By BassFan Staff

Brett Hite has caught some big tournament stringers before, but nothing even approaching what he had in his livewell today.

The Arizona pro, who's embarking on his first season fishing both the FLW Tour and Bassmaster Elite Series, started the year off in style with an eye-popping 34-15 stringer to take the day-1 lead at the Lake Okeechobee FLW Tour. It's the second-heaviest single-day stringer in FLW Tour history, falling 4 ounces shy of matching Chad Prough's 35-03 effort at Okeechobee in 2011.

"When you go big, you might as well go big," he said, referencing this year's busy schedule and near-historic catch.

Hite's previous-best stringer (28-06) came during his 2008 Western FLW Series win at the California Delta, another big-bass factory. A couple more bags in that neighborhood will have him in pretty good shape to notch his second career Tour victory.

Greg Bohannan also caught the biggest stringer of his FLW career today, a 27-02 bag that has him in 2nd. Ryan Chandler sacked 26-01 and sits in 3rd. Lurking in 4th is Randall Tharp, the reigning Forrest Wood Cup champion who won the 2012 Okeechobee Tour event.

Tour rookie Keith Amerson rounded out the Top 5 with 23-01, including a 10-06 behemoth that took big-fish honors on opening day.

Here's a look at the Top 10 after the first day of competition, with deficit margin from Hite indicated by red numbers in parentheses:

1. Brett Hite: 34-15
2. Greg Bohannan: 27-02 (7-13)
3. Ryan Chandler: 26-01 (8-14)
4. Randall Tharp: 23-13 (11-02)
5. Keith Amerson: 23-01 (11-14)
6 (tie). Rich Dalbey: 21-10 (13-05)
6 (tie). Michael Wooley: 21-10 (13-05)
8. Matt Greenblatt: 21-06 (13-09)
9. Larry Nixon: 21-02 (13-13)
10 (tie) Scott Canterbury: 20-13 (14-02)
10 (tie). James Watson: 20-13 (14-02)

Okeechobee wasn't kind to everyone today despite the decent number of 20-pound bags (17) it produced. Defending Okeechobee winner Drew Benton is 133rd while fellow Floridian J.T. Kenney is 136th. John Cox and Ish Monroe are tied for 167th.

Reigning Angler of the Year Andy Morgan had yet another solid day, catching 20-03, good enough for 15th.

With more open water this year, Okeechobee kicked out some impressive bags today and quite a few 7-plus pounders. The field was held up by a fog delay for approximately 90 minutes this morning and the cloud cover hung around until early afternoon. The breezy, overcast conditions seemed to activate more fish whether, they were moving into spawning areas or just cruising around cover.

More cloud cover is in the forecast for Friday as temperatures will reach into the lower 80s.

The field will be reduced to the Top 20 after day 2 and the Top 10 following Saturday will fish Sunday, when the winner will be determined by highest cumulative weight.

Hite Dropped the Hammer

> Day 1: 5, 34-15

Hite said he's caught bigger stringers just fun-fishing, but it's going to hard to top today's effort.

"It's pretty awesome," he said. "When it all goes right like today you feel like you can't do anything wrong."

He said waiting out the fog delay was a bit stressful because he was in the early flight and he knew his fishing time would be cut down significantly. Once the field was released, his focus was on catching a limit right away.

"I had a bunch of spots in one area and I made the right decision where to start first thing," he said. "I went to the area where I felt there would be a lot of fish. I caught a couple quick, then caught a big one. I hit some other spots and caught a big one at almost every one."

FLW/Brett Carlson
Photo: FLW/Brett Carlson

Keith Amerson caught a 10-06 to highlight the first day of his rookie season.

By the time he was done filling his livewell around 1 o'clock, he had a pretty impressive stringer that included three 7-pounders and a kicker that weighed 8-02.

"After 1, I didn't feel like I needed to be catching 3- and 4-pounders and throwing them back," he added. "So I just went pre-fishing and found some areas and got off the juice. You have to hope your fish hold up for 4 days here, but the problem with this place is anyone else can go out and catch a stringer like I had. It's nice to know I have a good lead because the focus becomes going out and pounding out some solid stringers to have a shot at it."

