Velvick Leads Elite Series Bass Fishing Tournament on Kissimmee Chain
LAKE WALES, Fla. -- Coming on strong after a lackluster 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series season, Bryon Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, surged into the lead Thursday at the Citrus Slam bass fishing tournament on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes by catching a 25-pound limit and besting his nearest competitor, Florida's Terry Scroggins, by just less than 2 pounds.
"It's about time I showed up," said Velvick, who finished in 107th-place in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings in 2007 and qualified for this Elite season by winning the 2007 Bassmaster Elite Series WildCard event on Florida's Lake Okeechobee. "I got lucky and caught the big bites today but I feel I'm onto something really solid. It just feels good to be on top."
Velvick said he covered stretches of water on two of the chain's lakes, Toho and Cypress, primarily sight-fishing and throwing reaction baits. Although sight-fishing was his dominant pattern, he didn't try the technique until the final two hours of his last practice day on Wednesday.
He concentrated Thursday on shallow water, persistently working the larger fish on beds until he enticed a bite. His limit included three fish weighing more than 6 pounds each plus two smaller bass.
To notch his third BASS victory and the $100,000 top prize, Velvick will need to hold off a host of accomplished anglers. Scroggins, a Florida expert who has scored four victories in his home state, was fishing close to Velvick all day and pulled in 23 pounds, 2 ounces.
Like Velvick, the majority of Scroggins' practice time wasn't devoted to sight-fishing but he turned to it on Thursday. His limit included an 8-pound, 9-ounce behemoth and the Palatka, Fla., resident figured he could catch at least 15 pounds a day throughout the tournament.
"I have an absolute advantage on this body of water," the 39-year-old said. "I have a ton of areas I haven't even touched and I feel very confident about the rest of the week."
In third was Kelly Jordon of Mineola, Texas, with 22-14. Jordon exacted some revenge on Florida fisheries after finishing 108th in last week's Elite opener on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg.
In fourth was Jeff Reynolds of Idabel, Okla., with 20-12 ounces. In fifth was Scott Rook of Little Rock, Ark., with 19-14.
Dean Rojas, who holds the BASS record for heaviest daily catch - 45 pounds, 2 ounces in 2001 on Lake Toho - was sixth with 18-13. Local favorite Bobby Lane of Lakeland was seventh with 18-10. The 2008 Bassmaster Classic champion, Alton Jones, was 14th while 2007 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Skeet Reese was 23rd.
The field will cut to the top 50 after Friday. The competition will end Sunday, with the top 12 anglers competing on the final day. Daily weigh-ins and launches are free and open to the public.
Elite pros are building points in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year race. The winner of the season-long points competition will earn $250,000 and the standings will determine 36 qualifiers for the 2009 Bassmaster Classic.
In the co-angler division, Butch Tucker of Georgia weighed 17 pounds, 4 ounces to take the lead. Trailing Tucker were Florida's Tom Mahoney (16-0) and Pete Davitto (13-7). Co-anglers are vying for a top prize of $25,000 in the competition that ends Saturday.