Specific baits usually aren't the biggest factor in a tournament that's dominated by sight-fishing. Lookers aren't necessarily trying to entice bedding bass into eating they're just hoping to irritate them to the point where they'll pick up the offering and try to remove it from the nest. A myriad of imitations will often work, and the real key is to be staring at the right fish to begin with.



Alton Jones said his bait was a key factor in him catching the top bag on day 1 of the St. Johns River Bassmaster Elite Series, however. But at this stage of the game, he has no inclination to reveal what that bait is.

The veteran Texan, hungry for a return to form after a lackluster 2010 season, weighed a 26-09 sack on a day when overall weights were lighter than expected considering the excellent sight-fishing conditions in Florida. The 2008 Basssmaster Classic champion's haul was topped by a 9-06 bruiser.

Kansan Brent Chapman continued his strong start to the new season with a 25-04 stringer that included a 9 1/4-pounder backed up by an 8 1/2. He was followed by another Texan, Todd Faircloth, with 23-10.

Two-time Elite Series winner Jason Williamson of South Carolina settled into 4th 22-05. His bag was headed up by a 10-03 monster and he said he lost one even bigger than that.

Alabama's Tim Horton, another longtime stalwart looking to get back on track after a rough 2010 campaign, rounded out the Top 5 with 22-04.

Here's a peek at the Top 12, with distance from leader marked by red numbers in parentheses:

1. Alton Jones: 26-09
2. Brent Chapman: 25-04 (1-05)
3. Todd Faircloth: 23-10 (2-15)
4. Jason Williamson: 22-05 (4-04)
5. Tim Horton: 22-04 (4-05)
6. John Crews: 21-03 (5-06)
7. Billy McCaghren: 20-11 (5-14)
8. Clark Reehm: 20-10 (5-15)
9. (tie) Jared Lintner: 20-09 (6-00)
9. (tie) Casey Ashley: 20-09 (6-00)
11. J. Todd Tucker: 20-08 (6-01)
12. Keith Combs: 19-08 (7-01)

Notably absent from the Top 12 were any of the home-state anglers in the field. Bobby Lane, tied for 15th with 18-04, had the best day of that contingent, and he was followed closely by Terry Scroggins, who's knotted with Kevin VanDam in 17th with 17-03.

Shaw Grigsby, last week's winner at the Harris Chain and an angler many expected to make a run at a second straight triumph, brought just 8-06 to the scale and is in 69th place.

As anticipated, the vast majority of the field (including most of the leaders) congregated in Lake Geoge, about 40 miles upriver from the launch in Palatka. There are three distinct eelgrass flats there, and each was harboring in the neighborhood of 20 boats or more.



B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Brent Chapman's 2nd-place sack contained two massive fish an 8-09 and a 9-04.

The majority of the bedding giants were picked off today, although more could show up overnight (as they did at Harris). They seem to be leaving a lot faster than they're coming at this point, though, as angler after angler reported that many of the fish they'd had marked were nowhere to be found.

The field will be cut to the Top 50 after tomorrow's weigh-in and only the Top 12 will move on to Sunday. The winner will be determined by highest cumulative weight.

Jones Had What they Wanted

> Day 1: 5, 26-09

Jones said he knew the potential was there for him to have a big day because he'd found quality spawners in three different areas (at least one of which was in George). He felt that what he showed them was also important.

"I've got a bait that those big fish want," he said. "The big ones are going to be a lot more scarce from now on, and it gives me a lot of confidence when I can just pick up one bait and go at them.

"If it got to where I could feel the bite, they had it choked. A couple of times I had to take the pliers to unhook them."

He said he looked at most of the weigh-in fish he caught, but not all. He knew where the others were from practice, but couldn't see them at the time.

"The water came up a little bit and got a little muddier (from the 20-mph wind that blew today). Visibility wasn't what it was in practice.

"I had a lot of real specific waypoints because I wanted to be able to go directly to the bed instead of searching, but on a lot of those points the fish were gone. Moving forward, I'm going to have to do more searching. My experience has been that the closer you get to the full moon, the less fish that move up. Saturday could be like a brick wall and there could be a mass exodus."

