By BassFan Staff

With two casts that he made at about 8:30 in the morning, Cliff Prince took command of day 1 at the first Bassmaster Elite Series event of 2018.

Prince, a Floridian who said earlier in the week that his knowledge of highland reservoirs is limited, boated two fish in excess of 6 pounds on consecutive offerings at Alabama's Lake Martin. They topped a 19-13 stringer that put him 1-11 in front of the remainder of the field a significant number considering how tightly the weights are packed throughout the standings sheet.

"Needless to say, I was shocked," said Prince, who'd caught a small limit of spotted bass to start the day and then exceeded their combined weight with each of the two big largemouths (a 6-11 and a 6-03) that were the biggest fish to come to the scale on day 1. "The first one doubled my weight, and then when I pitched back in there and caught another one, I was like, 'Holy smokes!'''

Two wily veterans are Prince's closest pursuers: Takahiro Omori boxed 19-13 and Mark Menendez weighed 17-09. From there, it's a 2 1/4-pound drop down to 3rd place, where second-year pro Jesse Wiggins resides with 15-05.

Skeet Reese rounded out the top 5 with 14-13.

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

1. Cliff Prince: 19-13
2. Takahiro Omori: 18-02 (1-11)
3. Mark Menendez: 17-09 (2-04)
4. Jesse Wiggins: 15-05 (4-08)
5. Skeet Reese: 14-13 (5-00)
6. Skylar Hamilton: 14-09 (5-04)
7. Russ Lane: 14-08 (5-05)
8. David Walker: 14-04 (5-09)
9. Cliff Crochet: 14-01 (5-12)
10. Jared Lintner: 13-15 (5-14)
11. Dean Rojas: 13-10 (6-03)
12. Justin Lucas: 13-09 (6-04)

Limits weren't much of a problem, as only 10 competitors in the 110-angler field failed to bring five fish to the scale. The separators were the big largemouths the top 3 combined to weigh four fish that checked in at 5-06 or better.

The 12-pound threshold was crossed by 22 anglers and the next 60 below them in the standings all weighed at least 9 pounds, so there will be a mad scramble to make the midway cut to the top 51 on day 2. Among those who struggled on day 1 were reigning Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk (89th, 8-05) and Jacob Wheeler, the winner of last year's opener at Cherokee Lake and eventual 3rd-place finisher in the points standings (97th, 7-11).



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

Prince used a jig in shallow water to entice his big largemouths.

The weather in the Alexander City, Ala. area will continue to stay wet: a bunch of rain fell on Wednesday and more is on the way over the next three days. More of the normally clear water will be darkened, which might entice more big largemouths to bite.

The 51 anglers who survive the day-2 cut will battle for positions in the top 12 who'll advance to the final day. The winner will be determined Sunday based on cumulative weight.

Prince Had a Hunch

> Day 1: 5, 19-13

Prince didn't make a practice cast in the area that surrendered his two monsters.

"I just knew it looked right," he said. "I knew I had an opportunity to catch one like that in there that's why I was fishing there. To catch two like that back to back, well, that's kind of unheard of here.

"I culled a couple more times after that, but it kind of died off for me in the afternoon. I don't know if the bite quit or if I was fishing behind other people; the way I was fishing, it's not like I was getting a whole lot of bites in practice. It was just one here and one there."

He used a crankbait to corral his initial limit and enticed the bruisers and another 2 1/2-pound largemouth with a jig. He was forced to way a pair of 14-inch spots.

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

Takahiro Omori didn't expect to catch even half the weight he brought to the scale.

"I probably should've run to another area I had, but it was noon or 1 o'clock and I had to weigh in at 2:50 so I kind of just hunkered down and fished. I caught those fish at one end of the lake and the other ones were at the other end, so I may swap ends of the lake tomorrow.

"I'm guessing people fished that other end, but I don't know, I was fishing behind other people today but I don't think they caught them that good."

2nd: Omori Surprised

> Day 1: 5, 18-02

Omori compiled well over double the weight he'd anticipated.

"I didn't have a good practice and I was expecting 8 pounds," he said. "I had a 5-06 and a 4-pounder and that made a huge difference. I caught some spots, but I weighed all largemouths."

He went through about a dozen keepers. He declined to reveal any pattern information, but his comments indicated that he's beating the banks.

"I'm doing it the way I like to fish. I'm not sure what I can catch tomorrow I'll be happy if I get 10 pounds but I'm going to do my best. I'm not seeing very many boats around, so that's a good thing."

3rd: Two Big Ones for Menendez

Menendez's stringer was topped by a 6-pounder and another one that weighed almost 5.

