By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor


Canadian brothers Chris and Cory Johnson announced their presence on the Bassmaster Elite Series last week with top-10 finishes in the season opener at Florida's St. Johns River. Now Jeff Gustafson, the third Canuck who transitioned over from the FLW Tour this year, is making a lot of noise at Lake Lanier in Georgia.

Gustafson caught a 19-02 stringer of spotted bass on day 1 to lead the field by nearly 1 1/2 pounds. His bag contained two of the magnum spots that are needed to create separation at Lanier a 4-10 and a 4-07.

"I caught eight fish today, so I wasn't really lighting it up, but I did have two real beauties," he said. "I figure if I can get 10 to 12 bites a day, I can catch some good ones."

David Mullins is 2nd with 17-12, followed by Rick Morris with 17-06 and Chris Zaldain with 16-15. Ray Hanselman Jr. and Patrick Walters, whose bidding for his second straight single-digit finish to begin his pro career, are tied for 5th with 16-12.

Scott Canterbury, another top-10 finisher at the St. Johns, is tied for 7th with Micah Frazier and Paul Mueller with 16-11. Keith Combs is 10th with 16-06.

It was primarily a calm, sunny day and the venue known as "Atlanta's playground" wasn't at its best from a fishing perspective, but 22 competitors still managed to catch at least 15 pounds. The skies will turn dark for day 2 and are expected to remain that way for the remainder of the event and some expect those conditions to enhance the bite.

All 75 anglers will be back on the water for day 2 before the field is cut to 35 for Saturday's round. Only the top 10 will fish on Sunday.

Gustafson, who finished 7th in last year's FLW Tour derby at Lanier, rates the lake as his favorite in the southern part of the U.S.



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

Gustafson bounced back and forth between deep and shallow locations.

"I had so much fun here last time and I caught a ton of fish," he said. "I showed up on Monday morning (for the first day of practice) and I hit the first couple places that were good from last year and there was nothing there.

"For the first four hours Monday I never had a bite or marked a fish on any of the stuff from last year and I was like, 'Are you kidding me?' I ended up catching seven that day, seven the second day and four yesterday and a few of them were big ones."

He had a limit in the 15- to 16-pound class by 10:30 today and made a couple of afternoon upgrades. Three of his weigh-in fish came from offshore haunts and two were hanging out near the bank.

"I'm bouncing in and out, some deep and some shallow. One thing I learned last year is that every day here is different because of how much these fish move around.

"Half the places I fished today I'd never fished before. If something looks right, I'll try it, and one out of every six or eight of those stops I'll catch one."

Mullins was a bit disappointed when he had only one fish (albeit a good one) at 9 o'clock. He ended up weighing in five spots that were all in the 3 1/2-pound range.

"Things pretty much went as planned other than I didn't get a good early start," he said. "This place is totally weather-dependent and you have to play what the conditions give you. Tomorrow I'll have to make up my mind what to do first thing in the morning. What I tried today only produced one bite in two hours, so do I want to do that again and take the risk of not having anything?

He fished at various depths and handled eight or nine keepers for the day.

"It was never fast and furious it was one here and one there and I never know where my next bite is coming from. I have to fish to find them and even then there's usually only one there that'll bite."

Morris said practice was slow for him, but he'd scouted the lake a month earlier (before it went off-limits) and found a lot of stuff he liked, so he had a lot to choose from today. He boated a dozen keepers, including a 4-12.

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

David Mullins overcame a slugging morning to weigh a 17-12 stringer.

"I'm moving around a lot and doing all finesse stuff in deep water," he said. "The big one came in the middle of the day and I had another one on that I'm pretty sure was in that same class, but I never saw it.

"I didn't have any company I saw boats all day, but people are doing a lot of different things. There's people (offshore), people in the backs of pockets, people on docks, people on points; it's crazy."

He said he caught some fish that were suspended and others that were relating co cover.

"I've got seven spinning rods on the deck and I feel pretty confident I can do all right if I keep getting some big bites. Then you have to keep them on these fish are really mean, especially when they're coming up from 20 to 40 feet."

Zaldain had an excellent practice and felt like he could've boxed at least 20 pounds if the sky had been as gray as it was for most of the practice period.

"It was the complete opposite conditions from what we had and my first couple spots, where I'd caught 4- and 5-pounders, didn't have anything," he said. "It became a survival day for me and I made some adjustments and I'm happy with 16-15.

"I've got a couple of things going and there's plenty of room to play around with the patterns I fished today. This is a (blueback) herring lake and the fish move frequently based on light penetration. When it gets sunny, they're so quick to move to the docks or standing timber or brush.

All five fish he took to the scale were in the 3 1/4- to 3 1/2-pound class. He lost several that he didn't make a solid connection with.

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

Rick Morris is relying on a deep-water finesse program.

"They were biting the worms and swimbaits funny and I must've lost five or six. The water temperature was 47 degrees and they weren't really committing, especially under the sunny conditions when they were able to really study the bait."

