For a lake that most competing anglers complained would “fish small,” Barnett Reservoir yielded a lot of big bass and heavy sacks in Thursday’s first round of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.
Sixth-year Elite pro Brandon Card of Knoxville, Tenn., wasn’t complaining, not after posting a 22-pound, 14-ounce five-fish limit to take a two-pound lead after the first round of the four-day event.
He said with bass stacked in the shallows in areas where shad are spawning, it has concentrated the bass and, of course, bass fishermen.
“I know the number of quality fish are available to have another 20-pound day, but I think it’ll take about a 17-pound average per day to remain in contention for the win,” said Card, who shared water with a lot of his peers. “The fishing pressure is certainly a factor at this event. I slow down and focus on making a good cast every time.
“You can catch fish behind people by doing it that way. I know I’m on the right fish to win this thing, but it’s too early to make any predictions. All I’m able to do at this point is hit the water again tomorrow and do the best I can.”
Bobby Lane Jr., of Lakeland, Fla., was happy, too. His 20-pound, 14-ounce bag landed him second in the field of 109.
“I’m not going to change anything, and I expect the bass to be feeding in a similar locations as they did today,” Lane said about his strategy for Friday.” I’m going to be there when they do.”
Two other fishermen busted 20 pounds, veteran pro Mark Davis, of Mt. Ida, Ark., at 20-10, and fast-starting Keith Poche of Pike Road, Ala., who had 17 pounds in the first 40 minutes and finished with 20-2.
Davis likes the challenge of tight-quarter fishing.
“I like to fish slow and steady,” he said. “And with the crowded waters here at Ross Barnett, I felt my style of fishing would be very productive. I’m sharing a piece of the lake with another angler, and we both weighed very similar limits of bass today. We’ve talked and have agreed to work with each other to make it happen again on Friday.”
Two more just missed the 20-pound mark, Brandon Lester of Fayetteville, Tenn., was fifth at 19-15, and Elite rookie Dustin Connell of Clanton, Ala., at 19-12.
One Mississippi angler is in the race. Brock Mosley of Collinsville is in 20th place with 14-10, and in position to make the cut to the top 50 after today’s second round, guaranteeing himself a paycheck of at least $10,000.
The other two Mississippi entries, both former Bassmaster Classic champions, have tough tasks to make it to the third round. Paul Elias of Laurel is 86th after catching four bass and 8-9, and Cliff Pace of Petal is 107th with only one bass weighing 1-13.
The full field of 109 anglers will compete again Friday, but only the top 50 after the second round will advance to Saturday. Those 50 are guaranteed a minimum of $10,000. After the third round, only the top 12 will fish Sunday and fight for the $100,000 top prize.