LOUISVILLE, Ky. – To say it was tough fishing on the Ohio River today would be a massive understatement. Of the 108 competitors to hit the water this morning to kick off the $1 million Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League All-American, only 64 of them weighed in fish, and only three caught a five-bass limit.
Those three comprise the top three day-one finishers on the boater side, and leading the pack is Dicky Newberry of Houston with five that weighed 6 pounds, 11 ounces. Newberry is no stranger to success, having racked up 24 top-10 finishes and three victories in an FLW Outdoors career that spans the BFL, the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail and the Stren Series.
Despite that success, Newberry has one specific goal in mind: earning a trip to the Forrest Wood Cup in August on Lake Ouachita, where, should he win that event, Newberry would claim $1 million cash. An All-American victory would earn Newberry entry into that event, a fact not lost on the personable Texas boater.
“I figured weights would be a lot better than they are,” Newberry said. “You’re going to have to gamble to win this thing, and I came here to win and to go to Ouachita.”
Newberry leads today quite by accident, as the fishing hole he found in practice wound up being unexpectedly inaccessible.
“We came up here to practice, and the best pool is up north,” he said, referring to a pool that requires navigating a lock to access. “I spent all three days practicing up there, but they had maintenance scheduled to start today. Not Monday – today – and they shut it down. I called the locks, and they said they’d try to get us through. I had already driven an hour and 15 minutes, and she said it would be three hours before they got me through.”
Without that much time on his hands, Newberry turned around and ultimately wound up fishing about 15 miles from the launch site – pretty much unheard of, given the fact that practically everyone is making a seriously long run.
“I got lucky,” he said. “I caught them on three different baits – a variety of baits. I had a very short practice in this pool yesterday, and I shook off three fish that I caught today.”
Newberry, whose bag included a 3-pounder, sits only 8 ounces in front of his nearest competition and knows he may need to get lucky again tomorrow to continue his streak.
“I’m going to have to do something different,” he said. “I think I caught the majority of my fish today.”
Fishing in his fourth All-American championship, perennial contender Dick Shaffer of Rockford, Ohio, brought in the day’s first limit and ultimately ended the day in second with his 6-pound, 3-ounce catch.
Shaffer won the Kentucky Lake Regional after ranking seventh in 2006 Hoosier Division standings. He currently leads the Hoosier Division in 2007 points standings. Shaffer’s statistics include a whopping 30 top-10 finishes and seven victories in only two FLW Outdoors fishing trails.
Wright close behind in third
Wright is yet another hard-core veteran making waves this week, as his resume tops even Shaffer’s, as Wright has scored 31 top-10 finishes since 1995, including seven victories. He said this is his ninth All-American appearance.
“I rode a long way – about 180 miles,” Wright said of his day-one performance. “I didn’t fish that much; I was just running. You can’t really get that many bites on this river, and the ones I got, I caught them flipping a Zoom bait really shallow. I could probably catch a few more, but the problem is, I don’t have long to fish.”
The 180-mile trek includes a trip through the locks, though obviously not the locks that confounded Newberry on day one. Also magnifying Wright’s time problem is simple fuel efficiency.
“You can’t run wide open, or you won’t have enough gas to get down there and back,” Wright said. “It takes about an hour to maneuver through the locks, and you have to drive at a slow speed. You can’t be looking (for fish). I have a little area where I might be able to catch some, but I might have some help in there, which would make it a little difficult. I’ve got another little place where I might catch a big one, but I can’t do both. I’ll have to wait until the morning to decide.”
Wright thinks the key to his success today was using the small bait with a small weight.
Southern, Davidson round out tight top five
“That river’s got everything it needs; it’s just tough,” Southern said. “My plan is to get one fish, and anything else is a bonus.”
Behind him in fifth is Calvin Davidson of Plainfield, Ind., with four bass that weighed 6 pounds, 9 ounces. Davidson caused a stir by walking onstage with a very unique take on the hat vs. visor debate – he cut up a hat to make a visor.
“My wife did this,” he said. “She said if I didn’t do well in this tournament, she would do this to me.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 boaters after day one at the All-American:
6th: Ray Griffin, Henderson, N.C., two bass, 5-6
7th: Curtis Samo, Rochelle, Ill., four bass, 5-4
8th: Matt Arey, Shelby, N.C., four bass, 5-0
9th: Jamey Black, Sheridan, Ark., three bass, 4-14
10th: Ronald Yurko, East Point, Fla., three bass, 4-13
Hartzog leads co-anglers by 8 ounces
“The Lord blessed me with these three bites,” Hartzog said. “It was sure tough. You can’t win it unless you’re in it.”
Hartzog, who is a detective by day, advanced to the All-American via the Louisiana Division and the Wright Patman Regional. This is his first All-American appearance.
Wells, Metz in second, third
Ending the day in the No. 2 spot is co-angler Kevin Wells of South Shore, Ky., with a four-bass catch weighing 4 pounds that has him just 8 ounces behind the leader. Wells advanced to the All-American by virtue of his fifth-place finish at the recent TBF National Championship, where he was the top co-angler from the Northern Division.
In third is Stacy Metz of Staley, N.C., with a pair of bass that weighed 3 pounds, 1 ounce. One of those bass weighed 2 pounds.
“It’s tough out there,” Metz said. “You’ve got to stay focused the whole time. The (2-pounder) came on the last cast – never give up!”
Mire, O’Connor tie for fourth
Glen Mire of Jackson, Miss., and Jeffery O’Connor of Charlotte, N.C., each caught 3 pounds even today to tie for fourth place on the co-angler side. Mire’s weight came as a result of just one bass that earned him $500 as the day-one co-angler big-bass winner.
O’Connor fished behind No. 8 boater Arey today and enjoyed some success.
“I’m probably going to flip again like I did today,” O’Connor said of his day-two plans. “It seems to be the way to do it.”
Rest of the best
6th: Mike Williams, Lancaster, Ky., two bass, 2-14
7th: Brandon Bolton, West Point, Miss., two bass, 2-8
8th: William Feyh, Brandon, Miss., two bass, 2-5
9th: Jeremy Mull, Chatham, Ill., one bass, 2-4
10th: Mark Robertson, Henderson, N.C., one bass, 1-9
Competition continues tomorrow with a 7 a.m. EDT takeoff from Carrie Gaulbert Cox Park located at 3730 River Road in Louisville. The entire field competes again tomorrow, with the field cut to the top 10 boaters and 10 co-anglers following tomorrow’s weigh-in, which begins at 4 p.m. at the Kentucky Exposition Center located at 937 Phillips Lane in Louisville.