Warm, sunny conditions put the fish on the move today at the Norman FLW Tour in North Carolina, and the bite was on. Rather than a parade of 11- and 12-pound sacks within the Top 10, weights ranged from about 13 pounds all the way up to 16.

And with more of the same weather in store tomorrow, the escalated-weight pace could continue if the first major spawning wave of the year crashes the bank.

They're not there yet – they're still milling around with only slight bedding activity. But they're coming.

Leader Jason Christie caught the day's best sack at 16 pounds even. It included two brutes – 5 1/2 and 6 pounds. He took a popular approach – he worked a cove he felt fish were coming into, and covered as much was as he could.

"I think (it's) an area of the lake that guys went and checked and I think the water has changed," Christie noted. "I think it's cleared up a lot and the fish are really moving up into the creek."

His goal is 12 pounds tomorrow, which would put him at a 14-pound average – likely the winning mark across the next 3 days.

Norman killer Andy Morgan sits a pound behind Christie. In the previous three Norman FLW Tour contests, Morgan finished 12th, 11th and 2nd, so it's no surprise that he's immediately in contention. He's fishing his trademark style – gun-slinging and covering as much water as he can.

Andy Montgomery's in 3rd with 14-05, after which comes a three-way tie for 4th between Ish Monroe, Greg Pugh and Nate Wellman. Of them, Monroe had the shortest practice. He made the cross-country trip from California, where he fished two Bassmaster Elite Series events, and hence pre-fished just 1 day here.

The field will cut to the Top 5 after 3 days of competition. Cumulative 4-day weight determines the winner. Here's a look at the current Top 10. Total weight is followed by distance from leader in red.

1. Jason Christie: 16-00
2. Andy Morgan: 15-00 (1-00)
3. Andy Montgomery: 14-05 (1-11)
4. Greg Pugh: 13-14 (2-02)
4. Ish Monroe: 13-14 (2-02)
4. Nate Wellman: 13-14 (2-02)
7. Tim McDonald: 13-07 (2-09)
8. John Devere: 13-05 (2-11)
9. Bryan Thrift: 13-01 (2-15)
10. Rusty Trancygier: 12-11 (3-05)

The bite was definitely on today – 73% of the field caught a limit and the median weight was 9-03 (last year it was 7-11). Also, several pig-bellied spotted bass made it to the scales today – a further sign that Norman is fast becoming a spot-dominated lake.

And although Christie said his best fishing was early, the afternoon bite was better by far for most of the field. Morning water temperatures were at least 5 degrees cooler than they were the final day of practice – lows last night dipped to 39 degrees. But daytime temps near 70, plus sunny and slick-calm conditions, helped it recover, and motivated the fish to begin their ritual.

Still, most fish seem to be holding outside in wait for a big move. It could come tomorrow, which would mean serious bedding activity by Friday and a whole new tournament the final 2 days.

Christie Added Late Toad

Christie, a third-year Tour pro, got some payback at Norman today – in his two previous Norman outings he finished 118th and 120th, and lists Norman as his least favorite lake. That will likely change, given he clobbered 16 pounds today.

The difference, he said, is in how the lake's fishing. He got caught up in bed-fishing in the past, and even slipped into it for a little while today. But once he got back to his pattern he started culling again, and caught a 4 1/2-pounder (his second-biggest fish) late in the day.

"It feels good, given the fact that my two (previous) finishes here are some of my worst FLW finishes ever," he said. "But the fishing's a lot different this year. The water's off-color and it's not a sight-fishing deal yet, (although) it could be. But I got the sight-fishing thing out of my mind now and I'm just fishing and moving around and covering water.



FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson

Andy Morgan's 'chunking and winding' and says the fish are on their way.

"I'm throwing a lot of different baits and catching fish on everything that's laid out."

He hopes to catch 12 to 13 pounds tomorrow, as noted previously, but isn't sure where all the 2 1/2- to 3-pounders are that he saw in practice (his bag included three 2-pounders today).

Tomorrow, he might start in the same area, although he thinks he might move to a different spot he didn't even practice in. Today, he was able to move around and watch the graph and key in on individual things, and his confidence is high he can do the same tomorrow.

"I think tomorrow I'll pull the Humminbird out, see what looks good and go fish. I'm not going to run the whole lake or anything – when you go in and out of those docks, you can burn a whole hour in a single pocket."