He doesn't plan to change much for day 2.

"I've got a lot more fish, but just not a lot more big fish. My hope is that a lot of the males got snatched off the bed today and hauled to the weigh-in, and some that are left will have females with them.

"I did see a 7-pounder late in the day that I hadn't seen before, but she wasn't ready. I got a couple glimpses of her and I know where she wants to be, so maybe she'll settle down."

2nd: Surprises for Chapman

> Day 1: 5, 25-04

The two hawgs that Chapman brought to the scale were not fish he'd found in practice. They turned what would've been a run-of-the-mill day into a great one.

"I literally thought that 12 to 15 pounds would be the best I'd do unless I got a really big bite," he said. "Those two I caught, I hadn't seen fish that big all week."

He didn't get a good look at either prior to putting a hook into them.

"I saw something move so I knew (a fish) was there, but I was just kind of blind-casting to them. The water was a little dirtier and that made it harder to look for them.

"Tomorrow I'm hoping for the same thing that happened at Harris you think (the sight-fish) are done, but then the second day it gets better.

The 9-04 was his first fish of the day, but he didn't complete his limit until 1:00.

"That gave me 17 pounds, and I was ecstatic to have that. It was more than I'd hoped for. Then with an hour to go I caught the 8 1/2.

"I was kind of kicking myself because I had one pull off when I was fishing blind that felt heavy, and I ended up weighing one that was a pound and a half. That one other cull would've made a big difference."

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Todd Faircloth caught some nice fish today, but he's not sure what kind of quality will be out there tomorrow.

3rd: Faircloth Met own Expectations

> Day 1: 5, 23-10

Todd Faircloth thought he could exceed the 20-pound mark if a few things fell in his favor, and that's just what happened.

"I felt like it was very possible," he said. "But you never know with a deal like that, when you've got that many boats in there and you're fishing around a lot of people."

He looked at two of his weigh-in fish and caught the other three on blind casts. He culled a handful of times and his best fish weighed 7 1/2 pounds.

"I looked a lot after I'd caught what I had and I saw some fish, but I didn't find any real big ones. To duplicate today I'm going to need some more to move up or I'll have to run across some that I hadn't seen before."

4th: Williamson Had Huge Bites

> Day 1: 5, 22-05

Williamson would've weighed close to 30 pounds if one of his two gargantuan bites hadn't eluded him.

"It's a typical sight-fishing deal and I was just glad to have a big bag," he said. "It might be a grind the rest of the way, so I'm going to have to cross my fingers. We're getting toward the end of the spawn and I think the majority of them are done. I'm seeing a lot of bucks, but there aren't a ton of huge ones swimming in.

"I might have to try to catch five of the biggest bucks I can find and hope to get lucky and run across a female. The three best areas have pretty much been seined, so if I caught 15 pounds (tomorrow) I'd be happy. But it's Florida and a lot of 10-pounders live here."

5th: Mixed Styles for Horton

> Day 1: 5, 22-04

Horton spent the first couple hours for the day pitching baits to beds he had marked. He couldn't see many fish until later in the morning.

"I knew I had enough fish found to have a chance at a good day," he said. "It all depends on how it works out and who else found what. It ended up working out good.

"The water wasn't real clear and it was hard to see them until the sun got up, so I was pitching for a while. I looked at two (of his weigh-in fish), but I had to blind-cast to the others."

B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina
Photo: B.A.S.S./Gary Tramontina

Jason Williamson caught a 10-pounder today and said he lost one that was even bigger.

He expects the weights to drop off tomorrow and thinks he might be forced to alter his gameplan a little.

"I've got a couple of things in different areas and I may go give Rodman (Reservoir) a try. I've got some fish located in other places, but some of those might've gotten caught."

6th: Crews' Confidence Rewarded

Crews parlayed a productive practice into a strong day 1.

