MANNING, S.C. Catching his limit by 8 a.m. Thursday, Lakeland, Fla.'s Bobby Lane set the pace on Day 1 of the Bassmaster Southern Open on Santee Cooper Reservoir with five largemouth bass weighing 21 pounds, 13 ounces.
Less than two pounds behind Lane were South Carolinians Wade Grooms of Bonneau, who placed second with 21 pounds, 2 ounces; and Brent Riley of Ridgeville in third with 20 pounds, 1 ounce.
Lane said his primary patterns were casting into cypress trees in water 2 to 5 feet deep and throwing a frog for the late-day bite.
"I'm avoiding the bank right now and fishing areas that nobody's really fishing," said Lane. "I have three main areas, but didn't hit them all today. Tomorrow I'll run to the trees first and then use the frog later in the afternoon. I'm going to go the same route I did today."
An engineer with the U.S. Navy, Grooms, 39, keyed in on a variety of patterns, including working a floating worm in lily pads, flipping to trees and Carolina-rigging.
A resident of the lower end of Santee Cooper Reservoir, Grooms predicted that Friday's fishing would be tougher.
"I fished both the upper and lower lake today, hitting some of my better spots as I worked my way back up," he said. "It's going to be tough tomorrow because the 'easiest' fish were caught today, and I don't think this will be a sight-fishing tournament."
Riley, 46, a sawmill superintendent, rounded out the top three with his bag of five largemouth bass.
"I haven't caught two fish on the same pattern," said Riley. "I started out sight-fishing but then moved to a little deeper water. I got a good start and think I can catch them the remaining two days."
In fourth was Cecil Wolfe of Goose Creek, S.C., with 18-10. In fifth was Bassmaster Elite Series pro Charlie Hartley of Grove City, Ohio, with 18-9.
The Bassmaster Southern Open anglers are competing for a top prize of a $50,000 Triton/Mercury rig and $6,000 in cash.
They're also vying for points: The top three Bassmaster Southern pros in the points standings at the end of the season will qualify for the 2008 Bassmaster Classic, while the top five will be eligible in 2008 to enter the upper echelon of competition, the Bassmaster Elite Series.
In the co-angler division, which has a top prize of $2,000 in cash and a Triton/Mercury rig worth $32,000, John Moon of Brookeland, Texas, took the lead with 8 pounds, 0 ounces. Trailing by just one ounce was Lee Davis of Fitzgerald, Ga., with 7-15.
Thursday's Purolator Big Bass pro bonus of $1,000 went to Scott Lakey of Augusta Mich., for a 7-6 lunker. Co-angler Alonzo Evans of East Hartford, Conn., brought in a 6-13 for co-angler Purolator Big Bass honors and a $300 check.