NEW ORLEANS — Round one goes to the wind, waves and weather.
That was the opinion of a number of anglers Thursday after the first round of the 31st BASS Masters Classic on the Louisiana Delta.
Despite the tough conditions, David Walker grabbed the first-round lead with a five-bass limit weighing 12 pounds, 4 ounces. But the Cannon, Ky., angler isn't exactly brimming with confidence just yet.
"This is a three-day event, and so many times a guy who starts off well doesn't finish well," said Walker, who is making his second straight Classic appearance.
Hints of the Gulf of Mexico advance of Tropical Storm Barry brought occasional downpours, a steady breeze and wind-whipped waves to portions of the Delta.
That combination hampered fishing and produced an agonizingly slow day on the water for many of the anglers competing in Classic XXXI.
On the day, six anglers failed to weigh in a legal bass, including 2000 B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Tim Horton and two-time ESPN Great Outdoors Games gold medalist Peter Thliveros.
Of the 45 contenders, 39 failed to record a double-digit weigh-in total on Thursday and only 13 limits were reported.
While most anglers who turned their boats south toward the Venice region encountered tough fishing, Walker was able to do well there, banking on his Gambler jig with a black and blue trailer.
"Today, the water was too high," Walker said. "I don't know why I really caught those fish today …. It was just too high and the fish scatter out through there and there is just too much to it. And the little places that kind of hold some clean water, they get flushed out by the main river water and it dirties them up and the fish just don't tend to bite so well."
Close behind Walker is Shelbyville, Texas, angler Harold Allen in second place with five bass checking in at 11 pounds, 13 ounces. While the 13-time Classic qualifier admitted his day was far from easy, he feels strong heading into Friday's second round.
"I've got some fish. I think I have enough to catch a limit every day," Allen said. "My deal is going to be stopping in the right places and staying long enough to make it happen."
While Allen is pleased with his start, he knows that Day 2 is critical in its own right. The veteran Texas pro knows that every strike is vital to his hopes of improving on his 1981 runner-up finish.
"That's the deal. We can't miss a fish tomorrow. We've got to catch every fish that bites. If we can do that, I think we'll be OK," Allen said.
Looming in third is three-time B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam. The Kalamazoo, Mich., pro weighed in five bass at 11 pounds, 5 ounces.
"It was a hard day and hopefully conditions will get better instead of worse," said VanDam, who is making his 11th consecutive Classic appearance, second only to Rick Clunn's 28 straight appearances. "So many variables control the fish and I just feel fortunate to be within striking distance after one day."
VanDam also knows that a good first day can quickly be wiped out by a poor second day.
"You can't really have a bad day at the Classic and expect to win, especially with the weather conditions that we've got coming," he explained. "It's pretty important to do well today, and I would have loved to caught a 16- or 17-pound bag today to make it that much easier for the next day."
VanDam appreciates being in striking distance after the first round.
"It's better to be a little bit behind because that way it drives you to do a little better," he said. "I learned some things today and I'm going to go after it tomorrow. I'm letting it all hang out this week here.
"I'm going to take some chances and I know that you're going to have to catch some good, solid stringers to win. I'd figured 36 to 40 pounds would probably win and it's a pretty safe bet that that is going to be right in line."
The Classic continues Friday with a scheduled 6 a.m. launch at Bayou Segnette State Park. The second-round weigh-in will take place at 2:45 p.m. at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center in New Orleans and is free and open to the public. TV coverage of the weigh-in will air from 6-6:30 p.m. ET on ESPN2.