Hamner lands 5-8 early

Justin Hamner shook off his 82nd-place finish yesterday in quick fashion today. The 30-year-old Elite Series rookie from Northport, Ala., caught this 5-pound, 8-ounce largemouth at 6:59 today. As tight as the standings were after Day 1, you can expect to see some wild swings as we approach the top 48 cut at today’s conclusion. Big bass like this one will do the trick. Granted, it’s early, but Hamner’s big bass in his 4-bass total of 14-0 has vaulted him into 9th place at 7:30.

New topped Day 1 before 7 a.m.

Bryan New finished in a tie for 31st place with 14 pounds, 15 ounces yesterday. He said he burned $140 worth of gas and ran 116 miles to do so. The 31-year-old Elite Series rookie from Belmont, N.C., has been much more efficient today. New had a 5-bass limit weighing 16-7 at 6:40 this morning.

“I ran a lot,” New said. “I don’t think I’m going to run 116 miles today. Maybe just 100.”

New said he’s caught them on two baits today - a Zoom Ol’ Monster worm and a Berkley Dredger crankbait.

Standings are tight, tight, tight

Todd Auten, 2nd, 21-3

Caleb Kuphall begins Day 2 at Lake Guntersville with a 6-pound, 7-ounce lead over second-place Todd Auten. But that’s about the only place the Day 1 standings aren’t tight as a tick. For instance, only four pounds separates 12th place Marc Frazier (16-14) and 60th place Mike Huff and Bill Weidler (12-14). The Day 2 cut to the top 48 anglers for Day 3 will likely be decided by a tiebreaker or a single ounce. Twenty-nine anglers are separated by only two pounds, from 31st place Skylar Hamilton and Bryan New (14-15) to 57th place John Crews, Kelly Jaye and Josh Stracner (12-15).

Gross after for a solid bag

Good Morning from Lake Guntersville and the Berkley Bassmaster Elite Series!

Day 2 with Buddy Gross begins in an area not too terrible far away from takeoff where a number of anglers chose to begin their day.

The Bullet Boats Boatlogix Pro, in his second season on the Bassmaster Elite Series, won an event in his rookie season on the Elites and has developed a reputation for being able to land big bags of bass.

Gross admitted to me prior to takeoff that he had a really good practice was also quick to point out that, in each place he caught fish in practice, he had his share of challenges on Day 1. He also experienced his share of lost fish as well.

Gross, throwing a big swimbait to start his day, is after an solid bag today in an effort to punch his ticket for Semifinal Saturday!

Kennedy has seen this movie

This week marks Steve Kennedy’s 171st B.A.S.S. tournament. Apparently, he remembers them all, because he feels like he’s seen this movie before. The 2021 Berkley Bassmaster Elite at Lake Guntersville is fishing remarkably like 2006 Elite Series tournament here held April 20-23, according to Kennedy. He finished third in that event, behind winner Mike Iaconelli and runner-up, by two ounces, Alton Jones. Kennedy said he watched the Bassmaster TV show from 2006 in preparation for this tournament.

“It’s May, but they’re still spawning,” Kennedy said. “They’re not in the back (of the creeks and pockets), they’re out on the main lake - points and humps and that kind of thing. But they’re not all spawning. They’re on bluegill beds or they’re guarding fry. I knew exactly where Alton had been (in 2006). That was my first stop in practice. I got three bites in five casts. I started in Alton’s spot first thing this morning, just to see what would happen. It was pretty awesome.”

Kennedy mentioned he also checked out the marina where Kevin Van Dam concentrated in finishing fourth in 2006. He said he got bit there in practice too, but didn’t fish it Thursday.

“It’s just very similar (to 2006),” Kennedy said.

It will be interesting to see how that plays out. For the record, Iaconelli won that tournament with a four-day total of 71-13, Jones was second with 71-11, Kennedy was third with 69-8 and Van Dam was fourth with 66-13.

The pace set this year on Day 1 is a little faster than that, led by Caleb Kuphall’s 27-10. Kennedy is fourth with 19-5. Eighty-five of the 98 anglers caught five-bass limits.

Sumrall’s birthday bass is biggest of the day at Guntersville Elite

Caleb Sumrall may not be leading the Berkley Bassmaster Elite Series tournament at Lake Guntersville, but catching the biggest bass of the day on his 34th birthday provided a pretty strong gift. Sumrall caught the 7 pound 6 ounce beast of a largemouth at high noon after a morning that fell well short of a party. 

