AUSTIN, Texas – The early prognosis for the Wal-Mart FLW Tour event on Lake Travis was bleak. Few among a field of 200 of the best professional bass anglers in the world had ever fished Travis. Those that had didn’t exactly use the kindest words to describe it. While the circumstances are far from ideal, the cream of the crop always finds a way to overcome during tough-bite events.
Who exactly exemplifies the description “cream of the crop”? On day one of the season-opening FLW Tour event, it was hometown hero and pretournament favorite Clark Wendlandt.
Claiming to have fished new water because his secret spots were high and dry, Wendlandt caught an astonishing five-bass limit that weighed 17 pounds, 3 ounces.
“I had no idea I could catch fish of this quality,” said the Leander, Texas, native.
Wendlandt’s day immediately got off on the right foot when he caught two kicker largemouths, both around 4 pounds each, on his first spot. After he boated those two, he pulled out of his area and spent the rest of the day practicing. Wendlandt gave the impression that he used what he learned at his first spot and duplicated it all over the lake using his local knowledge.
When it was all said and done, the Kellogg’s pro boated 15 keepers and established a lead of nearly 4 pounds.
“That stringer is the stringer I really needed on the last day. Tomorrow, I’m going to try and catch a limit and then go from there.”
With the spotlight clearly on his shoulders, Wendlandt was abnormally quiet about his presentation. All he would say is that he is fishing both fast and slow, the slow being with soft plastics. Other sources have him on record as using a jig, although he would not confirm that with FLWOutdoors.com.
“I was no way expecting to catch fish like this. Those kind of fish, there’s just not that many of them in the lake. I would have been happy with about 9 or 10 pounds. I’ve always dreamed of fishing a big tournament like this on Travis. The key to me is that I practiced really hard.”
Looking nearly invincible on his home water, Wendlandt said the only thing that would considerably impair his pattern would be calm winds.
“It would really hurt me if it got real slick. The more wind the better – just like today would be perfect.”
Barring any unforeseen incidents, look for Wendlandt to return to his day-one honeyhole on Sunday morning.
Vida, Chapman tie for second
Vida, the accomplished Northern angler, has seemingly found himself at home in central Texas. The Clare, Mich., native had a tournament limit of bass by 9:30 a.m. After culling a few times, he, too, went looking for new water.
Vida is catching his fish by dragging a variety of jigs down Travis’ seemingly endless rock walls. His primary bait is a 3/4-ounce football-head jig. He occasionally mixes in a 1/2-ounce Berkley Power jig and some Berkley finesse worms.
Even if he wanted to employ something different, he’s stuck to the jig pattern for the foreseeable future. A throbbing case of tennis elbow has all but eliminated his ability to consistently make long casts.
With 200 boats on a lake that is fishing small, Vida predicts tomorrow will mainly be a finesse day.
“If I catch five of them Guatemalan (he meant to say Guadalupe) fish tomorrow, I’ll be happy,” Vida said. “I think, the third day, I might go back to the big jigs if I make it. I think the third and fourth day we’ll have some real good weigh-ins.”
Chapman, the Salt Rock, W.Va., native also was reported to have caught his day-one fish on a jig.
Green capitalizes on early bite for fourth
“I didn’t fish my good spot for more than an hour today,” said Green.
Anchoring his sizeable limit was the Snickers Big Bass, which weighed 5 pounds, 1 ounce and earned Green $750 for the award. All of his fish were caught deep on a homemade 3/4-ounce football-head jig with a Paca Craw trailer.
“Here, you’ve got to have that one kicker bite,” he added. “That helped me tremendously.”
Green feels really good about his chances in the final round, if he makes it that far.
“I’ll probably fish new water tomorrow. I don’t have a good feeling about what it is going to take to get in.”
Thanks to pro Dave Lefebre’s 12-pound, 13-ounce limit, two Kellogg’s-sponsored anglers were in the top five after day one at the season-opening FLW Tour event presented by Kellogg’s. Fishing with prequalification already in hand for the 2007 Forrest Wood Cup, Lefebre, aka the Keebler Kid, looks like he’s swinging for the fence.
