Elite Aoki’s hidey-hole See Daisuke Aoki rocket to the top of the leaderboard late morning on Day 1 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake. Posted on April 7, 2022 Photography by Steve Bowman Day 1 of any derby means a late start for some of us. This one was no different when we put in at Soddy Creek, we quickly noticed that a few anglers including Daisuke Aoki and Brandon Card were close. We had no idea how intimate the place was. It was accessed by a concrete culvert and Card was right in the middle of it, fishing. Not coming or going but fishing. Obviously there was no getting around him. And Card was getting a bite or two. This one, though, would not be of any help. The lake has a 15-inch minimum length limit on largemouth. There was obviously enough cover to snag his lure, which meant enough cover to hold a fish. We were really interested to see what Daisuke, pronounced Dye-Ska-I-Okey, Aoki was up. That pronunciation by the way is pure backwoods speak. Aoki was the leader at that moment having captured three fish, including a 7-5, for a good start. As we were heading into the culvert and into the hidey-hole, Austin Felix sped by behind us. Inside the hidey-hole were more anglers, including John Crews. Aoki was catching them, but they didn’t measure up. While Crews was slowly working for a bite, Clifford Pirch in the far background was doing the same. And, of course all of them were keeping on eye on each other. But only long enough to keep an eye on potential spawning beds. The place made up about 60 acres. And besides these three Aoki, Crews and Pirch, there was Card behind the camera and more coming. Pirch would camp out in the back of the creek. While Card nibbled around the edges in the other parts. And Crews looked intently. At times they played close to each other. And others, they had a piece all to themselves. The close quarters was enough for Crews to wave bye and hit the lake in search of less pressure. As he was leaving, Aoki hooked up with his third keeper. His body language suggested a special fish. And he adeptly moved around the deck and in position to land it. On the floor and feet flailing, he reached…. reached a little further… And brought to hand a 2-pound and change fish. The fish would give him his fourth keeper of the day. ven though it wasn’t huge, it solidified the early lead. Aoki was definitely happy about it. It gave him somewhere north of 15 pounds, with just four fish in the well. There was a lot of shifting at times. In this case Aoki idles past Jacob Powroznik, who was a late arrival to the hidey hole. Aoki would spend several minutes working the same fish Pirch worked earlier. While Aoki worked, Powroznik was doing the same, watching more boats, competitors and spectators, pile into the small area. Aoki would continue to work. While Powroznik would add a chunk to his well. And in the other arm of the small area, a spectator watches Kyle Welcher, while Powroznik fishes down the bank. Welcher and Powroznik would pass, looking for a bite. But the only thing eating at that time was an osprey that had caught a crappie. We watched the osprey eat the crappie while watching the anglers from his perch. Like a bowl of popcorn, the osprey enjoyed his meal that came with a show. And the show was getting ready to get interesting. Below him, Aoki was hooking up with another 7-pound class fish. The fish made several jumps. And some big splashes. And ran Aoki all over the boat. After another big jump, and some aerial acrobatics. Aoki was ready to land the fish off the back deck. The big fish had other ideas. It took Aoki further back. And for a moment it appeared to get hung up in the equipment. Notice the position of the motor. During this fight, Aoki had to trim the prop out of the water when the fish hung the line in the brackets. Then it led Aoki back to the front of the boat. Aoki was able to subdue the fish at the base of the trolling motor. We finally get to see just how big the fish was. Aoki had a smile that out-weighed the bass. And it was easy to see why. A quick photo... And the fish would spend the rest of the day in the livewell. In any language, the satisfaction and joy can be read just like this.