2nd: Morgan Caught All 3s

Morgan's in 2nd right now, and that's where he finished here last year.

About his day, the veteran said: "I had a pretty good day today. I can't complain – that's for sure. It had been rainy and cold and windy, and the fish are wanting to come to the bank really bad. They were just waiting for it to warm up a little, and here they come. That's kind of what happened today."

He weighed five same-size largemouths at 3 pounds each and described his fishing as "just chunking and winding."

"You need to cover a lot of water and I'm in three different areas of the lake," he added. "Here at Norman, we've learned that if you get some sunshine in the afternoon, you can catch them docking. Every year, it seems like if you have an area you really like, if there's sunshine at 2:00, you need to be in that area. Other than that, they seem to be on the flat stuff – flat points and shoals."

He does think the final winning weight will be above the traditional 12-pound average, although not by much, because "a 2 1/2-pound average isn't easy to get here, but there will be several people each day who catch that."

4th (tie): Monroe Back on Track

California two-tour pro Ish Monroe was a favorite to win one of the two California Elite Series events the past 2 weeks. Instead he imploded and posted finishes of 49th and 75th (no checks).

FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson

Ish Monroe was able to shake his California mental mess on the long drive back east.

That messed with his head real bad, he said, and it took a long cross-country trip to chase it out.

"My head was real messed up. My good buddy Aaron Coleman rode back with me, and having that 38-hour drive gave me time to clear it out. Aaron asked me what happened in California. I told him I had areas where I knew I could be consistent, but I didn't go to those areas. I was fishing with a different mindset – I was fishing for big ones and trying to win an event and break records. I didn't have that focus you need to fish a full tour. Now that I'm back here, I have that mindset now."

With just 1 day to practice after the trip, he simply fished areas that helped him finish 6th back in 2005 at the Norman Bassmaster Tour. He worked through numbers pretty much all day and caught his last upgrade an hour and a half before weigh-in.

His bag was "all solid 2 1/2- to 3-pound largemouths." He culled out all his spots and estimated that he caught 20 or 25 keepers.

Asked whether he can catch 12 pounds tomorrow, he said: "I don't know. If I'm in the right areas at the right times, yes. But things here are so up and down. Today I had guys who fished through an area, then I came in and caught fish behind them – decent fish. My timing was on today and things played out."

4th (tie): Pugh Weighed Mixed Bag

Like Morgan, Pugh's scored big at Norman the past 3 years with finishes of 8th, 4th and 4th. Pugh's one of the better sight-fishermen in the field, and you can bet if there are fish on beds, he'll see them. In fact, he caught one sight-fish today.

"The fish are wanting to make a move up," he said. "We had a little cold snap there that held them back – the water temp was about 5 to 6 degrees cooler today than in practice. It slowed them down a little. But they're coming up and if I can hang around and make it to Saturday, it could be a slugfest. We could see five of the biggest fish possibly weighed here in any tournament because the big ones are coming. None of them have spawned yet and when they hit the bank here, they hit it big-time."

Other than his 4-pound sight-fish, he fished a little of everything – jigs, shakey-heads, spinnerbaits, cranks and jerkbaits.

FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson
Photo: FLW Outdoors/Gary Mortenson

Greg Pugh caught one sight-fish today, and says the big ones are on the way.

"I had one of the best practices I've ever had on any body of water," he added. "I didn't catch a bunch of fish, but there were a bunch of 3-pounders. I didn't realize there were that many like that in this lake. But the weather changed and it went to bright bluebird today, and that shut down some of the fish I was catching. So I had to back off and do some fishing. But I was still checking to see if any were coming up."

4th (tie): Wellman had Chance for 18

Wellman, fishing his fifth tour season, has yet to have a breakout Tour event. The closest he came was a 13th at Toho in 2008, and he finished 2nd at the Dardanelle Eastern FLW Series last summer. But he's perched just 2-02 behind leader Christie, so this could be his week.

"Today was one heck of a roller-coaster ride," Wellman said. "The day started real slow and at 9:30 I had one a little under 3 pounds. I didn't catch another fish until 1:00, then I caught some shorts, and then I hooked a 4 1/2-pounder but it jumped off at the boat. Probably 5 minutes after that I caught my biggest fish – a 4 1/2-pound spot."