He said he has a couple patterns working and he's confident they'll stick if the cloud cover returns.

"It's Florida and things can change so much here," he said. "You can have fog and clouds one day and blazing sun the next. I caught them under sunny conditions in practice, so I'm confident they'll hold up."

2nd: Bohannan had a Blast

> Day 1: 5, 27-02

It didn't take long for Greg Bohannan to realize he wasn't in Arkansas.

"We don't catch bass like that back at Beaver Lake," he said with a chuckle after shattering his FLW career high single-day weight.

No matter what part of the country it is, a 27-pound stringer is a great effort and Bohannon said he's already anxious to get back on the water tomorrow. His previous best single-day weight in FLW competition was 20-10.

"You don't get many days where you have the chance to catch 27 pounds," he said.

He felt like the fog delay was going to take some areas out of play for him, so he made some adjustments in the middle of the day and it paid off.

"I just started flipping really fast like I did in practice," he said. "I got into some areas and had them to myself and fished them pretty good. That was key because you don't get too many spots to yourself at Okeechobee.

"It was overcast and breezy most of the day. Those are good biting conditions and I'm just fortunate the area I was in had some big females."

He looked at some bed-fish, but caught the majority of his keepers on flipping baits and moving baits.

"I weighed in a 3 3/4-pounder and lost a giant at the end of the day," he said. "The stuff is so thick down here, when you lose just one, you have to feel good about that."

3rd: Chandler Started Strong

> Day 1: 5, 26-01

Ryan Chandler was the first angler to cross the stage on day 1 and got everyone's attention with a 26-pound bag.

"I had a really good practice," he said. "I thought I would catch 'em today. I had two areas I wanted to fish. I caught about 17 pounds in the first area, then went to the other areas that had some big ones and it just worked out."

He said the fog delay had him a bit worried since he was in the early flight, but he wound up catching what he weighed by noon.

"I'm looking forward to having that long day tomorrow," he added.

He mixed up flipping in the morning and moving baits in the afternoon.

"I was really trying to catch a big one," he said. "I thought I could catch an 8 or 9 in the one area I'm fishing. I'm no expert on Florida fishing, but I know how fast things can change. I think the quality got better today and where I'm fishing, I think they should replenish."

He caught about 20 keepers and his kicker was a 7-01.

"I caught it about 3 minutes after I got to my big fish spot," he said. "It turned out to be a good move. I caught two more 5s there. I'm fishing around a lot of boats, but I'm doing something different."

4th: Short Day for Tharp

> Day 1: 5, 23-13

Tharp was in salvage mode right off the bat today after he had to return to the service yard twice this morning for mechanical issues. Once he got things squared away, he went to work flipping and punching as he likes to at Okeechobee.

"Once I got to where I could fish, there were several other boats outside of me and that's kind of how I like it because I think they were pushing the fish in to me," he said. "I had three big bites today and caught about 15 total between the time I finally got out there and 1:30 or 2 o'clock."

He figured he lost 2 1/2 hours of fishing time between the fog delay and other holdups.

"I figured I needed to leave early (to head back) because with my luck something else would go wrong," he joked.

He's confident if he can put together 3 more days similar to today, he'll be right in the mix for the win.

"I have one stretch where I had the big bites," he said. "If that boat traffic keeps up, I think it'll keep pushing them to me."

He said he caught two keepers off isolated reed heads that he suspects were spawners and the rest of his bites came from under matted vegetation.

"The overcast skies definitely worked for me," he said. "All through practice, I hadn't been getting many bites until late in the day. The spot I caught them today, I went there first thing Tuesday morning and didn't get bit. Today, I caught a 3 and a 6 1/2 in there in a drizzy rain, so I'll welcome more cloud cover."

FLW/Brett Carlson
Photo: FLW/Brett Carlson

Rich Dalbey is off to another good start at Lake Okeechobee.

5th: Amerson Bagged a Giant

> Day 1: 5, 23-01

Amerson couldn't have scripted a better opening day of his first tour-level event.

Not only is he in the Top 5 after catching 23-01, he brought in the day's biggest fish a 10-06 brute, which stands as the sixth-largest fish weighed in during FLW Tour competition.