"I definitely saw some good ones swimming around," he said. "The problem is that 80% of the field found the key areas. I caught two good ones in the crowd and the other three I was just covering water, running stuff I'd found in practice."

He culled a half-dozen times on the day and ended up with two fish that were pushing 6 pounds each.

"I did some more looking around today and it seems like most of the better areas got pilfered. It'll definitely be tough to duplicate the good stringers, but it's also definitely possible. If you hit the right little stretch and catch a couple of good ones, that makes up for a lot.

"I will say that if you don't have a Power-Pole in this tournament, you're at a major disadvantage. They make it easy to lock down into one position where you can fish without having to worry about the position of your boat."

91st: Snowden's Plans Went Awry

> Day 1: 2, 3-02

Brian Snowden was around a lot of anglers who caught good bags, but he couldn't pull anything together.

"I was trying to sight-fish and I got to start where I wanted to, but the two 5-pounders I had that were within 50 feet of each other were gone," he said. "It just didn't work out for me today."

He said he has no good option other than to go looking again tomorrow.

"I'm just going to see what might've moved up. With the weights the way they are, if I can catch a big bag I should have the opportunity to salvage something out of the tournament.

"I don't know any other way to catch them. I tried some other stuff (in practice), but I couldn't figure out anything."

Notable

> Day 1 stats 99 anglers, 82 limits, 4 fours, 4 threes, 5 twos, 3 ones, 1 zero.

> A B.A.S.S. communications official confirmed that due to a shortage of marshals registered for the event, five anglers fished today without an observer. That's a particularly undesirable situation in a sight-dominated tournament due to the organization's rule that fish caught in that manner must be hooked inside the mouth.

Weather Forecast

> Fri., March 18 - Sunny - 84/52
- Wind: From the E at 6 mph

> Sat., March 19 - Sunny - 86/56
- Wind: From the W/NW at 5 mph

> Sun., March 20 - Sunny - 84/61
- Wind: From the NE at 9 mph

Day 1 Standings

1. Alton Jones -- Waco, Texas -- 5, 26-09
Day 1: 5, 26-09

2. Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, Kan. -- 5, 25-04
Day 1: 5, 25-04

3. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, Texas -- 5, 23-10
Day 1: 5, 23-10

4. Jason Williamson -- Aiken, S.C. -- 5, 22-05
Day 1: 5, 22-05

5. Timmy Horton -- Muscle Shoals, Ala. -- 5, 22-04
Day 1: 5, 22-04

6. John Crews -- Salem, Va. -- 5, 21-03
Day 1: 5, 21-03

7. Billy McCaghren -- Mayflower, Ark. -- 5, 20-11
Day 1: 5, 20-11

8. Clark Reehm -- Lufkin, Texas -- 5, 20-10
Day 1: 5, 20-10

9. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, S.C. -- 5, 20-09
Day 1: 5, 20-09

9. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, Calif. -- 5, 20-09
Day 1: 5, 20-09

11. J Todd Tucker -- Moultrie, Ga. -- 5, 20-08
Day 1: 5, 20-08

12. Keith Combs -- Huntington, Texas -- 5, 19-08
Day 1: 5, 19-08

13. Ryan Said -- Wixom, Mich. -- 5, 18-07
Day 1: 5, 18-07

13. Dustin Wilks -- Rocky Mount, N.C. -- 5, 18-07
Day 1: 5, 18-07

15. Paul Elias -- Laurel, Miss. -- 5, 18-04
Day 1: 5, 18-04

15. Bobby Lane -- Lakeland, Fla. -- 5, 18-04
Day 1: 5, 18-04

17. Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, Fla. -- 5, 17-03
Day 1: 5, 17-03

17. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, Mich. -- 5, 17-03
Day 1: 5, 17-03

19. Gary Klein -- Weatherford, Texas -- 5, 16-14
Day 1: 5, 16-14

20. Edwin Evers -- Talala, Okla. -- 5, 16-08
Day 1: 5, 16-08

21. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, Ariz -- 5, 16-07
Day 1: 5, 16-07

