While many contestants confirmed pre-tournament concerns that recent rounds of heavy current would disrupt fishing during the T-H Marine BFL All-American on Pickwick Lake, Marshall Deakins apparently did not get the memo. Rather, the boater from Dunlap, Tenn., posted a limit of 24 pounds, 6 ounces to grab the day-one lead by nearly 3 pounds.
“The conditions didn’t have any impact on my fish,” Deakins says. “I came down for a week before the (off-limits) cutoff and the fish I found today were in the same places they were during pre-practice. I really can’t tell the difference between the current now and during pre-practice.”
Deakins chooses not to reveal specifically where he caught his fish, but it sounds as if he wasn’t making the big runs that several of his fellow competitors made.
“I didn’t go far; I didn’t burn a half a tank of gas,” he confesses. “I have two or three places they’re [the fish] on really good and those places are about 5 or 6 miles apart.”
Three different forms of habitat — grass, rocks and shell beds — yielded bites for Deakins. Noting his preference for the latter, the leading boater nevertheless maintains he wasn’t picky on his site selection; he essentially took advantage of whenever and wherever the day granted him access.
“If there’s nobody sitting on the spot, I’ll pull in there and fish,” Deakins reveals. “I was in the last flight, boat 40, so I couldn’t believe that there was nobody on the place where I wanted to go. I caught two big ones there and on my next stop, I caught another keeper. Late this afternoon, I culled three times on my third spot.”
Remaining active, Deakins says, was vital to this success. He rotated through his main areas three to four times and hit multiple spots in each.
Interestingly, Deakins refused to be intimidated by another of the opening round’s variables — sky conditions. The morning brought partly sunny conditions which yielded to a hazy, overcast ceiling that had several anglers complaining about the lack of fish-positioning sunlight.
“It didn’t make any difference,” Deakins says. “We caught them this morning and this afternoon. There was one place where I was afraid I might catch another big one that I would need tomorrow, so I left it alone.”
Sticking with one bait — a jig with an unspecified trailer — proved productive for Deakins. He was able to dial in a specific color (also undisclosed) that consistently interested the fish.
Asked to summarize the key to his day-one success, Deakins points to the fundamental truth of bass fishing: You can’t catch a fish without a bait in the water.
“I just kept it wet,” he says.
Top 10 boaters
1. Marshall Deakins – Dunlap, Tenn. – 24-6 (5)
2. Mike Brueggen – La Crosse, Wis. – 21-8 (5)
3. Ronald Nutter – Saint Louisville, Ohio – 20-7 (5)
4. Jeff Knight – Cleveland, Tenn. – 18-4 (5)
5. Brent Anderson – Kingston Springs, Tenn. – 17-6 (5)
6. Brandon Gray – Bullock, N.C. – 17-2 (5)
7. Justin Atkins – Florence, Ala. – 16-13 (5)
8. Conrad Bolt – Seneca, S.C. – 16-8 (5)
9. Tyler Morgan – Columbus, Ga. – 16-6 (5)
10. Adam Ohms – Edwardsville, Ill. – 16-3 (5)
Taylor takes co-angler lead
Dennis Taylor got off to a good start, but then Pickwick demanded a big dose of patience in order for him to complete his limit. Remaining diligent, the Murray, Ky., co-angler eventually assembled his limit and topped his division with 17-3.
“I caught three of my fish early and then it was tough the rest of the day,” Taylor says. “I caught my other two, like, 2 1/2 hours apart; there was a lot of time in between.”
Taylor caught his early fish on a sexy shad-colored crankbait fished 12 to 14 feet deep, while his afternoon fish bit a Carolina rig. He surmises that swift current from the TVA pulling water out of Pickwick stimulated the fish to feed.
Top 10 co-anglers
1. Dennis Taylor — Murray, Ky. — 17-3 (5)
2. David Winters — Rock Hill, S.C. — 16-5 (5)
3. Pat Kendrick — Bumpass, Va. — 14-6 (5)
4. Peter Balishin — Sharps Chapel, Tenn. — 14-5 (5)
5. Greg Ravitsky — Ashburn, Va. — 13-11 (5)
6. Jeremy New — Yorktown, Ind. — 13-2 (5)
7. Alex Hester — Crossville, Tenn. — 12-15 (5)
8. Mike Youngblood — St. Louis, Mo. — 12-13 (5)
9. Jim Budde — Waterloo, Ill. — 12-9 (5)
10. Billy Watson — Murfreesboro, Tenn. — 11-11 (5)