LINCOLN, Ala. — On a fishery known for its spotted bass population, University of North Georgia’s Jonathon Garbacz and Kevin Dunahoo focused on largemouth and caught a limit of 15 pounds, 7 ounces to lead Day 1 of the Strike King Bassmaster College Series Wild Card on Logan Martin Lake presented by Bass Pro Shops.
“We knew coming in that 10 big largemouth would win,” Garbacz said. “So that’s what we’re going for.”
One of 105 teams in the event, Garbacz and Dunahoo head into Saturday’s championship round with a lead of 1-4 over Baylor University’s Parker Greer and Andrew Shadle.
Dealing with extreme heat, the leaders pointed to mental toughness as a key element of their performance. Air temperatures pushed into the low to mid-90s and water temperatures weren’t far behind.
“In the morning, the water temperature was about 86, and later in the day, it got up to about 92,” Garbacz said. “You just have to keep your head in the game. The heat is going to throw you off, but you just have to keep your concentration and find the pattern.”
Noting that they believe they’ve found something unique, the leaders kept the details thin. However, Garbacz said he and Dunahoo are working a game plan based more on quality than quantity.
“We found a pretty good pattern that we can run pretty much up and down the lake, but we’re thinking it’s more of an area type thing,” Garbacz said. “It’s about maximizing your bites because we’re not getting a ton. You have to capitalize on every single bite because you never know when it’s going to be a big one.”
Dunahoo said their day involved a variety of different habitat features. Flexibility, he said, played a significant role in the outcome.
“We moved our way throughout the day and adapted,” Dunahoo said. “We did the same thing in practice; we have not (fished the same way all week) and I expect we probably won’t be able to do the same thing tomorrow.”
Dunahoo said he and Garbacz hit approximately 60 spots to get what they had. Locking up their weight by 11:30 a.m., they fished a combination of finesse and reaction baits.
The latter, Garbacz said, required pinpoint accuracy.
“These fish are going to eat, but you have to put it right in front of them,” Garbacz said.
Dunahoo said he and his partner will likely follow a similarly flexible script on Saturday.
“We don’t have any new water we know we’re going to fish, so we’re either going to be running the same (areas) or getting on the graph tonight and searching for new water.”
Turning in a limit of 14-3, Greer and Shadle anchored their bag with a 4-2. As Greer explained, their day saw them visiting a broad range of habitats.
“This has been a junk-fishing tournament; we’re fishing everything from docks to ledges,” Greer said. “We started this morning in some current throwing a glidebait where we caught some good ones in practice.
“We left that area with two fish and started swimming a jig. I actually flipped to a fish I could see — that 4-2 largemouth. It was in a little cut with thousands of gizzard shad. That fish actually spit up three large gizzard shad in the livewell.”
After catching a 3 1/2-pound spotted bass off a sunken boat in the middle of a cove, Greer said he and Shadle wrapped up their day fishing ledges — a pattern that yielded two final culls.
In addition to the glidebait, Greer and Shadle caught fish on a football jig, a drop shot and upsized shaky heads.
“We’re from Texas, we like to throw big stuff, so we upsized to a 1/2- and 3/4-ounce shaky head with a 6th Sense Magnum Trick Worm,” Greer said.
Tucker Smith and Logan Parks of Auburn University are in third place with 14-2. Spending most of their time offshore, the duo endured a plodding pace but their diligence was rewarded with an afternoon kicker.
“The day started off slow and we hit a few places but didn’t catch much,” Smith said. “We just started running and gunning a bunch of places that we like to hit up here.
“We landed on a good place and Logan caught one (that weighed 6-2) at the end of the day and that really helped out a lot.”
Parks said his big fish culled out a 1 1/4-pounder.
Working 40 to 50 different spots, the Auburn anglers caught fish on a variety of structure in 12 to 17 feet. Reaction baits and slower presentations produced fish, but the latter did most of the work.
“The fish are just moving out there, everybody’s pounding on them and they’re getting kind of finicky,” Smith said. “You have to fish slower.”
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. CT at Lincoln’s Landing. The weigh-in will be held at the Landing at 1:30 p.m.
The teams are vying for a spot in the Strike King Bassmaster College Series National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops scheduled for Sept. 2-4 at South Carolina’s Winyah Bay.
The tournament is being hosted by the City of Lincoln.