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Tharp Leads Walmart FLW Tour Season Opener on Lake Okeechobee Presented by Evinrude

Toronto News, (PR) February 09, 2012

Does home-lake advantage play a role when 320 of the worlds best anglers gather to see who can find the heaviest four-day stringer of bass for a first-place cash prize of up to $ 125,000? Just look at the leaderboard of the season-opening Walmart FLW Tour on Lake Okeechobee presented by Evinrude.

EverStart pro Randall Tharp of Gardendale, Ala., crossed the stage Thursday with a five-bass limit weighing 33 pounds, 9 ounces to lead day one of the event. Tharp now holds a slim 2-ounce lead over Brandon McMillan of Clewiston, Fla., who caught five bass weighing 33-7. Add to the top-five anglers John Cox (third) of Debary, Fla., and freshly-out-of-retirement Roland Martin (fifth) of Naples, Fla., and you have a handful of anglers with intimate knowledge of Okeechobee leading the tournaments full field of anglers from all across the United States, Canada, Spain and Japan.

The wind blew 15 to 20 (miles per hour), Tharp said. So I adjusted. And thats just something you know how to do from fishing here. A lot of the guys here have put all their eggs in one basket.

Even though hes not a Floridian, Tharp said his familiarity with the lake gave him an edge on the first day of competition. I was going out there to catch a 40-pound sack, to be honest, Tharp said. I probably had 20 bites today. Ten of them were big ones. And by big ones I mean 5 pounds or better.

Tharp said his first bite didnt come until about 9 a.m. but was well worth the wait. That bite came from a bass weighing almost 10 pounds. By 10 a.m. Tharp was culling his small fish. Tharp said the wind would dictate where anglers would be able to fish on the second day of competition and it would continue to be a game of adjustments for the anglers.

The weather made it horrible on me, McMillan said. It made it tough to flip through the mat and make the bait fall the way you need to make it fall. It wasnt like the Okeechobee that I was used to fishing, McMillan added. I figured 20 or 24 pounds would be a good sack. I figured someone would bust 30, but I didnt figure I would do it…