GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — A common trend for some of the leaders on Lake Guntersville Thursday was to catch a heavy stringer first thing in the morning and then lay off the fish.
With increased boat pressure even from last year, managing fish and fishing locations will play a key role in winning this week. Stephen Browning knew that and after he caught 21 pounds in his first 30 minutes of fishing on Day One, he left the spot alone.
"I've got one big school that I'm getting the big bag from then I'm leaving them alone," Browning said. "I might beat on them a little more tomorrow. I'll be the third boat out tomorrow, so I will at least be able to sleep tonight knowing I'll be able to get back out there."
Browning's strategy was to get three or four good fish off that first spot as part of his limit and then spend the afternoon trying to catch two more in another good spot he had. It worked out well for him and he eventually culled up to 26 pounds, 1 ounce and a sixth-place showing.
"This place really kicked my rear last year and I just wanted to kick back," Browning said.
Another angler kicking hard on Guntersville with hopes of climbing back into the race for the Bassmaster Classic was Paul Elias. This is his time of year and his kind of lake and he proved that on Day One in fifth place with 26 pounds, 12 ounces.
His bite also came early and like Browning, held back on his fish after getting a good limit in the boat.
"I've been wanting to come in since 9:30 this morning," Elias said. "There are a whole bunch of fish there. I probably caught 50 fish and it hurt so bad putting a 5-pounder on a culling beam and throwing it back knowing I'll need them Saturday and Sunday."
The good thing for Elias is that he has another strong area that he doesn't think anyone else has seen him on. By this weekend, places like that will be hard to come by.
"I've got two solid places and I think my second spot is even better than my first," Elias said. "I caught three there and culled with all three and nobody saw me on it."
He felt lucky to have those two spots to himself today. They are the only two he has left after an estimated 10 other spots all had boats covering them up.
Last year's Day One leader Todd Faircloth also caught them early and often, to the tune of 25 pounds, 4 ounces. A great day on the water was marred by a big fish that came off by the boat, but he still wound up in eighth place.
"I lost a good fish this morning that definitely would have helped me," Faircloth said. "I knew it was a big one when it loaded up on it. It jumped twice and I thought if it was going to get off, it would be on one of those jumps. When I was leaning down in the seat, he made one little run and pulled off."
Aside from the lost fish, Faircloth had to make similar decision like Elias and Browning, whether to stay or leave.
"The fishing was fast and furious this morning," Faircloth said. "It was a dilemma: Do I stay on the spot all day and guard it or do I leave? You don't want to keep sitting there catching 4-pounders that will burn you for tomorrow."
Fortunately for the trio, catching 4- and 5-pound fish was not a bad problem to have to worry about and they each will start Day Two in the top 10, within four pounds of the leader.