"I was kind of spent emotionally after I caught that 10-06," he said, adding it's his biggest fish ever. "I knew then I had a good bag. I was just extremely excited. It was just a great day."

Heading into the event, he felt confident he could scratch out 15 pounds per day from the areas he'd focused on in practice.

"The area I caught it in, I had fished through it in practice and caught a 6 and a few other decent fish," he said. "I just stayed in that same area all day. It's a big area and there aren't that many boats in it. I'll start there tomorrow."

He hopes to catch a quick limit to cool his nerves before he goes searching for more big fish. A limit shouldn't be a problem seeing as he caught nearly 40 keepers today.

"There seem to be a lot of fish moving in," he added. "The day I went through there in practice I caught 20 in a couple of hours."

The 10-pounder came around noon after he started to expand on the general area he was fishing. He said he's pitching and flipping a Strike King Ocho soft stickbait.

"I couldn't see any beds in that area, but I'm sure she was on a bed," he said. "There's a variety of vegetation in there."

6th (tie): Dalbey Feeling Good

> Day 1: 5, 21-10

For the second straight year, Rich Dalbey hit the 21-pound mark on day 1 at Okeechobee and the Texan couldn't be happier.

"I was pretty tickled," he said. "I felt good about it coming in. I had a few good bites and shook off some decent fish in practice. Once the tournament rolls around, though, you never know what'll happen. I felt like I could catch 'em, but you just never know the size."

He said he was largely unaffected by the fog delay since he was in the later flight and doesn't feel additional cloud cover tomorrow will hamper or help his strategy.

"I was throwing a moving bait in the morning and obviously a little cloud cover helps with that," he said, "but I got in these areas when it was sunny during practice."

He said his morning area is pretty crowded with other boats, but he had his afternoon spot to himself.

"I never saw another boat doing what I was doing," he said. "That's what has me excited for tomorrow if I can get them to cooperate."

148th: Slow Start for Davis

> Day 1: 5, 9-01

Night and day is the only way Clent Davis can describe fishing at Lake Okeechobee.

One look at his tournament ledgers at the Big O and it's easy to understand his description. At last year's tour event, he had 8 pounds on day 1 and rebounded with 22-09 on day 2 to finished 23rd. At last month's Southeast Rayovac, it was the same scenario 9 pounds on day 1 followed by 17-08 on day 2 led to a 23rd-place finish.

He's hoping history repeats itself again after another sub-10-pound opening day.

"I didn't get any big bites today," he said. "The way I'm fishing is the same way I fished in the Rayovac. Its just as easy to catch 8 pounds here as it is to catch 30."

He said he had a good practice and felt confident coming into today, but the fog delay derailed high hopes for some early-morning activity.

"I had a couple big bites doing something different every morning," he said. "When I got there today, it was over. I caught a limit in there, but that was it."

Notable

> Day 1 stats 178 anglers, 171 limits, 3 fours, 2 threes, 1 twos, 1 zero.

> Lake Okeechobee has produced the six heaviest single-day stringers in FLW Tour history. In addition to Prough and Hite, Fred Roumbanis is the only other angler to eclipse the 34-pound mark. He caught 34-04 in 2011.

Weather Forecast

> Fri., Feb. 7 Mostly Cloudy - 81/65
- Wind: From the ENE at 5 to 10 mph

> Sat., Feb. 8 Chance of Thunderstorms - 84/66
- Wind: From the SSE at 10 to 15 mph

> Sun., Feb. 9 Chance of Thunderstorms - 82/56
- Wind: From the WNW at 10 to 15 mph

Day 1 Standings

1. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, Az -- 34-15 (5)

2. Greg Bohannan -- Rogers, Ar -- 27-02 (5)

3. Ryan Chandler -- Valparaiso, In -- 26-01 (5)

4. Randall Tharp -- Port Saint Joe, Fl -- 23-13 (5)

5. Keith Amerson -- Bethel Springs, Tn -- 23-01 (5)

6. Rich Dalbey -- Greenville, Tx -- 21-10 (5)

6. Michael Wooley -- Collierville, Tn -- 21-10 (5)

8. Matt Greenblatt -- Port St Lucie, Fl -- 21-06 (5)

9. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, Ar -- 21-02 (5)

