JASPER, Texas — Sam Rayburn Reservoir's grass beds are missing and the bass seem bewildered, but none of that stopped Mississippi's Jesse Draime from pulling in a 20-pound, 5-ounce limit during day one of the $315,700 CITGO Bassmaster Central Open presented by Busch Beer.
"I caught them on a lilypad," said Draime, who caught his bass on a frog. "But it's nothing like it was last year. It had 10 times the lilypads last year. ... You had to really hunt and peck to find 'em and I happened to stumble on a little place that's small and I didn't have anybody around me. The big thing is pulling them out."
Anglers coming into the event speculated that it would take daily catches at or above 15 pounds to make Friday's cut to the top 50 boaters and non-boaters. The absence of grass has shifted that expectation and forced anglers to adapt to one of two strategies: fishing deep and hunting for structure that bass use to ambush prey, or fishing the heavily pressured banks for any fish that may still be in the shallows despite the summer heat.
Texas boater Cody Bird opted to fish deep, focusing on two primary areas. No one was more surprised than Bird on Thursday when he brought in 19-2, briefly leading before Draime's catch pushed Bird back to second place.
"I had a terrible practice," he said. "Everyone's going to give me a hard time because I've been complaining the whole time. I only found one small schooling spot. The other spot, it's real deep and it's hard for me to find it. It's on a creek channel, but I think I've got it now, maybe."
Bird's fellow Texan, Tommy Durham, landed in third with a 17-2 sack anchored by the Purolator Big Bass of the Day, a 9-8 whopper worth $1,000 from Purolator. Durham caught it while working a brush pile with a crankbait during the late morning. But, he said, appearances today were deceiving.
"The bite was just terrible. I only had four fish today, six fish, two non-keepers. ... I think the hurricane is affecting us, even this far away. We're not as sensitive as the fish are, I guess."
This is the second of three events in the Central Open series, which will send the top 15 boaters and non-boaters to the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship in December. There, they will have the chance at one of three spots in bass fishing's world championship, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.
Competition continues Friday and Saturday with anglers launching from Twin Dikes Marina. Weigh-ins at the Marina begin at 2:45 p.m.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Central Open presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include Jasper/Sam Rayburn Chamber of Commerce.