Caldwell claims co-angler lead as monster bass dominate today’s competition
CLEWISTON, Fla. – Local favorite Mike Surman of Boca Raton, Fla., used the fourth-largest stringer in FLW Tour history to grab the overall lead at the $500,000 FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee after today’s opening round of competition. In fact, Surman put on such a clinic that it was unclear at times whether the Florida native was fishing with a flipping stick or a good, old-fashioned whooping stick throughout the day’s competition.
“That’s just awesome,” said Surman, after being informed of the historical context of his dominating performance. “My goal was to go out there and catch a big bag today and then use tomorrow to search for some more locations. I had hoped to catch between 12 and 14 pounds each day. But today, I obviously got some really big bites.”
If that wasn’t enough, Surman also snagged the day’s Snicker Big Bass award after recording a 9-pound, 14-ounce largemouth bass – the largest fish caught in the tournament to date. That single catch earned Surman an additional $750.
Unlike many anglers who tried their hand at sight-fishing during today’s competition, Surman said he landed his monstrous 27-pound, 6-ounce stringer by doing a little bit of everything.
“I tried a couple of different things today,” he said. “I used some spinner baits and worms and I was doing some pitching and flipping. For the most part, I caught the majority of my fish in 5 feet of water or less.”
Despite only getting in three days of practice on Lake Okeechobee, Surman said he was extra motivated to do well this year after some disappointing performances over the past couple of years.
“This is my home lake and when a big tournament comes here, I really try to stay focused,” he said. “My boat has broken down twice in this tournament the past few years and I was really frustrated with my overall performance last year. So, I was really hoping to get back on track.”
Now that Surman is all but assured of making the top-10 cut, the Florida native says he’s going to do some exploring tomorrow and leave his prime fishing holes alone until Friday.
“I probably only need to catch about 4 or 5 pounds tomorrow to make the cut, so I probably won’t be going anywhere near my good fish,” he said. “I’m going to look for a few new places as well. But if I get into trouble and it looks like I could zero, then I’ll have to go back to those spots.”
Surman earns a place in history
Ironically, when Surman won the first-ever FLW Tour event on Lake Okeechobee in 1996, his combined weight over the first two days of competition was 23 pounds, 7 ounces. In today’s competition alone, Surman beat that total by nearly 4 pounds.
To put Surman’s whopping 27-pound, 6-ounce stringer into perspective, one has to go back almost seven years to find a similar accomplishment. In fact, the only three stringers recorded on the FLW Tour that were larger than Surman’s were all caught at the same tournament – a 1996 FLW Tour event on Lake Santee Cooper. At that tournament, Jeff Coble of Henderson, N.C. (29 pounds, 6 ounces), Ted Capra of Blaine, Minn. (27 pounds, 15 ounces), and Dwayne Horton of Knoxville, Tenn. (27 pounds, 8 ounces) set an unprecedented pace that might never be topped.
But then again, the way Surman is fishing, who knows?
Best of the rest
Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, turned in a 24-pound, 12-ounce performance to grab hold of second place heading into tomorrow’s competition. Scott Dobson of Waterford, Mich., used a 22-pound, 14-ounce stringer to net third place.
“I just had a great day,” said Dobson. “I had a terrible practice and I was really nervous. But I went to a spot today where I thought I could catch a small limit. By the end of today it was clear that the fish had obviously grown.”
Rounding out the top five performers in the Pro Division were: Dan Morehead (fourth) of Paducah, Ky., with a catch of 21 pounds, 5 ounces; and Pat Fisher (fifth) of Buford, Ga., with a catch of 20 pounds, 12 ounces.
Caldwell on a roll
As mayor of his small Pennsylvania hometown, Doug Calwell is used to being in a position of leadership. However, when he is on the water, it is clear that Caldwell is just as comfortable being in charge. Using a catch of 12 pounds, 8 ounces, Caldwell jumped out to an early lead in the Co-angler Division, beating out his closest competitor by more than 1 pound.
“I put a 7-pounder in the boat after my third cast, so yes, I was pretty happy with my performance,” he said. “It was a really good day of fishing for me, but it definitely wasn’t a textbook fishing day. The fish were all over the map. There wasn’t really a rhyme or reason to what they were doing.”
Caldwell said he landed the majority of his catch on soft jerkbaits in 3 or 4 feet of water. And with only two other co-anglers landing more than 10 pounds, Caldwell believes he has perfectly positioned himself to make tomorrow’s top-10 cut.
“I think if I catch a couple more fish tomorrow, I’ll really be in good shape,” he said. “The way things are going right now, I know what I need to do.”
Like Surman, Caldwell also had the double distinction of leading his respective division and winning the day’s big bass competition. Caldwell won $500 after recording a 7-pound, 4-ounce largemouth.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top five co-anglers were: Frank Divis, Sr., (second place) of Fayetteville, Ark., with a catch of 11 pounds, 8 ounces; Sean Kelly (third) of Greenlawn, N.Y., with a catch of 11 pounds, 3 ounces; Martin Whitaker (fourth) of Hensley, Ark., with a catch of 9 pounds, 7 ounces; and Jason Knapp (fifth) of Uniontown, Penn., with a catch of 8 pounds, 12 ounces.
Tomorrow’s takeoff is scheduled to take place at 7 a.m. at Roland Martin’s Marina, located at 920 E. Del Monte Avenue in Clewiston, Fla.