10. Scott Canterbury -- Springville, Al -- 20-13 (5)

10. James Watson -- Waynesville, Mo -- 20-13 (5)

12. Michael Neal -- Dayton, Tn -- 20-10 (5)

13. Richard Peek -- Centre, Al -- 20-09 (5)

14. Matt Herren -- Trussville, Al -- 20-06 (5)

15. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 20-03 (5)

15. Bob Morin -- Seymour, Tn -- 20-03 (5)

17. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, Ar -- 20-02 (5)

18. Mark Daniels Jr -- Fairfield, Ca -- 19-14 (5)

19. Charlie Ingram -- Centerville, Tn -- 19-09 (5)

19. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 19-09 (5)

21. Chris Baumgardner -- Gastonia, NC -- 19-01 (5)

22. Leon Williams -- Fairdale, Ky -- 18-13 (5)

23. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, Ok -- 18-11 (5)

24. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 18-09 (5)

25. Philip Jarabeck -- Lynchburg, Va -- 18-08 (5)

26. Justin Morton -- Etoile, Tx -- 18-04 (5)

27. Wesley Strader -- Spring City, Tn -- 18-01 (5)

28. Scott Martin -- Clewiston, Fl -- 17-15 (5)

29. Fred Roumbanis -- Bixby, Ok -- 17-10 (5)

30. George Kapiton -- Inverness, Fl -- 17-07 (5)

31. Zach Caudle -- Shreveport, La -- 17-06 (5)

32. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, Va -- 17-05 (5)

33. Bill McDonald -- Greenwood, In -- 17-03 (5)

34. Scott Wiley -- Bay Minette, Al -- 16-14 (5)

35. Glenn Chappelear -- Acworth, Ga -- 16-13 (5)

36. Jason Meninger -- Gainesville, Ga -- 16-12 (5)

37. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, Al -- 16-11 (5)

37. Ray Meredith -- Smiths Grove, Ky -- 16-11 (5)

39. Shad Schenck -- Waynetown, In -- 16-09 (5)

40. Luke Clausen -- Spokane, Wa -- 16-08 (5)

41. Robbie Dodson -- Harrison, Ar -- 16-07 (5)

42. Guido Hibdon -- Sunrise Beach, Mo -- 16-05 (5)

43. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, Ca -- 16-04 (5)

43. Chad Grigsby -- Maple Grove, Mn -- 16-04 (5)

45. Ramie Colson Jr -- Cadiz, Ky -- 15-14 (5)

46. Barton Aiken -- Greenville, SC -- 15-12 (5)

46. Brent Long -- Iron Station, NC -- 15-12 (5)

48. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 15-11 (5)

48. Vic Vatalaro -- Kent, Oh -- 15-11 (5)

50. Brad Knight -- Wartburg, Tn -- 15-10 (5)

51. Robert Pearson -- Herndon, Va -- 15-09 (5)

52. Terry Bolton -- Paducah, Ky -- 15-06 (5)

53. Tom Monsoor -- La Crosse, Wi -- 15-01 (5)

54. Kelly Power -- Cape Fair, Mo -- 14-14 (5)

55. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 14-10 (5)

56. Jeff Sprague -- Point, Tx -- 14-09 (5)

57. Stuart Arthur -- Benton, Mo -- 14-07 (4)

58. Travis Fox -- Rogers, Ar -- 14-06 (5)

59. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, Ar -- 14-04 (5)

60. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, La -- 14-03 (5)

61. Shane Lehew -- Charlotte, NC -- 14-00 (5)

62. Richard Lowitzki -- St Charles, Il -- 13-15 (5)

63. Brandon Coulter -- Knoxville, Tn -- 13-13 (5)

64. Kyle White -- Tightwad, Mo -- 13-12 (5)

65. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, Ga -- 13-09 (5)

65. Jim Moynagh -- Carver, Mn -- 13-09 (5)

67. Terry Segraves -- Kissimmee, Fl -- 13-06 (5)

67. Jay Yelas -- Corvallis, Or -- 13-06 (5)

69. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 13-04 (5)

