LEESBURG, Fla. — Blake Bullock and John Mark Berry of Blue Mountain College leveraged a key prespawn area to catch a 29-pound limit that leads Day 1 of the Strike King Bassmaster College Series at Harris Chain of Lakes presented by Bass Pro Shops.
Topping a field of 275 boats, Bullock and Berry lead Logan Barrett and Luke Glasgow of Mississippi State University by just 1-7.
Running to Lake Dora, Bullock and Berry set up shop on a promising area they found in practice.
“There’s a lot of fish there and a lot of shad,” Bullock said. “I think they’ll still be there tomorrow and, hopefully, they’ll bite for us.”
Bullock said he and Berry chose to fish Dora because the habitat set up well for the prespawn staging fish they sought. Fishing in 7 to 10 feet, they focused on sparse coontail grass.
“There’s a lot of grass in there, but it’s in patches,” Bullock said. “There’s also a lot of shellbeds in there, along with spawning spots. We found an area with a spawning pocket close, a shellbed close and a patch of grass. That’s where all those fish are.”
Berry said he and his partner caught their bass by rotating between a Z-Man ChatterBait JackHammer with a Strike King Blade Minnow trailer and a Texas-rigged Zoom Speed Worm. The ChatterBait did most of the work, but the Speed Worm played an important cleanup role.
“The ChatterBait was a golden shiner color,” Berry said. “We threw a 1/2-ounce some, but the 3/8-ounce got bit more because we could slow roll it down there in the grass.
“When it became tough to get bites, I picked up the Speed Worm and made a clutch cull. We just rotated a slow bait and a moving bait.”
Bullock said they diligently worked through their spot, but late-day fireworks catapulted them into the lead.
“We had around 19 pounds at noon and we caught a few more throughout the day,” he said. “It got really slow there for about three hours and we didn’t have any bites.
“The big ones fired up at the end of the day and we caught a 7-pounder and a 6 on back-to-back casts.”
Bullock noted the winds preceding a cold front had diminished their area’s clarity. This concerned him, but the bass were less impacted than he expected.
“Yesterday, it was a little clearer, but they bit, so we’re thankful and blessed that we got it done today,” Bullock said.
Barrett and Glasgow anchored their limit of 27-9 with a 9-9 that leads the Big Bass standings. Backing that up with one just under 7 pounds gave them the boost they needed for a strong showing.
“It helps a lot whenever you have two fish like that in the well,” Glasgow said. “Those were the only two we had up until about noon. It was a struggle for us, but we finally did limit out around 1. I knew if we could get a limit we’d end up with a pretty good sack today.”
Barrett said he and his partner caught their bass on a mix of reaction baits and slow-moving baits. Essential to their success was capitalizing on an area where they found fish coming and going.
“I think there are some prespawners coming to us and some that have already left (the beds),” Glasgow said. “We’re sitting in that range where they could be prespawn or postspawn.”
Stevie Mills and Brady Duncan of Carson-Newman University placed third with 24-7. Well aware of Lake Apopka’s big-fish reputation, the anglers made the long run to the chain’s southernmost waters.
Describing their spot as a classic prespawn area with hard sand bottom and grass, Duncan said they caught all of their limit fish by slow reeling a Zoom Speed Worm. A late-morning window of opportunity produced a big chunk of their weight.
“I threw out there and caught a 3-pounder, threw back out and caught a 6, then (Mills) threw out there and caught a 5 1/2,” Duncan said. “We had a flurry at 11 and a flurry around 11:30 and that’s what we had.”
The field will launch from Venetian Gardens (Ski Beach) at 7 a.m. ET and return for weigh-in at 3 p.m. Full coverage will be available on Bassmaster.com.
The tournament is being hosted by Visit Lake, the City of Leesburg and the Greater Orlando Sports Commission.