Mosley, a 32-year-old pro from Collinsville, Miss., weighed a limit of five bass on Friday that totaled 16 pounds, 15 ounces, putting him at the top of the pack in the tournament that was due to start Thursday but was postponed because of extremely heavy rain in the region earlier this week.
All that rain swelled Neely Henry’s water level and sent sediment shooting through the north end of the fishery. Anglers struggled to find clean water, if they could at all, and a muddy Neely Henry made fishing tough on those heading uplake. Others heading down the 11,250-acre impoundment found many of their spots inaccessible thanks to the flow of water choked at the natural bottleneck on the lake known as Minnesota Bend.
The varied conditions led Mosley to “junk fishing,” or using a variety of techniques and lures in numerous places to see what worked.
Something certainly did for him, with 5-pound and 4 1/2-pound kickers anchoring the limit he brought to the Gadsden City Boat Docks.
“It was a special day, especially after my practice,” Mosley said. “The biggest one I had in practice was only 2 1/4. I was hoping to just catch a limit today and they just bit better than they have all week. I’m fishing upriver, downriver, anything I can. It was just one of those days where everything bounced my way.”
Because he struggled to find anything consistent during practice, Mosley had no idea where he wanted to begin fishing Friday morning. He settled on a place, he said, mostly “because no one else was in there.”
“I was Boat 92 (of 98 taking off) this morning, and this being a small lake, I figured it might be the only place all day I wouldn’t fish behind somebody,” he said. “That’s where I caught the 4 1/2-pounder and I just started fishing new stuff from there. I had all my weight by 11 a.m., but I didn’t lay off anything because I didn’t have anything to lay off.”
Mosley noted that Friday’s weather (mid-60s, partly cloudy skies) was the best it’s been all week, which could have contributed to the better catches most anglers had.
“The fish also got a break yesterday (with the tournament postponed),” he said. “They got the chance to adjust to the high water, the low water. But it’s not easy. It’s a real grind out there.”
Bryan New of Belmont, N.C., is in second place with 16-7. Like Mosley, the 31-year-old pro was surprised by the heft of his bag, considering the struggles he endured in practice.
“I had a little place where I thought I could get some bites, but I couldn’t get to it,” New said. “The water was too low. So, I wound up messing around, practicing, junk fishing. I caught a 4 1/2-pounder and a 3-plus … I think I ruled some stuff out today, maybe added a few things. I think we can make something happen tomorrow.”
Reigning Bassmaster Angler of the Year Clark Wendlandt of Leander, Texas, is in third place with 15-13. He was another in the long line of anglers who didn’t figure much out in practice but struck some Alabama gold when competition began.
“I caught four in practice doing the same thing I did today when I caught 15 or 20,” he said. “The water’s dirty still, but I think it’s making the fishing better. Nothing has been easy this week.”
Wendlandt won $1,000 for the 5-4 he caught that was the day’s Phoenix Boats Big Bass.
“I kind of ran into that 5-4,” he said. “I’d love for that to happen again tomorrow.”
The full field of 98 Elites will take off again at 6:30 a.m. CT from the Gadsden City Boat Docks, also known as Coosa Landing, with weigh-in back at the docks at 2:30 p.m. The Top 48 after Day 2 will advance to the semifinal round on Sunday.
Live coverage of the event can be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast the action live with the leaders beginning at 7 a.m.