COUNCE, Tenn. — Focusing on two distinctly different spawns rewarded Alabama angler Brent Crow with a five-bass limit of 22 pounds, 11 ounces that leads Day 1 of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Pickwick Lake.
Crow started his day targeting an early-morning shad spawn on grass and pea gravel bars. His early plan yielded three good largemouth, including a 7-2.
“There are just a couple places I’ve found with a shad spawn,” Crow said. “I think it’s just starting. There really wasn’t a lot of activity; there just happened to be several fish there. Hopefully, tomorrow there will be a lot more.
“You don’t have a lot of time with a shad spawn, so you have to hope you get lucky like I did today. I stayed about 30 minutes and then I couldn’t get bit.”
With a storm system moving through the area, the day saw mostly cloudy skies with a steady morning rain slowing to a drizzle by midday. Many reported struggling with bass rattled and/or displaced by weather, but Crow said he felt comfortable knowing where to find quality bites.
“I guide here and our busiest time starts March 1, so weather permitting, I’ve been here about every day,” he said. “A couple of weeks ago, the smallmouth started spawning and we’re right at the tail end of it. I was able to catch a couple of spawning smallmouth.”
With the smallmouth bedding in about 6 to 8 feet, plus the day’s dim conditions, sight fishing was not an option.
“You can’t see them here, they bed too deep,” Crow said. “But I’m on the lake all the time and I kind of know where they bed. They like to be out of the current in the rocks.”
Crow caught his bed fish on what he described as slow presentations with a Berkley MaxScent The General and a Berkley PowerBait Chigger Craw. With an early start to his productivity, Crow said he faced the dilemma of deciding between fishing more of his key spots or playing a conservative game to manage his fish.
“I had my weight early — by about 9:30 — and I really didn’t want to (fish spots I may need tomorrow),” he said. “I was trying to save a little bit, but I did have a 2-pounder that I wanted to cull and I lost two that would have done it.”
Crow said he plans to work the same program on Day 2, but he’s concerned that timing may work against him.
“I was Boat 10 today and I’ll be 210 tomorrow, so I don’t know what it’s going to be like,” he said.
John Garrett of Union City, Tenn., is in second with 21-12. Success, he said, hinged on adjusting to the weather’s impacts.
“I started running a shad spawn early and I had been catching some big fish on it, but that did not happen today,” Garrett said. “I went to some grass fish and caught 13 to 14 pounds, but I knew something had changed.
“I ended up looking for new fish. I had areas that I know are the first places schools of fish get. I hit two of those places today and really caught them. The fish were fresh, they’d just moved up today after that storm. Whether or not they stay overnight is another story.”
Garrett caught his fish in 16 to 20 feet over offshore structure. He caught them all on a powder blueback Strike King 6XD.
Joey Nania of Cropwell, Ala., is in third with 21-11. Capitalizing on the bite window stimulated by the approaching storm, Nania anchored his bag with an 8-2 that leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass standings.
“Catching a giant like that makes the whole day smooth,” Nania said. “I pulled up on a point this morning and caught a couple of solid keepers and that got my confidence right. Then right when that storm was coming in, it rained on us a little bit and I threw a ChatterBait.
“I got a couple of bites, I caught one about 3 1/2 and threw back in there and caught that 8-2. It was just a great day.”
Nania said he was targeting offshore structure and using his Garmin Panoptix to keep watch for the right opportunities. While he has a couple different patterns available, Nania said he tried to stick with what has been producing better than average bites.
Steve Madar of Starkville, Miss., leads the co-angler division with 13-2. Doing all of his work offshore, Madar caught two of his biggest fish on a moving bait in the grass. He caught the other one by cranking a ledge.
“The key was an erratic retrieve,” he said. “The fish had just moved out. You’d hit little areas and then all of a sudden, boom, boom, boom — you’d catch them.”
Cory Weaver of Ankeny, Iowa, holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 6-13.
Crow leads the Central Open standings with 200 points. Garrett is in second with 199, followed by Nania with 198, Daisuke Aoki of Minamitsuru-gun Yamanashi, Japan, with 197 and Chris Beaudrie of Princeton, Ky., with 196.
Jacob Foutz of Charleston, Tenn., leads the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year overall points standings with 557.
Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT from Pickwick Landing State Park. The weigh-in will be held back at the park at 2 p.m. Coverage of the event will be available at Bassmaster.com.
The Hardin County Convention and Visitors Bureau is hosting the event.