22. Gerald Swindle -- Warrior, Ala. -- 5, 15-15
Day 1: 5, 15-15

23. Kelly Jordon -- Palestine, Texas -- 5, 15-10
Day 1: 5, 15-10

23. Fred Roumbanis -- Bixby, Okla. -- 5, 15-10
Day 1: 5, 15-10

25. Craig Schuff -- Watauga, Texas -- 5, 15-08
Day 1: 5, 15-08

26. Peter Thliveros -- St Augustine, Fla. -- 5, 14-15
Day 1: 5, 14-15

27. Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, Ala. -- 5, 14-04
Day 1: 5, 14-04

28. Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, La. -- 5, 13-11
Day 1: 5, 13-11

29. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, Ala. -- 5, 13-08
Day 1: 5, 13-08

30. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, La. -- 5, 13-07
Day 1: 5, 13-07

30. Matt Herren -- Trussville, Ala. -- 5, 13-07
Day 1: 5, 13-07

32. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, Ind. -- 5, 13-05
Day 1: 5, 13-05

33. Pat Golden -- High Point, N.C. -- 5, 12-14
Day 1: 5, 12-14

33. Jeff Kriet -- Ardmore, Okla. -- 5, 12-14
Day 1: 5, 12-14

35. Russell Parrish -- Riesel, Texas -- 5, 12-07
Day 1: 5, 12-07

35. Kevin Wirth -- Crestwood, Ky. -- 5, 12-07
Day 1: 5, 12-07

37. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, Ky. -- 5, 12-03
Day 1: 5, 12-03

38. James Niggemeyer -- Van, Texas -- 5, 12-00
Day 1: 5, 12-00

38. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, Texas -- 5, 12-00
Day 1: 5, 12-00

40. David Walker -- Sevierville, Tenn. -- 5, 11-14
Day 1: 5, 11-14

41. Rick Clunn -- Ava, Mo. -- 5, 11-07
Day 1: 5, 11-07

42. Ott Defoe -- Knoxville, Tenn. -- 5, 11-02
Day 1: 5, 11-02

42. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, Ala. -- 5, 11-02
Day 1: 5, 11-02

42. Scott Rook -- Little Rock, Ark. -- 5, 11-02
Day 1: 5, 11-02

45. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, Ark. -- 5, 10-14
Day 1: 5, 10-14

45. Brandon Palaniuk -- Rathdrum, Idaho -- 5, 10-14
Day 1: 5, 10-14

47. Michael Iaconelli -- Pitts Grove, N.J. -- 5, 10-10
Day 1: 5, 10-10

48. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, Ark. -- 5, 10-01
Day 1: 5, 10-01

48. Mike McClelland -- Bella Vista, Ark. -- 5, 10-01
Day 1: 5, 10-01

48. Zell Rowland -- Austin, Texas -- 5, 10-01
Day 1: 5, 10-01

51. Boyd Duckett -- Demopolis, Ala. -- 5, 9-15
Day 1: 5, 9-15

51. Charlie Hartley -- Grove City, Ohio -- 5, 9-15
Day 1: 5, 9-15

53. Scott Ashmore -- Broken Arrow, Okla. -- 5, 9-14
Day 1: 5, 9-14

54. Dave Wolak -- Wake Forest, N.C. -- 3, 9-12
Day 1: 3, 9-12

55. Grant Goldbeck -- Gaithersburg, Md. -- 5, 9-11
Day 1: 5, 9-11

56. John Murray -- Phoenix, Ariz. -- 5, 9-08
Day 1: 5, 9-08

57. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, Ala. -- 5, 9-06
Day 1: 5, 9-06

