HUNTINGDON, Tenn. — An early opportunity and a stellar save allowed Rooksby Gordon and Fisher Deason of American Christian Academy to turn in a limit of 11 pounds, 7 ounces and lead Day 1 of the Bassmaster Junior National Championship at the Carroll County 1000 Acre Recreational Lake.
Starting on the lake’s upper end, the anglers began their day by flipping cover in about 7 to 8 feet. After the anglers boated a couple of smaller fish, Gordon hooked what turned out to be one of the day’s biggest bass — a 4-13.
“When I hooked the fish, it swam right into a log,” Gordon said. “I thought it was going to come off, but I put the trolling motor on high and went over to it.
“The fish came off before we got to it, but (Deason) netted it before it got away.”
With a thunderstorm passing through central Tennessee this morning, the scheduled 5:45 a.m. takeoff was postponed 35 minutes due to lightning. Once the hazardous weather passed, anglers fished in rain for most of the morning.
Deason said this proved beneficial, as it complemented their overall game plan.
“We tried to find some deeper wood because the water temperature would be cooler,” Deason said. “We think the rain was an advantage for us because it cooled the water down.”
Gordon said he and Deason caught their bass on a mix of reaction baits and slower presentations.
“We were using the slower bait offshore on the deep wood and we were using the reaction baits shallow in the early morning,” Gordon said.
As Deason explained, dialing in spots with large bluegill populations was essential to their game plan. In their view, the fish feeding on the larger forage would likely be the size they wanted.
“We tried to present our baits with a lot of action,” Deason said. “We tried to (entice) the fish better.”
After securing their limit by mid-morning, the leaders upgraded a couple times throughout the day. With significantly less chance of rain in Saturday’s forecast, Gordon said he believes he and Deason will need to work at a faster pace.
“I feel like we’ll need to catch our fish faster tomorrow, because once the sun comes out, it will slow down,” he said.
Deason agreed and added this: “I feel like today, with the rain, they were on a feeding frenzy.”
Mark Cerja Jr. and Gus Richardson of the Lone Star Jr. Bassmasters are in second place with 10-7. As Cerja noted, he and his partner tried to put themselves in high-percentage areas.
“We were looking at big clumps of grass,” he said. “There’s a lot of wood cover on this lake, but there’s a lot of dead water too. Docks were a big factor, brushpiles were a big factor.”
Cerja said he and his partner came into the event planning to leverage slower presentations to entice summer-weary fish. A 4-inch finesse worm, a 7-inch Berkley Power Worm and a white fluke produced all of their bass. The latter yielded their biggest fish — Richardson’s 4-7.
“I caught that fish about 5 minutes before we came in,” Richardson said. “I just saw something that looked good and cast to it. I dead-sticked the bait near a weed clump and the fish ate it.”
Owen Ray and Camdyn Cranfill of the Rhea County Eagle Anglers are in third place with 10-3. Cranfill said he and his teammate did not have much practice success, so they started with a tried-and-true summertime pattern and found success.
“We targeted docks with reaction baits because of the shade,” he said. “Most of them were in 10 feet.
“We were mostly throwing topwaters because that seemed to be the most consistent with catching bigger fish.”
Ray said the bass preferred a slower presentation in the morning, but as the day progressed, increasing retrieve speeds seemed to help.
Brothers Sullivan and Beckett Kraft of Horseheads, N.Y., lead the big bass standings with a 5-4.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 5:45 a.m. CT at the Carroll County Lake Launch. The weigh-in will be held at 19463 West Main Street at 2:15 p.m.
The Bassmaster Junior Series National Championship is being hosted by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.