FLORENCE, Ala. — In practice, the fish were biting everywhere, on everything. Thursday things changed slightly with dropping water. Shallow anglers were left high and dry in places, while those fishing for smallies and fishing deep found their spots boosted by the additional current.
Mike Iaconelli was one of the anglers fishing away from the bank and landed 17 pounds, 1 ounce, good enough for 13th place.
"After my first full day of practice, I was committed to fishing deep," Iaconelli said. "I felt that the fish were coming to me. I'm intercepting them as they move out from their spawning areas. Normally, in a tournament, fishing gets tougher as the tournament goes on, but here I think it will only get better."
Tournament leader Kevin Short also benefitted from the falling water, although it was more because he adjusted to the fish rather than having the fish pulled to him. His 20-pound, 3-ounce bag was anchored by two fish over 5 pounds that he caught "off shore."
"I caught a limit shallow, but it only weighed 10 to 11 pounds," Short said. "I kept moving out with the fish after that and caught fish all day."
The falling water hurt rookie Dennis Tietje's best big-fish areas in shallow water, but he had a few back-up spots that heated up to the tune of 16-3 and a 15th-place start to the Alabama Charge.
"I was fishing for largemouth and smallmouth," Tietje said. "I went back to the same areas I fished in practice and caught big ones in both of them. I also caught my biggest largemouth and smallmouth in the same spot, otherwise, they were far apart."
Tietje was one of the few anglers who admitted to making a big move in the middle of the day to catch both species. He ran more than 60 miles on the day and aside from his shallow area being wiped out, the moving around paid off.
Another angler who had his shallow water pulled out from under him was Tommy Biffle. A wizard with a flipping stick in his hand, he was still able to put together a great bag, catching 18 pounds, 1 ounce, good enough for seventh place.
"They are biting funny, there are not as many up there and the water is not deep enough in most places," Biffle said.
All concerns aside, Biffle still managed to capitalize on two big bites to help elevate his bag into the 18-pound class.
"I hadn't had any big bites in practice," Biffle said. "I was just hoping to catch a 4-pounder. The big one I caught, that was the first 5-pounder I had seen all week, so it was time to celebrate."
Anglers expect the water to keep fluctuating through Friday's Day Two in preparation for rain and storms moving in late Friday. Launch for the second day of competition is set for 7:10 a.m. ET at McFarland Park in Florence with the weigh-in beginning at 4:30 a.m. ET.