69. Barry Wilson -- Birmingham, Al -- 13-04 (5)

71. Spencer Shuffield -- Bismarck, Ar -- 13-01 (5)

72. Kerry Milner -- Bono, Ar -- 13-00 (5)

72. Kevin Stewart -- Elk Grove, Ca -- 13-00 (5)

74. Koby Kreiger -- Bokeelia, Fl -- 12-15 (5)

74. Andrew Luxon -- Richmond, Ky -- 12-15 (5)

76. Patrick Bone -- Cleveland, Ga -- 12-14 (5)

76. Roland Martin -- Naples, Fl -- 12-14 (5)

78. Bryan Schmitt -- Deale, Md -- 12-13 (5)

79. Jonathan Newton -- Rogersville, Al -- 12-12 (5)

80. Troy Gibson -- Eufaula, Al -- 12-10 (5)

81. Tim Malone -- Gatlinburg, Tn -- 12-09 (5)

81. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, NC -- 12-09 (5)

83. Darrel Robertson -- Jay, Ok -- 12-07 (5)

84. Clayton Batts -- Macon, Ga -- 12-06 (5)

84. Austin Terry -- San Angelo, Tx -- 12-06 (5)

86. Randy Haynes -- Counce, Tn -- 12-05 (5)

86. Tom Redington -- Royse City, Tx -- 12-05 (5)

86. David Smith -- Del City, Ok -- 12-05 (5)

89. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, NJ -- 12-03 (5)

