Open: Millender leads Day 1

MANY, La. — Focusing on early prespawners lead Randy Millender to the Day 1 lead at the season opener of the Bassmaster Central Open on Louisiana’s Toledo Bend Reservoir with a 5-bass limit that weighed 22 pounds, 11 ounces.

While many anglers were looking for bites inside the mouths of spawning creeks, the Teague, Texas, pro devoted his day to main-lake structure. He targeted a specific habitat feature in 5 to 6 feet of water.

Often, anglers in later flights find the longer day affords them more opportunities. However, despite weighing his fish in the day’s last flight, Millender said the afternoon hours did not impact his performance.

“I caught all these fish on my first stop this morning,” he said. “I had a stretch that had ’em. I had my limit by 8:30. But whether they’ll be there tomorrow or not, who knows?”

Millender caught all of his fish on a squarebill crankbait. Noting that crawfish patterns were most productive, he said his retrieve was intrinsic to his success.

“Long casts are always important with a crankbait, but speed was also important,” Millender said. “Once it was down there, I tried not to work it too fast.

“The strikes were very lethargic. Half the time, you don’t even know you have a fish; they just load up on it.”

After a rainy, windy practice period, Toledo Bend saw gray skies yielding to the bright “bluebird” conditions of the classic post-frontal scenario. This, Millender said, is what made his morning more productive than his afternoon.

“After the clouds rolled out and we got this high pressure, the fish really locked down,” he said.

John Cox of DeBary, Fla., is in second place with 21-7. Game plans are good, but Cox found a random run-and-gun strategy with a reaction bait delivering his bites.

“It started off slow, and I just ground on them all day,” Cox said. “I got lucky and caught my two best ones almost back to back around 11. Then I started bouncing around and fishing stuff that looked good and culled out my other fish.”

Dave Redington of Winnsboro, Texas, is in third place with 20-8. After starting offshore, he felt the call of a shallow flipping bite, but after several unproductive hours of close work, he realized he should have stayed put.

“I was only catching about one every 30 minutes offshore, but I kept wanting to get back to my shallow stuff,” Redington said. “Once it warmed up, I spent about four hours doing that and I had four decent ones and one little ‘rat.’ I figured the best way to get rid of that little one was to go back out deep.

“I went back out and culled that with a 2 1/2-pounder. I caught them on a crankbait and a Carolina rig.”

Travis Alcock of Antioch, Ill., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 9-1 largemouth.

Stephen Sennikoff Jr. of Garland, Texas, leads the co-angler division with 11-12. He caught all of his fish on a white/chartreuse spinnerbait with a willowleaf/Colorado-blade combination.

“I’d been catching them in practice on a ChatterBait when the water was a little dirtier,” Sennikoff said. “The area I was in cleared up today, and I thought a spinnerbait would be key. I was slow rolling it and just trying to keep it a couple of feet down in the water column near grass and wood.”

Darrell Hille or Springfield, Tenn., holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 6-2.

Thursday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:45 a.m. CT at Cypress Bend Boat Ramp. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 2:45 p.m.

The event is hosted by the Louisiana Office of Tourism; Toledo Bend Lake Country; Cypress Bend Golf Resort, Spa, and Conference Center; Discover DeSoto Parish, Louisiana; and Sabine River Authority.