Open: Dillard leads Day 1

LEWISVILLE, Texas — Abundant options nearly overwhelmed Brandon Dillard, but a moment of inspiring clarity set him on a course that led him to a 24-pound, 9-ounce limit that topped Day 1 of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Lewisville Lake.

Hailing from Grapevine, Texas, the Lewisville guide said mentally sorting through his vast local knowledge nearly kept him up all night before the opening round. Rising with only an hour of sleep was less than ideal, but an early text from his mother, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, provided a calming influence.

“She said, ‘Just have fun and go fishing,’ and that’s what I did,” Dillard said. “I had my weight by noon and then I stopped fishing. My main thing today was to just stay calm, have fun and not put a lot of pressure on myself.”

Anchoring his bag with an 8-11, Dillard said versatility was essential to his success.

“I fished from 1 foot to 17 feet; I caught shallow fish and deep fish,” Dillard said. “I have 175 brushpiles (marked on Lewisville), so I’m hitting some brushpiles and I’m hitting some rock.”

Sky conditions guided the timing of Dillard’s various targets. The morning saw cloudy skies yielding to bright blue skies by midday. Knowing the fish would reposition with the day’s developing complexion, Dillard adjusted accordingly.

“I’m hitting the shallow stuff early — what’s left of the buckbrush,” he said. “Most of the buckbrush is out of play this time of year, so anywhere you can find some kind of shallow cover like laydowns or stumps early, it’s good.

“When it turned sunny, I transitioned out to deeper (brushpiles), but I stayed shallow while we had the cloud cover and the wind.”

Keeping it textbook, Dillard hit his shallow spots with reaction baits and then switched to slower presentations once he moved deep. His biggest fish, which came off a deep brushpile, required some extra attention, but Dillard’s experience ensured the trophy bass’s safe release.

“When it bit, it felt like a perch and when I swung on it, she came right to the boat with her mouth open the whole time,” Dillard said. “I had to fizz her and I was having trouble getting her to fizz (release excess air from the swim bladder), so I spent about an hour doing that. I wound up getting her stabilized, so she made it.”

Dillard said he plans to repeat his game plan tomorrow. Knowing the lake intimately, he knows he has his work cut out for him.

“This lake can be great one day and a real struggle the next,” he said. “So, I’m going to do the same thing; I’m going to have fun and give it all I’ve got. I’ll fish the same patterns, but I’ll fish some new water tomorrow.”