Spotteds breaking hearts in 'Bama

PRATTVILLE, Ala. — Tearful stories about big fish being lost are common at any bass tournament. But these woeful tales were legion on Day 1 of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate.

Even anglers who caught heavy limits lamented that they lost big bass that would have allowed them to cull up in weight. This is due mainly to the notoriously hard-fighting Coosa River spotted bass that teem in the Alabama River where the second of three Southern Opens in 2015 is taking place this week.

Tournament leader Dustin Connell, a local Alabama angler, avoided the lost bass jinx. His 22 pounds, 3 ounces of spotted bass was the only limit to top 20 pounds.

Connell is a hot stick that regularly fattens his bank account by fishing tournaments in this area of Alabama. He culled through 10 bass Thursday to catch his impressive limit.

“I did about what I expected to do today,” Connell said. “I feel good about tomorrow.”

If Connell follows up with more limits that exceed 20 pounds, he is likely to run away with this one. However, he said that there are other competitors fishing his water. Also, that the water “dirtied up more today and the bite might change tomorrow.”

The other anglers fishing on the pro side of this event are hoping that happens.

Alabama’s Jamie Horton had a tough practice, catching limits in the 11- to 12-pound class. That might get a small check here, but it won’t get a sniff at the top 12 cut.

Today Horton lugged a bulging sack to the scales. It held five fat spotted bass that totaled 19-5. The largest of these weighed 4-15. That is a seriously big spotted bass.

Horton’s outboard never had a chance to cool down Thursday. He claims he fished 60 different places to land the seven bass he boated. Why did Horton catch bigger spotted bass today than in practice?

“I stayed away from my better stuff in practice,” he said.

Although Horton is looking forward to fishing Friday, he said that the water had “muddied up a lot" on Day 1. He’s not sure if that will negatively impact his fishing.

Drew Benton, a Florida angler, chose to concentrate on largemouth bass. His day got off to a bad start when his rear running light was accidentally knocked off by another competitor’s boat prior to takeoff. B.A.S.S. rules state that both running lights must be on before any boat is allowed to take off in the morning.

Benton believes the glitch may have cost him a few good bass because he is on a morning bite. Despite the late start, Benton boated an 18-5 limit by 9:30. Then he left his fish and looked for productive water elsewhere.

The final weigh-in on Saturday happens at Bass Pro Shops in Prattville, Ala. at 3 p.m. Should Connell follow through to win on the pro side, he will pocket $7,765.00 and the keys to a Triton 19TrX rigged with a Mercury 200 Pro XS and prop, a Triton tandem axle trailer, a MotorGuide X3 70#/45” 24v trolling motor and a Lowrance Elite 5 graph.

North Carolina’s Taylor Schneider leads the co-angler side of the tournament with a three-bass limit that weighed 9-15. All of his bass were largemouth. The heaviest, a 6-5, was the big bass of the day for the co-anglers.

“I caught the big one in the first 15 minutes,” Schneider said. “I was about to jump out of the boat when that bass jumped.”

As with all the co-anglers, Schneider hopes finish in first place and win a brand new Triton 179 TrX with a Mercury 115 Pro XS and prop, a Triton single axle trailer, a MotorGuide X3 45#/45” 12v trolling motor and a Lowrance Mark 5 graph.