale, Md., five bass, 24-11
2nd: General Tire pro Mark Rose, West Memphis, Ark., five bass, 24-0
3rd: Christopher Brasher, Longview, Texas, five bass, 22-0
4th: Britt Myers, Clover, S.C., five bass, 21-8
5th: Tyler Stewart, West Monroe, La., five bass, 21-2
6th: Michael Neal, Dayton, Tenn., five bass, 21-0
7th: Power-Pole pro Cory Johnston, Cavan, Ontario, Canada, five bass, 20-11
8th: Brandon Mosley, Choctaw, Okla., five bass, 20-9
9th: Cameron Gautney, Muscle Shoals, Ala., five bass, 20-5
10th: Bradley Dortch, Atmore, Ala., five bass, 19-9