He landed that fish and caught a 4-pounder a few minutes later that he saw boil. He was throwing a shakey-head in the back of a pocket and when he landed the 4-pounder, he saw there was another one with it. He threw back to the spot, hooked it and lost it (he thinks it was about 3 3/4 pounds). So he had the opportunity to weigh up to 18 pounds today.

"but I'm very happy and thankful for the ones I did get," he said. "I caught most of my fish in one spot, and I really do feel I kind of burned that spot up. I'm hoping it'll replenish but I don't know. Deep down, I really don't think it's going to. So I know I need to find another location or two like to get more fish."

Notable

> Day 1 stats – 146 anglers, 106 limits, 14 fours, 12 threes, 8 twos, 5 ones, 1 zero.

> JT Kenney (11th, 12-07), who's coming off a 5th at the Eufaula Eastern Series, said "when you get on a roll, it seems like things work out for you." He caught a 4 3/4-pound largemouth today, which boosted his bag from 9 pounds to 12 1/2.

> Brent Ehrler, who's locked in a battle with Skeet Reese and Kevin VanDam for the top spot in the BassFan World Rankings, is currently 83rd with 8-15.

> Scott Martin, 114th with four fish for 6-09, told BassFan: "My practice was pretty good, but today it was dead-slick calm. I'd been power-fishing with moving baits a lot this week, and the bites were few and far between today. Still, I had the opportunities to have 11 or 12 pounds, but it was one of those days – I wasn't firing on all cylinders with my casts – my placements – and I lost a nice fish over 3 pounds."

> Defending Norman champ Stetson Blaylock is 116th with four fish for 6-07.

Weather Forecast

Here's the weather forecast for the remaining tournament days:

