JASPER, Ala. — Jordan Wiggins experienced what he called “a magical day” in taking the lead at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Central Open on Smith Lake.
Wiggins, of Cullman, Ala., caught a five-bass limit weighing 17 pounds, 8 ounces. Just 5 ounces behind him is John Cox of Debary, Fla., with 17-3 and David Williams of Newton, N.C., is third with 15-11. Wes Logan of Springville, Ala., and Griffin Phillips of Mount Olive, Ala., are tied for fourth with 15 pounds.
Experiencing a magical day is a big statement from an angler who calls the 21,000-acre northern Alabama fishery his home lake. Wiggins, a top local tournament angler, indeed had a magical day, considering his achievements on Thursday.
He caught a mixed heavyweight bag of spotted bass and largemouth. That is a trick to do given the nomadic nature of both species on this lake. The postspawn largemouth are moving back to deep water, and recent high water has those fish spread out and challenging to track down. The spotted bass, also in the postspawn phase, are searching for food after the stresses of spawning.
Wiggins worked his magic in the same spot. That is another mismatch given the prevailing conditions. That spot was a pocket located off the main lake with the strike zone from 1 to 10 feet of water. And finally, the 17-pound mixed bag was swimming inside his livewell by noon, only midway into the competition day.
Can he work the magic again Friday?
“I should be able to because it’s how we fish here this time of year,” he said. “It’s not that uncommon to catch what I did, but to do it so quickly and exactly from the same area, that’s not so common.”
Wiggins said the magic continued with the appearance of the largemouth, which he had not seen during practice. Those bonus fish added to his weight and gave promise that he can leverage both species to his advantage.
“The changing weather, cloudy skies and rain helped make them start moving again,” he explained. “I feel good about catching another mixed bag on Friday and again on Saturday.”
Cox ran a “junk fishing” pattern, choosing his lures and techniques based on the area where he fished at the time. Today’s success required covering a lot of water, rotating through lures and picking apart any bass cover he encountered along the way.
“I went through a lot of numbers to catch the quality,” said Cox. “I have figured out something for Friday.”
That is good news considering his track record here.
“I have yet to do the same thing on this lake for two days in a row,” he admitted. “I find something one day and it changes the next.”
Cox added he plans to continue covering water to build on his success of today. What he does know is the weather will change again Friday, and so will the patterns. The forecast calls for clearing skies and warmer temperatures after the rainfall clouded the skies on Thursday.
The full field of 185 boats with a pros and co-anglers are fishing through Friday. On Saturday, only the Top 12 anglers from each division compete. The $63,000 cash purse will be divided between the winners, with $37,000 for the top pro and $18,000 for the co-angler.
Leading the co-angler division is Jonathan Barnette with 12-1. Barnette, a Jasper resident, fished today with second-place pro angler John Cox. David Vogelpohl of Cambridge, Minn., is second with 9-8, while Xeng Lee of Onalaska, Wis., is third with 8-9. Cameron Naquin of Gray, La., holds down fourth place with 8-4, and Chandler Sickafoose is fifth with 8-2.
Contingency awards sweeten the pot with the Phoenix Big Bass of the tournament paying $750 to the pro and $250 for the co-angler. The Berkley Cast for Cash bait contingency program will pay bonus cash to the Top 2 anglers in each division. The pros get $1,500 and $1,000, while $250 and $100 go to the co-anglers.
Stacy King of Reeds Spring, Mo., leads the big bass competition in the pro division with his catch weighing 5-11. The bass weighing 5-8 caught by Vogelpohl leads the co-angler side.
Daily takeoffs begin at 6 a.m. CT from Smith Lake Dam Access. The Friday weigh-in begins there at 2 p.m. The final weigh-in on Saturday is at 3:30 p.m. at Bass Pro Shops Outdoor World in Leeds, a suburb of Birmingham.
Local host is the Chamber of Commerce of Walker County.