"It's all predicated on getting the good bites," he said. "I did get a couple of those in practice, but if you told me that I'd catch 17 pounds today, I'd have said, 'yeah, right.' But I'll take it and go."

He handled 15 keepers and took four largemouths and a spot to the scale.

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

Mark Menendez got two quality bites en route to weighing 17 1/2 pounds.

"I thought I had something figured out when I caught my second big fish, I really thought I might've been onto something, but I was never able to duplicate it. It feels really fortunate when you do get a good bite, but you can't count on them. I could fish that same stretch tomorrow and not catch any decent ones I might catch 15 keepers and not have 7 pounds."

4th: Kicker Propelled Wiggins

> Day 1: 5, 15-05

Wiggins compiled a limit that contained a trio of 2 1/2-pound spots and then bolstered it with a 4-pound largemouth.

"I didn't really have a good practice," he said. "I caught a few fish, but nothing too impressive. Then yesterday I wanted to see if I could catch a big one in the dirt and I did that for the last couple hours and got one big bite.

"I decided I'd do that today if I got a limit of spots and it worked out. I'm surprised my weight was more than I expected and I'm happy to have it."

He'll try the same game plan on day 2.

"I have no idea what'll happen. It's such a grind with the largemouth and you don't catch many. I've had two bites in 4 hours of fishing for them.

"I'll try it again, but I don't know if I can get another big bite."

106th: Lane was Stymied

> Day 1: 4, 5-12

Bobby Lane came in with a lot of momentum after winning last week's Kissimmee Chain Eastern Open, but he was one of the 10 anglers who weighed short sacks.

"I couldn't find any (lily) pads or hydrilla here," he cracked. "I spent 3 practice days looking for it and I looked again today, but I haven't found any."

On a more serious note, he said execution was his biggest day-1 issue.

"I lost the first eight fish that bit this morning, which has never happened in my life," he said. "It seemed everywhere I went I'd get two or three bites and catch one of them.

"It started in the first 30 minutes of the day and went all the way to 2 o'clock, when I missed the last one. It was unbelievable."

He said he'll put away the spinning gear tomorrow in favor of baitcasters with braided line.

"Even if I'd caught my best five today, but best I could've done was maybe 10 1/2 pounds and if I do that tomorrow, that'll still leave me in the hundreds (in the standings). I had about 14 pounds on the first practice day and if any of that works, maybe I can pick it apart a little and catch a big one."

Notable

> Day 1 stats 110 anglers, 100 limits, 5 fours, 3 threes, 2 twos.

Weather Forecast

> Fri., Feb. 9 P.M. Rain - 63/52
- Wind: From the SE at 7 mph

> Sat., Feb. 10 Rain/Thunder - 66/59
- Wind: From the SSE at 7 mph

> Sun., Feb. 11 Thunderstorms - 67/52
- Wind: From the SSW at 7 mph

Day 1 Standings

1. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 5, 19-13 -- 110
Day 1: 5, 19-13

2. Takahiro Omori -- Emory, TX -- 5, 18-02 -- 109
Day 1: 5, 18-02

3. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 5, 17-09 -- 108
Day 1: 5, 17-09

4. Jesse Wiggins -- Cullman, AL -- 5, 15-05 -- 107
Day 1: 5, 15-05

5. Skeet Reese -- Auburn, CA -- 5, 14-13 -- 106
Day 1: 5, 14-13

6. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 5, 14-09 -- 105
Day 1: 5, 14-09

7. Russ Lane -- Prattville, AL -- 5, 14-08 -- 104
Day 1: 5, 14-08

8. David Walker -- Sevierville, TN -- 5, 14-05 -- 103
Day 1: 5, 14-05

9. Cliff Crochet -- Pierre Part, LA -- 5, 14-01 -- 102
Day 1: 5, 14-01

10. Jared Lintner -- Arroyo Grande, CA -- 5, 13-15 -- 101
Day 1: 5, 13-15

11. Dean Rojas -- Lake Havasu City, AZ -- 5, 13-10 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 13-10

12. Justin Lucas -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 13-09 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 13-09

13. Jonathon VanDam -- Gobles, MI -- 5, 13-08 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 13-08

14. Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, FL -- 5, 13-06 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 13-06

15. Brent Chapman -- Lake Quivira, KS -- 5, 12-15 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 12-15

16. Luke Clausen -- Otis Orchards, WA -- 5, 12-12 -- 95
Day 1: 5, 12-12

17. Mark Daniels Jr. -- Tuskegee, AL -- 5, 12-08 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 12-08

17. Chris Groh -- Spring Grove, IL -- 5, 12-08 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 12-08

19. Ray Hanselman Jr -- Del Rio, TX -- 5, 12-07 -- 92
Day 1: 5, 12-07

20. James Elam -- Tulsa, OK -- 5, 12-06 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 12-06

21. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 5, 12-03 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 12-03

