- Lynn Burkhead
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GILBERTSVILLE, Ky. — As the hot sun shown down on the state's most famous bass water, BASS tournament director Trip Weldon opened the Day One weigh-in ceremony at Kentucky Lake with a prediction.
"It's going to be as good as Wheeler Lake was," Weldon prognosticated.
As it turns out, Weldon's opening bell prediction for this week's Bluegrass Brawl presented by DieHard Platinum Marine Batteries was a bit off as good as the 'Bama event was last week, Kentucky Lake was that much better on Thursday.
So much so that six co-anglers posted better weights during the first round of Kentucky Lake action than the best co-angler bag of last week's entire Wheeler Lake event.
Leading the pack Thursday on Kentucky Lake was Cold Springs, Ky., angler Matt Hoffman,who weighed in five bass tipping the scales at 18 pounds, 2 ounces.
Hoffman, who fished with Elite Series pro Mike McClelland, was coy about what lures he fished with, but not about the results.
"We had a couple of different key areas today that were in a little deeper water," Hoffman said. "Mike got us around the big fish and it seemed like they were just loaded up to where we were catching 4- and 5-pounders, not 2- and 3-pounders.
"They would just thump our lures."
The amazing thing about Hoffman's big lead some 2-6 ahead of No. 2 angler Dave Dickherber of Lake St. Louis, Mo. is that he didn't fish all that much throughout the day.
"We had a conversation this morning because I knew where he (McClelland) was in the (Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year) standings," Hoffman said. "I told him that I wanted him to get a limit before I really did much of anything."
About 45 minutes into their morning, Hoffman said that the calm, cool, and collected McClelland had his limit, enabling the co-angler to go to work for a while that is.
"Later on, I spent about 1 ½ to 2 ½ hours just watching him work," Hoffman said. "He practically had to beg me to go fish again. After he convinced me to pick up my rod again, I caught my two biggest fish of the day."
Part of the leading co-angler's success on Day One was just simply watching and learning from what McClelland did.
"I caught a lot of fish in practice, but not many of any quality," Hoffman said. "Today, I noticed from the back of the boat that Mike was fishing a lot slower than I was, something like two of my casts to every one of his.
"When I slowed down, I did better and got better bites."
Dickherber was equally pleased with his Day One results of five bass weighing in at 16-8.
"We caught a lot of fish today I probably caught 12 keepers alone," the Missouri angler said, noting the 15-inch minimum length limit on the 160,300-acre Kentucky Lake.
Like a number of other anglers, Dickherber and his Elite Series pro Bernie Schultz were fishing on ledges.
To find his limit of 3- and 4-pound fish, Dickherber dragged a green/purple football jig on ledges with a Paca Chunk trailer attached.
Noting that he decided to fish this event because he hoped to learn more about fishing for bass relating to ledges, the angler feels like he has more than gotten his money's worth after fishing with Elite Series pro Jami Fralick in practice and with Schultz today.
In fact, the crash course in ledges figures big in Dickherber's hopes to win this co-angler event on Saturday afternoon.
"The key for me is to get a good draw (tomorrow) and hopefully fish with somebody fishing these ledges," he said.
Finishing Day One in third place was Jason Seaton of Martinsville, Ind., with five bass weighing 16-2.
In fourth place on Thursday evening was Robbie Gaddis of Owensboro, Ky., with five bass weighing 16-1.
While Seaton fished ledges Thursday with a crankbait, he knows that versatility and consistency will be a key the rest of the way toward Saturday's $25,000 pay-day to the Bluegrass Brawl co-angler champ.
"In my pre-fishing, I set myself up with several different techniques so that I know I can go out and catch fish (in several different ways)," he said. "Regardless of who I'm fishing with, I think I'll be able to find a bite and the proper way to present a bait to those fish."
Fishing with Paducah, Ky., Elite Series pro Mark Menendez, co-angler Gaddis worked a 10-inch Bluegrass worm along deep drops, particularly ledges with some "rough stuff."
"I got five bites today and never lost a fish," Gaddis said. "But the best thing is that I was fishing with a great guy who is a class act."
Gaddis will find little argument from few, if any, of the anglers who know Menendez.
Friday's action begins at 9 a.m. ET with the launch from Kentucky Dam Marina.
Tomorrow's second-round weigh-in, which will cut the field to the Top 50 pro anglers and co-anglers, will begin at 6 p.m. at the Kentucky Dam Village State Park Resort.
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Bluegrass Brawl with weigh-in host Keith Alan, June 12-15, 2008. Thursday, Friday and Saturday, daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 6 p.m. ET. On Saturday, catch "Bassmaster University" at 5:30 p.m. ET before the weigh-in. Then on Sunday, get "Hooked Up" with hosts Tommy Sanders and Mark Zona at 1 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. ET, with the final day weigh-in and real-time leaderboard content starting at 6 p.m. ET.
11hPat McManamon and Jeremy Fowler