WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - Texas pro Ben Matsubu had the lowest catch among the anglers who qualified for the Busch Shootout from the Bassmaster Tour .
But during Friday's first day of fishing in the $160,000 event on the James River, Matsubu was on the other end of the scale.
Matsubu pulled a five-bass limit from a James River tributary for a tournament-best total of 13 pounds, 9 ounces, climbing to the top of the leaderboard ahead of the dozen other s in the first-of-its-kind event, which will air Nov. 6 on ESPN2 at 10:30 a.m. ET.
Matsubu anchored his limit with a 5-11 largemouth, by far the heaviest bass of the first day of fishing.
Having never fished the James River, Matsubu said he searched for an area that looked like Toledo Bend Reservoir, his home lake.
"I didn't know where to go," said Matsubu, who lives in Hemphill, Texas. "So I just pulled up to an area that looked familiar to me, like Toledo Bend back home."
He found that in the form of the Chickahominy River, a major tributary stream that flows into the James River about 10 miles upstream from the takeoff point at Kingsmill Resort and Spa.
The cypress tree-lined channel yielded one of only two limits that came to the weigh-in stage on Friday. Matsubu flipped a jig and a grub around the cypresses. He also threw a crankbait around the trees.
"I didn't know where else to go," Matsubu said. "Coming into a strange body of water, you never know."
Michigan pro Kevin Van Dam caught Friday's other limit, landing in second place with 8-1.
Thad Takes of Centerpoint, Iowa, who qualified from the BASS Federation Championship, caught three bass that weighed 6-15 to take third place going into Saturday's second round of fishing.
David Wharton of Sam Rayburn, Texas, is fourth with 5-11 (two bass), and John Murray of Phoenix, Ariz., is fifth with 4-6 (three bass).
Only three other anglers brought fish to the scales on Friday: Stacey King of Reeds Spring, Mo., George Cochran of Hot Springs, Ark., and Mark Rogers of Naples, Fla.
The remaining five anglers didn't weigh a fish on Friday, a day with overcast skies and temperatures in the lower 60s.
The format for the tournament also appeared to affect the anglers. They started fishing at 7 a.m. and had to report back by 1 p.m. With most anglers running at least 30 to 45 minutes to their fishing spots, they didn't have a lot of time to fish.
"If you catch it at the right time, it's easy, real easy," Murray said. "But you can also go hours without catching a fish, and when you only have four hours to fish, that makes it tough."
Even though Matsubu figures to be a lock to make Saturday's final, it's still really anybody's tournament. Weights from Friday will carry over to Saturday morning, when the entire field will again fish the James River for half a day.
At noon, anglers will weigh their morning's catch, and only the top six will make the cut for the final on Saturday afternoon. Weights will be tossed out for the final, and tournament officials have hinted that the competition waters might change for the last round.
Thirteen anglers qualified for the Busch Shootout by catching the heaviest single-day bags at various BASS events during the 2003-2004 season.
Ten came from the Bassmaster Tour, and Matsubu's 23-10 catch at Lake Eufaula was the lowest weight to make the cut for the Busch Shootout.
"I was on the bubble for everything this year," Matsubu said.
Now, Matsubu is just hoping his Busch Shootout bubble doesn't bust.