90. Bill Day -- Frankfort, Ky -- 12-02 (5)

91. Eric Olliverson -- Lampe, Mo -- 12-00 (5)

92. Brandon Hunter -- Benton, Ky -- 11-15 (5)

93. Jason Lambert -- Pickwick Dam, Tn -- 11-14 (5)

93. Harry Moore -- Valley, Al -- 11-14 (5)

93. Ray Scheide -- Dover, Ar -- 11-14 (5)

96. Darrell Davis -- Dover, Fl -- 11-12 (5)

97. Shinichi Fukae -- Palestine, Tx -- 11-10 (5)

97. Rob Kilby -- Hot Springs, Ar -- 11-10 (5)

97. Dan Morehead -- Paducah, Ky -- 11-10 (5)

97. Matthew Stefan -- Junction City, Wi -- 11-10 (5)

101. Troy Morrow -- Eastanollee, Ga -- 11-09 (5)

102. Rick Cotten -- Guntersville, Al -- 11-08 (4)

103. Tony Davis -- Williston, Fl -- 11-06 (5)

103. Wade Hendricks -- Thompsons Station, Tn -- 11-06 (5)

103. Casey Martin -- New Hope, Al -- 11-06 (5)

106. Colby Schrumpf -- Highland, Il -- 11-05 (5)

107. Alex Davis -- Albertville, Al -- 11-04 (5)

107. Matt Pennington -- Springdale, Ar -- 11-04 (5)

107. Mark Rose -- West Memphis, Ar -- 11-04 (5)

107. Gary Yamamoto -- Palestine, Tx -- 11-04 (5)

111. Clark Wendlandt -- Leander, Tx -- 11-02 (5)

112. Ryan Davidson -- Huntington, WV -- 11-01 (5)

112. Tommy Martin -- Hemphill, Tx -- 11-01 (5)

114. Zell Rowland -- Montgomery, Tx -- 11-00 (5)

115. Mike Surman -- Boca Raton, Fl -- 10-14 (5)

116. John Voyles -- Petersburg, In -- 10-13 (5)

117. Rex Huff -- Corbin, Ky -- 10-12 (5)

118. Robert Behrle -- Hoover, Al -- 10-11 (5)

119. Dustin Grice -- Hewitt, Tx -- 10-10 (5)

119. Troy Hollowell -- Paducah, Ky -- 10-10 (5)

119. Shawn Murphy -- Nicholasville, Ky -- 10-10 (5)

122. Rusty Trancygier -- Hahira, Ga -- 10-09 (5)

123. Chris Heath -- North Augusta, SC -- 10-08 (5)

123. John Murray -- Phoenix, Az -- 10-08 (5)

125. Jimmy Houston -- Cookson, Ok -- 10-07 (5)

125. Skip Johnson -- Goodells, Mi -- 10-07 (5)

127. Christopher Brasher -- Longview, Tx -- 10-03 (5)

127. Jeff Gustafson -- Keewatin, On -- 10-03 (5)

129. Stacey King -- Reeds Spring, Mo -- 10-01 (5)

129. Peter Thliveros -- Saint Augustine, Fl -- 10-01 (5)

131. James Christian -- Dickson, Tn -- 10-00 (5)

131. Payden Hibdon -- Sunrise Beach, Mo -- 10-00 (5)

133. Drew Benton -- Panama City, Fl -- 9-15 (5)

133. Drew Montgomery -- Denver, NC -- 9-15 (5)

135. Blake Nick -- Adger, Al -- 9-14 (5)

136. Jt Kenney -- Palm Bay, Fl -- 9-13 (5)

136. Rodney Thomason -- Maumelle, Ar -- 9-13 (5)

138. Randy Blaukat -- Joplin, Mo -- 9-11 (5)

139. Jim Dillard -- West Monroe, La -- 9-10 (5)

139. Marc Evans -- Angola, In -- 9-10 (5)

139. Clark Reehm -- Huntington, Tx -- 9-10 (5)

142. John Devere -- Berea, Ky -- 9-07 (5)

142. Todd Hollowell -- Fishers, In -- 9-07 (5)

144. Cody Bird -- Granbury, Tx -- 9-05 (5)

144. Bo Cross -- Knoxville, Tn -- 9-05 (5)

144. Lendell Martin Jr -- Nacogdoches, Tx -- 9-05 (5)

147. Jim Tutt -- Longview, Tx -- 9-04 (5)

148. RC Cooper -- Nashua, NH -- 9-01 (5)

148. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, Al -- 9-01 (5)

148. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 9-01 (5)

151. Nick Prvonozac -- Warren, Oh -- 9-00 (5)

152. Jayme Rampey -- Liberty, SC -- 8-14 (5)

153. Jason Quinn -- Rock Hill, SC -- 8-12 (5)

153. Jerry Reagan -- Byrdstown, Tn -- 8-12 (5)

155. Wade Leblanc -- Gonzales, La -- 8-07 (5)

155. Tommy Robinson -- Westland, Mi -- 8-07 (5)

157. Brad Rightnour -- Howard, Pa -- 8-06 (5)

158. Tony Dumitras -- Wnston, Ga -- 8-04 (5)

159. Chris Neau -- New Orleans, La -- 8-03 (5)

160. Dion Hibdon -- Sunrise Beach, Mo -- 8-02 (5)

161. Jason Reyes -- Huffman, Tx -- 7-15 (5)

162. Brandon Cobb -- Greenwood, SC -- 7-13 (5)

163. Stephen McKinnie -- Umatila, Fl -- 7-12 (5)

163. Andrew Upshaw -- Tulsa, Ok -- 7-12 (5)

165. Tim Wilson -- Gas City, In -- 7-09 (5)

166. Jacob Wheeler -- Indianapolis, In -- 7-08 (5)

167. John Cox -- Debary, Fl -- 7-06 (5)

167. Nick Gainey -- Charleston, SC -- 7-06 (5)

167. Ishama Monroe -- Hughson, Ca -- 7-06 (5)

170. Lionel Botha -- Okeechobee, Fl -- 7-03 (5)

171. Shirley Crain -- Fort Smith, Ar -- 7-02 (5)

172. Jeff Barth -- Marshfield, Wi -- 7-01 (3)

172. Travis Loyd -- Kinmundy, Il -- 7-01 (5)

174. Charlie Evans -- Gilbertsville, Ky -- 6-01 (5)

175. Robert Collins -- Morrow, Oh -- 5-15 (2)

176. Jimmy Brewer -- Marshall, Tx -- 5-08 (4)

177. Alton Wilhoit -- Harrah, Ok -- 3-09 (3)

Dave Lefebre -- Erie, Pa -- 0-00 (0)