Connell and Hunter with two

I trailered up to the base of the Neely Henry Dam and found Day 1 leader Dustin Connell and third place Bo Hunter. Both anglers have two fish in the boat so far.

Hunter made the turn by the dam about 10 minutes before Connell did, but even so there are only five or six anglers fishing close to the dam at the moment. They fished around until about 8 and 8:15 a.m. CT respectively before both took off.

A lot of the good fishing at the dam won’t happen until the water starts generating and releasing into Logan Martin. Not knowing the schedule, they both took off to fish other rocks and other structure down river.

Connell noted even when the water is generating its still not easy to get big weight. Having a 1-3 lead over second place will help and that 15-3 limit will go a long way if Connell can catch double-digit weight again.

A historic Bassmaster fishery

Logan Martin’s bass fishing history is one of the best with Bassmaster. Not only has it hosted a couple Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens over the years and Top 150 events, but it has also hosted three Bassmaster Classics. David Kilgore won the 2013 Open here and punched his ticket to the 2014 Guntersville Classic, meanwhile Stephen Browning won the 1998 Alabama Top 150 here.

The 48 Bassmaster Classics have been dispersed among 27 different fisheries. That means numerous lakes and rivers have hosted a few Classics. Logan Martin has three Classics under its belt and all came during the 1990’s. Robert Hamilton beat Denny Brauer in 1992, David Fritts beat Shaw Grigsby in 1993 and then Dion Hibdon beat Dalton Bobo by one ounce in 1997.

Editor's note: See 1997 Classic video.

The Hibdon-Bobo Classic is the tightest Classic in history as Dion jumped from fourth place on the final day to win by an ounce. Bobo lost the event and did indeed have a fish-care penalty, which would’ve given him the victory.

Logan Martin’s three Classics trail only Lay Lake and the Louisiana Delta, which have both hosted 4 a piece. Other lakes with three Classics are High Rock Lake (‘94, ‘95, ‘98), Lake Hartwell (‘08, ‘15, ‘18) and the James River (‘88-‘90).

Ortega’s heartbreak

Andy Ortega’s day started much slower than he anticipated, but he was making due and had two fish in the boat. He was fishing a dock and a stretch of back when I arrived to cover him. No takers on the dock, but the stretch of bank shortly after was where heartbreak happened.

From 30 yards away, I heard a massive blowup shallow, then the crack of Ortega’s hookset. The fish jumped and thrashed for a second before it came unbuttoned and splashed back into the water.

Ortega lost what he called a 4 pounder. That was a gamechanger on Logan Martin this week and he knew it. He was visibly frustrated. Gave a jump, dropped his rod and put his hands on his knees. He quickly regained his composure and kept fishing. If nothing else, Ortega can have confidence in the pattern he is fishing, but it’s easy to say that when I wasn’t the one who jumped off a crucial fish. The 19-year old said he had a few deep brushpiles he may lean more heavily on this afternoon if the shallow deal didn’t work out for him. 

Fishing slower than expected

For Drew Cook, the morning period has been by far his best time, but today that wasn’t the case. He said he surprisingly didn’t get a bite on his topwater and opted for his backup plan. He was fishing south of takeoff in hopes of getting 10-12 pounds before he ran around looking for a big bite.

Getting that early limit definitely would’ve helped him, but he says he has two fish for about four pounds at the moment. He hooked up with a third around a dock, but after a tug of war and an attempt to get it unhung, the fish broke him off.

“I shook one off on this dock yesterday, it was probably that fish,” Cook said.

He’s doing well in both Opens divisions as we head into the final event for each season. He sits 20th in the Centrals and next week he will compete on Douglas for the Eastern Open where he sits 8th in points. That’s two chances to make the Top 10 and go to the Open Championship next month.

It’s worth noting that Cook is an alumnus if Florida State University and was a mainstay of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series during his time there. He fished during the same time frame as Jordan and Matt Lee and also the ensuing years, which is where I met him traveling as well.

Short with two, Poland with three

Kevin Short and Charles Poland are off to somewhat of a fast start. Based on the reports of anglers I’ve seen in the first two hours of the day, they seem to be ahead of schedule.

Short has two fish in the boat so far, meanwhile Poland has his three-fish co-angler limit. His third keeper was a line burner, but he gave out a bellowing laugh and his excitement was evident. Good start for these anglers, but by the end of today a lot of boats will have limits so a kicker is a necessity if they want to separate themselves from the average bag and mid-pack.

Sumrall has two

Bassmaster Elite Series rookie and B.A.S.S. Nation national champion Caleb Sumrall has two fish in the boat so far this morning. He was discouraged with how the bite changed from just yesterday morning to today and how the fish were reacting to his bait. He adapted though and has put two in the box.

Although his Elite season is over this year, he still has a lot up for grabs and two chances to make it happen. Sumrall is still vying for a Bassmaster Classic berth, and he sits third in the Central Opens points race, which has him in position for a Classic berth.

He has to survive this week at Logan Martin and if so he will make it to Table Rock for the Open Championship. He has a 35-point lead over the 10th spot, but only 11 points over eighth. A solid fish here will keep him in contention in points. His other chance is at the Bass Nation National Championship where he will try to defend his crown. The top three anglers at that event make the Classic.

'It happens in 20 minutes'

“It happens in 20 minutes” is what Elite Series pro Drew Benton muttered after I asked if he had a couple energy drinks this morning. He was flying down the shoreline burning up his topwater lure in search of some Logan Martin keepers.

He didn’t have any in the boat, but said he had two fish miss his bait this morning. He caught one while in front of me, but it didn’t meet the 12-inch minimum length requirement.

The early topwater bits in the heat of the summer is crucial because after the clouds burn off it can get tough. We will see a good mix of guys fishing shallow all day and toughing it out along with guys concentrating deep primarily. A good contingent will run up the river towards the dam, which could be prosperous but after numerous days of pressure could make it tough as we get closer to the final day.

Day 1 almost underway

Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Central Open at Logan Martin Lake is ready to begin. The 138 boats fishing the final Central Open of the season left Lakeside Park at 6:15 a.m. CT. A lot is on the line this week. Not only will winning hardware be given out on Sunday, but the top 40 will get a check and the top 10 in points will advance to the Open Championship next month. Joining the top 10 at the Open Championship will be the four winners overall, one from each event.