It’s well into the afternoon on the second day of the Norman Open. The sky is darkening, but it has yet to unleash the wet stuff. The barometer continues to plummet, which should kick the bass into gear.
With a little luck, the rain will hold off until after the weigh-in. As someone who has fished many Bassmaster Opens, I’d much rather fish in the rain than weigh my fish on stage looking like a drowned rat.
Then again, if you’re lugging a heavy limit to the scales, you wouldn’t notice if you were in the middle of a hurricane.
Early blogs from the lake indicate that the bite was off this morning compared to yesterday morning. I still believe the bass will turn on this afternoon. However, the anglers may have to change tactics to catch them.
This sport is more cerebral than chess. As always, the anglers that adjust to the conditions and determine the right strategies and will do well.
I expect to see some big grins and kicker bass when the later flights show up today
Don’t go away.
After weighing in yesterday and claiming third place with 13 pounds, 8 ounces, Chad Morgenthaler told me that he had caught 20 bass. Only one of them was a largemouth. It weighed 3 ½ pounds, which qualifies as a kicker fish in this event.
Morgenthaler said he would spend more time fishing for largemouths today. Just what that entails he didn’t say.
Does that mean fishing farther up the lake where the odds for catching largemouth bass are better? Or, could he mean changing baits and what he is casting to in the same area where he is catching spotted bass?
The reality is that any angler could stumble into a kicker largemouth anywhere on the lake. And, it could be when they least expect it.
Tournament leader David Williams also caught only one largemouth bass yesterday, which weighed 3 pounds, 12 ounces. He was casting to schooling spotted bass when the bigmouth engulfed his bait.
One of which is the right species!
Now that the anglers are on the water, we can provide a few more details about how the bass are being caught, provided we don’t get too specific.
The competitors can’t read our blogs until after they weigh in. And, those that make the top-12 cut aren’t likely to change what they are doing tomorrow based on the blogs. They’ll be tuned into what’s working for them and will be content to dance with the girl they brung.
Having said that, topwater baits, including buzzbaits, produced some quality fish yesterday, especially in the morning. They’ve also nailed some good bass this morning.
It’s no secret that many bass are being plucked from Norman’s copious boat docks. Chad Morgenthaler,who started the day in second place, is dock fishing. He didn’t mention what he’s throwing at them. Morgenthalerdid tell me yesterday that several of the anglers near the top of the standings are fishing “his” water.
The good news for Morgenthaleris that this confirms he is on good fish. The bad news is that he has to share them. The worst news is that Elite Series pro Andy Montgomery, who was fourth yesterday, is fishing some of his docks.
If there is anyone that can skip jigs and chattering baits under docks with more precision than Montgomery, I’ve never seen them. I doubt than anyone is better than Montgomery when it comes to this challenging presentation. If the bass are hanging under docks today, Montgomery will surely weigh in at the Bass Pro Shops tomorrow.
There are also schooling bass to be caught, as well as bass on offshore structure. Cliff Pace is fishing offshore today and has a limit in the box.
The pair of Moores (father Ron, son Ronnie) and I just found Gerald Swindle. He gave us the "zero" sign, when asked how he was doing today. At Thursday's weigh-in, Swindle mentioned fishing 5,000-something docks, and he's doing the same today, but it has yet to payoff.
He started the day in a tie for 38th place with 9-6.
"For whatever reason, today has started off weird," Swindle said. "It's like they're not even there. I've fished docks that I got 15, 18 bites on in practice, and nothing. It's like they've moved deep, and I don't want to go out there and fish for them."
Swindle is echoing a sentiment we've heard often this morning.
"This is the way it should be won fellas," said Swindle, as he switched to a crankbait. "A (Rapala) DT-14 on a brushpile. And I can't get a bite."
There's a dog on the bank that's continuously barking.
"Timmy's done fell in the well," Swindle said.
For you youngsters, that's a "Lassie" TV show reference.
Never a dull moment around Swindle.
David Williams continues to grind away at filling a limit this morning. He's now got three keepers, caught on three different baits. Total weight: 6 pounds, maybe.
"They're biting funny today for some reason," Williams said.
His day hasn't gone as planned. Everyone thinks the later flights today will have an advantage due to the expected weather change.
But Williams experienced a disadvantage this morning when boats were already on his prime spots from Day 1.
"That's not how I wanted to start, at all," Williams said.
As noted before this tournament started, Elite Series pro Cliff Prince is in an unusual predicament. He's the "bubble boy" in the Elite Series yearly point standings for a Bassmaster Classic qualification.
If someone who hasn't already qualified wins this tournament, Prince is out. For instance, Day 1 leader David Williams and second place Richard Howes, both of whom have fished all the Southern Opens, could knock Prince out.
Prince could decide his own destiny by winning here. He hasn't fished the other two Southern Opens, but his win would prevent someone from bumping him off the list. Prince kept himself in contention yesterday with a 26th-place weight of 10-5.
And he could also benefit with a little help from his friends. Chad Morgenthaler (3rd, 13-8) and Andy Montgomery (4th, 13-2) have already qualified for the Classic through the Elite Series. If either of them wins, Prince is in.
Tournament director Chris Bowes lauded Prince at Thursday's weigh-in for taking the last minute chance to decide his own fate.
"If you've got any chance at all to make the Classic, you've got to take it," Prince said.
David Williams, the leader with 14-1 on Day 1, is struggling a bit today. He didn't have a keeper until just now. No. 1 was a decent fish - 2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds.
"It's been dead this morning for some reason," said Williams, who noted that he caught keepers throughout the day Thursday.
"They'll start biting when this front comes in."
Williams had two 3-pounds-plus bass in his bag yesterday.
I don’t give much credence to the “luck of the draw” at most Bassmaster Open tournaments. The earlier you start on day 1 the later you get the green light on day 2 and vice versa. The result is that every angler has equal time on the water after two days of fishing regardless of the number they draw.
However, there are times when the draw can play a big factor. It appears that the Norman Open may be one of those times.
At the weigh-in yesterday, it appeared that more kicker fish were caught by anglers in the earlier flights. Two of the top three in the standings were in the first flight, including Florida’s Richard Howes and Illinois’ Chad Morgenthaler. The leader, North Carolinian David Williams, was in the fourth of 10 flights.
Norman’s bass were active in the fog that blanketed the Lake early yesterday morning. When the fog lifted, sunny, calm conditions made for tougher fishing, especially for a kicker fish that is essential to doing well here.
The sun was out this morning, but clouds have rolled in. The forecast is for clouds, a stiff breeze, a falling barometer and rain this afternoon. These conditions should favor anglers in the later flights.
Since Richard Howes and Chad Morgenthaler were in the first flight yesterday, they were rotated to the last flight today. They’ll start later, but they’ll still be fishing 2 hours after the first flight checks in. Today’s weigh-in will tell just how lucky their early draw yesterday proves to be.