Walters pulled his entire bag from 6 feet of water or less. He was another competitor who weighed a quintet that were all approximately the same size.

"It's a different kind of fishing than last week, for sure," he said. "My practice was iffy I had some bites, but nothing really amazing.

"I'm just going to stay shallow and try to grind it out."

Mark Menendez, who was in 3rd place after each of the four days at the St. Johns, started this event at the other end of the spectrum he's in 72nd (just four spots from the bottom) after weighing a four-fish, 8-07 stringer.

"It's a lot different than what I anticipated," he said. "I've got a big school of fish found, but I can't seem to make them bite. They're largemouths that I found first thing on Monday when I got out there.

"I had three things going and I thought at least one of them would be really solid, but none of them panned out at all. I'll have to go back (to the big school) tomorrow; there's just too many fish there."

Notable

> Day 1 stats 75 anglers, 68 limits, 4 fours, 1 three, 1 two, one zero.

> Rick Clunn, the winner at the St. Johns, is in 43rd place with 12-15. He's less than a pound off the 35th-place cut mark.

Weather Forecast

> Fri., Feb. 15 P.M. Showers - 62/56
- Wind: From the SW at 7 mph

> Sat., Feb. 16 Cloudy - 63/45
- Wind: From the W at 10 mph

> Sun., Feb. 17 Rain - 54/50
- Wind: From the E at 6 mph

Day 1 Standings

1. Jeff Gustafson -- Keewatin, ON -- 5, 19-02 -- 100
Day 1: 5, 19-02

2. David Mullins -- Mt Carmel, TN -- 5, 17-12 -- 99
Day 1: 5, 17-12

3. Rick Morris -- Lake Gaston, VA -- 5, 17-06 -- 98
Day 1: 5, 17-06

4. Chris Zaldain -- Fort Worth, TX -- 5, 16-15 -- 97
Day 1: 5, 16-15

5. Ray Hanselman Jr -- Del Rio, TX -- 5, 16-12 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 16-12

5. Patrick Walters -- Summerville, SC -- 5, 16-12 -- 96
Day 1: 5, 16-12

7. Scott Canterbury -- Odenville, AL -- 5, 16-11 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 16-11

7. Micah Frazier -- Newnan, GA -- 5, 16-11 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 16-11

7. Paul Mueller -- Naugatuck, CT -- 5, 16-11 -- 94
Day 1: 5, 16-11

10. Keith Combs -- Huntington, TX -- 5, 16-06 -- 91
Day 1: 5, 16-06

11. Todd Auten -- Lake Wylie, SC -- 5, 16-01 -- 90
Day 1: 5, 16-01

12. Brandon Card -- Knoxville, TN -- 5, 15-15 -- 89
Day 1: 5, 15-15

12. Bill Lowen -- Brookville, IN -- 5, 15-15 -- 89
Day 1: 5, 15-15

14. Drew Cook -- Midway, FL -- 5, 15-14 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 15-14

14. Clent Davis -- Montevallo, AL -- 5, 15-14 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 15-14

14. Jesse Tacoronte -- Kissimmee, FL -- 5, 15-14 -- 87
Day 1: 5, 15-14

17. Randy Sullivan -- Breckenridge, TX -- 5, 15-11 -- 84
Day 1: 5, 15-11

18. Jamie Hartman -- Newport, NY -- 5, 15-08 -- 83
Day 1: 5, 15-08

19. Brad Whatley -- Bivins, TX -- 5, 15-07 -- 82
Day 1: 5, 15-07

20. Clifford Pirch -- Payson, AZ -- 5, 15-06 -- 81
Day 1: 5, 15-06

21. Gary Clouse -- Winchester, TN -- 5, 15-02 -- 80
Day 1: 5, 15-02

22. Chris Johnston -- Peterborough, ON -- 5, 15-01 -- 79
Day 1: 5, 15-01

22. Yusuke Miyazaki -- Forney, TX -- 5, 15-01 -- 79
Day 1: 5, 15-01

24. Hunter Shryock -- Newcomerstown, OH -- 5, 14-15 -- 77
Day 1: 5, 14-15

25. Chad Pipkens -- Lansing, MI -- 5, 14-12 -- 76
Day 1: 5, 14-12

26. Bill Weidler -- Helena, AL -- 5, 14-10 -- 75
Day 1: 5, 14-10

