CORNELIUS, N.C. — Every angler entered in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series tournament presented by Bass Pro Shops would rather the sun shine like it did Thursday afternoon on Lake Norman.
But they certainly would rather catch bass like they did Thursday morning, when slate grey skies produced periodic rainstorms, many of them heavy.
Chandlar Ellis and Gil Senn of Lander University in Greenwood, S.C., made the most of the morning bite and they lead a field of 256 duos competing on 32,000-acre Lake Norman here in the heart of the Tar Heel State.
Ellis and Senn caught five bass on Day 1 that weighed 16 pounds, 10 ounces. That total gave them more than a 2-pound edge over the remainder of the field.
The tournament is the first of four regular-season events on the 2019 Bassmaster College Series schedule.
“We pulled up this morning and on the first three casts, we had three fish,” said Senn. “That morning bite is extremely important to us. As the day wore on, the bite really slowed down. The fish were getting smaller.”
The tandem targeted largemouth bites on Lake Norman, which easily provided more spotted bass on Thursday than any other species. But Ellis caught a 4-11 largemouth that tied for the second largest catch of the day and provided the heft his team needed to grab the first-round lead.
In fact, the Lander University tandem caught four largemouth bass on Thursday to go with one spotted bass. That was the difference that provided them a 2-pound cushion heading into Day 2.
“We pulled up to a bank and were moving along it this morning,” Ellis said. “I threw once and I caught a 3-pounder. I put him in the livewell and threw right back to the same spot and caught that 4-pounder. Fishing was good for a while this morning. The sun warmed up the rocks a bit and we caught a couple that way, but it wasn’t the same as it was early.”
Senn said he and Ellis agreed during practice that a 25-pound total over two days would get a team into the group of 12 tandems that survive the cut to fish on Saturday.
The Lander University anglers are close to that mark after only one day of competition.
“The fish are replenishing really well now,” Senn said “It’s just that time of year. We caught one largemouth all week in practice,” Senn said. “It was all spots for us until today. We get in there today and it was all largemouth. Who knows? But we’ll definitely try for them again tomorrow.”
Justin Barnes and Adam Carroll of the University of Montevallo (Ala.) are in second place with 14-7. Luke Mason and Justin lane of the University of North Alabama are third with 14-4, Garrett Warren and Eric Lampkin of Snead State Community College (Ala.) are fourth with 14-2 and Chase Serafin and Jack Hippe of Adrian College (Mich.) are fifth with 13-9.
The team of Jacob Moore and Gilliam Tharpe of North Carolina State caught the big bass on Thursday – a 6-pound, 13-ounce largemouth that outweighed any other bass caught Thursday by 2 pounds. That gives the tandem an early lead for the Carhartt Big Bass of the tournament and the $500 Carhartt gift card that comes with it.
Moore said he caught the fish on, not surprisingly, an early-morning bite.
“It was exciting,” he said. “I wish we had four more like it.”
Friday’s weather looks like it will see-saw much like it has throughout the week. There’s a 60 percent chance of rain early Friday, but it dips to 25 percent by late morning. There’s a 70-percent likelihood of rain by 1 p.m., a full two hours before the first flight of anglers is due to weigh-in.
Temperatures are not expected to climb higher than 50 degrees on Friday.
The top 10 percent of teams competing on Lake Norman (26 teams in all) will automatically advance to the Carhartt Bassmaster College National Championship presented by Bass Pro Shops tournament to be held at a yet to be disclosed fishery later this year.
The top dozen duos will split $8,500 in cash for their respective bass fishing teams, with a $2,500 prize going to the winning team’s school.
Ellis and Senn have the early lead on the Bass Pros Shops Big Bag of the tournament, which earns the winner a $250 Bass Pro Shops gift card.
The Bassmaster College Series tournament presented by Bass Pro Shops is sponsored by Visit Lake Norman, Mecklenberg County and the City of Charlotte.
The Day 2 launch will begin at 7 a.m. ET at Blythe Landing. Weigh-in will start at 3 p.m.