LaGRANGE, GA. – Seldom has so little meant so much. And never have so many Bassmaster Elite Series anglers uttered the word "clueless" on-stage. Both were the result of a brutal bass fishing Day One of the West Point Lake Battle here Thursday.
It would be one thing if these guys had never caught fish on this beautiful Chattahoochie River impoundment. But two years ago, during the first week of May, four 20-pound-plus bags were weighed on DAY ONE and two more, including Kevin VanDam's 23-10, were caught on Day Two.
Only two guys sniffed 16 pounds Thursday: Keith Combs leads with 15-14, and Greg Vinson is second with 15-10. Ironically, Kevin Short was in 50th place in after the first day with 10-10 in 2011, and he's in 50th place here again on Day One, with only with 7-4.
Kennedy, who grew up fishing this lake and came in as a heavy favorite, was as discombobulated as anyone. He's in 48th place with 7-6.
"I've been here four days now," said Kennedy, alluding to the three days of practice time. "I really don't know what they're doing now. Honestly, I don't know."
Thursday should serve not simply as mass confusion among the Elite Series anglers, but a celebration for all weekend bass fishing warriors: Even the best bass anglers in the world can't figure 'em out some days.
"I'm pretty clueless," said Mike Iaconelli, who is 32nd with 8-1.
"I feel like I've never bass-fished before," said Jeff Kriet, who is 76th with 5-9. "I don't have a clue."
"I like this lake," said Casey Ashley, who is 20th with 8-15. "But I don't know what is going on with these fish. I'm scratching my head right now."
The combination of changing factors on this 26,000-acre lake is about as long as the list can get.
— The water level is changing daily: It rose with recent rains, but it has fallen in the last 48 hours with heavy power generation at the dam.
— The water temperature is changing daily: "With the sun out (during practice), I was seeing low 70s," Kennedy said. "With the overcast today, it was 65 or 66. They ought to be moving out to my points, but they're not there."
— Plenty of big bass were spotted on spawning beds during practice. Now those beds have "four more feet of water over them," according to Kennedy, and with the dark, cloudy skies Thursday, they became extremely hard to see.
Aaron Martens is in fourth place with 13-5, and spent a 1 ½ hours on a 4 ½-pounder caught off a spawning bed.
"Other guys were around me," Martens said. "I had to catch that one. I knew she was there because I saw her flash (her white belly). But you couldn't go by sight, you have to go by feel.
"My eyes are tired. It's real hard to see them. It's too hard. Bed-fishing here is really stressful."
Martens said he may "just go fishing" for the first couple of hours Friday, so he doesn't have to put himself through that stress, which is especially hard on him.
"I'm color-blind," he said. "I don't see green. I can only see shadows. But I can see shadows real good."
(Note to self: Listen to everything Martens says about bass fishing techniques, like you always have. But when he starts recommending lure colors, uh, not so much.)
— The weather changed from bright and sunny during practice to cloudy and rainy Thursday, and possibly for the remainder of the tournament, according to the weather forecast.
"We haven't had these conditions all week," said Britt Myers, who is 60th with 6-6. "But it looks like we're going to have them the rest of the week."
Added Skeet Reese, who is fifth with 13-0, "I think these fish are confused by the water, the weather, the light. But they're not as confused as we are."
Thursday's weigh-in turned into a smallest bass contest.
"That might be the smallest five-fish limit I've ever weighed-in," said Keith Poche, who is in 74th place with 5-10.
Stephen Browning, coming off a Central Open win at the Red River Sunday (and automatic 2014 Bassmaster Classic berth), "topped" or "bottomed" Poche – take your pick – with five 12-inch spotted bass that weighed 4-15, which left him in 85th place.
Alton Jones, a former Bassmaster Classic champion and one of the most consistent pros on the Elite Series, brought, "I think the smallest fish I've ever weighed-in," to the scales. He allowed it to be weighed, and it hit the incredible mark of 10 ounces.
"I've seen bigger fish on a pizza," Jones said.
Do you know what weighing small bass does to proud men? There are some male egos and other junk suffering serious shrinkage in LaGrange tonight, where there's likely to be a big run on the product "Low-T" at local pharmacies.
On the bright side? Timmy Horton, who is in 47th place with 7-7, expressed it best: "Ain't nobody going to be out of it after today. There's not many times you can say that."