CORNELIUS, N.C. – Amazing the difference only a few short hours can make.
When Day 1 of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series tournament presented by Bass Pro Shops began Thursday at 7 a.m., the weather was cold, wet and generally miserable. By noon, however, the sun was shining brightly for the first time in a week and the air was warm.
The human animal, of course, prefers the latter of those two weather options, but the Lake Norman bass favored the less than ideal conditions that settled over the Tar Heel State last week and continued through Thursday morning.
A handful of anglers took advantage of the early gloom and staked an early lead in the first Bassmaster College Series event of 2019.
Look no farther than the duo of Chandlar Ellis and Gil Senn who compete for the Lander University bass fishing team out of Greenwood, S.C. While many of the other 255 duos in the field relied on spotted bass bites to build limits on Day 1, Ellis and Senn caught four largemouths, including one that weighed 4-13. That heavy anchored their limit of five bass that totaled 16 pounds, 10 ounces.
And almost all those bites came in the first couple hours of angling, a fact not lost on the Lander University tandem. They realize their fortune, built upon heavier largemouths during a narrow morning window, was the key factor in their more than 2-pound lead over Justin Barnes and Adam Carroll of the University of Montevallo (Ala.)
Ellis and Senn will target early-morning largemouth bites again Friday morning. They were scheduled to launch 89th of the 256 boats taking off Friday from Blythe Landing, which puts them on the water before nearly 2/3 of the field.
The team started in the 168th slot on Thursday, so Ellis and Senn were thrilled to get an earlier crack at the best bass the 32,000-acre Lake Norman has to offer.
“The fish are replenishing really well now,” Senn said “It’s just that time of year.”
Barnes and Carroll had one of the biggest bass (4-3) on Thursday, and it too was caught in the early rain showers.
“Pretty much everything we had came early,” Barnes said. “We did pretty terrible in practice, but we pulled up on some pretty good ones today.”
Carroll said the weather has been unpredictable throughout the week and Thursday was no different. Friday should bring a fairly steady dose of dismal weather, however, with a 60-percent chance of showers in the morning. That number dips in the late morning but climbs to 70 percent after lunch. Temperatures are not supposed to climb above 50 degrees during any time of Day 2 competition.
Chase Serafin and Jack Hippe of Adrian (Mich.) College are used to extremely cold winters, but they said the North Carolina weather was tough enough on Wednesday during practice. Thursday was warm by their standards, and they were able to bag a few bass fishing deep in the afternoon.
The duo is in fifth place overall with five bass weighing 13-9. Four of the limit were smallmouths, but the heaviest of the five was a largemouth.
“Man it was freezing cold and it rained on us all morning yesterday,” Hippe said. “The temperature definitely was higher today, and when the sun came out, it was tougher for everyone else. We caught some good ones, though. We switched it up a little bit and caught two more fish later in the day…We had four in 30 minutes, but then it was 10:30 a.m. when we caught our fifth bass.”
Jacob Moore and Gilliam Tharpe of North Carolina weighed the heaviest bass on Thursday (6-13) and lead the way for the Carhartt Big Bass of the Tournament.
The college anglers launched at 7 a.m. Friday. Weigh-in, also at Blythe Landing, begins at 3 p.m.
The field will be cut to 12 after Friday’s weigh-in, and the top 10 percent of teams (26 in all) will automatically advance to the Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops to be held at a yet to be disclosed fishery later this year.
This week’s event on Lake Norman is sponsored by Visit Lake Norman, Mecklenburg County and the City of Charlotte.
Watch live video of Friday’s weigh-in only on Bassmaster.com.