Fishing buddies top Day 1 co-angler leaderboard

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Fishing buddies top Day 1 co-angler leaderboard

KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jerrod Albright sported a big smile Thursday after he took the co-angler lead in the St. Croix Bassmaster Southern Open at the Kis

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KISSIMMEE, Fla. — Jerrod Albright sported a big smile Thursday after he took the co-angler lead in the St. Croix Bassmaster Southern Open at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes.

Then Shakespeare took the stage, and Albright’s smile grew even wider.

No, not that guy.

It was Ron Shakespeare, who knocked his fishing buddy from atop the leaderboard and assumed the co-angler pole position on Day 1 of the first Open tournament of the 2022 Bassmaster season.

Shakespeare caught three bass on Thursday for a total of 13 pounds, 8 ounces. Albright’s limit of 13-4 was good enough for second place among co-anglers.

Albright was waiting for his Shakespeare when he descended from the stage with the division lead. They slapped hands and shared a big hug, both grinning from ear to ear. The pair fishes together in club tournaments, team trails and weekend-warrior events of all varieties here on the Kissimmee Chain, and their homegrown skills were on full display Thursday for an international audience.

Anglers from 30 states, Japan and Canada are competing in the derby. In all, 225 boats are entered with a boater and co-angler aboard each.

It’s a big field, but the one-two punch from sister cities (Shakespeare from St. Cloud and Albright from Kissimmee) was in the spotlight on Day 1. Shakespeare had the bigger bag to start the tournament, but Albright had the heaviest catch of the division — a 7-11 bucket-mouth bass, its visibly bloated belly glistening in the late afternoon sun.

Shakespeare’s heavy of 6-8 was no slouch either.

“I caught two back-to-back at about 11:30 this morning,” Shakespeare said. “It was the big one and a 4 ½-pounder. Then in the last 10 minutes, I caught a 3-pounder to get a limit.”

Shakespeare fished with Japan’s Seiji Kato on Thursday. They started on the south end of Lake Toho before locking into the lower lakes in the Kissimmee Chain. The 6-8 came from Lake Kissimmee on a lure both he and Albright are using this week.

It’s called – wait for it – the “Dirty Albright.”

Its namesake described it as an 8-inch, trick-style worm that’s a blend of colors. CPF Lures is the manufacturer.

“There’s some Junebug in it, some black and blue,” Albright said. “It’s almost Christmas Tree, but with a green belly.”

It’s the same lure he used to hook the 7-11 in Lake Toho, fishing behind boater Jacob Bigelow of Wisconsin. Albright caught his heavy in about 7 feet of water, while Shakespeare caught his biggest bass in approximately 4 feet.

“We’re fishing on the bottom, but it works everywhere out here,” Albright said, laughing.

Promoting their lure? Sure, but these local hammers backed up their talk on Day 1 of the Southern Open.

“I don’t think the bass out here have seen anything like it yet,” Shakespeare said. “So we’ll have a little fun with it before it gets out there (for everyone else).”

Day 2 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Southern Open at the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes was set to begin with a 7 a.m. Eastern takeoff from Big Toho Marina. Weigh-in is scheduled for 3 p.m. Eastern. The field will be cut to the Top 12 after the weigh-in and the overall winner on Saturday will earn a berth in the 2023 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk. B.A.S.S. announced earlier this week that the 2023 Classic will be held March 24-26 on the Tennessee River in Knoxville.

The Kissimmee Sports Commission is hosting this week’s event in Central Florida.

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