By BassFan Staff

So much for the notion that an average 10 pounds per day might result in a Top-50 finish at the Wheeler Lake Bassmaster Elite Series. It'll take considerably more than that.

A lot of the bass in the Tennessee River impoundment that had reportedly been so difficult to catch during the 3-day practice period decided to chomp today. Twenty-five competitors caught at least 15 pounds on day 1 and 50th place, which will be the final money position when the initial field reduction takes place after day 2, is currently occupied by a 12-12 stringer.

John Crews led the way with a 20-07 haul. His was the only sack to exceed the 20-pound threshold, but the other 11 members of the Top 12 were all within 4 pounds of his mark.

Casey Ashley, who caught a 6-14 bruiser that took big-bass honors for the day, was next with 19-12. Dave Lefebre was another pound back in 3rd.

Brandon Lester boxed 18-01 to settle into 4th. Kevin VanDam, looking to rebound from a 94th-place stinker last week at Bull Shoals/Norfork that was his second-worst finish in the 11-year history of the circuit, rounded out the Top 5 with 18-07.

Here's a look at the initial Top 12, with red numbers in parentheses indicating deficit margins from the leader:

1. John Crews: 20-07
2. Casey Ashley: 19-12 (0-11)
3. Dave Lefebre: 18-12 (1-11)
4. Brandon Lester: 18-11 (1-12)
5. Kevin VanDam: 18-07 (2-00)
6. Josh Bertrand: 18-01 (2-06)
7. James Elam: 17-14 (2-09)
8. Boyd Duckett: 17-04 (3-03)
9. Davy Hite: 17-01 (3-06)
10. Edwin Evers: 16-15 (3-08)
11. Gerald Swindle: 16-08 (3-15)
12. David Williams: 16-07 (4-00)

Wheeler is still a puzzle for a lot of competitors, as 33 of the 108 in the field failed to surpass 10 pounds. Nonetheless, the overall weights were considerably higher than anticipated and those who assumed that a 12-pound haul would be a strong foundation for a paycheck will have to scratch and claw for a bit more than that on Friday.

Randall Tharp and Skeet Reese, the Nos. 1 and 2 finishers last week, are among that group. Tharp, the Angler of the Year points leader, weighed 11-02 and is in 63rd place, and Reese was three slots behind him with 11-00.



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

Crews said he'd have to get extremely lucky to catch another 20-pound sack on day 2.

Conditions were calm and slick for most of the day, but that should change somewhat on day 2. The Weather Channel forecast for the Decatur, Ala. area calls for isolated thunderstorms with a high temperature of 87 degrees and a southeasterly breeze topping out at 8 mph.

Crews Mixed it Up

> Day 1: 5, 20-07

Crews said his day was the epitome of junk-fishing.

"I ran around and did a bunch of stuff in a bunch of areas really junking it up," he said. "A couple of the fish I weighed, I didn't even have the bait tied on (ahead of time). I had to tie it on when I was out there.

"I just don't know how well some of those areas are going to replenish. Obviously, to catch 20 pounds again, I'd have to get extremely lucky. If I could just get a good, solid limit I'd be happy, and that should keep me up there pretty high."

He brought all largemouths to the scale, the biggest of which weighed 5-05. He boated 10 keepers on the day and didn't lose any that would've helped him. He had no company in the places that produced the majority of his weight.

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

Casey Ashley's bag was a mix of largemouths and smallmouths.

"I had one day (in practice) where I caught some decent fish and I thought that catching over 15 pounds was at least possible. You never know, though, because it's just such a crapshoot. I didn't have a ton of confidence, but everything worked out about as well as possible."

He's catching fish that are in multiple stages of the reproduction process.

"I'm pretty sure some were pre-spawn, but one or two were definitely post."

2nd: Ashley Caught on Late

> Day 1: 5, 18-12

Ashley said his practice was dismal until late on the final day.

"I figured out how to get bit yesterday afternoon at least well enough to catch some keepers," he said. "I wasn't whacking on them or anything and I really didn't think they were that size, but you never really know."

He sorted through 20 keepers and caught his big one at mid-day. He took two largemouths and three smallmouths to the scale.

"I lost one early that felt like a good one, but I'm pretty sure I caught it later. It was a 4-pound smallmouth.

"I just hop-scotched around there's a lot of other guys fishing the same stuff. Where I was it's fishing pretty small, like a bathtub. I saw John Crews a lot."

He figures he has a 50/50 chance of catching another strong bag on day 2.

"A lot of those fish got hammered today, so it's one of those deals where I just can't say."

3rd: Little Company for Lefebre

> Day 1: 5, 18-12

Lefebre said he's running three different patterns within one large area and he had very little company on day 1.

