The best practice is no practice

Ordinarily, the old saying, "practice makes perfect" holds true. However, just the opposite was true yesterday on Table Rock Lake. The only two pros to top 15 pounds on Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship didn't practice a lick.

Leader Mark Rose of West Memphis, Ark., did that on purpose.

“Table Rock and all these Ozarks lakes are very conditional,” he said after weighing 15 pounds, 9 ounces. “The patterns are textbook, very black and white. You catch bass in shady areas during sunny conditions, on moving baits under cloudy skies.”

“I don’t like pre-fishing these conditional lakes. The fish are going to move and patterns are subject to change on a daily basis, especially in the fall.”
Added Rose, "I’m the most instinctive fisherman that I know of. It’s what I like to do the most.”

Caleb Sumrall of New Iberia, La., took "instinctive fishing" to another level Thursday and weighed-in 15-1. Sumrall planned to practice, but first an illness then boat mechanical issues limited him to practically no practice. When Sumrall's engine shut down shortly after takeoff, he was allowed to switch to his co-angler, Will McNutt's father's boat. Since Bill McNutt also competes in the Opens and had GPS waypoints saved in his electronics, by rule, Sumrall could use only the depth-finder.

Talk about relying on your instincts. In Sumrall's case, it might also be called flying by the seat of your pants. At the end of the his day, which didn't start until 9 a.m. because of the boat issues, Sumrall realized his problems had actually been a blessing.

"I think it was meant to happen," Sumrall said. "I was going to do a little of what I did (Thursday), where I caught my fish, but I can't say I was going to do it forever."

Weather conditions today call for cold rain and clouds - just the opposite of yesterday's warm sunshine. We'll see who does the best job of "instinctive fishing" today.

Nothing settled on Table Rock yet

Yesterday sort of threw a curve ball at these competitors on Table Rock. We saw a few different weather types from partly cloudy to sunny to cloudy and windy and everything in between.

Those things tend to keep anglers on their toes. And during a transition period for a fish moving from summer to fall patterns it just adds to the confusion.

It may or may not get any better on Day Two. Currently it’s in the 40s, spitting rain with an almost certainty of rain setting in within a few hours. That’s a real inconvenience for the human side of things. But this weather is closer to being what it was in practice when several of these guys caught them pretty good.

It will be interesting to see how it all comes together. I expect to see some of our leaders to stumble a bit. And it makes sense a few from lower in the ranks will move as well. But we had too many crazy stories yesterday to think this is in any way settling in as a standard event.

Our leader would be a few spots down without a 6-pound fish. Our second place admits to having a day that went from break down to sleep walking in contention.

Nothing is settled on Table Rock yet. Certainly not the standings, weather or fish.

Table Rock tougher than predicted

After practice this week, almost every angler predicted Table Rock Lake was going to be a difficult place to catch five 15-inch keeper bass. But Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Opens Championship was even tougher than expected.

Wesley Strader predicted only half the 28-man pro angler field would catch a five-bass limit. That was a little optimistic. Only 10 did. It was even tougher on the co-angler side, where only five three-bass limits were caught.

A big bass goes a long way in this event. Mark Rose of Wynne, Ark., leads the pro division with 15 pounds, 9 ounces, which included the big bass - a 6-pound, 1-ounce largemouth. Alex Heintz of Denham Springs, La., leads the co-angler division with 8-pounds, 9 ounces, which included the big bass - a 4-pound, 7-ounce smallmouth.

Co-angler to watch

Mandel Pettis’ latest update has him in a good spot on the co-angler side. He filled his three-fish limit and has some quality fish. He told me his keepers were 3-0, 3-0 and 3-8 respectively. Nine to 10 pounds on the co-angler side is fantastic.

Suggs wondering what happened

Like so many of the guys I’ve run across today, Scott Suggs is wondering what happened to all the fish since practice.

“Yesterday you could pull up here and there were so many fish it looked like you were graphing spaghetti. Today there’s nothing,” he said.

He also knows tomorrow will be a different day. A lot of things are changing at a rapid pace on this lake. The question will be in what direction they go in for tomorrow. Obviously Suggs is hoping they return to their spaghetti pattern in the spots they were in. But they are just as likely to move further away.

There’s a lot of things left to happen in this derby. Someone tripping over the winning school might not happen until the late part of the final day. Meanwhile with everything a moving target. Most of these guys are just trying to survive today. That means catching a limit and being near the top.

Some have expressed the thought that if you could somehow piece together a limit each day you’d make the final 12. On that day it becomes who will stub their toe or trip over a bowl of spaghetti.

Cox finding a rhythm

John Cox could do no right earlier in the day. He was losing fish, missing fish and the bass themselves were acting different. That has seemed to change over the last hour. He has three fish in the boat, two of which he’s caught in the last 15 minutes.

Cox is fighting two different battles this week. One is with Garrett Paquette for a Classic spot via Eastern Opens points and the other is his gas gauge.

He made a long run today and ran at a slower speed and lower rpm to conserve fuel. He didn’t want to fill up twice, but he’s worried about the ability to fill up on the way back.

“My gas gauge is pegged on empty,” Cox said. “There is a gas marina probably three to five miles away, but I hope I make it that far.”

If he can land a kicker and fill his limit plus make it back, he could help himself greatly. He is confident in his ability to catch them in the rainy conditions tomorrow.

Suggs doing what he likes to do

I just pulled up on Scott Suggs. He’s showing a zero on BassTrakk. But he actually has four for 8 or 9 pounds.

Suggs is doing what he likes to do, which is pick apart deeper cover and structure.

But like all our guys, putting a limit in the boat has not been easy.

That could change though on this lake. The sunny skies are now gone and the clouds and wind have replaced them. While few places are stellar in October, Table Rock can get good really fast under these conditions.

Suggs has spent his share of time on this lake. And is likely running places with a lot of history. Those can sometimes be those places that fire up first.

Cook gaining momentum

Drew Cook has been baffled by the stinginess of Table Rock today. He’s found an area with a lot of bait activity, but couldn’t catch any fish out of it.

After giving it some time he has capitalized with three keepers since I arrived and is salvaging his day. He thought it was odd that the keepers he’s landed weren’t that fat, which he assumed they would be because of all the bait and activity. As long as keepers continue biting his bait and not the shad in this creek he will be happy.

Walters with zero

Patrick Walters currently has zero, which is somewhat of a surprise because of how his practice was. That is how fickle this fishery can be in the fall. Fish are constantly on the move and as Craig Lamb noted, they are here one day and 100 yards away the next. Sometimes they are in 40 feet and then move to a 15-foot spot. It can be tough going especially with the size limit. He’s sitting on zero, but knows the region he is fishing has quality.