BULL SHOALS, Ark. – Just as predicted, slow fishing dominated the dock talk on day one of the season-opening Stren Series Central Division event on Bull Shoals Lake. The warm, windy conditions all but killed the deep finesse bite, but a select few found success by pounding main-lake points with a variety of hardbaits.
Only 99 pros and 50 co-anglers brought fish to the scale Wednesday. Not a single co-angler registered a five-bass limit, and only 18 pros filled out their tournament creel. The few that did have success on day one could be in good shape, as severe thunderstorms are in the forecast tonight and tomorrow morning.
Hutson’s leading stringer consisted of five identical 3-pound bass. The pro, who calls nearby Table Rock Lake home, caught a total of 10 keepers and described the bite as “pretty consistent.” The fish that he weighed were all largemouths, but he also caught a few spotted bass and a few smallmouths. His key bait is a Smithwick Rogue jerkbait, which he casts up to the edge of the bank.
“If the wind doesn’t blow, I may be in trouble,” said the Washburn, Mo., pro. “The early lead means a lot, but the problem is that there are three more days.”
Tomorrow’s stormy forecast suits Hutson just fine, but the clear, cold weather behind it has him scared.
“I’m afraid that type of weather might murder me.”
If that is indeed the case, Hutson says he’ll adjust and fish deep water with a small jig and light line. Even the idea of finesse fishing makes him cringe, knowing all too well his catch won’t even come close to Wednesday’s 15-14.
Pro Brent Maurer’s boat was simply on fire today. Fishing with co-angler Ed Shay, the two each caught double-digit sacks, Maurer’s good enough for second in his division and Shay’s good enough for first. Maurer’s limit consisted of three largemouth bass and two spotted bass. His official weight registered at 13 pounds, 2 ounces.
While Maurer found the day-one honeyhole, located in approximately 18 feet of water, Shay was the one who discovered the hot bait. In fact, Maurer had actually gone four consecutive practice days without a bite.
“I just told myself that I was going to put the trolling motor down and start fishing new water,” said the Ledbetter, Ky., native.
Maurer first threw a Chompers jig, but he quickly changed after Shay started catching fish. After tying on a Lucky Craft jerkbait, Maurer too started getting bit.
“At 11 a.m. it was just going crazy. I’m just in shock that I was able to do as good as I did.”
Cochran third with big kicker
Pro David Cochran, son of fishing legend George Cochran, caught a limit weighing 12 pounds, 14 ounces for third place. Cochran’s limit included the Snickers Big Bass, a hog that weighed 5 pounds, 4 ounces. The biggest fish of the day earned the Royal, Ark., native $250.
“I caught six fish today, and every one of them was a keeper,” said Cochran, who was done by 1 p.m. “I just hope I can go out there tomorrow and catch five. That big fish really helped.”
Much like the others near the top of the leaderboard, Cochran used crankbaits and jerkbaits, fished in 6 to 10 feet of water. His limit included three largemouths and two spotted bass.
Stu Moyer of Indianapolis has had a difficult week. Not because his fish wouldn’t bite in practice, but because his brother-in-law passed away this past Sunday. Moyer drove all the way to Mississippi for services and then back home to Indianapolis to be with his family. He finally made it back to the Ranger Boats facility in Flippin, Ark., Tuesday night with only a few minutes left of registration.
From there, things improved considerably. On his third cast this morning, Moyer caught his biggest fish of the day. In total, he boated seven keepers and had his 12-pound, 10-ounce limit filled out in an hour and 10 minutes.
“I can’t believe that the day went so well,” said Moyer, who fished shallow points with hardbaits. “It’s been a hard week, and it’s just really nice to enjoy a day of fishing.”
Fleetwood, Weisinger tied for fifth
Fleetwood caught his fish near main-lake channels with a Tim Hughes custom jerkbait.
“My goal was 10 pounds a day,” said Fleetwood, who considers Bull Shoals his home lake. “But with this weather, I may have to go fish my best area tomorrow.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros after day one on Bull Shoals Lake:
7th: Cary Bever of Rhinelander, Wis., 12-0
7th: Robert Dodson of Harrison, Ark., 12-0
9th: Jim Byler of Mountain Home, Ark., 11-12
10th: Jackie Davis of Willard, Mo., 10-14
10th: Stephen Isley of Omaha, Ark., 10-14
Besides Davis, who caught four bass, each of the top 10 pros caught limits Wednesday.
Shay shy of a limit, tops co-anglers
Competing in his first Stren Series event and his first FLW Outdoors tournament since 2003, the Chesterfield, Mo., co-angler caught four bass weighing 10 pounds, 2 ounces to lead day one on Bull Shoals. Three of those were largemouth bass, one a Kentucky.
“I had a blast,” said Shay. “At one point I had my partner 3-to-1. We just went out with an open mind. We figured something out, and then we were able to expand on it.”
Shay caught his four fish on a Smithwick Rogue jerkbait fishing upriver about a 40-minute boat ride from Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock.
“I’m just sort of in a state of shock. Considering where we started with our conversations last night to where we are now, I just feel blessed.”
Rest of the best
Local fisherman Steven McFarland of Mountain Home, Ark., tied for second among the co-anglers with Barney Moore of Johnston City, Ill. Both anglers brought 6 pounds, 4 ounces to the scale. McFarland managed his weight with two fish, including one smallmouth, while Moore caught three keepers.
Shane Williams of Fordland, Mo., placed fourth for the co-anglers with three bass weighing 5 pounds, 5 ounces.
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day one on Bull Shoals Lake:
6th: Kim Fischer of High Ridge, Mo., 4-12
7th: Monty Lane of Princeton, Ky., 4-7
8th: Lynn Jones of Hernando, Miss., 4-5
9th: Robert Janes of Siloam Springs, Ark., 4-3
10th: Bill Bullard of Bartlett, Tenn., 3-15
Day two of Central Division competition on Bull Shoals begins as the field of 158 boats takes off from Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock at 7 a.m. Central time Thursday.