Big bites are a big deal

During Friday’s start of the Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake, a cold front’s arrival clearly complicated the already difficult fall transitional period.

Not a lot of limits — only 29 — and a few goose eggs bespoke a lean day on this Tennessee River reservoir.

With Day 2 bringing the clear, bright “bluebird” skies common to post-frontal, high-pressure conditions, anglers will definitely have their work cut out for them. But big fish swim here and each cast, flip, pitch or skip holds the potential for a game-changing moment.

Reason: Chickamauga has been stocked with Florida-strain largemouths, which have the genetics to reach double-digit proportions. Even if those in the 10-plus range keep to themselves, we’ve already seen several quality fish impacting angler performances. Among the Day-1 heavies:

  • Brandon Cobb caught a pair of 6-pounders and leads the field with 19 pounds, 6 round
  • Ed Loughran III found only two keepers, but his first fish of the day, a 6-pound, 9-ouncer that bit around 8:30, leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass. Despite a short bag, Loughran’s currently inside the top-40 cut in 39th place with 8-10. 
  • Harvey Horne also scored an early kicker — a 5-8 that bit within minutes of Loughran’s big fish. Horne also weighed only two keepers, but both were quality bites that has him in 38th with 8-14.
  • Bryan Schmitt, 31st, anchored a 3-fish bag of 9-9 with a 5-pounder.

Notably, Cobb reported that while he lead the first day by a margin of 3-5, his day could have been even better. His sack included a 1 1/2-pounder that he wished he could have replaced by the giant he lost in a grass mat.

“It was like everything I did yesterday worked, but I lost half of what bit,” Cobb said. “So, to lose half of what bit and still weigh 19 pounds is pretty good.”

While the morning bite clearly offered a few key opportunities yesterday, several anglers experienced strong afternoon rallies; some true day-savers.

  •  A 4-pounder that bit at 1:15 pushed Stetson Blaylock into second place.
  • Clark Wendlandt, who leads the AOY standings, struggled all day and caught his lone keeper — a 3-14 — around 1:20.
  • Matt Herren made a key cull with a 3-pounder at 1:14
  • Horne’s second fish, 3-4, bit at 1:25

Elsewhere, Chad Pipkens, who shares an eighth-place tie (13-3) with Herren, leveraged an afternoon window of 1:03 to 2:08 and boated four of his five keepers. John Cox, who placed fourth with 14-14, struggled most of the day and filled his limit with a 2 and a 2 3/4-pounder at 1:24 and 2:01, respectively.

While sun angles and increasing warmth certainly play a role, especially on a post-frontal day, Cox said he believes the afternoon bite is also a function of fish grouping in shaded areas and becoming more competitive.

Before the tournament concludes, Cox is expecting Chickamauga to show off a sample of her top-shelf largemouth. “I think the person who wins will catch an 8- or 9-pounder.”