"One other guys started in there, but I didn't see him catch any and he left," he said. "I don't even know who it was. Other than that, I didn't see anybody. That was a shocker, and for awhile I was a little worried about that."

He boated about 18 keepers for the day and weighed three that were in excess of 4 pounds. The other two were 2 1/2-pounders that he couldn't get rid of.

"I should've had well over 20 pounds today. I had two more 4 1/2s stuck and they both got off."

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

Dave Lefebre found his primary area on the first morning of practice.

He said he found his area on the first morning of practice he caught two 5-pounders and had three other bites that he didn't set the hook on. He figured he'd locate another locale that was as good or better, but that didn't transpire.

"I'm going to try to do the same thing tomorrow, but I'm not going to die there. I've got one other place that's similar, but it's not as big. I'll definitely go back and start where I was, though, because there was nobody coming in there."

4th: Lester Got Right Bites

> Day 1: 5, 18-11

Lester got only seven keeper bites, but the three largemouths, one smallmouth and one spotted bass he weighed combined to make up a fine stringer.

"I had a pretty good practice and I thought I had at least one good bag in me," he said. "I hate to sound that way, but on the first day I checked some stuff and I caught three pretty good ones and I only made a few casts.

"I caught the five that I weighed today off of five different places. The places where I caught the big ones, I know there's more there because I've seen some bust (the water's surface). It's just hard to get them to bite."

His bag was topped by a 5 1/2-pounder and he didn't lose anything of consequence.

"On my first spot there were one or two other competitors, but it wasn't like there was a crowd or anything. I think I can catch another pretty good bag tomorrow because the places I'm fishing, I feel like they're coming to me instead of leaving.

"I hope some new ones move in and that they'll be hungry."

5th: VanDam Feels Fortunate

> Day 1: 5, 18-07

VanDam said he had no inkling that he'd return to the ramp with an 18 1/2-pound haul.

"I feel mighty fortunate like I got pretty lucky," he said. "I really struggled for most of the day and I didn't catch very many fish."

He handled eight keepers, two of which were 5-pounders. He didn't lose any that would've aided his cause.

"I covered tons of water today and this is as fortunate as I can remember feeling in a long time. I was pretty stunned by the weights that were caught today I sure didn't see that coming.

"What I did today was pretty random. I wish I was real confident that I'm going to go out and bust them again tomorrow, but I'm not. I thought 10 pounds was going to be a real good bag today."

85th: Jones Stymied

> Day 1: 5, 8-14

Alton Jones said he had a better practice than most and figured he could catch at least 13 pounds, but he came up more than 4 pounds shy of that mark.

"Something obviously changed," he said. "That tells me that I can probably go back to some water that I checked in practice the first couple of days the places that I love to fish here that weren't any good and they'll probably be good.

"Tomorrow's a rally day, and there will be people who caught good sacks today who'll only catch 8-14 tomorrow, and vice versa. I just need to make sure I'm on the heavy end of that deal. My goal is 16 pounds and if I can catch that, I feel like I'll be in pretty good shape."

He said he caught at least 20 keepers, but the quality was lacking.

"Getting bites hasn't been a problem for me, even in practice. I just never saw a decent bite today."

Notable

> Day 1 stats 108 anglers, 100 limits, 6 fours, 1 three, 1 two.

> Boyd Duckett (8th, 17-04) caught three 5-pounders, but also weighed in a pair of 12-inchers. "I'll go with the same game plan tomorrow, but I'll try to get five of those good bites instead of three," he said.

Weather Forecast

> Fri., April 29 Isolated Thunderstorms - 87/65
- Wind: From the SE at 8 mph

> Sat., April 30 Scattered Thunderstorms - 83/65
- Wind: From the SSE at 11 mph

> Sun., May 1 Thunderstorms - 79/61
- Wind: From the SW at 11 mph

Day 1 Standings

1. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 5, 20-07 -- 110
Day 1: 5, 20-07

2. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 5, 19-12 -- 109
Day 1: 5, 19-12

3. Dave Lefebre -- Erie, PA -- 5, 18-12 -- 108
Day 1: 5, 18-12

4. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 5, 18-11 -- 107
Day 1: 5, 18-11

5. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 5, 18-07 -- 106
Day 1: 5, 18-07

6. Josh Bertrand -- Gilbert, AZ -- 5, 18-01 -- 105
Day 1: 5, 18-01

7. James Elam -- Tulsa, OK -- 5, 17-14 -- 104
Day 1: 5, 17-14

8. Boyd Duckett -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 17-04 -- 103
Day 1: 5, 17-04

9. Davy Hite -- Ninety Six, SC -- 5, 17-01 -- 102
Day 1: 5, 17-01

10. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 5, 16-15 -- 101
Day 1: 5, 16-15

