David Dudley of Lynchburg, Va., has the reputation of always being a contender in tournaments where fishing is expected to be tough. So it's no surprise that after the first day of the FLW Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Murray out of Columbia, Dudley finds himself leading the 45-man field by better than 3 1/4 pounds.
Dudley's opening-day catch was a five-fish limit that weighed 17 pounds, 14 ounces. The closest contenders are Cody Meyer of Auburn, Calif., and Bryan Thrift of Shelby, N.C., both of whom finished with 14-9. Brad Knight of Wartburg, Tenn., is third with 13-7, an ounce better than Scott Martin of Clewiston, Fa. Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif., is another ounce back in sixth.
Local favorite Anthony Gagliardi of Prosperity is seventh with 13-2, followed by Tennessee's Andy Morgan with 12-10. Jacob Wheeler of Indianapolis is ninth with 12-5, and Barry Wilson of Birmingham, Ala., rounded out the top 10 at 11-8.
Casey Ashley of Donalds, the other South Carolina native in the field, is 21st with 9 pounds,
As expected, definitive patterns were tough to find. Very few fishermen stuck exclusively to shallow- or deep-water patterns, and Dudley, who won this tournament at its $500,000 first-prize money in 2003, was not among them.
"I went deep and shallow. I think everybody is doing that," he said. "I have no idea where the next bite is coming from. I'm just flying by the seat of my pants.
Dudley, whose biggest fish weighed about 4 1/4 pounds, said that he was almost practicing today, trying to dial in the timing of his shallow and deep efforts.
"That's kind of what I was checking today," he said. "Even though this was a tournament day, today was kind of a practice day. I spent today trying to figure out when I do need to stay shallow and when I need to stay deep."