MANY, La. — For a majority of the anglers with extensive knowledge of Toledo Bend, Day One of the Trokar Battle on the Bayou was an optimistic one.
Dennis Tietje, who has a fish camp on the lake, hoped to turn around a sub-par year after hurting his back early in the season. His 15-pound, 7-ounce stringer on Thursday has him in 28th place, his best single day performance of the year, but a missed fish would have put him even higher.
"I jumped off a big fish in front of Greg Hackney and he just laughed at me," Tietje said. "I needed that fish and I guess so did he. I just didn't get another big bite and that's what I was looking for to push me up into that 18- to 19-pound range."
While one big bite did get away, Tietje found fortune in his favor on another occasion early in the morning while he was looking to fill out his limit.
"I knew it was going to be a good day," Tietje said. "Early in the morning, I caught a 4-pounder and a 2-pounder in one cast. At the time I had three fish and needed two more. I got 'em."
With his wife and son in attendance, Tietje was excited for a chance to better his success on Friday, knowing he has a comfortable bed and good food waiting for him back at the camp.
"It was a great day, a fun day, and it feels good to be home," Tietje said. "It's special being here because I get to eat home cooking every night. I sleep with my little dog and my wife and it feels like being home. It's good to be on familiar waters, which I haven't gotten to do since I started on the Elite Series."
Like Tietje, Matt Reed has spent many hours fishing Toledo Bends storied waters. Had it been any other week in the year, Reed's name would likely be among the leaders, but the Bend always seem to have his number at this particular time.
"I know a ton about this lake, but I knew coming in that these were the two weeks when I don't do well," Reed said. "They are not where they were and they are not where they are going to be. My brain gets to running too fast and I try to push them too deep, too fast."
His 11 pounds, 6 ounces left him well outside the cut in 77th place. Even though Toledo Bend is full of fish, Reed got on the numbers pattern instead of size.
"Anytime you are catching a lot of fish, you are probably not doing things right," Reed said. "You want to be the one getting those few, big bites. I want them to be out there where I want to fish and they just aren't yet."
Another angler getting a boost from friendly faces in the crowd was Keith Poche. After a top finish last week on Pickwick, Poche, originally from Louisiana, bagged 14 pounds, 4 ounces and finished the day in 44th place. He lamented a few missed fish that would have placed him higher.
"I made a move with only a small limit in the boat and caught a lot of fish, but every good bite came unbuttoned," Poche said. "I grew up 1 ½ hours from here but I didn't have the means to come out here in a boat. I didn't know anything about tournament fishing until I moved to Alabama."
Even though Poche doesn't have the local experience like Reed and Tietje, he will still be ready to bring home a big bag over the next few days when more of his friends and family are in attendance.
"I'll have 20 pounds tomorrow."