Harris Chain Day 1 Coverage - Major League Fishing

Harris Chain Day 1 Coverage

Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit stop No. 2 presented by Bad Boy Mowers is under way from Leesburg, Fla.
Image for Harris Chain Day 1 Coverage
Miles Burghoff Photo by Kyle Wood. Angler: Miles Burghoff.
February 20, 2020 • MLF • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit


Live leaderboard – click here

Tournament Preview – click here

Tournament Details – click here


1:45 – Final update

"What time you headed back?" 

That's the common questions pros are asking each other out on the Harris Chain right now. Travel time is critical on this system because of the idle zones between lakes and, for pros running to Griffin and Apopka, a lock to pass through. Most of the crowd in Griffin has thinned out and is making its way back to Harris for weigh-in already. It seems like a cushion of about 90 minutes before check-in time is necessary for a safe return trip from Griffin. The handful of boats that ran to Apopka have also headed back. 

Right now, it's looking like low to mid-20s will be the weight to hit to be in contention for the lead on day one. There are a lot of pros packed into the mid- to upper teens that'll still be in reach tomorrow, when we expect the weather to do a 180. 

Thanks for following along all day today. Don't forget to tune in for the live weigh-in at 3 p.m. ET.


1:30 – John Cox update

John Cox is likely the biggest favorite to win this tournament, but the reports on him this morning were pretty slow. Cox has righted the ship finally. He has a limit of 14 pounds. One more good one could get him into the top 10. That's nothing for Cox to accomplish. He's already been around some real giants on beds today. 


1:10 – Ponds on the rise

Pete Ponds is having a big day. He has somewhere in the upper teens, maybe close to 20. There are several other pros in the top 10 fishing nearby with similar weights. 

Don't forget, weigh-in starts at 3 p.m. ET today. We'll make a couple more updates to the blog between now and 2 p.m., but then we'll shut it down for weigh-in. Thanks for following. Stay tuned for a few more reports. 


12:50 – Buck sticks a pig

Grae Buck is ripping a lipless bait through hydrilla with really good results. He just stuck a 5-pounder to upgrade to about 18 1/2 pounds, which puts him in fourth place unofficially. We've had several 5- and 6-pounders checked in recently, including catches by Chad Warren and Kyle Hall. 

Things are really tightening up in the mid- to upper teen weight range, with just three pros estimated at 20-plus. There'll be more by weigh-in time for sure. 


12:20 – J-Mac gets a 6

Jared McMillan mdae the top 10 at the Harris Chain at the 2018 Harris Chain tournament, and so far today it's looking like he wants to get there again and have a shot at his first pro-level win. J-Mac just caught a 6 to get to an estimated 20 pounds. He's top three unofficially right now. 


12:10 – Burghoff gets a big

A 6-pounder has Miles Burghoff right there in the hunt with Rusty Salewske. Burghoff's estimated weight is 21 pounds, just a pound back of our unofficial leader. That's big time for a guy who was in the AOY race all last season, coming off a strong first event at Sam Rayburn. Burghoff might be our AOY favorite after this week if he can have another good day tomorrow.

Conditions haven't changed a whole lot in the last hour or two. It's sunny, with a mild breeze, and really quite pleasant. There should be a lot of hawgs caught this afternoon. 


11:45 – It's slower now

The pace of reports coming in has slowed for just about everyone except AJ Slegona, who continues to cull, now up to almost 18 pounds. But that doesn't mean there aren't some big things to report. Miles Burghoff has a limit for about 18 pounds in the state where he went to college and developed many of his pro-level fishing skills. Tim Frederick, a local, just caught a 3 1/2 to cull out a 1 1/2. Laramy Strickland has only three bass, but for 11 pounds total, and he's around some giants. Strickland says he's missed opportunities to have 20 pounds in the boat. 

It's a really interesting top 10 for a Florida tournament. There are four West Coast pros, a pro from New York and one from Canada, and just one from Florida. Granted, we don't have updates from everyone yet, but still. That's an interesting mix in a state that is usually dominated by locals. 

Click the leaderboard link up above to see the current unofficial weights for the entire field. 


Robert Nakatomi

11:15 – Nakatomi has a pair of 7-pounders

Rookie pro Robert Nakatomi is off to an amazing start today at Harris Chain. He already has two – that's right, two – 7-pounders in his livewell. We have him unofficially in second place with about 18 pounds … with only four fish. We're waiting on some updates on how he caught them and will report back soon. 


