By BassFan Staff

Tough bite at Lake Okeechobee this week? Don't tell that to Ott DeFoe.

DeFoe, the 10th-place finisher 2 weeks ago at Cherokee Lake in his home state of Tennessee, continued his hot start to the 2017 campaign on Thursday by catching a 31-03 stringer at the famed Florida venue. He'll start day 2 with a lead of nearly 4 1/2 pounds over the rest of the field.

His big sack was topped by a pair of largemouths that weighed 8-06.

"The only way I thought something like this was in store for me was my odds had to be getting better because I hadn't caught a big one since I've been here," he said. "Those two fish were nearly triple the size of anything I caught in practice."

Stephen Browning boxed 26-13 to settle into the No. 2 position. Tim Horton, the former Angler of the Year (AOY) who hasn't finished higher than 28th in any of the last 13 events, was next with 25-15.

Brett Hite was 4th with 23-03 and lifelong Floridian Bobby Lane completed the Top 5 with 21-15.

Here's a look at the initial Top 12, with their deficit margins from the leader indicated by red numbers in parentheses:

1. Ott DeFoe: 31-03
2. Stephen Browning: 26-13 (4-06)
3. Tim Horton: 25-15 (5-04)
4. Brett Hite: 23-03 (8-00)
5. Bobby Lane: 21-15 (8-04)
6. Cliff Prince: 21-11 (8-08)
7. Paul Mueller: 21-09 (8-10)
8. Andy Montgomery: 20-13 (10-06)
9. Skylar Hamilton: 20-03 (11-00)
10. Greg Hackney: 20-02 (11-01)
11. Brandon Card: 19-10 (11-09)
12. Brent Ehrler: 19-09 (11-10)

It's extremely unlikely that Cherokee winner Jacob Wheeler will match FLW pro Mark Rose's feat of winning both of the first two derbies of 2017, as he sacked a limit of squeakers that weighed 7 pounds and sits in 102nd place in the 110-angler field. Also, several of the circuit's stalwarts who bombed in the opener continued to struggle Skeet Reese was 63rd, Edwin Evers 71st, Kevin VanDam tied for 81st and Chris Lane 83rd.

Based on Thursday's weights, it could require considerably more poundage to make the day-2 cut to the Top 51 than had been previously anticipated. Some estimates had that mark as low as 24 pounds, but Brandon Coulter and John Crews currently share 50th place with 13-10.

Tennessee rookie Skylar Hamilton was among the day-1 Top 12 for the second straight derby he ended up 22nd at Cherokee. Fellow first-year pros Jamie Hartman and Jesse Wiggins, both of whom finished within a pound of Wheeler's winning total in the opener, were 58th and 66th, respectively.



B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Stephen Browning said the key to his day was putting all five of his quality bites in the boat.

The WeatherChannel.com forecast for day 2 predicts partly cloudy skies, a high temperature of 82 degrees and wind out of the north/northeast at 8 mph.

More than half the field will be eliminated after Friday's weigh-in and the Top-12 after Saturday's round will move on to the final day, when the winner will be determined based on highest cumulative weight.

DeFoe Surprised Himself

> Day 1: 5, 31-03

DeFoe said he would've been thrilled with a 17-pound haul on day 1. But now that he's caught much more than that, he's eager to try for another big sack on day 2.

"I didn't know that more than even 12 pounds was possible," he said. "I feel like I found some areas in practice that had potential, but I just hadn't had those kinds of bites.

"Down here, you're trying to cover water in practice because there's so much dead water and only a few pockets that have fish. When you hit a place where you catch three or four real quick, you don't sit there and milk it. The way it works for me is if I can find a place where I can catch a couple of 2-pounders, then maybe every fourth or fifth fish will be a big one."

He caught one of the 8 1/2s at his first stop and the other an hour or so later. Then he went to a place where he thought he got a couple of big bites during practice (he didn't see either fish) and added a 7-pounder and two other solid specimens.

Compared to most of the field, he didn't have much company in his areas.

"After 30 today, why not 25 tomorrow? I'm catching some big ones in some of those areas and I know there are plenty of others around. What I'm doing is standard Florida fishing for the most part I'm not rewriting the book on anything.

"It's one thing to get those bites, but you've also got to land them and I was very blessed to get every big bite in the boat. This is my second tournament with Bass Pro Shops reels and line and I'm so happy to be using that stuff. It's amazing."

2nd: Browning Executed Well

> Day 1: 5, 26-13

Browning got five quality bites and managed to put all of them in the boat.

"I fished as clean as a man can and I caught the bites that I needed, and that was the big key," he said. "I fished a little different than I did in practice and it seemed to work out. I fished the places where I'd had the bites, but I went about it a little differently."