> Thurs., March 24 - Mostly Cloudy - 70°/53°
- Wind: From the S at 15 mph

> Fri., March 25 - AM Showers- 64°/36°
- Wind: From the W/NW at 15 mph

> Sat., March 26 - Sunny - 61°/42°
- Wind: From the E/NE at 8 mph

Day 1 Standings

1. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, Ok -- 5, 16-00

2. Andy Morgan -- Dayton, Tn -- 5, 15-00

3. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, Sc -- 5, 14-05

4. Ishama Monroe -- Hughson, Ca -- 5, 13-14

4. Greg Pugh -- Cullman, Al -- 5, 13-14

4. Nate Wellman -- Jenison, Mi -- 5, 13-14

7. Tim Mcdonald -- Lexington, Ky -- 5, 13-07

8. John Devere -- Berea, Ky -- 5, 13-05

9. Bryan Thrift -- Shelby, Nc -- 5, 13-01

10. Rusty Trancygier -- Hahira, Ga -- 5, 12-11

11. Jt Kenney -- Palm Bay, Fl -- 5, 12-07

11. Jonathan Newton -- Rogersville, Al -- 5, 12-07

11. Brian Travis -- Conover, Nc -- 5, 12-07

14. Anthony Gagliardi -- Prosperity, Sc -- 5, 12-03

14. Vic Vatalaro -- Kent, Oh -- 5, 12-03

16. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, Az -- 5, 12-01

17. Clint Brownlee -- Tifton, Ga -- 5, 12-00

18. Todd Auten -- Lake Wylie, Sc -- 5, 11-14

19. Robbie Dodson -- Harrison, Ar -- 5, 11-13

20. Matt Arey -- Shelby, Nc -- 5, 11-12

20. Chip Harrison -- Bremen, In -- 5, 11-12

22. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, Al -- 5, 11-10

23. Jason Reyes -- Huffman, Tx -- 5, 11-07

24. Luke Clausen -- Gainesville, Ga -- 5, 11-06

25. Keith Combs -- Del Rio, Tx -- 5, 11-05

25. Pete Gluszek -- Mt Laurel, Nj -- 5, 11-05

27. Terry Baksay -- Easton, Ct -- 5, 11-04

28. Michael Bennett -- Panama City, Fl -- 5, 11-03

28. John Voyles -- Petersburg, In -- 5, 11-03

30. Jason Cordiale -- Orinda, Ca -- 5, 11-02

31. Rhett Fornof -- Park City, Ut -- 5, 11-01

32. David Fritts -- Lexington, Nc -- 5, 10-14

33. Jack Wade -- Knoxville, Tn -- 5, 10-13

34. Craig Dowling -- Grant, Al -- 5, 10-11

34. Guido Hibdon -- Sunrise Beach, Mo -- 5, 10-11

36. Dick Shaffer -- Rockford, Oh -- 5, 10-10

37. Tom Mann Jr -- Buford, Ga -- 5, 10-08

37. Bobby Mcmullin -- Pevely, Mo -- 5, 10-08

39. Sean Hoernke -- The Woodlands, Tx -- 5, 10-07

39. Ray Scheide -- Dover, Ar -- 5, 10-07

41. Ramie Colson Jr -- Cadiz, Ky -- 5, 10-06

41. David Dudley -- Lynchburg, Va -- 5, 10-06

41. Dion Hibdon -- Stover, Mo -- 5, 10-06

41. Clark Wendlandt -- Leander, Tx -- 5, 10-06

45. Glenn Browne -- Ocala, Fl -- 5, 10-05

45. Jimmy Millsaps -- Canton, Ga -- 5, 10-05

47. Mark Fisher -- Glenview, Il -- 5, 10-03

48. Nicholas Albus -- Trinity, Tx -- 5, 10-02

48. Brent Long -- Cornelius, Nc -- 5, 10-02

48. Ron Shuffield -- Bismarck, Ar -- 5, 10-02

48. John Tanner -- Quitman, Tx -- 5, 10-02

52. Kyle Mabrey -- Mccalla, Al -- 5, 10-01

52. Cody Meyer -- Grass Valley, Ca -- 5, 10-01

52. Jim Tutt -- Longview, Tx -- 5, 10-01

55. Chad Brauer -- Osage Beach, Mo -- 5, 10-00

55. Stacey King -- Reeds Spring, Mo -- 5, 10-00

57. Bobby Curtis -- Siloam Springs, Ar -- 5, 9-15

58. Rob Kilby -- Hot Springs, Ar -- 5, 9-13

58. Jim Moynagh -- Carver, Mn -- 5, 9-13

58. Jacob Powroznik -- Prince George, Va -- 5, 9-13

58. Scott Suggs -- Bryant, Ar -- 5, 9-13

58. Randall Tharp -- Gardendale, Al -- 4, 9-13

63. Zack Thompson -- Orinda, Ca -- 5, 9-12

64. Jt Palmore -- Gasburg, Va -- 5, 9-11

65. Justin Kerr -- Simi Valley, Ca -- 5, 9-08

66. Daryl Biron -- South Windsor, Ct -- 5, 9-06

66. Shinichi Fukae -- Palestine, Tx -- 5, 9-06

66. Mark Stewart -- Springville, Al -- 5, 9-06

69. Art Ferguson Iii -- St. Clair Shores, Mi -- 5, 9-05

69. Tim Klinger -- Boulder City, Nv -- 5, 9-05

69. Rusty Salewske -- Alpine, Ca -- 5, 9-05

