John Hunter and Vincent Timperio of Georgetown took the Day One lead at the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series East Regional on Lake Norman with 17-1. Local favorites UNC Charlotte lurk in second.
For practice on Lake Norman, collegiate anglers enjoyed a beautiful week of sunny skies and clear water filled with spawning bass. The fate of those favorable sight fishing conditions hung in the balance of the oncoming front that inevitably dumped heavy rains on Norman the night before the event.
The Day One morning hosted a mixture of cloudy skies and brief showers but the damage had already been done. The rain raised the water level nearly six inches overnight and caused many areas to muddy up, leaving anglers scrambling from bed to bed and straining to see any sign of life.
Eventually the morning clouds burned off and the sun popped out. That’s when anglers started spotting better fish and improving on their weights. But Day One leaders John Hunter and Vincent Timperio had already gotten out ahead of the field.
“We started off the morning sight fishing,” said John Hunter. “Vincent picked off a couple good fish but the water was real dirty so after that we just went to some areas where we knew there were beds and we just flipped around in that area and caught some.”
Hunter admits they caught a couple good fish “junk fishing” as well, fishing riprap with crankbaits in between spawning areas.
“We had a couple good ones that we had found yesterday that we couldn’t see today,” said Timperio.
“We’re mainly fishing in the backs of creeks trying to find beds and if the water’s to muddy, we’re flipping. To be honest, we’re running low on fish,” said Hunter. “We’re going to have to scramble and get something together tomorrow to try to win.”
Shane Lehew and Eric Self of UNC Charlotte had no shortage of fish but an abundance of bad luck on Day One. Even though they brought in 16-11, enough for second, and the Carhartt Big Bass weighing 5-5, their day was far from perfect. In addition to suffering a day ending mechanical issue, Shane Lehew had a couple of mishaps with big fish that show promise for a 20-plus-pound bag on Day Two.
“I had a five pounder all the way to the boat that came off,” said Lehew. “And we had a fish found between 6 and 7 on bed that I got to bite twice. When she bit it the third time I set the hook on it and it blew out the bait and I ended up snagging it in the chin.”
Lehew boated the 6-and-a-half pounder, unhooked it and returned it to the water in accordance with B.A.S.S. rules, stating that all sight fish must be hooked inside the mouth. Between the fish UNC lost and the giant they boated and threw back, they lost 12 pounds of fish and the opportunity to cull up about 8-pounds in the matter of 10 minutes.
Although there was a college team on the foul hooked fish when UNC Charlotte returned later in the day to check her, there’s a good chance they’ll have another shot at her tomorrow. After all, no one knocked off Lehew’s 5-5 for Carhartt Big Bass and he said she easily outweighed that fish by a pound and a half.
Lehew and Self plan to bed fish on Day Two. Lehew stated that he had another 20 fish on bed that they never checked today and that they caught about 15 off bed today with 4 of the 5 they weighed coming off bed. With ideal weather conditions and enough knowledge of the lake to find cleared water, there’s a good chance UNC Charlotte will move up one spot at the end of day two.
EKU’s Kyle Raymer and John Smith rounded out the top 3 after day one with 15-4.
“We didn’t really sight fish much today,” said Smith. “A lot of our sight fish were in the backs of creeks and all that stuff is like chocolate milk bad.”
EKU elected to flip instead. They are fishing in areas where they saw fish on bed in practice and they expect some of their bites are coming from bedding fish, but they can’t see them to know for sure.
“We probably caught 30 keepers but we only had 4 solid fish,” said Smith. “We had one 15 incher that killed us.”
EKU laid off of their fish on day one when they reached the 15-pound mark and started looking for one big one on bed. But on day two they plan to catch as much as they can in their flipping areas and then move to some areas were they can sight fish later in the day.
Daily coverage of this week’s event will feature a live video stream from the weigh-in, photo galleries, BASSCam videos and stories on Bassmaster.com.
Teams will launch at Blythe Landing at 7 a.m. ET, with the weigh-in also at Blythe Landing starting at 3:10 p.m. ET. For more information about the event, visit the event page.