“I’m fishing for big fish all day,” said the Union City, Pa., pro. “That’s the luxury of having already qualified for the championship. I can’t stress enough how big already making that championship was.”
Lefebre was certainly around big fish on day one, as he lost a 5-pounder at the boat that would have bolstered his catch even more. To no surprise, his key baits were jigs, both the finesse and football-head variety. He tipped his jigs with Kinami grub trailers.
“I’m kind of running two different patterns at the same time. A jig is a big-fish bait, and I’m fishing big-fish areas.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on day one at Lake Travis:
6th: Craig Dowling of Madison, Ala., five bass, 12-1
7th: Chip Harrison of Bremen, Ind., five bass, 11-6
8th: Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif., five bass, 11-4
9th: Aaron Hastings of Middletown, Md., five bass, 11-1
10th: Mark Davis of Mount Ida, Ark., five bass, 10-15
10th: Koby Kreiger of Okeechobee, Fla., five bass, 10-15
Local co-angler leads day one
Clint Bridges of Round Rock, Texas, may technically be a co-angler, but he knows Lake Travis just about better than everyone in the entire field not named Wendlandt. Bridges, who guides on the lake out of Big Texas Fish, caught both the heaviest limit and the single heaviest fish of his division. Bridges’ five-bass limit weighed 13-11 and the Snickers Big Bass, which was worth $500, weighed a whopping 7 pounds, 11 ounces.
Bridges said he caught his fish on a watermelon Carolina rig and a drop-shot, but the key, he claimed, was a fish spray named Fool-A-Fish. The spray, according to Bridges, isn’t a scent or an attractant, but rather a mist that improves the visibility of the bait.
“It was successful on day one, as the local co-angler had a limit in the boat by 11:30 a.m. He knew he was going to have a good day when his pro partner, Sam Swett, coincidentally found one of Bridges’ honeyholes in practice.
“It’s pretty ironic,” said Bridges, who is fishing in his first FLW Tour event. “It’s my home water, and he found the spot on his own. It feels really good to catch a fish like that. They’re very rare. Occasionally someone weighs a big one like that in a local tournament.”
With a 2-pound, 7-ounce lead over his nearest competitor, Bridges may not need a single keeper tomorrow to make the finals.
Sisk second, Cantale third
In his first FLW Tour event, on his first visit to Lake Travis, co-angler Tim Sisk caught a 5-pound, 2-ounce bass on his first cast. Sisk never even practiced for this event; literally the first time his bait touched the water it surfaced with the second-heaviest bass of the tournament thus far. Sisk finished the day with a limit weighing 11-4.
The Cherryville, N.C., angler used a Reactions Innovations Flirt and a watermelon Zoom finesse worm rigged on Berkley Vanish.
John Cantale finished the opening day in third with a limit that weighed 9 pounds, 12 ounces. The Panama City, Fla., native caught nine keepers throughout the day on a Spot Remover jighead tipped with a Zoom finesse worm.
“It feels real good because I haven’t been up near the top of the leaderboard for a long time,” Cantale said.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on day one at Lake Travis:
6th: Robert Horick of St. Petersburg, Fla., five bass, 9-1
7th: Dean Perkins of Cedar Park, Texas, five bass, 8-15
8th: Don Harvey of Franklin, Tenn., five bass, 8-3
9th: Chris Canada of Lakeway, Texas, five bass, 8-1
9th: Jake Deeds of El Dorado, Ark., five bass, 8-1
Day two of FLW Tour competition on Lake Travis begins as the full field of 200 boats takes off from Highland Lakes Marina located at 16120 Wharf Cove in Volente, Texas, at 7 a.m. Central time Friday for the second half of the opening round. Following tomorrow’s action, both fields will be cut to the top 10 anglers apiece based on two-day total weight.