Cobb's history paid off

Although he's a 29-year-old Elite Series rookie, Brandon Cobb was one of the pre-tournament favorites because of his lengthy history at Lake Hartwell. However, after practice Cobb thought that history might have been more hindrance than help.

"I honestly feel like some different stuff than usually goes on here is going on, and my local knowledge is hurting me," said Cobb, who is from nearby Greenwood, S.C. "I know what they should be doing, and they're not."

So just how did Cobb sack a tournament-leading 19 pounds, 9 ounces on Thursday?

"I found a few places where they're doing what they should be doing in April," he said. "But as a whole, I just didn't see it. A lot of the fish I caught were off history. It definitely helped. It's still weird. But I saw a little glimpse of what I'm used to seeing."

Cobb mentioned that he thought he caught both pre-spawn and post-spawn bass.

"There are a lot of fish on beds here, but knowing what this lake looks like when they're all-out spawning, it's not happening," he said. "As of (Thursday) and practice, I just didn't see what this lake is capable of as far as spawning fish."

Cobb has a limit

It would be shocking if Brandon Cobb didn't have a bass in the boat after six hours on Lake Hartwell, which he knows as well as anyone in this tournament. And while BASSTrakk currently shows him with zero, we've learned that he has a 5-bass limit in his livewells, although we're uncertain of the total weight.

Cobb, a 29-year-old rookie from Greenwood, S.C., is competing in only his 14th B.A.S.S. tournament, but he's considered a longtime pro on Lake Hartwell.

"I've been competing against Brandon since he was old enough to walk," said Shane Lineberger. "He's a heckuva fisherman, and he will be for years to come.

Horne lays out for a lunker

Harvey Horne had to lay down on his belly and reach over a cable dock to land a bass earlier to day, and it was worth the effort. Horne, the 43-year-old Elite Series rookie from Bella Vista, Ark., hooked a 4-pound, 10-ounce largemouth bass under the walkway to an old dock about 11 a.m. The video below says it all.

Horne is competing in only his 15th B.A.S.S. tournament. He won the Bass Pro Shops Central Open on the Arkansas River at Muskogee, Okla., last year. He's among the leaders today, currently in 5th place with 14 pounds, 6-ounces, according to BASSTrakk.

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No looking for Rivet

“I hate sight fishing, I have a very hard time leaving a fish on a bed — I’d dedicate too much time to it,” Tyler Rivet said. “They will break your heart: There one day, gone the next for no reason. You won’t see me doing that this week.”

And probably to his advantage when considering the high likelihood of overcast, wind and heavy rain tomorrow. He is wise to take that approach, because the angler who has multiple patterns working, especially a few that are NOT sight-fishing based, will stay competitive with the changing conditions.

“I’ve been hitting a lot of spots,” he said. “It seems like I’ll catch one good one and not get another bite at a particular place. I’ll keep moving, that just makes the most sense at this point.”

While he doesn’t know it, at the time of this writing he is in control of the derby with around 15 pounds, a Day-1 weight that will be helpful. But it’ll likely take more than that to begin Day 2 in the lead.

Time will tell.

Wait for it...

Keith Combs has a decent limit, but he doesn’t know how decent it is. At the time of this writing he’s in 29th place with a little over 11 pounds. Not super great, but it’s a start.

“I knew it was going to be slow this morning,” he said. “But I was going for a huge one or two. My bite has been getting better in the afternoons, and I think the fishing will pick up soon.”

Today is the best day in the next three for the fishermen. It’s calm, sunny—absolutely gorgeous spring day. But tomorrow it’s going to be different.

And Combs knows it.

The weights should shoot up this afternoon.

“They’re skinny as a rail”

Stetson Blaylock has culled two or three times now. Each bass has been in the 2 pound range. “No more 2 pounders,” he said with a smile. These fish all look bigger to him when they’re in the water. But once he catches them, “They’re long and skinny as a rail.”

In practice Blaylock marked a “giant” nearby. We’re following him around the corner now to check on her.

Lowen reveals swim jig tips

Bill Lowen won't be one of the anglers looking for clear water and bass on spawning beds this week. And his preferred method - going up a river and fishing "in the dirt" - is paying off for him this morning. Lowen had the unofficial lead, according to BASSTrakk, of 13 pounds, 6 ounces at 10 a.m.

"You've got to make a decision," Lowen said. "You're either going to bed fish or fish like I like to fish."

Lowen detailed his swim jig method for success on "Bassmaster LIVE." He's using a 1/4-ounce swim jig with a Strike King Rage Craw trailer in a black-and-blue color pattern in the dirtiest water he can find.

"I'm fishing it really, really slow, fluttering it around cover," he said.

A key for Lowen is 30-pound braided line. Anything heavier takes some of the movement out of the bait, he said. And Lowen never, ever fishes a swim jig on fluorocarbon line, no matter how clear the water is.

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Surviving until the weekend

Several anglers mentioned the phrase "surviving until the weekend," or some form of that, when describing their forecasts for this four-day tournament. It was in reference to how the fishing is expected to change and improve as the weather warms and the bass move to the banks to spawn.

"I think it's going to be a matter of survival to the weekend," said Lake Hartwell veteran angler Shane Lineberger. "Then it's going to be a full-blown bed-fishing tournament."

When asked at what depth the tournament will be won, there was a common answer as well: Five feet or less.

Patrick Walters noted that docks will play a big role here. And some of those docks are over 20 feet of water. "But the fish are staging about a foot under them," he said, adding with a smile, "your bait doesn't have to hit the bottom."

As for guesses about the two-day top 35 cut weight, both Walters and Lineberger said the same thing: 13 to 13 1/2 pounds per day.

Blaylock with a limit

Stetson Blaylock just filled his limit with a bass that weighed a least 2 and a half pounds, maybe 3. That gives him more than 9 pounds so far. Blaylock spent 30 minutes trying to entice this bedding bass. The effort paid off, and confirmed the pattern Blaylock was betting on. He’s now methodically picking apart the other side of this cove.