He went through about 25 keepers and his bag was topped by two 6-pounders.

"I fished around four to six boats just about all day. It's a typical Florida deal if you find the right grass with the right bottom and the right make-up, you're not going to have it to yourself. I just made the best of the bites I had.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Tim Horton caught his two biggest fish in the first couple hours of the day.

"After I had four good ones I started moving around to other places where I'd gotten bit in practice because I needed to be seen there (so he wouldn't be accused of encroaching if he fishes there on subsequent days). I ended up catching the other 6-pounder on one of those places. I don't want to call it a bonus fish, but that other good bite culled a 2 1/2-pounder."

He said there isn't anything unique about his presentations.

"I'm throwing the typical handful of baits that work in Florida in February. There's nothing that's special or crazy."

3rd: Horton Dialed In

> Day 1: 5, 25-15

Horton said he had an excellent and expected to have a strong day 1.

"I found two or three areas where I didn't catch a lot of fish, but I did catch some nice ones," he said. "Usually when you catch a nice one or two down here, there's more of them around.

"I've got about three or four places, plus a few more that I haven't fished."

He caught his biggest, a 7-14, and a 6-pounder in the first couple hours of the day. He went to another place at about noon and added a 5, plus a couple in the 3-pound class.

"I caught 10 to 12 keepers and I lost a few, but there's so much vegetation that I couldn't tell how big they were. They could've been 3-pounders or they could've been good ones."

He caught everything on a Klone Crawsome crayfish imitation.

"I'm just fishing around everything I'm coming to there's no set stuff. I'm just finding clean water and putting my head down and going at it."

4th: Hite's Rotation was Right

> Day 1: 5, 23-03

Hite didn't catch as many fish as he expected to, but he got the right bites. One of those was a 7-pounder.

"I had a good practice, but it was a little slow this morning," he said. "We kind of had post-front conditions after the wind and rain yesterday afternoon and the water cooled off 3 or 4 degrees. It bounces back quickly down here, but I think (the fish) were a little bit stunned this morning.

B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito
Photo: B.A.S.S./Seigo Saito

Brett Hite has several productive areas that are all within a couple miles of each other.

"I think I'll stay in pretty much the same rotation tomorrow because it worked pretty good, but I might mix it up a little bit. All of my spots are within a couple of miles of each other."

He doesn't have any of them to himself.

"Guys are in the same areas, but that's part of Florida fishing. I've got like four different areas. One of the places where I caught a couple big ones, other guys were catching bit ones, too."

97th: Feider Struggled

> Day 1: 5, 7-15

Seth Feider, who's turned in Top-5 finishes in each of his last three Elite events dating back to last year, experienced his first tough day in awhile.

"I had a really bad practice," he said. "I'd gotten a couple good bites in one area, but I had nothing else to go to. I camped there all day and didn't get a big bite. I caught some 12-inchers, but that was about it.

"I have one spot where I saw them come up schooling in practice and I'll try that tomorrow. I don't think there's a mega-bag there, but I think I can catch 12 pounds real quick and then I'll go try to track down a couple 8-pounders. That's really my only option."

Florida isn't the Minnesota resident's favorite place to fish.

"I think this is my sixth tournament down here and last year at the St. Johns was the only time I've cashed a check. The fishing's just weird it seems like the hardest place in the world to be consistent."

Notable

> Day 1 stats 110 anglers, 103 limits, 5 threes, 2 twos.

> Louisiana rookie Tyler Carriere caught the biggest fish of the day (9-05).

Weather Forecast

> Fri., Feb. 24 Partly Cloudy - 82/55
- Wind: From the NNE at 8 mph

> Sat., Feb. 25 Partly Cloudy - 83/55
- Wind: From the SW at 7 mph

> Sun., Feb. 26 Mostly Sunny - 80/57
- Wind: From the NNE at 10 mph

Day 1 Standings

1. Ott DeFoe -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 31-03 -- 110
Day 1: 5, 31-03

2. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, AR -- 5, 26-13 -- 109
Day 1: 5, 26-13

3. Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 5, 25-15 -- 108
Day 1: 5, 25-15

4. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, AZ -- 5, 23-03 -- 107
Day 1: 5, 23-03

5. Bobby Lane Jr. -- Lakeland, FL -- 5, 21-15 -- 106
Day 1: 5, 21-15

6. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 5, 21-11 -- 105
Day 1: 5, 21-11

7. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 5, 21-09 -- 104
Day 1: 5, 21-09

8. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 5, 20-13 -- 103
Day 1: 5, 20-13

9. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 5, 20-03 -- 102
Day 1: 5, 20-03

10. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 5, 20-02 -- 101
Day 1: 5, 20-02

11. Brandon Card -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 19-10 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 19-10

