Fishing Large

Steve Kennedy holds up two largemouth that helped him take the lead in the Bassmaster Memorial, the second major of the season. James Overstreet

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — As fishermen, they've got lies running through their veins. If it's a tournament, anglers lowball to throw other anglers off their scent, and if it's fishing for fun, every bass gains a couple of pounds.

That's why at the start of a tournament an angler's prediction carries about as much weight as a politician's promise. But in the case of the Bassmaster Memorial presented by Evan Williams Bourbon, they might as well have had a crystal ball.

"I think the leader is going to have 17 or 18 pounds and it will take about 14 and half pounds a day to make the top-12 cut," Bill Lowen said before the takeoff Thursday morning. His prediction was echoed by both Kevin VanDam and Fred Roumbanis before they pulled away from the dock.

As it turns out, Steve Kennedy is the guy with 17 or 18 pounds — 17 pounds, 12 ounces to be exact — and John Murray sits in 12th place with 14-7.

Kennedy said he was going to target largemouth bass and he didn't disappoint. After a slow morning of trying to boat a limit of smallmouth, the 2006 Rookie of the Year decided he was wasting his time.

"I went out looking for smallmouth in a place that worked for me last year, but this morning it took me an hour to get two bites," Kennedy said. "I decided to start looking for largemouth and I caught a four-pounder right off the bat."

Two largemouth later, Kennedy had a full livewell, including the biggest bass of the day at 5-1.

He had one of the few bags featuring exclusively largemouth bass. Limit after limit crossed the stage on Day One, most of them mixed and most of them (22) between 12 and 14 pounds. Kennedy had the kicker fish that almost no one else could find.

Jared Lintner, who is eighth place with 15-0, had a bag full of largemouth, but none of them were over four pounds.

"I just figured it was a matter of time until I caught a kicker," Lintner said. "I caught about 20 largemouth, and I was around some big ones, but the wrong ones were biting."

One angler who wasn't complaining as he came off the stage was Kelly Jordon. He said the day went exactly as he had it in his head. He started by bagging three smallmouth to get comfortable and then added two nice-sized largemouth, including a 4-12.

"Those were the first five keepers I caught," said Jordon, who sits in second with 15-15. "I tried to expand on my largemouth, but I never culled."

Dean Rojas, who sits in fifth with 15-8, said he didn't spend a second of his day fishing for the smallies. In fact, he had two largemouth in his livewell before the final angler took off Thursday morning.

"I got a good start today," said Rojas, who caught his limit within 300 yards of the takeoff dock. "Largemouth will get you in the top 12, so that's what I'm shooting for."

In contrast, Michael Iaconelli spent all but two hours of his day catching smallmouth, and he wishes he could have those two hours back.

"To me that was a two-hour mistake," said Iaconelli, who is in 18th with 14 pounds even. "Tomorrow I will fish nothing but smallmouth and I think I can do a little better than today."

According to our resident fortune tellers, he'll need a little bit better — about a pound better to be exact — if he wants to make the 12 cut. And that would be as good as first considering the weights will be zeroed after Friday and the tournament will move to Lake Onondaga on Saturday.

As for Kennedy, to know what he needs to slide into the cut after a huge Day One, we go back to the crystal ball.

"If you can catch 16 or 17 pounds the first day, you're only going to have to catch 13 or 14 the second day to qualify," VanDam said at Angler's Alley on Wednesday. "And it's all about making it inside that top-12."

Editor's note: Check in each day for live video of the weigh-in and the realtime leaderboard at 6 p.m. ET. There will be a special Hooked Up show at 10 a.m. ET Saturday, with tournament updates Sunday at 8 a.m., 10 a.m. and noon ET. The Hooked Up show begins at 5 p.m. Sunday and leads into the live final weigh-in.

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