RIDGELAND, Miss. — Heeding an early-morning suggestion, Neal Gilmore made a prudent decision that delivered a 26-pound, 9-ounce limit that leads Day 1 of the St. Croix Bassmaster Central Open at Ross Barnett presented by Mossy Oak Fishing.
Hailing from Magnolia, Texas, Gilmore anchored his bag with an 8-12 that leads the Phoenix Boats Big Bass standings. He leads Bassmaster Elite Series pro Lee Livesay of Longview, Texas, by 13 ounces.
“I was going to spend most of my day up the river and my co-angler mentioned a little spot on the way up,” Gilmore said. “We were going to spend a little bit there, but it turned into a whole-day deal.
“It’s just an area where the fish are moving in and moving out. It’s just a stopping place on the way to and from the bank.”
The magic area was a main-lake spot with vegetation. He caught his fish in about 4 feet.
Gilmore said one of the keys to his success was strategically working an area that he shared with 20 other boats.
“It was crowded, so I worked my way in and optimized the situation around everybody,” Gilmore said. “It’s very much technique-specific. A lot of guys are doing different things, and we had to work together and be patient.
“It was a very quiet group today. Everybody was very serious; no (disagreements). It was a very good group today.”
Gilmore said he used slow presentations and caught his fish on a single bait. After the fast start, he closed up shop just a few hours into his day.
“I had most of that weight by 8:30 and it had slowed down,” he said. “I was trying to focus on my co-angler getting some fish. I spent most of the (day) just sitting on the deck.”
Fishing a main-lake flat near a spawning area, Livesay focused on a drain bass are using for prespawn and postspawn travel. He caught all of his bass — a 25-12 limit — in an area the size of a pickup truck.
“There’s a little point in that drain, and there’s a little hard spot that has a mix of the three (vegetations),” Livesay said. “In practice, I caught them on the right side. I started there and caught two. Then I threw over on the other side and caught a big one.
“I kept throwing over there. I kinda found the sweet spot today.”
Livesay got his work done early and then spent the rest of the day guarding his spot.
“I never picked up my Minn Kota Raptors all day, and I never threw a hook after 9:08 a.m. either,” Livesay said. “I caught every one of them on a NetBait lizard in junebug.”
Livesay said he fished his lizard on a Texas rig and a Carolina rig. With a mix of dollar pads, peppergrass and hydrilla covering his spot, Livesay used the Texas rig for the thicker cover.
Livesay dedicated his day to the newest member of his family: “We just had a baby girl, Lane, who was 6 pounds, 1 ounce. I caught a couple of 6-pounders today, so this is for her.”
Todd Risinger of West Monroe, La., is in third place with 19-3. Spending all of his day on one main-lake spot, he fished around shallow vegetation.
Productivity was lean, but Risinger believed in his spot’s potential.
“I was fishing around grass and lily pads and I caught my better fish on frogs,” he said. “I didn’t get my fourth fish until about 1 o’clock and the final fish about 2:45. I got my other fish on a swim jig, a Brush Hog and a Speed Worm.
“Today, the weather hurt me; I needed more wind. It got a little better later in the day when the wind picked up. Tomorrow, it’s supposed to be a south wind so, hopefully, that will help us.”
Adam Tims of Royse City, Texas, leads the co-angler division with 12-13. Although he and his boater attempted an aggressive technique change, returning to his primary technique proved to be the right call for Tims.
“I was using slower techniques today and we were going to try and get some bigger bites with frogs and cull up, but it didn’t happen for us,” Tims said. “I’m glad we went back to what I did (earlier) and I stuck with it.
“I caught all of my fish on a particular bait. Until we turned to the frog, I had that one bait in my hand all day.”
Kevin Mallow of Kansas, Okla., holds the Phoenix Boats Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 5-12. Mallow currently sits in sixth place with 8-13.
Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6 a.m. CT at Madison Landing. The weigh-in will be held back at the landing at 2 p.m. Coverage is available on Bassmaster.com.
The tournament is being hosted by the Ridgeland Tourism Commission.