On the first cast of his pro fishing career Thursday morning, Casey Martin of New Market, Ala., boated a 6-pounder. His co-angler did not even have enough time to get the net ready. That cast gave Martin the momentum he needed throughout the day, as he now leads the Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee presented by Mercury. A full field of 174 of the world’s best bass-fishing pros began the four-day tournament Thursday fishing for a top cash award of up to $125,000.
“My goal coming in to this tournament was just not to bomb out,” said Martin, a rookie pro who previously fished the FLW Tour as a co-angler. “There is a lot of pressure coming in to your first event as a pro, and I really didn’t want to let anybody down. Practice was really tough, and I didn’t want everyone thinking that I couldn’t make it as a pro. I knew that if I did well in this event it would set the pace for the rest of the year.”
Martin did very well Thursday, bringing a five-bass limit to the scales that weighed 26 pounds, 12 ounces. He now holds a 2-pound, 12-ounce lead over Rick Cotten of Guntersville Ala., who brought 24 pounds even to the stage.
“I had one good bite in practice; a 5- or 6-pounder,” Martin said. “So I decided to start there. This morning I pulled up to the area, and on my first cast I caught a 6-pounder. I caught an early limit and had around 12 pounds, so I decided to start running. I knew that 12 pounds would keep me in check range, so I ran around checking stuff that looked good.”
Martin hit four or five different areas and burned through almost two whole tanks of gas. He said he would get multiple bites from a spot, but only one big bite. None of his fish were caught sight-fishing, although he did see some smaller skittish bass that were not the right size he was looking for.
“I caught another big one around 6 pounds between 11 a.m. and noon,” Martin continued. “Three of my big bass that I weighed in were around 6 pounds, and they all bit on different baits. I was throwing a little bit of everything.”
Martin said he caught his first limit flipping, then moved around. His three big fish came on a green-pumpkin-colored Z-Man Chatterbait, a bluegill-colored Omega Custom Tackle swimjig and a jig he flipped.
“Florida is just a matter of getting the right bites,” Martin went on to say. “I’m glad that I was able to check on some new areas now that the weather has warmed up a bit. I found a couple of good areas that I think they might be coming to. If the right school moves in there, I may be able to get a 20-pound bag out of it. Tomorrow, I’m just looking for five of the right bites.”
The top 10 pros after day one on Lake Okeechobee are:
1st: Casey Martin, New Market, Ala., five bass, 26-12
2nd: Rick Cotten, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 24-0
3rd: Drew Benton, Panama City, Fla., five bass, 23-7
4th: Rich Dalbey, Greenville, Texas, five bass, 21-14
5th: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., five bass, 21-2
6th: Jacob Powroznik, Prince George, Va., five bass, 20-7
7th: Chevy pro Dion Hibdon, Sunrise Beach, Mo., five bass, 20-2
8th: Keystone Light pro Brent Ehrler, Redlands, Calif., five bass, 19-7
9th: Shad Schenck, Waynetown, Ind., five bass, 18-8
10th: John Cox, Debary, Fla., five bass, 18-0
For a full list of results visit FLWOutdoors.com.
Hibdon won the 3M ScotchBlue Big Bass Award on the pro side with a fish weighing 9-10 to win $500.
Overall there were 833 bass weighing 1,886 pounds, 14 ounces caught by 173 pros Thursday. The catch included 157 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing for a top award of up to $125,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of bass fishing. The top 35 anglers in the point standings from the six events on the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour will qualify. The 2013 Forrest Wood Cup will be in Shreveport, La., Aug. 15-18 on the Red River.
Justin Jones of Apex, N.C., leads the co-angler division with five bass weighing 22-11 followed by Bill Cowart of Kissimmee, Fla., in second place with five bass weighing 16-9.
The top 10 co-anglers are:
1st: Justin Jones, Apex, N.C., five bass, 22-11
2nd: Bill Cowart, Kissimmee, Fla., five bass, 16-9
3rd: Greg Scott, Dearborn, Mich., five bass, 15-8
4th: Matthew Surman, Orlando, Fla., five bass, 15-6
5th: Anthony Goggins, Auburn, Ala., five bass, 14-13
6th: Mike Boyles, Kimberling City, Mo., five bass, 14-9
7th: Ron Shearer, Nicholasville, Ky., five bass, 14-7
8th: Brendon Delaney, Highland, Ill., five bass, 14-3
9th: Wataru Iwahori, Palestine, Texas, five bass, 12-14
10th: Ronnie Green, Tampa, Fla., five bass, 12-7
For a full list of results visit FLWOutdoors.com.
Jones also caught Thursday’s 3M Peltor Big Bass weighing 9-7 in the co-angler division to win $250.
Overall there were 648 bass weighing 1,196 pounds, 6 ounces caught by co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 90 five-bass limits.
Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $25,000 this week plus valuable points that could help them qualify for the 2013 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart. The top 35 co-anglers in the point standings from the six events on the 2013 Walmart FLW Tour will qualify.
Anglers will take off from Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina & Resort located at 920 E. Del Monte Ave. in Clewiston, Fla., at 7:30 a.m. the first two days of competition. On the last two days takeoff will be at the Clewiston Boat Basin at 7:30 a.m. Friday’s weigh-ins will also be held at Roland & Mary Ann Martin’s Marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart located at 1005 W. Sugarland Highway in Clewiston beginning at 4 p.m.
Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon to 4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.
Coverage of the Lake Okeechobee tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when “FLW” airs April 7 from 11 a.m.-12 p.m. ET. The Emmy-nominated “FLW” is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
For complete details and updated information visit FLWOutdoors.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.