58. Travis Manson -- De Pere, Wisc. -- 5, 9-03
Day 1: 5, 9-03

59. Jeff Connella -- Bentley, La. -- 5, 8-15
Day 1: 5, 8-15

59. Morizo Shimizu -- Matsugaoka, Japan -- 5, 8-15
Day 1: 5, 8-15

61. Cliff Pace -- Petal, Miss. -- 4, 8-15
Day 1: 4, 8-15

62. Jonathon VanDam -- Kalamazoo, Mich. -- 5, 8-14
Day 1: 5, 8-14

63. Britt Myers -- Lake Wylie, S.C. -- 5, 8-13
Day 1: 5, 8-13

63. Pete Ponds -- Madison, Miss. -- 5, 8-13
Day 1: 5, 8-13

63. David Smith -- Del City, Okla. -- 5, 8-13
Day 1: 5, 8-13

66. Marty Robinson -- Lyman, S.C. -- 5, 8-11
Day 1: 5, 8-11

67. Bradley Hallman -- Norman, Okla. -- 5, 8-09
Day 1: 5, 8-09

68. Derek Remitz -- Grant, Ala. -- 5, 8-08
Day 1: 5, 8-08

69. Shaw Grigsby -- Gainesville, Fla. -- 5, 8-06
Day 1: 5, 8-06

70. Matt Greenblatt -- Port St Lucie, Fla. -- 5, 8-00
Day 1: 5, 8-00

71. Davy Hite -- Ninety Six, S.C. -- 5, 7-13
Day 1: 5, 7-13

71. Lee Sisson -- Winter Haven, Fla. -- 5, 7-13
Day 1: 5, 7-13

73. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, Okla. -- 5, 7-08
Day 1: 5, 7-08

74. Yusuke Miyazaki -- Forney, Texas -- 5, 7-04
Day 1: 5, 7-04

75. Randy Howell -- Springville, Ala. -- 5, 7-03
Day 1: 5, 7-03

75. Jason Quinn -- Lake Wylie, S.C. -- 5, 7-03
Day 1: 5, 7-03

77. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, S.C. -- 5, 7-02
Day 1: 5, 7-02

77. Dennis Tietje -- Roanoke, La. -- 5, 7-02
Day 1: 5, 7-02

79. Russ Lane -- Prattville, Ala. -- 5, 6-15
Day 1: 5, 6-15

80. Terry Butcher -- Talala, Okla. -- 5, 6-13
Day 1: 5, 6-13

80. Ish Monroe -- Hughson, Calif. -- 5, 6-13
Day 1: 5, 6-13

82. Jami Fralick -- Martin, S.D. -- 5, 6-08
Day 1: 5, 6-08

83. Kevin Short -- Mayflower, Ark. -- 4, 6-05
Day 1: 4, 6-05

84. Matt Reed -- Madisonville, Texas -- 4, 6-00
Day 1: 4, 6-00

85. Dean Alexander -- Georgetown, Texas -- 4, 5-14
Day 1: 4, 5-14

86. Brent Broderick -- Oregonia, Ohio -- 3, 5-12
Day 1: 3, 5-12

87. Keith Poche -- Troy, Ala. -- 1, 5-12
Day 1: 1, 5-12

88. Kenyon Hill -- Norman, Okla. -- 5, 5-09
Day 1: 5, 5-09

89. Rick Morris -- Virginia Beach, Va. -- 3, 5-05
Day 1: 3, 5-05

90. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, Calif. -- 3, 5-03
Day 1: 3, 5-03

91. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, Mo. -- 2, 3-02
Day 1: 2, 3-02

92. Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, Ala. -- 2, 2-12
Day 1: 2, 2-12

93. Ben Parker -- Union City, Tenn. -- 2, 2-07
Day 1: 2, 2-07

94. Bradley Roy -- Lancaster, Ky. -- 1, 2-06
Day 1: 1, 2-06

95. James Stricklin -- Texarkania, Texas -- 2, 2-04
Day 1: 2, 2-04

96. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, Fla. -- 2, 2-03
Day 1: 2, 2-03

97. Denny Brauer -- Camdenton, Mo. -- 1, 2-01
Day 1: 1, 2-01

98. Chad Griffin -- Cresson, Texas -- 5, 1-13
Day 1: 5, 1-13

99. Nate Wellman -- Newaygo, Mich. -- 0, 0-00
Day 1: 0, 0-00