22. Alton Jones Jr. -- Waco, TX -- 5, 12-01 -- 89
Day 1: 5, 12-01

23. Edwin Evers -- Talala, OK -- 5, 11-14 -- 88
Day 1: 5, 11-14

24. Mike McClelland -- Bentonville, AR -- 5, 11-13 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 11-13

24. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 5, 11-13 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 11-13

26. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 5, 11-12 -- 85
Day 1: 5, 11-12

26. Andy Montgomery -- Blacksburg, SC -- 5, 11-12 -- 85
Day 1: 5, 11-12

28. Roy Hawk -- Lk Havasu Cty, AZ -- 5, 11-11 -- 83
Day 1: 5, 11-11

29. Hank Cherry Jr -- Lincolnton, NC -- 5, 11-09 -- 82
Day 1: 5, 11-09

30. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 5, 11-08 -- 81
Day 1: 5, 11-08

31. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 5, 11-06 -- 80
Day 1: 5, 11-06

31. Gerald Swindle -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 11-06 -- 80
Day 1: 5, 11-06

33. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 5, 11-04 -- 78
Day 1: 5, 11-04

34. Jason Christie -- Park Hill, OK -- 5, 11-03 -- 77
Day 1: 5, 11-03

34. Robbie Latuso -- Gonzales, LA -- 5, 11-03 -- 77
Day 1: 5, 11-03

34. Matt Lee -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 11-03 -- 77
Day 1: 5, 11-03

37. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 5, 11-01 -- 74
Day 1: 5, 11-01

37. Scott Rook -- Little Rock, AR -- 5, 11-01 -- 74
Day 1: 5, 11-01

39. Michael Iaconelli -- Pitts Grove, NJ -- 5, 11-00 -- 72
Day 1: 5, 11-00

40. Dustin Connell -- Clanton, AL -- 5, 10-15 -- 71
Day 1: 5, 10-15

40. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 5, 10-15 -- 71
Day 1: 5, 10-15

42. Brandon Coulter -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 10-12 -- 69
Day 1: 5, 10-12

42. Brent Ehrler -- Redlands, CA -- 5, 10-12 -- 69
Day 1: 5, 10-12

42. Brett Hite -- Phoenix, AZ -- 5, 10-12 -- 69
Day 1: 5, 10-12

42. Rick Morris -- Lake Gaston, VA -- 5, 10-12 -- 69
Day 1: 5, 10-12

42. Wesley Strader -- Spring City, TN -- 5, 10-12 -- 69
Day 1: 5, 10-12

47. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 5, 10-11 -- 64
Day 1: 5, 10-11

48. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 5, 10-10 -- 63
Day 1: 5, 10-10

49. Gerald Spohrer -- Gonzales, LA -- 5, 10-09 -- 62
Day 1: 5, 10-09

50. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 5, 10-08 -- 61
Day 1: 5, 10-08

50. Fred Roumbanis -- Russellville, AR -- 5, 10-08 -- 61
Day 1: 5, 10-08

52. Greg Hackney -- Gonzales, LA -- 5, 10-07 -- 59
Day 1: 5, 10-07

53. Shin Fukae -- Palestine TX -- 5, 10-06 -- 58
Day 1: 5, 10-06

53. Randy Howell -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 10-06 -- 58
Day 1: 5, 10-06

55. Todd Faircloth -- Jasper, TX -- 5, 10-05 -- 56
Day 1: 5, 10-05

56. Cliff Pace -- Petal, MS -- 5, 10-04 -- 55
Day 1: 5, 10-04

56. Bradley Roy -- Lancaster, KY -- 5, 10-04 -- 55
Day 1: 5, 10-04

58. Caleb Sumrall -- New Iberia, LA -- 4, 10-04 -- 53
Day 1: 4, 10-04

59. Chris Zaldain -- Laughlin, NV -- 5, 10-03 -- 52
Day 1: 5, 10-03

60. Keith Poche -- Pike Road, AL -- 5, 10-02 -- 51
Day 1: 5, 10-02

61. Ish Monroe -- Hughson, CA -- 5, 10-01 -- 50
Day 1: 5, 10-01

62. Adrian Avena -- Vineland, NJ -- 5, 10-00 -- 49
Day 1: 5, 10-00

62. Jeff Kriet -- Ardmore, OK -- 5, 10-00 -- 49
Day 1: 5, 10-00

62. Kevin VanDam -- Kalamazoo, MI -- 5, 10-00 -- 49
Day 1: 5, 10-00

65. Seth Feider -- Bloomington, MN -- 5, 09-15 -- 46
Day 1: 5, 09-15

65. Tim Horton -- Muscle Shoals, AL -- 5, 09-15 -- 46
Day 1: 5, 09-15

67. Chris Lane -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 09-14 -- 44
Day 1: 5, 09-14

67. Darrell Ocamica -- New Plymouth, ID -- 5, 09-14 -- 44
Day 1: 5, 09-14

69. Boyd Duckett -- Guntersville, AL -- 5, 09-13 -- 42
Day 1: 5, 09-13

70. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 5, 09-12 -- 41
Day 1: 5, 09-12

71. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 5, 09-10 -- 40
Day 1: 5, 09-10

71. Ott DeFoe -- Blaine, TN -- 5, 09-10 -- 40
Day 1: 5, 09-10

73. Gary Klein -- Mingus, TX -- 5, 09-08 -- 38
Day 1: 5, 09-08

74. Dave Lefebre -- Erie, PA -- 5, 09-07 -- 37
Day 1: 5, 09-07

74. Fletcher Shryock -- Dennison, OH -- 5, 09-07 -- 37
Day 1: 5, 09-07

74. Randy Sullivan -- Breckenridge, TX -- 5, 09-07 -- 37
Day 1: 5, 09-07

77. Greg Vinson -- Wetumpka, AL -- 5, 09-06 -- 34
Day 1: 5, 09-06

78. Drew Benton -- Panama City, FL -- 5, 09-03 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 09-03

78. Alton Jones -- Lorena, TX -- 5, 09-03 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 09-03

78. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 5, 09-03 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 09-03

78. Morizo Shimizu -- Suita, Osaka JAPAN -- 5, 09-03 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 09-03

82. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 09-01 -- 29
Day 1: 5, 09-01

83. Stephen Browning -- Hot Springs, AR -- 5, 09-00 -- 28
Day 1: 5, 09-00

84. Bill Weidler -- Helena, AL -- 3, 08-13 -- 27
Day 1: 3, 08-13

85. Josh Bertrand -- San Tan Valley, AZ -- 5, 08-12 -- 26
Day 1: 5, 08-12

86. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 5, 08-11 -- 25
Day 1: 5, 08-11

87. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 5, 08-10 -- 24
Day 1: 5, 08-10

88. Jordan Lee -- Grant, AL -- 5, 08-09 -- 23
Day 1: 5, 08-09

89. Brandon Palaniuk -- Hayden, ID -- 5, 08-05 -- 22
Day 1: 5, 08-05

90. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 5, 08-03 -- 21
Day 1: 5, 08-03

90. John Murray -- Spring City, TN -- 5, 08-03 -- 21
Day 1: 5, 08-03

92. Hunter Shryock -- Newcomerstown, OH -- 5, 08-01 -- 19
Day 1: 5, 08-01

93. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 5, 08-00 -- 18
Day 1: 5, 08-00

94. Shaw Grigsby Jr. -- Gainesville, FL -- 5, 07-15 -- 17
Day 1: 5, 07-15

95. Brandon Card -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 07-14 -- 16
Day 1: 5, 07-14

96. Randall Tharp -- Port St. Joe, FL -- 5, 07-12 -- 15
Day 1: 5, 07-12

97. Jacob Wheeler -- Harrison, TN -- 5, 07-11 -- 14
Day 1: 5, 07-11

98. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 4, 07-11 -- 13
Day 1: 4, 07-11

99. Paul Elias -- Laurel, MS -- 5, 07-09 -- 12
Day 1: 5, 07-09

100. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 5, 07-06 -- 11
Day 1: 5, 07-06

101. Jake Whitaker -- Fairview, NC -- 5, 07-04 -- 10
Day 1: 5, 07-04

102. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 3, 06-12 -- 9
Day 1: 3, 06-12

103. Kyle Monti -- Okeechobee, FL -- 5, 06-10 -- 8
Day 1: 5, 06-10

104. Jacob Powroznik -- North Prince George, VA -- 4, 05-15 -- 7
Day 1: 4, 05-15

105. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 5, 05-12 -- 6
Day 1: 5, 05-12

106. Bobby Lane Jr. -- Lakeland, FL -- 4, 05-12 -- 5
Day 1: 4, 05-12

107. Tommy Biffle -- Wagoner, OK -- 4, 05-01 -- 4
Day 1: 4, 05-01

108. Kelly Jordon -- Flint, TX -- 2, 04-05 -- 3
Day 1: 2, 04-05

109. Tyler Carriere -- Youngsville, LA -- 2, 03-13 -- 2
Day 1: 2, 03-13

110. Marty Robinson -- Lyman, SC -- 3, 03-08 -- 1
Day 1: 3, 03-08