Ron Nelson

10:50 – Nelson can't catch an 8, but gets a 3

John Cox and Ron Nelson have been sharing water for a little while, and that's led to at least one interesting situation. Cox was working an estimated 8-pounder on a bed, but couldn't get it to play. He rolled out. Nelson, after working his way around the same canal, eventually found the same fish and gave it a shot. Unfortunately, the big girl left the bed. No worries for Nelson, though. He moved farther into the canal and caught a 3-pounder. He now has four for 12 1/2 pounds.


10:30 – Conditions improving for sight-fishing

It's warmer, the wind is dying down and the sun is juuuuust starting to break through the cloud cover. If you're John Cox or Ron Nelson, you're happy about the change in conditions. If you're everyone else trying to beat those two, you better get to catchin' fish.

Overall, it's been a busy morning, with 14 limits reported so far and a pile of 3-pound and larger bass, including a few 5-plus kickers. We've seen everything from topwater to finesse gear in play, though one of the more popular patterns on the crowded flats right now is winding a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Worm, which is a classic way to catch fish around pads and shallow cover in Florida. 


10:05 – Cox and Nelson are side by side

John Cox and Ron Nelson are sharing a narrow canal – one on each side. They're both working fish on beds. How cool is that? We'll get some photos up in a few minutes. 


10:00 – Cox, Nelson sight-fishing; Wall up to 23 fish

A surprise to no one, John Cox and Ron Nelson, each expert sight-fishermen, are scanning for beds this morning. Nelson is picking his way around to fish he found in practice, trying to snatch the better quality fish before the cold front rolls through this evening and likely screws up the sight game entirely. Cox is up a small canal working some fish. He doesn't want a camera boat in there very close, so we'll have to wait to get a detailed report on how it's been going for him so far.

Meanwhile, Jacob Wall is slinging a vibrating jig and lipless crankbait and absolutely wrecking fish. He's caught 23 bass already today and has about 14 pounds. 

UPDATE: About a minute after that last report, we were able to get an update from Cox. He says the fish are acting a little weird. The females are staying way off the beds, so he's trying to catch the males, hoping that'll get the females to move up. But he admits it might also cause them to move off entirely. 


Rusty Salewske

9:30 – Salewske upgrades, Griffin flats loaded up

Rusty Salewske now has 22 pounds. He's still far ahead in the unofficial leaderboard, with about two-thirds of the field reporting so far today. 

Harris, Little Harris and Lake Griffin are the most popular lakes today. There are at least 30 boats working a popular flat on Griffin. Practice reports suggested the field would spread out pretty far and wide, but now it looks like there's some concentrated pressure that could impact the fishing. 


Tyler Woolcott

9:15 – They're chipping away

After a 45-minute flurry where it seemed like the marshals were constantly firing away with catch reports, things have slowed down just a hair. That's typical, though. There always seem to be windows of time throughout the day where everyone is catching them. 

Soft plastics are still the go-to for many pros, but we've had reports of pros throwing jerkbaits, spinnerbaits and swimbaits, in addition to vibrating jigs, lipless cranks and topwater. 

Water temps in some areas are in the low 70s, which is perfect for a banner day of fishing on this chain. There are pros sight-fishing, and others picking away at prespawn and postspawn fish. Lots of action so far on the Harris Chain.


9:00 – Salewske gets a big

Rusty Salewske caught a tank to fill his limit and now is back in the unofficial lead with 21 pounds. That's a huge way to kick off this derby. 

Also, it seems like some better quality bass are starting to bite. Ron Nelson added a 5-pounder to the livewell. Grae Buck put in a decent 4-pounder, and several other pros have landed fish in the 3- to 4-pound class. Stand by, because any second now someone is going to get a real Harris Chain giant. 


8:45 – Wall hammering them; lots of baits in play

Jacob Wall is still on a tear. He's already made several culls and has worked his way to double-digits and the unofficial runner-up spot.

As predicted, tactics are pretty wide-ranging. There are a lot of soft plastics being fished through pads and around bedding areas, but also plenty of topwater, lipless crankbaits and ChatterBait Jack Hammers. In other words, it's typical early season Florida stuff. 