12. Brent Ehrler -- Newport Beach, CA -- 5, 19-09 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 19-09

12. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 5, 19-09 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 19-09

14. Jeff Kriet -- Ardmore, OK -- 5, 19-08 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 19-08

15. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 5, 19-00 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 19-00

16. Dustin Connell -- Clanton, AL -- 5, 18-08 -- 95
Day 1: 5, 18-08

17. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 5, 18-07 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 18-07

18. Randall Tharp -- Port St. Joe, FL -- 5, 18-03 -- 93
Day 1: 5, 18-03

19. Randy Howell -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 17-15 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 17-15

19. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 5, 17-15 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 17-15

21. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 5, 17-13 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 17-13

22. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 5, 17-11 -- 89
Day 1: 5, 17-11

23. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 5, 17-09 -- 88
Day 1: 5, 17-09

24. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 5, 17-03 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 17-03

24. Mike McClelland -- Bella Vista, AR -- 5, 17-03 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 17-03

26. Jordan Lee -- Grant, AL -- 5, 17-02 -- 85
Day 1: 5, 17-02

26. Cliff Pace -- Petal, MS -- 5, 17-02 -- 85
Day 1: 5, 17-02

28. Fletcher Shryock -- New Philadelphia, OH -- 5, 17-00 -- 83
Day 1: 5, 17-00

29. Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, KS -- 5, 16-14 -- 82
Day 1: 5, 16-14

29. Matt Lee -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 16-14 -- 82
Day 1: 5, 16-14

31. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 16-11 -- 80
Day 1: 5, 16-11

32. Josh Bertrand -- Gilbert, AZ -- 5, 16-10 -- 79
Day 1: 5, 16-10

33. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 5, 16-06 -- 78
Day 1: 5, 16-06

34. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 5, 16-04 -- 77
Day 1: 5, 16-04

35. Gerald Swindle -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 16-03 -- 76
Day 1: 5, 16-03

36. Keith Poche -- Pike Road, AL -- 5, 16-00 -- 75
Day 1: 5, 16-00

37. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 5, 15-15 -- 74
Day 1: 5, 15-15

38. Chad Grigsby -- Maple Grove, MN -- 5, 15-12 -- 73
Day 1: 5, 15-12

39. Mark Daniels Jr. -- Tuskegee, AL -- 5, 15-11 -- 72
Day 1: 5, 15-11

40. James Elam -- Tulsa, OK -- 5, 15-10 -- 71
Day 1: 5, 15-10

41. Tyler Carriere -- Youngsville, LA -- 5, 15-03 -- 70
Day 1: 5, 15-03

42. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, NJ -- 5, 15-02 -- 69
Day 1: 5, 15-02

43. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 5, 14-15 -- 68
Day 1: 5, 14-15

44. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 5, 14-11 -- 67
Day 1: 5, 14-11

45. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 5, 14-08 -- 66
Day 1: 5, 14-08

46. John Murray -- Spring City, TN -- 5, 14-07 -- 65
Day 1: 5, 14-07

47. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 5, 14-04 -- 64
Day 1: 5, 14-04

47. Gerald Spohrer -- Gonzales, LA -- 5, 14-04 -- 64
Day 1: 5, 14-04

49. Hank Cherry Jr -- Lincolnton, NC -- 5, 13-13 -- 62
Day 1: 5, 13-13

50. Brandon Coulter -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 13-10 -- 61
Day 1: 5, 13-10

50. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 5, 13-10 -- 61
Day 1: 5, 13-10

52. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 5, 13-08 -- 59
Day 1: 5, 13-08

52. Koby Kreiger -- Bokeelia, FL -- 5, 13-08 -- 59
Day 1: 5, 13-08

54. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 5, 13-04 -- 57
Day 1: 5, 13-04

55. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 5, 12-15 -- 56
Day 1: 5, 12-15

56. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 5, 12-13 -- 55
Day 1: 5, 12-13

56. Jonathon VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 5, 12-13 -- 55
Day 1: 5, 12-13

58. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 5, 12-10 -- 53
Day 1: 5, 12-10

59. Gary Klein -- Weatherford, TX -- 5, 12-07 -- 52
Day 1: 5, 12-07

60. Ish Monroe -- Hughson, CA -- 5, 12-06 -- 51
Day 1: 5, 12-06

61. David Williams -- Newton, NC -- 5, 12-03 -- 50
Day 1: 5, 12-03

62. Alton Jones Jr. -- Lorena, TX -- 5, 12-01 -- 49
Day 1: 5, 12-01

63. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 5, 11-13 -- 48
Day 1: 5, 11-13

