A tournament field of 193 boats – each featuring a pro and a co-angler – began their three-day competition for a top cash award of $100,000 at the FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland out of Burnside, Ky. on Thursday. The tournament features the top 40 boaters and top 40 co-anglers from each of five U.S. FLW Series divisions, plus two boaters and two co-anglers from each international country that competes in the FLW Series.
International angler Roger Cousens of Harare, Zimbabwe, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 17-02 to take the lead after day 1 of the three-day event. Cousens holds a 3-ounce lead over Robert Nakatomi of Sacramento, Calif., who boxed 16-15.
Cousens competed in the U.S. a few times in the 1990s, but the Evinrude and Mercury outboard technician has never fished an event with as much on the line as this one. Cousens’ limit that he weighed in Thursday included a mix of largemouths and smallmouths.
“It feels fantastic right now,” Cousens said. “It’s pretty hard to believe that I’m leading a tournament of this caliber with this number of anglers. It’s pretty amazing.”
Cousens said he’s a big-bass specialist, which he’s proven in his last two FLW events. To qualify for this week’s championship, he weighed in more than 100 pounds in three days of fishing at the FLW Zimbabwe Championship.
Thursday, despite miserable, rainy, windy weather, he caught a better quality of bass than many of his competitors.
“I fish for big fish back home,” Cousens said. “My game plan is not to go and catch five little fish. I go and throw big baits, and I want to catch five big fish. I fish a lot of tournaments back home, and it’s paid off over the years; just going for big fish.
“A bass is a bass,” he continued. “I brought my style of fishing from home. When I was preparing to come here, I looked at the lake on Google Earth and spent a lot of time studying it. I purposely did not look at any sort of fishing hints. I just wanted to come here with a totally open mind and just do my own thing. My practice was tough, but I caught a couple of nice fish and left the areas immediately. As soon as I’d catch a fish I’d leave. I went back to those areas today, and they panned out.”
Though he caught most of his fish in one area, Cousens said he does have a pattern that’s working. He was able to get a couple of key bites on the way back to the ramp in the afternoon.
He’s uncertain of what to expect from Cumberland tomorrow, when wind and rain will be replaced with sunshine, slick-calm water and temperatures that might dip below freezing in the morning, but he’s still confident in his ability to get big bites.
Here are the totals for the initial top 10:
1. Roger Cousens: 17-02
2. Robert Nakamoti: 16-15
3. Shawn Kowal: 15-07
4. Mike Casada: 15-00
5. Andrew Upshaw: 14-15
6. Steve Floyd: 14-13
7. (tie) Casey Scanlon: 14-05
7. (tie) Luke Plunkett: 14-05
9. Kurt Mitchell: 14-02
10. Michael Wooley: 14-01