Practice means nothing now

BULL SHOALS, Ark. — Jeff Kriet was trying to get a picture of Bull Shoals Lake out of his mind Friday, on the first day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Ramada Quest. That picture was formed during practice earlier this week, before heavy rains, a cold front and a postponement day completely changed reality Friday.

"They really moved up Tuesday afternoon, by the thousands," Kriet said. "There were fish everywhere. The weather backed out so many of those fish.

"I really wish I'd never seen them all, because I fished them a lot today. I didn't necessarily sight-fish, but I spent a lot of time where I saw them (during practice)."

Practice for any Elite Series event can be deceiving, but none more so that Bull Shoals Lake now, where a clear, stable impoundment suddenly rose almost three feet and got some chocolate milk poured into its headwaters.

In other words, it's a whole new ballgame at "The Bull," and nobody knows exactly what to expect over the next three days of this tournament. Kriet is in 58th place with a five-bass limit that weighed 11 pounds, 5 ounces.

"That's alright," he said. "At least I'm not in no man's land. (The bass) will come back up."

Kriet was one of the 84 anglers in the 100-man field who weighed a limit on Day One. Finding a big bass here, just like it was last year, is a challenge.

"A four-pounder was like gold last year, as well as we were catching them," said Greg Vinson, who leads with 16-13, which included two four-pounders. "So to catch two today…"

But at least there were some patterns established after Day One a year ago. Every day will probably be different this year, with the weather warming the next three days. Bass were in post-spawn mode by the time the Elites came to Bull Shoals last April.

"It's going to depend on how much the water comes up," said Stephen Browning, who is 17th with 13-12. "That's the biggest challenge we're faced with right now, because the water came up so much so quick.

"If the water will stabilize, and it will warm up, it's going to be nasty."

That's "nasty" as in "good." But what was shaping up as a sight-fishing tournament went down the river with the rain Thursday. It still could turn into a sight-fishing event, but Browning doesn't think so.

"Not anymore," he said. "I think it probably would have. But with the water coming up, I think most of the (spawning) beds that are made are going to be really hard to see.

"I think it's going to be a guy that does a little bit of both. You can get lucky and catch a fish or two bed-fishing. But you're definitely going to have to have something to fall back on."

Gary Klein, who won a B.A.S.S. tournament on Bull Shoals in 1988 and is trying to qualify for his 30th Bassmaster Classic, believes he's on the verge of figuring out how to exploit the current conditions.

"If it keeps getting warmer, a lot of these fish are going to start setting up," Klein said. "They're wanting to spawn."

Klein didn't have any idea how many bass he caught Friday, saying, "Fifty, 60, I don't know, 70. My first five keepers were two largemouth, two smallmouth and a spot. They weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces.

"I culled here and culled there. I moved up to 10 (pounds), then 11, then 12. I caught two more and culled up to 13-5."


That left Klein in 23rd place – a good place to be after Day One of a wide open event.

"I feel like I'm really close to figuring something out, where I can catch one of those 16- to 20-pound bags."

That's what it will take to put some distance between someone and the rest of the field, which is bunched like it was a year ago, with ounces separating almost every place in the standings.

But there's one more factor that could displace any knowledge gained Friday, when the wind blew 20 miles-per-hour out of the north and northwest. It's supposed to lay significantly over the next three days and shift to a southerly direction.

"The wind is going to be an important thing," Klein said. "It's supposed to shift to the south tomorrow. I know I'll definitely start differently than I did today."

Kriet possibly summed up the situation best, saying, "I don't know what to expect tomorrow. I didn't know what to expect today."

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