College: Tennessee’s Paden and Bissing take Day 1 lead at Sam Rayburn

JASPER, Texas — While anglers often state that they’d rather be lucky than good, Jackson Paden and Joey Bissing of the University of Tennessee combined the two and sacked up a five-bass limit of 21 pounds, 6 ounces to lead Day 1 of the Strike King Bassmaster College Series at Sam Rayburn Reservoir presented by Bass Pro Shops.

In the final of three events on the series’ new Lunkers Trail, Paden and Bissing were the only team to break 20 pounds. Their opening effort leads Ashton Hehr and Trevor Johnston of Texas A&M University by 1-8.

“We were just bouncing around, in and out, and trying to get bites,” Bissing said. “I feel like we may have gotten a little lucky today.”

Noting that he and his partner fished far uplake, Bissing said they worked five main areas where they focused most of their efforts on brush and wood.

“It wasn’t as much about the size of the bushes, but where they were located,” Paden said. “If it was on a point, it seems like we could get bit.”

Rotating through their spots yielded a limit by about 8:30 a.m. Paden and Bissing made their final cull at noon.

“We caught a lot of our weight just off the bank on a drop shot with a finesse worm, but we also caught fish flipping bushes with a Texas-rigged Big Bite Baits Scentsation Cliff Hanger Worm,” Paden said. “We also fished a Carolina rig out deep. That produced our biggest fish — a 5 3/4 — around noon.

“It was never really slow for us. We caught 20 to 25 keepers. We caught fish from a foot of water to 15 feet, but up shallow produced best. There was a lot of bait in the area, but there was definitely a lot of fry guarders up there too.”

An approaching weather system brought a day of windy conditions and afternoon thunderstorms. Paden said he and Bissing leveraged the day’s complexion by focusing on windblown banks where the water movement stimulated the fish.

“It was windy all day, so we started flipping a heavier weight when the wind picked up,” Paden said. “We went from a 3/8- to a 1/2-ounce.”

Looking ahead to Friday’s championship round, the leaders are confident their overall game plan can hold up. However, they’re concerned about the storm’s impact. They’ll visit some of the same areas they fished today, but they’ll be ready to adjust as needed.

“We’re gonna try to replicate what we did today,” Paden said. “Hopefully all this rain and thunder didn’t mess our spots up too much, but we’ll just have to figure it out tomorrow.”

Hehr and Johnston are in second place with 19-14, while Caden Denny and Cody Monlezun — also of Texas A&M University — are in third place with 19-10

Mason Lyons and Dalton Blakley of Kentucky Christian University are in the lead for Big Bass honors with a 9-5. Lyons and Blakley placed ninth with 17-7.

Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT at Umphrey Family Pavilion. The weigh-in will be held at the pavilion at 2 p.m.

The Jasper-Lake Sam Rayburn Area Chamber of Commerce and Jasper County are hosting the event.