27. Randy Pierson -- Oakdale, CA -- 5, 14-08 -- 74
Day 1: 5, 14-08

27. Brian Snowden -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 14-08 -- 74
Day 1: 5, 14-08

29. Shane Lineberger -- Lincolnton, NC -- 5, 14-06 -- 72
Day 1: 5, 14-06

30. Derek Hudnall -- Baton Rouge, LA -- 5, 14-04 -- 71
Day 1: 5, 14-04

30. Brock Mosley -- Collinsville, MS -- 5, 14-04 -- 71
Day 1: 5, 14-04

32. Brandon Lester -- Fayetteville, TN -- 5, 14-00 -- 69
Day 1: 5, 14-00

33. Caleb Sumrall -- New Iberia, LA -- 5, 13-15 -- 68
Day 1: 5, 13-15

34. Lee Livesay -- Longview, TX -- 5, 13-13 -- 67
Day 1: 5, 13-13

35. Stetson Blaylock -- Benton, AR -- 5, 13-12 -- 66
Day 1: 5, 13-12

36. Mike Huff -- Corbin, KY -- 5, 13-11 -- 65
Day 1: 5, 13-11

37. Tyler Rivet -- Raceland, LA -- 5, 13-10 -- 64
Day 1: 5, 13-10

38. Garrett Paquette -- Canton, MI -- 5, 13-08 -- 63
Day 1: 5, 13-08

39. Ed Loughran III -- Richmond, VA -- 5, 13-05 -- 62
Day 1: 5, 13-05

40. Matt Herren -- Ashville, AL -- 5, 13-03 -- 61
Day 1: 5, 13-03

41. Seth Feider -- New Market, MN -- 5, 13-02 -- 60
Day 1: 5, 13-02

42. Carl Jocumsen -- Queensland, AUS -- 5, 13-00 -- 59
Day 1: 5, 13-00

43. Rick Clunn -- Ava, MO -- 5, 12-15 -- 58
Day 1: 5, 12-15

44. Greg DiPalma -- Millville, NJ -- 5, 12-13 -- 57
Day 1: 5, 12-13

45. Steve Kennedy -- Auburn, AL -- 5, 12-12 -- 56
Day 1: 5, 12-12

46. Bernie Schultz -- Gainesville, FL -- 5, 12-11 -- 55
Day 1: 5, 12-11

47. Hank Cherry Jr -- Lincolnton, NC -- 5, 12-08 -- 54
Day 1: 5, 12-08

48. Drew Benton -- Panama City, FL -- 5, 12-07 -- 53
Day 1: 5, 12-07

49. Frank Talley -- Temple, TX -- 5, 12-04 -- 52
Day 1: 5, 12-04

50. Skylar Hamilton -- Dandridge, TN -- 5, 11-15 -- 51
Day 1: 5, 11-15

51. John Crews Jr -- Salem, VA -- 5, 11-14 -- 50
Day 1: 5, 11-14

51. Kyle Monti -- Okeechobee, FL -- 5, 11-14 -- 50
Day 1: 5, 11-14

53. Chad Morgenthaler -- Reeds Spring, MO -- 5, 11-13 -- 48
Day 1: 5, 11-13

54. David Fritts -- Lexington, NC -- 5, 11-09 -- 47
Day 1: 5, 11-09

55. Brett Preuett -- Monroe, LA -- 5, 11-07 -- 46
Day 1: 5, 11-07

56. Luke Palmer -- Coalgate, OK -- 5, 11-05 -- 45
Day 1: 5, 11-05

57. Cory Johnston -- Cavan, ON -- 5, 11-04 -- 44
Day 1: 5, 11-04

58. Jason Williamson -- Wagener, SC -- 4, 11-04 -- 43
Day 1: 4, 11-04

59. Dale Hightower -- Mannford, OK -- 5, 11-03 -- 42
Day 1: 5, 11-03

59. Clark Wendlandt -- Leander, TX -- 5, 11-03 -- 42
Day 1: 5, 11-03

61. Jay Yelas -- Lincoln City, OR -- 5, 11-01 -- 40
Day 1: 5, 11-01

62. Matt Arey -- Shelby, NC -- 5, 11-00 -- 39
Day 1: 5, 11-00

62. Brandon Cobb -- Greenwood, SC -- 5, 11-00 -- 39
Day 1: 5, 11-00

64. Rob Digh -- Denver, NC -- 5, 10-13 -- 37
Day 1: 5, 10-13

65. Koby Kreiger -- Alva, FL -- 4, 10-13 -- 36
Day 1: 4, 10-13

66. Harvey Horne -- Bella Vista, AR -- 5, 10-10 -- 35
Day 1: 5, 10-10

67. Shane Lehew -- Catawba, NC -- 5, 10-06 -- 34
Day 1: 5, 10-06

68. Jake Whitaker -- Fairview, NC -- 5, 10-02 -- 33
Day 1: 5, 10-02

69. Kelley Jaye -- Dadeville, AL -- 5, 09-10 -- 32
Day 1: 5, 09-10

70. Robbie Latuso -- Gonzales, LA -- 4, 09-10 -- 31
Day 1: 4, 09-10

71. Tyler Carriere -- Youngsville, LA -- 5, 09-05 -- 30
Day 1: 5, 09-05

72. Mark Menendez -- Paducah, KY -- 4, 08-07 -- 29
Day 1: 4, 08-07

73. Quentin Cappo -- Prairieville, LA -- 3, 06-03 -- 28
Day 1: 3, 06-03

74. Chris Groh -- Spring Grove, IL -- 2, 05-06 -- 27
Day 1: 2, 05-06

75. Cliff Prince -- Palatka, FL -- 0, 00-00 -- 0
Day 1: 0, 00-00