72. Adam Wagner -- Cookeville, Tn -- 5, 9-04

73. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, Az -- 5, 9-03

73. Mark Rose -- Marion, Ar -- 5, 9-03

75. Brandon Coulter -- Knoxville, Tn -- 5, 9-02

76. Greg Bohannan -- Rogers, Ar -- 5, 9-01

76. Ed Melton -- Houston, Tx -- 5, 9-01

76. Wesley Strader -- Spring City, Tn -- 5, 9-01

79. Chris Baumgardner -- Gastonia, Nc -- 5, 9-00

79. Bob Bjorklund -- Centennial, Co -- 5, 9-00

79. Gerald Brown -- Chickasha, Ok -- 5, 9-00

79. Ken Wick -- Star, Id -- 5, 9-00

83. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, Ca -- 5, 8-15

83. David Kromm -- Kennewick, Wa -- 5, 8-15

85. Terry Bolton -- Jonesboro, Ar -- 5, 8-14

85. Chris Neau -- Castro Valley, Ca -- 5, 8-14

87. James Christian -- Dickson, Tn -- 5, 8-13

87. George Cochran -- Hot Springs, Ar -- 5, 8-13

87. Mike Wurm -- Hot Springs, Ar -- 5, 8-13

90. Chad Grigsby -- Maple Grove, Mn -- 5, 8-12

91. Richard Lowitzki -- St Charles, Il -- 5, 8-10

92. Keith Monson -- Burgin, Ky -- 5, 8-09

92. Chad Morgenthaler -- Coulterville, Il -- 5, 8-09

92. Bud Pruitt -- Houston, Tx -- 5, 8-09

92. David Walker -- Sevierville, Tn -- 5, 8-09

96. Scott Canterbury -- Springville, Al -- 5, 8-08

97. Jay Yelas -- Corvallis, Or -- 5, 8-07

98. Will Jefferies -- Bountiful, Ut -- 3, 8-05

99. Christopher Ford -- Kennedale, Tx -- 5, 8-03

100. Edwin Evers -- Talala, Ok -- 5, 8-01

101. Tim Johnson -- Dallas, Ga -- 5, 8-00

102. Christian Romans -- Carrollton, Ky -- 5, 7-15

103. Travis Fox -- Springdale, Ar -- 4, 7-14

104. Jim Dillard -- West Monroe, La -- 5, 7-13

105. Darrel Robertson -- Jay, Ok -- 5, 7-11

106. Joe Thomas -- Milford, Oh -- 5, 7-09

107. Lewis Denney -- Indian Mound, Tn -- 4, 7-08

108. Fred Martin -- North Little Rock, Ar -- 5, 7-07

109. Mark Hardin -- Jasper, Ga -- 5, 7-04

110. Jason Meninger -- Gainesville, Ga -- 4, 7-00

111. Roy Hawk -- Salt Lake City, Ut -- 5, 6-15

112. Tony Chesshir -- Nashville, Ar -- 4, 6-14

112. Shad Schenck -- Waynetown, In -- 4, 6-14

114. Scott Martin -- Clewiston, Fl -- 4, 6-09

115. Dave Lefebre -- Union City, Pa -- 4, 6-08

116. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, Ar -- 4, 6-07

117. Mark Rouse -- League City, Tx -- 4, 6-06

118. Chris Martinkovic -- Liberty Township, Oh -- 3, 6-00

119. Robert Pearson -- Herndon, Va -- 4, 5-15

120. Glenn Chappelear -- Acworth, Ga -- 4, 5-13

121. Johnny Johnson -- Destin, Fl -- 4, 5-12

122. Cody Bird -- Granbury, Tx -- 3, 5-06

122. Terry Segraves -- Kissimmee, Fl -- 3, 5-06

124. Kathryn Ealey -- Moody, Al -- 3, 5-05

125. Robert Harkness -- Elizabeth, Wv -- 3, 5-03

126. Jeremy York -- Loganville, Ga -- 3, 5-02

127. Jimmy Houston -- Cookson, Ok -- 4, 5-01

128. Dan Morehead -- Paducah, Ky -- 3, 4-15

129. Jamie Feick -- Centerburg, Oh -- 3, 4-13

130. Mike Surman -- Boca Raton, Fl -- 3, 4-09

131. Eric Ambort -- Mabelvale, Ar -- 3, 4-02

132. Ott Defoe -- Knoxville, Tn -- 3, 3-13

133. Justin Lucas -- Montevallo, Al -- 2, 3-12

133. Russell Parrish -- Riesel, Tx -- 2, 3-12

135. Mike Hawkes -- Sabinal, Tx -- 2, 3-11

136. Robert Sherry -- Saint Charles, Il -- 2, 3-03

137. Brad Knight -- Wartburg, Tn -- 2, 3-02

138. David Smith -- Del City, Ok -- 2, 3-00

139. Thanh Le -- Lake Havasu City, Az -- 2, 2-15

139. Kenneth (Boo) Woods -- Hazard, Ky -- 2, 2-15

141. James (Wil) Hardy -- Harlem, Ga -- 1, 2-08

142. Larry Nixon -- Bee Branch, Ar -- 1, 1-12

142. James Watson -- Waynesville, Mo -- 1, 1-12

144. Michael Murphy -- Gilbert, Sc -- 1, 1-10

145. James Stricklin Jr -- Texarkana, Ar -- 1, 1-08

Tom Redington -- Royse City, Tx -- 0, 0-00