Cates takes the Day 1 lead at Possum Kingdom

GRAFORD, Texas — Michael Cates fishes Possum Kingdom Lake only a couple of times each year, but every time he does, he has the kind of day that has him vowing to make it his home water.

Cates had another one of those banner days Saturday to open the Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series powered by Tourney X stop at Possum Kingdom Lake. The 51-year-old resident of Arlington, Texas, had a five-bass limit of 109.75 inches Saturday to take the pole position in this two-day derby.

The haul gave him 4.25-inch lead on Georgia’s Josh Diehl, who produced a limit measuring 105.5 inches. A total of 129 anglers from around the U.S. are competing.

Cates marveled at Saturday’s good fortune. He measured a limit by 7 a.m. and estimated he caught 40 bass before he dialed way back by midmorning, to give the bass in his honey hole a breather.

So good was his Day 1 on Possum Kingdom that Cates was catching bass in pairs.

“My first fish was about 5 pounds, a 21-incher,” he said. “Shortly thereafter, I caught two at a time on my 6XD (sexy shad Strike King). I couldn’t believe it, but then it happened again. A few casts later, I had two on for the third time, but the big one came off.”

Cates said he’s never hooked two bass on a crankbait before, so for it to happen more than once Saturday had him elated.

“Things were happening so fast, I was just trying to keep up,” he said. “That first 6XD broke off, so I switched to a chartreuse/blue back crankbait and it worked. I caught a few on a spoon, a few dragging a plum worm around. I think I could have thrown anything today and it would have worked.”

Cates said he found his hot spot during practice, but he wasn’t immediately sure it was something special.

“It doesn’t look like much,” he said. “But there’s a big, huge underwater point. It sticks out and it has deep water on both sides, with the creek channel hitting the backside of it. There are two little spots there, about big as a truck, both really sheer. As soon as the crankbait bounces on it, the fish maul it.”

Cates, whose hometown of Arlington is only 90 minutes from Possum Kingdom, is confident he can replicate his catch and grab a tournament win.

“I’ll catch five unless something drastic happens,” he said. “I’m as confident as I’ve ever been in a tournament. I’ve been burned by deep fish before, but something is different this time.”

Diehl, of Grovetown, Ga., said he figured out his pattern late in practice. He said it’s very much like a summer pattern he relishes back home at Clarks Hill Lake.

“It’s a specific way fish set up and how they position themselves,” he said. “You either know how to catch them when they do it, or you don’t.”

Diehl, 39, said waypoints he marked two years ago (when the Bassmaster Kayak Series Championship was held at Possum Kingdom) didn’t work out then, but paid off Saturday.

“The water was 8 to 10 degrees colder then,” Diehl said. “It’s 80 degrees now. Last time, the fish were moving out of spawn to summer spots. They’re further along right now.”

Diehl believes 100 inches on Sunday should give him a chance to win.

“The difference in the leaderboard right now is one fish I had that was probably 22 to 23 inches breaking off (early Saturday),” he said. “A lot of guys are beating banks and catching fish, but they’re not getting the same quality of fish.”

Rounding out the Top 5 anglers after Day 1 are Ohio’s Eric Siddiqi, third, 103.5; Texas’ Joe Camareno, fourth, 99.25; and fifth, Nebraska’s Marty Hughes, fifth, 97.75.

The derby at Possum Kingdom is the third of five stops on the Bassmaster Kayak Series this year. Additional tournaments follow on the upper Mississippi River in Lacrosse, Wis., in July and on the Susquehanna River in Lewisburg, Penn., in October. Competing anglers are vying for points in the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year race as well as for spots in the 2024 Yamaha Rightwaters Bassmaster Kayak Series National Championship.

The live leaderboard can be found on throughout the tournament with the awards streaming live on the Bassmaster YouTube channel June 4 at 4 p.m. CT.

The tournament is being hosted by the Possum Kingdom Chamber of Commerce.

2023 Bassmaster Kayak Series Title Sponsor: Yamaha Rightwaters
2023 Bassmaster Kayak Series Partner: MotorGuide
2023 Bassmaster Kayak Series Angler of the Year Sponsor: Dakota Lithium