Team Toyota pro Matt Arey weighed in a strong 14-lb. 1-ounce limit on day one of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite on Lake Chickamauga. His efforts had him sitting in 5th place after the first day of competition left a lot of anglers scratching their heads, Arey included.
“I had no idea I’d be holding down a spot in the top 5 based on my brutal practice,” Arey explained. “This lake has so many big, healthy bass in it. I still can’t believe it’s fishing as tough as it is.”
The fall transitional funk coupled with an incredible amount of fishing pressure this week has caused the giant bass Chickamauga is famous for to be extra finicky for Elite Series competitors. The top 40 cut line was set at 8-lbs. 9-ounces after day one. The Chick routinely pumps out individual Florida strain largemouth that eclipse the cut weight throughout the spring and late winter.
That caliber of fish hasn’t shown up to the Bassmaster party yet, but anglers know that could change on any given cast in this legendary Tennessee River fishery. Two phrases often repeated this week have been, “My timing has to be right” and “Just gotta keep my head down and grind”. Arey is adding a third, “Embrace the random.”
“I caught the biggest fish in my limit on a stretch of bank I have never fished in my life,” Arey said. “And on a bait I didn’t have a single keeper bite on in practice. I’m not going to lie it is pretty random out there for me. But I’ll keep my head down and see if I can’t find a few more random rewards today.”
Random isn’t usually something Bassmaster pros want to base their tournament day on, but when bites have been so hard to come by Arey believes embracing the randomness of it all is actually a positive.
“These events will wear on your mentally if you let it,” Arey offered. “Sometimes in the fall there isn’t really a true rhyme or reason to those big bites. Sometimes it’s best to not overthink it.”
The North Carolina native said the thermometer in his Tundra read 37 degrees this morning before take-off, adding a serious cold-front to the list of reasons why the bass are playing hard to get this week. Arey wasn’t sure how the weather would affect the fishing today, but he took it in stride and remained optimistic.
“I’ve got my daughter Reese’s lucky hat from last week with me and I’m feeling good,” Arey said. “I can’t imagine this cold-front will help the bite, but it can’t hurt it too much either. We’ll see what happens!”