JASPER, Ala. — David Kilgore of Jasper, Ala., was just hoping to survive the cold, rainy first day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate at Smith Lake. With a limit that weighed 1 ounce shy of 20 pounds, he did more than merely survive — he claimed the lead.
“I caught them really well in practice last Sunday when it was sunny,” Kilgore said.
However, the following practice days were cold and cloudy, and Kilgore struggled to get bites. He also had an early flight today, which made for an early weigh-in and a short fishing day. Despite these handicaps, Kilgore boated 12 largemouth and spotted bass, culling to the best five as the day progressed.
“Tomorrow is supposed to be sunny and warmer, and I have a late flight,” Kilgore said. “That will give me two more hours of fishing when the sun is out.”
Kilgore mentioned that the areas he fished today had plenty of pressure from other competitors. However, he saved some of his best water and is excited about his prospects for Day 2 of the Smith Lake Open.
Should Kilgore hang on and win, he will take home a check for $6,741, a Nitro Z9 powered by a Mercury 225 Pro XS and an invitation to fish the 2015 Bassmaster Classic if he fishes all three tournaments in the Southern Opens series. Kilgore qualified for the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro by winning a Bassmaster Southern Open at Logan Martin Lake last year.
A half-ounce Strike King Pure Poison chattering jig dressed with a white Strike King Rage Tail Craw anchored Kilgore’s win at Logan Martin. It’s possible he may be fishing the same lure at Smith.
Kilgore isn’t saying, nor is his friend Todd Auten of Lake Wylie, S.C., who sits in second place with 18 pounds, 5 ounces of spotted bass. It was the heaviest limit of spots Auten has ever caught. His biggest today was a chub that weighed 5 pounds, 4 ounces.
Auten and Kilgore are sharing information, but their No. 1 techniques are nothing alike, Auten says. During practice, Auten would leave an area after getting a single bite there. When he went back today, he was happy to find that those places held several bass.
“I pulled up to my first spot at 7 o’clock this morning,” Auten said. “I had my limit by 7:05.”
In third place with 17 pounds, 15 ounces is Bassmaster Elite Series pro Brandon Lester of Fayetteville, Tenn. Lester feels fortunate that he sacked a heavy catch under the challenging conditions.
“The sun came out for 20 to 30 minutes this morning,” Lester said. “That’s when I caught my two biggest bass.”
Lester’s limit included three largemouth and two spotted bass. Although he is catching spotted bass, he is targeting largemouth. Unlike Kilgore, Lester has his fishing area to himself.
“I haven’t seen anyone else doing what I’m doing,” he said. “I saw some big largemouth where I’m fishing in practice. Tomorrow’s sun should help me catch them.”
Connecticut’s Stephen Longobardi and South Carolina’s Reid McGinn are locked in a tie for first place in the co-angler division with identical three-bass limits that weighed 9 pounds, 7 ounces. They will be casting for all they’re worth tomorrow, along with the other non-boaters, to claim the Skeeter TZX170 sporting a Yamaha F115LA outboard that goes to the victor.