March 17, 2005

Bassmaster pros, Lake Norman defy weather

2005 CITGO Bassmaster Pro Tour Cornelius, N.C.

CORNELIUS, N.C. The air temperature plummeted, Lake Norman's water grew frigid, the wind howled, and it sleeted or snowed off and on throughout Thursday's opening round of the $618,000 CITGO Bassmaster Tour event. Still, America's brightest bass fishing minds prevailed.

Despite being in the bone-chilling throes of a cold front powerful enough to transform the spring-like weather in the Charlotte area into a white, wet mess, the North Carolina reservoir proved to be a pleasant surprise by surrendering 84 five-bass limits.

The biggest recipient of Norman's generosity was Japanese pro Kotaro Kiriyama, who brought in 19 pounds, 7 ounces. Hot on his heels are California's Skeet Reese with 18-2 and Randy Howell of Alabama with 16-4. A pair of Missouri pros, Randy Blaukat and Rick Clunn, round out the top five with 15-13 and 15-2, respectively.

Kiriyama, defying the weather at Lake Norman, took an early lead with a 19-5 day. Kiriyama, a 33-year-old former language translator from Manhattan now living in Moody, Ala., while competing on Tour, admitted being surprised by his success.

"I had a lot of bites in practice, but because I had been told that this lake gets a lot of pressure, I didn't set the hook," he said. "So I didn't know how big the fish were.

"I had a really good day. I caught three keepers in my area by nine o'clock and then went looking, trying to find some better fish in similar areas. Then I caught my big fish (5 pounds, 1 ounce) and another good keeper. It surprised me. I would have been happy with 10 pounds."

A 10-pound sack would not have cracked the top 50 on a day when Lake Norman showed definite signs of being a considerably better lake than the last time BASS visited in 1994. Instead of being satisfied with 10 pounds, Kiriyama's catch earned him a $1,000 bonus for the Busch Heavyweight catch of the day.

Reese had much better luck on Day 1 than in Thursday's practice: "It was a blast." Unlike the leader, Reese, a 35-year-old BASS winner, endured a poor practice period that left him wondering if any decent-sized largemouths swim in these waters.

"I had some bites, but 90 percent of them were 1 1/4 or 1 1/2 pounds," he said. "Today I had some big bites (including a 4-15 bass). At noon, I left my area and went running a pattern, and from noon until three, it was solid action.

"I don't know what it was about today, but once you figured it out you could call your shots. I can't remember the last time I got on a pattern and could run that pattern and duplicate it and catch a bunch of fish. It was a blast."

Howell, 31, admitted he was among the pros who scored cranking shallow cover. His success came on a crawfish-colored Rapala DT6 crankbait fished rapidly around secondary clay points, "pretty much a standard March pattern in the Carolinas," he said.

A slow day with five keepers for Howell was good enough for third place with 16-4. "I had 8 to 10 keepers a day in practice, but today was slow," he said. "I only had 5 keepers, but they ate the bait way down in their throat."

Blaukat, 43, said Thursday's conditions closely matched those of his most productive practice day (except for the bitter cold). As a result, he caught 10 keepers.

"I'm just running a little pattern," he said. "I don't really have one area."

Blaukat took Thursday's Purolator Big Bass honors with a 5-pound, 10-ounce largemouth that fell to a Megabass crankbait fished along a shallow, rocky bank,

Clunn, 58, a four-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic winner, was not surprised by his success or the impressive catches that occurred in the less-than-ideal conditions.

"The fishing is always good when it snows," he said. "When it snows, the fish are going to bite. Snow, wind and overcast is a recipe for good fishing."

In the non-boater division, Maryland's Jim Short is atop the leaderboard with a shared-weight total of 21-6, followed by a pair of North Carolina anglers Bryan Thrift with 21-4 and Thomas Roach with 20-5.The top four non-boaters will take home a Triton/Mercury boat and outboard package.

Maurice Parent of Taylorsville, N.C., used his home-state advantage to capture the Purolator Big Bass award for Day One on the non-boater side with a 5-pound, 7-ounce largemouth worth $500.00.

At the end of Friday's round, the field will be narrowed to the top 12 pros for Saturday's semifinal. The top six will move on to fish the final round on Sunday. At stake is a $100,000 top prize and valuable points toward the CITGO Bassmaster Classic this summer in Pittsburgh.

The CITGO Bassmaster Tour event on Lake Norman will be telecast on The CITGO Bassmasters on Saturday, March 26 at 10:00 a.m. ET on ESPN2.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tour include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).

Local Sponsors include the Lake Norman Convention & Visitors Bureau.

BASS Communications -Mar. 17, 2005

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Posted by DODGE at March 17, 2005 03:50 PM in Tournament (BASS)