Talk leading up to the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Louisiana's Toledo Bend centered around whether the lake could produce as well as it did last year, when Dean Rojas put together more than 70 pounds to win the event.

Mississippi's Cliff Pace removed any doubt today (June 7) that the now-full lake would scatter the fish. Pace put together 23 pounds, 2 ounces to take the early lead in the tournament.

He was one of six pros who put together 20-pound stringers on the first day of competition.

Joining him in the 20-pound club was Denny Brauer (22-8), Brandon Palaniuk (21-2), Donalds' Casey Ashley (20-13), Mark Davis (20-3) and Matt Heron (20-0).

Click here to see full standings.

While Pace, well, set a brisk pace, the angler said putting the stringer together wasn't easy.

"I can't stand here and puff my chest up," he said. "I just went out and fished hard and got big bites.

"I fished the same way I fished for three days (of practice) and got 10 bites (during that practice period). It was a grind."

He said all of his fish came offshore, and fell for V&M football-head jigs. However, that's about the only pattern he really could come up with.

"They were random bites," Pace said.

He was unsure if he'd be able to replicate today's success.

"Today is a day I'll remember for a long time," he said. I hope that I can continue to get those kinds of bites (tomorrow)."

Brauer also said he had no clue whether or not he'd remain in the top ranks of the field after a second day of competition.

"Those were the only five fish I put in the boat all day," he said of his stringer.

The veteran pro said he a very difficult practice, but decided to focus on one offshore area after practice ended.

"It's a spot," Brauer said. "I like fishing patterns; I don't like fishing spots, but I had a really, really tough practice and I got a couple of bites there - one was a good fish."

Brauer said he was working a deep break with a ¾-ounce Strike King football-head jig, although he also had some success with a Strike King Series 6XD crankbait.

He said he'll be back in that area - which he has all to himself - in the morning, and was hoping the early bite would provide a solid foundation on which to build his day.

"I never had a bite after 10:30 (a.m.)," he said. "I don't know what the fish are doing."

Palaniuk, winner of the Bull Shoals Elite Series stop back in April, was tight-lipped on how he caught his hefty sack of fish. However, he said he had identified a pattern he hoped would hold up.

"I was fishing a pattern, but today I changed things up within the pattern," he said. "I fished new water."

The key to his impressive sack of bass was that heftier fish turned on.

"During practice I caught 2- to 3-pound fish," Palaniuk said. "Today I caught 3- to 4-pounders."

The tournament continues through Sunday, with the field being cut to the top 50 after tomorrow.

Click here to read the second-day story.