Professional bass anglers from all across the United States, Canada, Spain and Japan began their four-day battle for a top cash award of up to $125,000 on Thursday at Table Rock Lake. Just a few short weeks after an incredible event on Lake Hartwell, the pros were eyeing Table Rock and anticipating a sight-fishing event for bedding bass.

So the fact that Blake Nick of Adger, Ala., who weighed a five bass limit for 21 pounds, 4 ounces, led the tournament after the first day of competition may have raised some eyebrows. Nick now holds a slim 3-ounce lead over OFF! Pro Terry Bolton of Paducah, Ky., who caught five bass weighing 21-1.

“I’m horrible at sight fishing,” Nick said. “I saw them doing their thing during practice, and on the last day of practice I had just had enough of it and went and tried to find my own thing I could do. I’m not looking at them at all.

“I fished a lot of stuff today,” Nick added, who said he focused on isolated structure as part of his plan of attack. “I started out this morning with a 4-pounder on my first cast.”

Nick said he had a limit in the boat by 8:30 and covered a lot of water throughout the day to hit 15 to 20 places. He said his better fish came after noon when the wind picked up.

“There are so many chunky 15-inchers in this lake it’s all about getting the good bites,” Nick said. “And who knows when they’re going to come? I’m expecting to catch fish, but I know how it goes.

“My places are reloading every day,” Nick added. “These fish have not spawned yet. These are pre-spawn fish.”

Nick said he was surprised he was leading the tournament.

“I went and found some fish on beds,” Nick said. “If worse comes to worse, I’ll go do that. I really don’t want to because I’m awful at it. Somebody could come in tomorrow with 25 pounds by sight fishing. These guys are so good at it. We fish with the best sight fishermen in the world, and I’m sure one of them is going to load the boat tomorrow.”

Welcher caught Thursday’s big bass weighing 7-6 on the pro side to win $500.

Pros are competing for a top award of up to $125,000 this week plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart, the world championship of bass fishing. The top 35 anglers in the point standings from the six Walmart FLW Tour Major tournaments will qualify.

Brock Bertrand of Fayetteville, Ark., leads the Co-angler Division with five bass weighing 19-2 followed by Derek Yamamoto of Boulder City, Nev., in second place with four bass weighing 13-9.

Earl Campbell of Springfield, Mo., caught Thursday’s big bass weighing 7-14 in the co-angler division to win $250.

Co-anglers are fishing for a top award of $25,000 this week plus valuable points that could help them qualify for the 2012 Forrest Wood Cup presented by Walmart. The top 35 co-anglers in the point standings from the six Walmart FLW Tour Major tournaments will qualify.

Anglers will take off from Table Rock State Park Marina located at 380 State Park Marina Road in Branson at 7 a.m. each morning. Friday’s weigh-in will be held at Table Rock State Park Marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s final weigh-ins will be held at the Walmart located at 1101 Branson Hills Pkwy. in Branson beginning at 4 p.m.

Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Walmart on Saturday and Sunday from noon-4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and fans can learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. All activities are free and open to the public.

Coverage of the Table Rock Lake tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when “FLW” airs May 6 from 1 – 2 p.m. ET. “FLW” is hosted by Jason Harper and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.

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