Gary Klein is culling. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Dale Wipfler.
Bassmaster Marshal Drew Dawson shows us Cliff Pirch's 4th and 5th catches of the day.
Keith Combs has a limit. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Jim Beavers.
Bull Shoals was one of the best tournaments in the Elite Series last year. The fishing was outstanding (bassing average of 4.96) though the size of the average bass was less spectacular (2.77 pounds). It’ll be interesting to see how things shake out today.
The only area where Bull Shoals might have disappointed last season was in the size of the daily lunkers. Zell Rowland caught the biggest bass of the event, a 6-13 that struck on Day 2. The other daily lunkers all weighed less than 6 pounds.
In the earliest days of B.A.S.S. events on Bull Shoals, the lunkers topped out noticeably larger. In 1975, Jack Hains (the 1975 Classic champ) had the biggest bass (8-2) in B.A.S.S.’ first tournament on Bull Shoals. Dee Thomas won that tournament and put flippin' in the national spotlight.
A year later, Dan Ray caught an 8-3 in the All-American on Bull Shoals. Then, in 1988, H. Mark Peters caught the biggest bass ever in a B.A.S.S. event on Bull Shoals. It weighed 8-9.
So, the fishing seems dramatically better these days on Bull Shoals — anglers are catching more bass than ever before — but the top end isn’t as big … so far.
Shaw Grigsby with a 2.25 lb-er. He has a limit at approximately 11 lbs. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Tony Harrison.
Bill Lowen is fishing in the back of a creek with the first truly stained water we've seen. The water here is 54 degrees.
He just caught a small bass and tossed it back.
The wind has gradually increased from this morning. The sun has yet to take the chill out of the air.
Lowen just caught another short bass. He has five small keepers in his livewell.
Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Troy Krodinger.
The photo above shows the marker board at Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock and illustrates a rising lake level. But it hadn't been updated at 7 a.m. today to reveal just how fast this 45,000-acre lake is filling.
At 10 a.m., the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers website showed the current level is 656.11 feet above sea level - that's a rise of 2.25 feet since Wednesday at midnight. (Power pool or normal level is 654.0)
In other words, the Elite Series anglers are seeing a much different lake than the one they practiced on the first three days this week.
Alton Jones said Thursday, "It's going to be a tournament full of strategy."
That was before the cold front came through this area yesterday, dumped heavy rainfall and dropped temperatures 40 degrees.
Mark Davis noted yesterday that during practice he'd seen "thousands" of bass on spawning beds, some in as little as 18 inches of water, and the water clarity was such that he could see 30 feet deep.
But it's a new lake today. It will be interesting to hear what the Elites see on this first day of "a tournament full of strategy."
We know there are fish on the beds in Bull Shoals, but evidently not many are fishing for them.
The sun has popped out so that likelihood could grow. But if you will see some of Mark Hicks' reports you will see that the wind is blowing a lot of these guys around. That type wind makes it hard to see beds, especially here.
While some beds are shallow, we've heard more reports of guys seeing big smallmouth in 20-feet plus. That's a hard fish to see with any kind of ripple on the water. Chances are a lot of these guys are still catching some of those deeper bedding fish, they just aren't looking at them, instead casting and hoping for an aggressive bite from an overly-protective fish of its bed.
Interesting enough, a lot of this lake is mixed really well with largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. Boyd Duckett told me he had kind a spot the size of kitchen table that had three beds in it and they each were occupied with a fish representing those species.
I've fished events on Bull Shoals at this time of year in the past as well. I've not fallen for this since I'm not much of a sight fisherman, but I know of several instances, especially in the ultra clear water when they are deep, when an angler has made several casts to a deep fish and instead of pulling in a keeper bass, he's reeled in a 2- or 3-pound crappie. We are hoping that takes place a lot today, and everyone will bring those to the dot com crew.
Randy Howell adds another keeper to the livewell. Photo by Bassmaster Marshal Dustin Stacey.