Finally, we know of at least four pros who're running the Apopka canal. They're headed for Lake Apopka, where Zack Birge and Glenn Browne made the top 20 (Browne finished fourth) the last time FLW held a pro-level event at the Harris Chain. We haven't heard a lot about Apopka throughout practice, so it'll be interesting to see if the gamble to run down there pays off for any of those four anglers. 


8:30 – Salewske moves ahead

Rusty Salewske is now in the lead (unofficially, of course). Though he doesn't have a limit yet, the California pro has the right quality. His four keepers weigh 14 pounds. 

Elsewhere, Grae Buck and Jacob Wall have secured a limit each. Buck has already culled. Still, neither has double-digits.

We still have boats in the lock going to Griffin, but most of the rest of the pros are out and at it. The guys bed-fishing have had a slow start, perhaps due to some cloud cover. But it should get better. Pros after a small starter limit, like Buck and Wall, are catching fish, but they'll need some serious upgrades. 


8:15 – Make it a limit for Frederick; still waiting on a big bite

There hasn't been a real giant reported yet, but Tim Frederick is still putting together a strong morning effort. He has a limit in the boat for about 10 pounds total. He needs to do a lot of upgrading, but that's the first reported limit of the day.

There are still some pros navigating to their starting areas, but much of the field has arrived. Griffin, Little Harris and Harris seem to be the most popular starting areas, but we'll update on that again once the entire field settles in. 

Behind Frederick right now is Rusty Salewske, the California pro. He has a couple nice fish for about 7 pounds. 


Tim Frederick

7:45 – Frederick off to a hot start as the field arrives at starting areas and starts catching

Local pro and tournament favorite Tim Frederick is looking for redemption this week after a dismal 158th-place showing at the FLW Tour event on the Harris Chain back in 2018. Already, he's on the right track to turn things around. Frederick is fishing a Yamamoto Senko in some pads and has two keepers for 5 pounds, 12 ounces. A limit of bass that all weigh about 3 pounds would be a good way to start the day. Then all a pro like Frederick would need is one big bite to be in good shape in the standings. If you want to read more about Frederick and how he prepared for this tournament, check out this cool article by Justin Onslow. 

Meanwhile, pros are finally starting to arrive at their starting places, after navigating the many canals and no-wake zones that connect this chain of lakes. We received a rush of fish-catch updates (nothing big so far) at around 7: 40. A big group of boats is still making its way through the lock to get into Griffin. We'll keep you posted once they get through and make it to their destinations. 


7:15 a.m. – It's time to catch some hawgs

There's a reason why the Lake County, Fla., Tourism folks chose the website name LakeBigBass.com for promoting the opportunities around Leesburg, Fla. It's because the Harris Chain is slam full of giant bass. This week, the sport's top pros fishing stop No. 2 of the 2020 Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit presented by Bad Boy Mowers are hoping to catch enough of those giants for a shot at a $100,000 payday.

If they're going to make it into the cut to fish this weekend, pros will probably need to have a big day today. A cold front is supposed to sweep through Florida overnight, bringing rain, cold (by Florida standards) and a north wind that in all liklihood will make the rest of the tournament more challenging. 

But today, well … today is supposed to be absolutely perfect. There's a little rain in the forecast for the afternoon, but other than that, it should be warm and humid, and the bass that are spawning or thinking about moving up to spawn should be catchable. 

For anyone not interested in bed-fishing, there are also plenty of prespawn bass still staging in pad fields and in isolated clusters of offshore grass, as well as around hard-bottom areas offshore. And there are postspawn bass feeding up to recover from the spawn. 

So there are plenty of options. Expect to see a mix of tactics produce top weights today as the anglers spread out on the 10 lakes that comprise the Harris Chain.



Temperature at takeoff: 67 degrees

Forecast high: 82 degrees

Sky: Cloudy with rain showers in the afternoon

Precipitation: 44 percent chance of rain

Wind: SE at 8 mph



Hosted by Lake County, Fla.

Takeoff: 7 a.m. ET at Venetian Gardens – Ski Beach, 201 E Lake Harris Drive, Leesburg, FL

Weigh-in: Days 1 and 2 at 3 p.m. ET; Days 3 and 4 at 4 p.m. ET at Venetian Gardens

FLW Live: 2:50 p.m. to end of weigh-in