64. Justin Lucas -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 11-12 -- 47
Day 1: 5, 11-12

64. Britt Myers -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 5, 11-12 -- 47
Day 1: 5, 11-12

66. Shane Lineberger -- Lincolnton, NC -- 5, 11-10 -- 45
Day 1: 5, 11-10

66. Jesse Wiggins -- Cullman, AL -- 5, 11-10 -- 45
Day 1: 5, 11-10

68. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 5, 11-07 -- 43
Day 1: 5, 11-07

69. Brett Preuett -- Monroe, LA -- 5, 11-04 -- 42
Day 1: 5, 11-04

70. Scott Rook -- Little Rock, AR -- 5, 11-03 -- 41
Day 1: 5, 11-03

71. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 5, 11-02 -- 40
Day 1: 5, 11-02

72. Drew Benton -- Panama City, FL -- 5, 11-00 -- 39
Day 1: 5, 11-00

73. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 5, 10-15 -- 38
Day 1: 5, 10-15

73. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 5, 10-15 -- 38
Day 1: 5, 10-15

75. Michael Iaconelli -- Pitts Grove, NJ -- 5, 10-14 -- 36
Day 1: 5, 10-14

75. Alton Jones -- Lorena, TX -- 5, 10-14 -- 36
Day 1: 5, 10-14

77. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, AL -- 5, 10-13 -- 34
Day 1: 5, 10-13

78. Jesse Tacoronte -- Orlando, FL -- 5, 10-12 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 10-12

79. Marty Robinson -- Lyman, SC -- 5, 10-11 -- 32
Day 1: 5, 10-11

80. James Niggemeyer -- Van, TX -- 5, 10-10 -- 31
Day 1: 5, 10-10

81. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 5, 10-05 -- 30
Day 1: 5, 10-05

81. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 5, 10-05 -- 30
Day 1: 5, 10-05

83. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 10-03 -- 28
Day 1: 5, 10-03

83. Chris Zaldain -- Laughlin, NV -- 5, 10-03 -- 28
Day 1: 5, 10-03

85. Kelly Jordon -- Flint, TX -- 5, 09-11 -- 26
Day 1: 5, 09-11

86. Fred Roumbanis -- London, AR -- 5, 09-10 -- 25
Day 1: 5, 09-10

87. Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, LA -- 5, 09-09 -- 24
Day 1: 5, 09-09

87. Russ Lane -- Prattville, AL -- 5, 09-09 -- 24
Day 1: 5, 09-09

89. Luke Clausen -- Otis Orchards, WA -- 5, 09-08 -- 22
Day 1: 5, 09-08

90. Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, FL -- 5, 09-05 -- 21
Day 1: 5, 09-05

90. Morizo Shimizu -- Suita, Japan -- 5, 09-05 -- 21
Day 1: 5, 09-05

92. Jacob Powroznik -- Port Haywood, VA -- 5, 09-02 -- 19
Day 1: 5, 09-02

92. Bradley Roy -- Lancaster, KY -- 5, 09-02 -- 19
Day 1: 5, 09-02

94. Boyd Duckett -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 08-12 -- 17
Day 1: 5, 08-12

95. Shaw Grigsby Jr. -- Gainesville, FL -- 5, 08-10 -- 16
Day 1: 5, 08-10

96. Brandon Palaniuk -- Hayden, ID -- 5, 08-04 -- 15
Day 1: 5, 08-04

97. Seth Feider -- Bloomington, MN -- 5, 07-15 -- 14
Day 1: 5, 07-15

98. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, OK -- 5, 07-14 -- 13
Day 1: 5, 07-14

98. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, CA -- 5, 07-14 -- 13
Day 1: 5, 07-14

100. Dave Lefebre -- Erie, PA -- 5, 07-07 -- 11
Day 1: 5, 07-07

101. Paul Elias -- Laurel, MS -- 5, 07-02 -- 10
Day 1: 5, 07-02

102. Jacob Wheeler -- Indianapolis, IN -- 5, 07-00 -- 9
Day 1: 5, 07-00

103. Chad Morgenthaler -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 06-05 -- 8
Day 1: 5, 06-05

104. Robbie Latuso -- Gonzales, LA -- 3, 06-05 -- 7
Day 1: 3, 06-05

105. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 3, 05-12 -- 6
Day 1: 3, 05-12

106. John Hunter Jr -- Shelbyville, KY -- 3, 05-07 -- 5
Day 1: 3, 05-07

107. Darrell Ocamica -- New Plymouth, ID -- 3, 05-02 -- 4
Day 1: 3, 05-02

108. Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, AL -- 3, 04-06 -- 3
Day 1: 3, 04-06

109. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 2, 03-14 -- 2
Day 1: 2, 03-14

110. Jay Brainard -- Enid, OK -- 2, 02-15 -- 1
Day 1: 2, 02-15