Simerly and Shaw feel confident despite penalty

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Ronnie Moore

MANY, La. — “The sun’ll come out, tomorrow.”

It’s a line from one of the most uplifting songs ever written, and it’s a reminder that life offers opportunity even when things don’t go as well as expected.

It’s also a line that may have crossed the minds of both Thad Simerly and Ethan Shaw on Thursday after Day 1 of the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series at Toledo Bend presented by Bass Pro Shops. 

The anglers, both juniors at Bryan College in Tennessee, had a spectacular first day of competition here on this vast reservoir that makes up a sizable chunk of the Louisiana/Texas border. A 30-minute flurry about 9 a.m. Thursday produced a dozen quality bass bites for the duo, and when it was complete, Simerly and Shaw had more than 20 pounds of bass in their livewell.

The problem was that in the heat of that frenzied catch, they put one bass too many into the livewell. When they realized their mistake, they did the right thing and phoned tournament officials to report the violation. More than three pounds swam away when they released that sixth bass into the reservoir, but rules said they would be issued a two-pound penalty at the scales, which gave Simerly and Shaw a Day 1 total of five fish that weighed 18 pounds, 13 ounces.

That weight put them in second place, trailing only the Bethel University tandem of Cody Huff and Dakota Pierce who assumed pole position with a 19-11 limit.

Simerly and Shaw were quite aware the two pounds they lost for having an extra bass onboard cost them the early lead in this tournament, which has 248 college duos from 37 different states competing for berths in the college series national championship later this year, as well as for cash to benefit their college bass fishing teams.

Still, the boys from Bryan were smiling after they weighed in Thursday. A burst of bites like they experienced is, after all, hard to forget. They targeted a drop-off on the reservoir’s floor that was near a spot that had been productive in practice.

“My first cast there was a keeper and then I caught a limit,” Shaw said. “It was just back to back to back to back. We stayed on that spot for 30 minutes and caught everything we could. By 9:30 (a.m.), we were done.” 

The heaviest of the bunch came courtesy of Simerly, who caught a 6-plus largemouth. It wasn’t the biggest bass weighed Thursday, but it was plenty big enough to have the Bryan tandem believing big things could be in store again Friday. It was a positive outlook, even after a penalty kept them from first place. They also had problems with their boat’s cranking motor on Thursday. They got a jump, though, which kept them from missing weigh-in or getting stranded on the water.

The sun’ll come out.

And like clockwork, it did rise Friday morning, a giant orange orb emerging from the cypress-lined waters of Toledo Bend. It was in stark contrast to Thursday morning’s weather, which was dreary and damp from the start.

No telling just yet if the change in weather affects today’s bass bite. But Simerly and Shaw plan to make the most of it, even if things don’t go as well as planned.

“The good thing is we didn’t run hardly any of our stuff (Thursday) because we caught them all in one spot,” Shaw said. “So we still have areas we can run to and find fish.”

And as any angler knows, that’s not a problem at all.