11. Gerald Swindle -- Warrior, AL -- 5, 16-08 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 16-08

12. David Williams -- Newton, NC -- 5, 16-07 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 16-07

13. Randy Howell -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 16-07 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 16-07

14. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 5, 16-02 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 16-02

15. Gary Klein -- Weatherford, TX -- 5, 16-01 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 16-01

15. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 5, 16-01 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 16-01

17. Luke Clausen -- Otis Orchards, WA -- 5, 15-15 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 15-15

18. Chris Zaldain -- Laughlin, NV -- 5, 15-11 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 15-11

19. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 5, 15-08 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 15-08

20. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 5, 15-07 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 15-07

21. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 5, 15-06 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 15-06

21. Matt Reed -- Madisonville, TX -- 5, 15-06 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 15-06

23. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, OK -- 5, 15-05 -- 88
Day 1: 5, 15-05

23. Bobby Lane Jr. -- Lakeland, FL -- 5, 15-05 -- 88
Day 1: 5, 15-05

25. Michael Iaconelli -- Pitts Grove, NJ -- 5, 15-05 -- 86
Day 1: 5, 15-05

26. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 5, 14-14 -- 85
Day 1: 5, 14-14

27. Randy Allen -- Shreveport, LA -- 5, 14-08 -- 84
Day 1: 5, 14-08

28. Brent Ehrler -- Newport Beach, CA -- 5, 14-08 -- 83
Day 1: 5, 14-08

29. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 5, 14-07 -- 82
Day 1: 5, 14-07

30. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 5, 14-06 -- 81
Day 1: 5, 14-06

30. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 5, 14-06 -- 81
Day 1: 5, 14-06

32. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 5, 14-04 -- 79
Day 1: 5, 14-04

33. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, CA -- 5, 14-04 -- 78
Day 1: 5, 14-04

34. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, AL -- 5, 14-02 -- 77
Day 1: 5, 14-02

35. Brandon Coulter -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 13-15 -- 76
Day 1: 5, 13-15

36. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 5, 13-15 -- 75
Day 1: 5, 13-15

37. Jeff Kriet -- Ardmore, OK -- 5, 13-14 -- 74
Day 1: 5, 13-14

38. Fletcher Shryock -- New Philadelphia, OH -- 5, 13-13 -- 73
Day 1: 5, 13-13

39. Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, FL -- 5, 13-10 -- 72
Day 1: 5, 13-10

40. Hank Cherry Jr -- Maiden, NC -- 5, 13-10 -- 71
Day 1: 5, 13-10

41. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 5, 13-08 -- 70
Day 1: 5, 13-08

41. Bradley Roy -- Lancaster, KY -- 5, 13-08 -- 70
Day 1: 5, 13-08

43. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 5, 13-05 -- 68
Day 1: 5, 13-05

44. Justin Lucas -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 13-04 -- 67
Day 1: 5, 13-04

45. Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, AL -- 5, 13-03 -- 66
Day 1: 5, 13-03

46. Brandon Palaniuk -- Rathdrum, ID -- 5, 13-01 -- 65
Day 1: 5, 13-01

47. Chad Grigsby -- Maple Grove, MN -- 5, 13-00 -- 64
Day 1: 5, 13-00

48. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 12-14 -- 63
Day 1: 5, 12-14

48. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, AZ -- 5, 12-14 -- 63
Day 1: 5, 12-14

50. James Niggemeyer -- Van, TX -- 5, 12-12 -- 61
Day 1: 5, 12-12

51. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 5, 12-08 -- 60
Day 1: 5, 12-08

52. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 5, 12-07 -- 59
Day 1: 5, 12-07

53. Dennis Tietje -- Roanoke, LA -- 5, 12-02 -- 58
Day 1: 5, 12-02

54. Russ Lane -- Prattville, AL -- 5, 12-00 -- 57
Day 1: 5, 12-00

55. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 5, 11-12 -- 56
Day 1: 5, 11-12

56. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 5, 11-11 -- 55
Day 1: 5, 11-11

57. Kelly Jordon -- Flint, TX -- 5, 11-10 -- 54
Day 1: 5, 11-10

57. Jordan Lee -- Grant, AL -- 5, 11-10 -- 54
Day 1: 5, 11-10

57. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 5, 11-10 -- 54
Day 1: 5, 11-10

60. Keith Poche -- Pike Road, AL -- 5, 11-07 -- 51
Day 1: 5, 11-07

61. Kotaro Kiriyama -- Moody, AL -- 5, 11-06 -- 50
Day 1: 5, 11-06

62. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 11-03 -- 49
Day 1: 5, 11-03

