Record weight gives Clausen lead on first day of Bassmaster

Fishing

February 25, 2006|By SOUTH FLORIDA SUN-SENTINEL

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- Lake Toho and the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes lived up to the hype yesterday, producing record weights on the first day of the 36th Bassmaster Classic.

Luke Clausen of Spokane Valley, Wash., took the lead with a five-fish limit weighing 29 pounds, 6 ounces. That broke the single-day Classic record of five fish weighing 21-8 caught by Paul Elias in the 1993 Classic on Alabama's Lake Logan Martin, as well as the seven-fish record of 27-5 caught by Rick Clunn in the 1984 Classic on the Arkansas River.

Preston Clark of Palatka was second at 29-1. He shattered the Classic big-bass record of 8-9 caught by Ricky Green in the 1976 tournament on Alabama's Lake Guntersville with a bass weighing 11-10.

Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., was third at 23-10, followed by Kevin Wirth of Crestwood, Ky., at 22-5 and four-time Classic winner Rick Clunn of Ava, Mo., at 20-12. Clunn had the second-biggest bass at 10-10.

The tournament continues through tomorrow, with the champion winning $500,000.

Clausen, who is fishing in his third Classic, started his day fishing for bedding bass on Toho.

He missed two fish, then went through the lock at the south end of Toho and fished a spot he had located during practice last week.

"I fished really slowly for bedding fish in isolated cover in deeper water," said Clausen, who used two different Mann's Hardnose lures. "I caught a couple of good ones pretty early, then filled out my limit with some small ones."

Clark, who is fishing in his second Classic, caught all his bass sight-fishing on a day when cloudy skies and steady winds made it hard for many anglers to see bass on their spawning beds.

He found an area on the last day of practice last week that had some fish.

Clark showed up yesterday using a push pole to maneuver his boat rather than the electric trolling. He caught a small buck (male bass) on his second cast and caught a 9-pounder on his fourth cast.

"When I got that 9-pounder in the boat I said, `Things are going good,'" said Clark, who caught his biggest bass around 10 a.m. "I came up, poled along and saw what looked like a torpedo. I backed up, made two pitches and caught the buck. I made two more pitches and caught her."

Mike Iaconelli, who is often portrayed as the bad boy of professional bass fishing, had his first-day catch disqualified for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Iaconelli, the charismatic 2003 Classic champ from Runnemede, N.J., was in 35th place with five bass weighing 11-9. That included a 10-ounce penalty for two dead fish.

After viewing videotape shot in Iaconelli's boat by an ESPN cameraman of Iaconelli frantically trying to revive the fish, then cursing the livewell system of the boat and breaking the boat's stern light, tournament director Trip Weldon wiped out Iaconelli's catch.

Weldon said the angler "used profane language in front of spectators and removed the running light and destroyed the light," which was a violation of tournament rules on sportsmanship.

Iaconelli was not made available to the media by BASS officials after the disqualification.

Weldon said that when told of the disqualification call, Iaconelli said, "That's your decision."

Iaconelli will still be able to fish on today, but only the top 25 after today fish in tomorrow's final round.

He barely made the cut in the 2004 Classic on North Carolina's Lake Wylie after his catch on the second day was DQ'd because he fished in an off-limits area.

Defending Classic champion Kevin VanDam was in 25th place with five fish weighing 14-2.

VanDam, of Kalamazoo, Mich., fished an area he had checked during practice Wednesday and that had produced a 9-pounder for him. The fish were still there yesterday but not aggressive and not very big.

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