GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Although Andy Morgan has enjoyed some success on the FLW Tour, the 33-year-old Tennessee pro has not made a name for himself on the CITGO Bassmaster circuit. But he took a big step toward accomplishing that by taking the opening-round lead in the CITGO Bassmaster Southern Open on Alabama's Lake Guntersville Thursday.
Morgan has the distinction of capturing the early lead in the first BASS event he has every fished. Despite 12 ounces of penalties for two dead fish, his five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds, 1 ounce was enough to hold off Florida's Terry Scroggins (21-9) and fellow Tennessean Marshall Deakins (20-7).
Alabama's Tommy Swindle, father of former CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Gerald Swindle, posted a catch of 20 pounds, which was good enough for fourth place. Arkansas' Stephen Browning rounds out the top five with 18-10.
"It was a real good day and pretty much what I had hoped to catch," said Morgan, who reported similar results during four days of practice for the tournament.
Morgan, a personable young angler with a ready smile, took the unusual posture for a BASS tournament leader by freely explaining exactly how he fashioned his opening-day stringer. He was pitching a Zoom Brush Hog creature bait and War Eagle jig to submerged hydrilla in about 12 feet of water. He winched the bass out with 65-pound test braided line.
"My area got worked over pretty hard," he said. "I had a lot of company. That's to be expected on this lake. You're not going to get any place on Guntersville without someone seeing you. But I've got some other places where I can go bob and weave and catch another good bag. The main thing is capitalizing on the strikes you get because there aren't many."
Scroggins, a two-time BASS winner and CITGO Bassmaster Tour veteran, also reported fishing in a crowd Thursday.
"This was kind of like fishing in Florida," he said. "Just flipping the grass. I'm looking forward to going back there tomorrow."
Scroggins scored by flipping a 4-inch Zoom tube teamed with a big 1- or 1 ½-ounce Penetrator weight (tied to 50- or 65-pound test SpiderWire Stealth braid) with a 6/0 Gamakatsu hook into shallow, topped-out hydrilla mats. That technique had produce about 35 bites onThursday.
"There's other boats there, but I think I can go back there and catch them again," Scroggins said. "It seems some of these guys are not educated on flipping, so you have to take advantage of that."
Third-place's Deakins was also surprisingly forthcoming with details of his pattern. The 53-year-old owner of a cabinet shop owner in Tennessee scored on a topwater frog fished across shallow grass flats. Thursday's bright, hot conditions did not seem to hamper the topwater bite, he said.
"The sky doesn't matter," Deakins said. "The bite was better early this morning, but we got bites throughout the day."Local angler Steve Stinson took Thursday's Purolator Big Bass honors with a 7 1/2-pound largemouth. It was caught on black-and-blue jig flipped into shallow grass.
On the co-angler side, Georgia's Heath Pack is leading with 17-10, followed by fellow Georgian Butch Tucker (15-14) and Fred Rigdon of Florida (13-12).
Local sponsors include the city of Guntersville, the Guntersville Chamber of Commerce and Guntersville State Park.
Bassmaster Northern Open sponsors: CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).