GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — James Biggs of Euless, Texas, effectively employed an intercept strategy to catch a huge five-bass limit that weighed 25 pounds, 4 ounces for the opening-round lead at the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Central Regional on Lake Guntersville.
With a 2-pound, 12-ounce margin over second place, the Texas boater built his game plan around seasonal patterns. Anglers reported finding fish in all three stages of the spawn, but Biggs believed his best opportunity would be found with the prespawn fish.
“I just found where they’re transitioning,” Biggs said. “We have a full moon coming and they’re heading to the banks. I found that stopping spot pretty close to where they’re heading.
“I fished the renowned Guntersville bridges, which make funneling points. These are just common-sense spots where the fish will stop on the way in, and stop on the way out.”
Biggs said he spent most of his time fishing bridge pilings and bottom structure in the deeper sections. Although he caught fish throughout different parts of the day, Biggs experienced a midday upturn.
“I think that was because (the TVA) started running some current,” he said.
Mobility, he said, was the key to his success. He knew the fish would be feeding heavily, so checking multiple spots proved essential.
“The morning bite wasn’t very good; I sat on one area for a while and caught a couple, but nothing great,” he said. “I made a move and was able to cull those fish out.
“I just started spot hopping the same type of stuff. It was more of a pattern than a location because it worked in multiple places.
True to the prespawn pattern, Biggs caught his fish on a mix of presentations. Swimbaits produced some of his bigger bites, but slowly dragging plastics along the bottom also added to his limit.
“We’re at Guntersville in April — fish your strength,” he said of the big lake’s famous spring bonanza. “This lake is so full of fish, you can catch them a bunch of different ways.”
Jeremy Montgomery of Overland Park, Kan., is in second place with 22-8. Anchoring his bag was a 6-5 and another kicker around 6. Three more in the 3-pound range bespoke a day of consistency.
Montgomery said he’s targeting grassy humps rising from about 7 to 8 feet of water down to 4 feet. His fish are either right on top of the hump or they’re on the edge of the grass.
“They’re coming to me, for sure,” Montgomery said of his postspawn staging areas. “I only hit three of the spots I found in practice, so I have a couple more that I left alone today. I got a limit really early, culled one at noon and then kind of laid off of them.”
Montgomery caught his fish on Senkos Texas rigged with a 1/8-ounce bullet weight, which helped the bait push through the grass. Popping the worm out of grass often triggered reaction bites.
Sawyer McMurphy of Long Beach, Miss., finished the first day in third place with 19-0. He was mostly targeting prespawn and postspawn fish, but late morning offered an opportunity to catch a bedded fish.
“I saw the bed in about 3 feet of water but I didn’t actually see the fish,” he said. “I flipped a beaver in there and she attacked the bait on the first cast.”
Josh Hilton of Clarksville, Ark., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 8-12.
Mike Szczechowski of Strafford, Mo., leads the nonboater division with 15-4. Paired with Biggs, he also benefited from the staging popularity of Guntersville bridges.
“I caught fish on the pilings and the points going underneath them,” Szczechowski said. “It was a mix of reaction baits and slower baits. Sometimes the bite was really fast, and sometimes it was really slow. We just did what we had to do to get bit, and reacted to where we fished.”
Szczechowski’s bag included a 6-5 kicker. He caught that one mid-morning.
Paul Huse of Omaha, Neb., holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 6-15.
Thursday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT at the Guntersville State Park ramp. The weigh-in will be held at the same location at 2:15 p.m.