63. Randall Tharp -- Port St. Joe, FL -- 5, 11-02 -- 48
Day 1: 5, 11-02

64. Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, LA -- 5, 11-02 -- 47
Day 1: 5, 11-02

64. Carl Jocumsen -- Queensland, Australia -- 5, 11-02 -- 47
Day 1: 5, 11-02

66. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 5, 11-00 -- 45
Day 1: 5, 11-00

67. Jacob Powroznik -- Port Haywood, VA -- 5, 10-15 -- 44
Day 1: 5, 10-15

68. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, NJ -- 5, 10-13 -- 43
Day 1: 5, 10-13

69. John Hunter Jr -- Shelbyville, KY -- 5, 10-10 -- 42
Day 1: 5, 10-10

70. Matt Lee -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 10-09 -- 41
Day 1: 5, 10-09

71. Scott Rook -- Little Rock, AR -- 5, 10-08 -- 40
Day 1: 5, 10-08

72. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 5, 10-07 -- 39
Day 1: 5, 10-07

73. Brett Preuett -- Monroe, LA -- 5, 10-03 -- 38
Day 1: 5, 10-03

74. Casey Scanlon -- Rocky Mount, MO -- 5, 10-01 -- 37
Day 1: 5, 10-01

75. J Todd Tucker -- Moultrie, GA -- 5, 10-00 -- 36
Day 1: 5, 10-00

76. Fred Roumbanis -- Bixby, OK -- 5, 09-15 -- 35
Day 1: 5, 09-15

77. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 09-14 -- 34
Day 1: 5, 09-14

78. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 5, 09-10 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 09-10

78. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 5, 09-10 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 09-10

80. Marty Robinson -- Lyman, SC -- 5, 09-06 -- 31
Day 1: 5, 09-06

81. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 5, 09-04 -- 30
Day 1: 5, 09-04

82. Drew Benton -- Panama City, FL -- 5, 09-03 -- 29
Day 1: 5, 09-03

82. Brandon Card -- Caryville, TN -- 5, 09-03 -- 29
Day 1: 5, 09-03

84. Ken Iyobe -- Tokoname, Japan -- 5, 09-01 -- 27
Day 1: 5, 09-01

85. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 5, 08-14 -- 26
Day 1: 5, 08-14

85. Alton Jones -- Lorena, TX -- 5, 08-14 -- 26
Day 1: 5, 08-14

87. Koby Kreiger -- Bokeelia, FL -- 5, 08-09 -- 24
Day 1: 5, 08-09

88. Billy McCaghren Jr -- Mayflower, AR -- 5, 08-07 -- 23
Day 1: 5, 08-07

88. Fabian Rodriguez -- Ocean City, DE -- 5, 08-07 -- 23
Day 1: 5, 08-07

90. Seth Feider -- Bloomington, MN -- 5, 08-05 -- 21
Day 1: 5, 08-05

91. John Murray -- Spring City, TN -- 5, 08-04 -- 20
Day 1: 5, 08-04

92. Paul Elias -- Laurel, MS -- 4, 08-02 -- 19
Day 1: 4, 08-02

93. Mike McClelland -- Bella Vista, AR -- 5, 08-01 -- 18
Day 1: 5, 08-01

94. Jonathon VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 4, 07-15 -- 17
Day 1: 4, 07-15

95. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, AR -- 5, 07-11 -- 16
Day 1: 5, 07-11

95. Morizo Shimizu -- Suita, Japan -- 5, 07-11 -- 16
Day 1: 5, 07-11

97. Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, KS -- 5, 07-08 -- 14
Day 1: 5, 07-08

98. Britt Myers -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 4, 07-08 -- 13
Day 1: 4, 07-08

99. Yusuke Miyazaki -- Forney, TX -- 5, 07-07 -- 12
Day 1: 5, 07-07

99. Chad Morgenthaler -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 07-07 -- 12
Day 1: 5, 07-07

99. Cliff Pace -- Petal, MS -- 5, 07-07 -- 12
Day 1: 5, 07-07

102. Ish Monroe -- Hughson, CA -- 5, 07-00 -- 9
Day 1: 5, 07-00

103. Jay Brainard -- Enid, OK -- 4, 07-00 -- 8
Day 1: 4, 07-00

104. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 5, 06-12 -- 7
Day 1: 5, 06-12

105. Shane Lineberger -- Lincolnton, NC -- 4, 05-12 -- 6
Day 1: 4, 05-12

106. Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 3, 04-11 -- 5
Day 1: 3, 04-11

107. Shaw Grigsby Jr. -- Gainesville, FL -- 4, 03-12 -- 4
Day 1: 4, 03-12

108. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 2, 03-09 -- 3
Day 1: 2, 03-09