“This fish was a total day saver, or maybe even a tournament saver, because the first five hours of my birthday out there was not a good scene,” smiled Sumrall. 

Sumrall sees life’s big picture clearly, realizing that catching fish is his job, but not his highest priority. “I’ve got two awesome healthy kids, a super sweet and supportive wife, and I’m fishing for a living, that’s a pretty good place to be at age 34, and while there’s still stress, it’s a different kind of stress than I had in my previous job,” says the Carhartt pro. 

One of bass fishing’s all-time great Cinderella stories, Sumrall had just been laid-off from his job in the oil field industry when he won the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship on Lake Hartwell in October, 2017 to make enough money to keep the bills paid and get an invite to the Bassmaster Elite Series. 

“I was managing 100 employees and trying to keep a $25 Million dollar a year company happy before I lost that job. That was stressful. And obviously this career is stressful too, but a better kind of stress,” says a reflective Sumrall.

Sumrall is rooming with Chris and Cory Johnston, as well as his close buddy Lee Livesay, and ironically, May 20th is Cory’s birthday too, so there’s a strong chance a few celebratory ‘cold pops’ might get consumed in Guntersville among the fun-loving bunch Thursday night. 

But at the core of his 34th birthday is gratefulness and fellowship.

“Five years from now when I turn 39, I want to be known as a good guy, an honest and fun guy to be around, and hopefully have a couple Elite Series wins under my belt. The fellowship among the Elite Series pros is the best it’s ever been, and why not shoot for the stars, right?” quizzed Sumrall in conclusion. 

You bet, pal. It’s your birthday. Shoot for the stars. And the 7-pounder you caught on your 34th birthday should provide a big boost toward a great weekend ahead. 


Combs continues the grind

“I just knew I was coming here to throw a crankbait,” snapped Keith Combs as he flipped at another dock with his jig. The Elite Series Pro from Texas admits that he came to Scottsboro with a game plan this week expecting the bass to be setting up on the offshore ledges and that hasn’t materialized so far for the Ranger Yamaha Pro.

Another frustration Combs is experiencing is the realization that, following this event at Guntersville, the bass fishing millionaire will park his Toyota Tundra at his Texas home until July when the Elite Series heads north.

Combs failed to make the Classic in his home state of Texas finishing one spot out of the Classic Cut in 2020. “I’ll never get the opportunity to fish a Classic in my home state in the month of June again, and instead, I’m going to have to work the Expo with 10,000 people asking my why I’m not fishing.”

Combs continues to grind today. He’s got a limit of bass that go somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 pounds but did have one fish expire; therefore, he won’t be able to cull that fish out. Combs is fishing a jig around docks in search of a big bite that would certainly change the course of his day and perhaps, his weekend.

A wide variety of lures working

If you’ve watched “Bassmaster LIVE” this morning, you’ve noticed how many different baits have produced bites on Lake Guntersville. Jerkbaits, vibrating jigs, big spoons, wacky-rigged worms, jigs and swimbaits. Oh, and as illustrated in the photo above, Bryan New caught one that choked a crankbait. Now you can understand why Brandon Palaniuk mentioned having an uncharacteristic 35 rods rigged in his boat today.

As this tournament proceeds, it will be interesting to see if leaders begin to demonstrate a more defined winning pattern. Right now, it’s wide open.

Kennedy's treasure chest

Earlier this year, I visited Steve Kennedy for a project about baits. When we wrapped he retrieved from his man cave a box that I will call the Treasure Chest.

Inside were several thousand dollars (or more) of specialized hard plastic swimbaits the likes of which he used to win in 2007 at Clear Lake, California.

BassTrakk shows Kennedy in 2nd place with 18 pounds, 3 ounces, and there is a chance some of those fish got caught on a bait from the Treasure Chest. Or at least located with it.

Andy Crawford just sent in this picture with the evidence. Kennedy is rotating between a swim bait and a flipping rig.

"It's almost like he is using the swim bait as a locator bait, and then drilling down on them with the flipping rig," Crawford reported.

Whatever he is doing, keep it up. It's working.

Walters staying in AOY contention

Patrick Walters’ Angler of the Year title hopes took a hit at Neely Henry Lake when he missed the Day 2 cut by three ounces. After trailing AOY leader Seth Feider by only four points before Neely Henry, he left trailing by 41 points. However, Walters is still in second place in the AOY standings. And he is having a solid morning on Lake Guntersville, as evidenced by this 5-pounder. Walters has a 3 1/2-pounder to go with it, and he’s in 15th place with a limit weighing 12-10 at 10 a.m., according to BassTrakk.