This may very well be one of the most game ready individuals I've ever seen at a bass tournament. Or as one of my Instagram followers said, "Hatebreed shirt, Slayer on the helmet, eye black! Whoever this dude is I'm now a fan!"
After running up lake to meet James Overstreet and swap camera cards, I ran back down lake to find some more anglers. I notice a boat and the pro is on the back deck with his co-angler so one of them was in the midst of fighting a fish.
Luke Estel of Illinois was assisting Roy Hurst Jr. of Alabama land a massive largemouth. As I stopped they landed it and obviously had a celebratory moment. Hurst has a 7-pounder (pictured), a 5 pounder and another 2 1/2 to 3 pounder to fill his 3-fish co-angler limit.
Meanwhile pro Luke Estel said he has caught 100 fish, but only has 4 keepers for 8-10 pounds. If there is occasional quality like that on his spot then they will certainly give it a couple more minutes or hours to try and probe a few more.
Case in point: My 18-year old daughter called this morning from Ocala, Florida. She's at a Golden Corral buffet, and she's wondering aloud to me whether she should eat eggs, or waffles, or fresh fruit to start her day. She’s en route to Walt Disney World and Universal Studios where she and 400 of her senior classmates will spend part of their Spring Break enjoying the theme parks in the Orlando area.
Dad’s a few states away this morning (in Dayton, Tenn. to be exact,) and he’s listening to 400 other people who have a slate of options in front of them, as well. That’s how Chickamauga Lake appears to be setting up for the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #2 which kicked off at daylight this morning.
For these anglers, it’s like one giant bass buffet.
Want to try some shallow water fishing? You’re sure to find some that are on the back end of the spawn and are hanging around shorelines.
Want to sample some offshore stuff, and dive deep for lunkers swimming along the bottom of this fishery? You can bet big bass are going to be caught that way during this three-day tournament.
And the number of bass transitioning from shallow to deep water as the weather warms here in eastern Tennessee could be the entrée to satisfy the appetites of these 200 anglers and their respective co-anglers. It’s almost certain a bunch of bass are going to be caught moving to offshore waters.
Seems like there will be no limit to the ways to catch fish this week. One quick glance at the rods mounted on just about every boat deck I’ve seen told me I all I need to know. These guys are going to try a little bit of everything. And the feast starts today.
I hope they’re hungry, because to a person, everyone I’ve spoken with has said this 38,000-acre impoundment of the Tennessee River (‘The Chick’, as some call it,) is absolutely on fire.
Big bass? We got ‘em!
Expect some truly magnificent catches, and if you can’t be here in person, you can catch the action yourselves on Bassmaster.com when today’s weigh-in begins at 2:45 p.m.
From first-timer Zach Patterson:
This is my first tournament legal fish in my first bassmaster event. I could not be more thrilled. Lake Chickamauga, Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open #2!
There are quite a few patterns for the 195 boats to choose from this week on Lake Chickamauga. With water temps from the mid-60's to the low 70's there are spawning fish, fat prespawn fish and those postspawn bass that already spawned shallow during the full moon.
With fish in all three stages there are ample opportunities to catch quantities of fish, but getting largemouth to reach 15, smallmouth to hit 18 can be tough.
I've seen John Hunter land two fish, but both didn't make the cut. Then I saw co-angler Chad Smith land a spotted bass that made the 12-inch cut out of the back of Justin Lucas' boat.
Little bit of Shad spawn, some sight fishing and offshore ledge fishing are in order this week. Keep your options open because there are plenty to choose from.
Two weeks ago the pros fished Toledo Bend for the Bassmaster Elite at Toledo Bend presented by Econo Lodge.
The bass were behaving the same as here at Lake Chickamauga. Mostly postspawn but not quite on the lake's signature ledges and dropoffs lining the Tennessee River.
At Toledo Bend the bass were close to those summertime patterns as winner John Murray discovered. His winning catch on Day 4 came off an offshore flat. He also caught late comers to the spawning beds earlier in the week.
This morning in talking with the anglers a similar scenario is panning out. There is an early shad spawn that everyone is rushing to take advantage of into the later morning. Same thing happened at Toledo Bend.
What's the same, and to my point, is this will come down to timing. Being in the right place, at the right time, could enable someone to catch 20-plus pounds, should a big wave of those transitional fish be moving across the chosen area. Like a hero to zero kind of pattern. Here today, gone tomorrow.
The bass are on the move and the top performers will know how to dial into those movements.
Third fish is a 4+. Over 10 pounds on those three. Good start!
I launched south of takeoff and was waiting on the main lake as boats raced by to their starting spots. Making the run south was certainly a popular theme as a good number of anglers came whizzing by in hopes of finding one of those giant bags of fish at their first spot.
190 boats get ready to begin their day on Chickamauga for the Bass Pro Shops Southern Open #2.