By Joel Shangle - January 29, 2019
KISSIMMEE, Fla. – New competition format, new all-star lineup of players in the game of professional bass fishing. But as the first Shotgun Round of the MLF Bass Pro Tour B & W Trailer Hitches Stage One presented By Power-Pole wound down Tuesday on the Kissimmee Chain, some ages-old truths about Florida largemouth proved themselves.
Truth 1: Florida-strain largemouth love sunshine.
Truth 2: Wind – no matter which direction it’s blowing – changes the way fish bite.
Day 1 weight leader Randy Howell took advantage of both.
On a day that started out flat calm with air temperatures in the lower 40s at takeoff, and got progressively warmer and windier, Howell piled 26 fish for 49 pounds, 12 ounces on SCORETRACKER, thanks mainly to two afternoon flurries.
Howell caught six fish for 11-5 in a 41-minute span (most of it on a 3-inch Bass Pro Shops Speed Shad swimbait and a homemade lipless crankbait), and then added nine fish for 15-9 in the final hour of Period 3 to distance himself from Ish Monroe (40-13), Zack Birge (36-0), Gerald Spohrer (35-4) and Ott DeFoe (35-14)
“The wind changed direction three times this afternoon, so my biggest task was to adjust to how it would move the bait around,” Howell said. “We had these windows where cormorants were really chasing the bait, and I was just trying to stay where the bait was. I’d move ahead of them and let the wind blow me back through them, and that’s when I had those flurries.”
Monroe took a decidedly different approach, catching 11 of his fish punching a Missle Baits Craw Father. The California native, who was a pre-event favorite because of his previous success in big-fish fisheries, caught seven fish 3 pounds or heavier, including a 5-4 and a 4-15.
He’ll head into the Elimination Round on Thursday with a comfortable cushion to advance to the Knockout Round, a fact that Monroe plans to use to his strategic advantage.
“I didn’t do anything really great today – I probably left 15 pounds of fish out there that I didn’t execute on – but my goal in the Elimination Round is to catch 10 pounds and then spend the rest of the day looking for new stuff,” Monroe admitted. “I figure I’m pretty safe with 10 pounds (to add to his 40-13). The guys down around the cut would have to catch 37, 38 pounds to pass me – it’s totally possible here, for sure, but I’d love to get to 10 and then go practice.”
Birge put the big fish of the day on SCORETRACKER midway through Period 2, landing a 6-12 on a small swimbait. The Oklahoma pro added a 5-3 in the final minute of competition to jump into the Top 5. Spohrer, fishing his first MLF-format event, started strong early, putting seven fish on the board in Period 1 and hovering in the Top 5 all day long. DeFoe consistently scored throughout the day, building his weight around a 4-8 and a 4-2.
The 40 anglers from today’s Group A will compete again on Thursday, Jan. 31, adding their totals from today’s round to their Elimination Round. The Top 20 weights from Elimination will advance to the Knockout Round.
Group B will follow the same format, fishing tomorrow’s Shotgun Round and carrying their weights forward to the second Elimination Round (Friday, Feb. 1).
Watch & follow live: Live, official scoring via SCORETRACKER begins every morning of competition with lines in at 7:30 a.m. EST. The MLF NOW! live stream begins at 10 a.m. daily, continuing through the day until lines out at 3:30 p.m. The Berkley Postgame Show starts at 5 p.m. daily. All of the above can be viewed on MajorLeagueFishing.com and on the MLF app on your smart device.