POKEGAMA TOWNSHIP, Minn. — After the first morning session of the Classic Bracket, all four anglers involved are still squarely in contention to advance.
Top-seeded Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., found a few decent bass during his allotted three hours and claimed a good early lead in his matchup with eighth-seeded Jacob Powroznik of Virginia. But Powroznik kept chipping away and finished the morning session in the lead with 13 pounds, 7 ounces.
Kennedy trails by almost 2 pounds with a mark of 11-9.
“Things started off a little slow, but it just got steadily better,” Powroznik said after using a wacky-rigged worm and a drop-shot rig to catch all largemouth in a Pokegama Lake fishery that features both largemouth and smallmouth.
Kennedy, the Alabama pro who earned his fifth career B.A.S.S. victory on Lake Dardanelle earlier this year, started his day with a swimbait in an area where he’d been seeing fish bust the surface. His decision led to a 4-2 smallmouth on his first cast and a 2-15 largemouth just minutes later that helped him build a lead of more than 7 pounds.
“That was right where my waypoint was, and they gave themselves away by jumping,” Kennedy said. “That was the biggest school of fish I could find. I never expected that.”
The area where Kennedy did most of his damage was a main-lake point that Bassmaster LIVE announcer and former Bassmaster Elite Series pro Davy Hite said is the “kind of obvious spot you zero in on when you don’t have much time to practice.”
Powroznik spent more time fishing the shoreline under docks and between docks and caught his first fish — a 2-1 smallmouth — at 7:48 a.m. to get on the board. He then added a 1-12 at 8:07, a 1-12 at 8:11 and another 1-plus at 8:20.
At 8:48, he began steadily culling up when caught a 2-6. He also landed a 1-11 at 9:15, a 2-13 at 9:53, and then finished with a flurry, landing a 3-3 and 2-4 back to back as time was expiring.
Kennedy’s first three fish gave the impression that he was really onto something special. But he didn’t catch his fourth fish — a skinny 15-ouncer — until 10:20, and his fifth fish never came.
Dave Lefebre vs. Kelley Jaye
Pennsylvania pro Dave Lefeber finished the other morning session with five bass that weighed 12-13. That gave him more than a 3-pound lead over Alabamian Kelley Jaye who weighed in only 9-3.
Lefebre got on the board quickly with a 2-8 smallmouth at 7:46 a.m. — and it was exactly what he was hoping for.
“I spent my last 10 minutes of practice here, and I knew there were fish here,” he said. “But there are a lot of pike in this lake, so I didn’t know what they were. I knew if they were all bass, it was going to be awesome.
Lefebre began with his favorite minnow-imitation bait. “When you’re kind of clueless, you cannot go wrong with a Senko,” he said.
Jaye tied into his first fish at 8:09 on a drop shot. It weighed 1-3. Then he caught a 1-6 largemouth at 8:18 and a 1-14 at 8:35 that gave him the lead over Lefebre with a total of 4-7.
After saying he was going to “1-pound Dave Lefebre to death,” Jaye made his biggest score yet with a 3-3 largemouth on a drop shot at 8:40. That gave Jaye a commanding lead of 7-10 to 4-3 over Lefebre.
Lefebre narrowed the gap at 8:41 when he switched from a drop shot to a jig and caught a largemouth that weighed 1-11.
Jaye caught several more fish in the 1-pound range before the 10:30 stop time. But it was Lefebre who seemed to zero in on the larger fish.
After losing what he estimated to be a 5-pounder earlier in the day, he landed a 2-8 largemouth near a dock at 9:30. He finished with a 2-6 from under a dock at 10:17 and with a 3-8 as time literally expired.
“That was a clutch fish right there,” Lefebre said. “It’s early yet, but that could be a Classic fish.
“This was fun,” Lefebre said. “Give me three hours tomorrow, and it’ll be a different ballgame.”
The four anglers will fish again Wednesday afternoon, with their combined weights from the two sessions determining who advances.