Quantity is not an issue on Table Rock, but quality sure is for the majority of the field.
The vast majority of the field was able to scrounge up limits between 10 and 13 pounds, but getting over the 13-pound mark has been a challenge at the Costa FLW Series Central Division event, which is presented by Power-Pole and hosted by Explore Branson.
Leader Jake Morris was able to do it thank to a tiny remote area and a unique pattern. As for the rest of the guys who separated themselves, pattern, area and kickers all played big roles.
2. Matt Wood – Jessieville, Ark. – 17-1 (5)
There are kickers and then there are kickers. Wood caught the latter, bringing in a 6-11 giant that easily took big-bass honors.
“When I caught her, I was shaking so bad,” Wood says. “I sat down to re-tie and couldn’t thread my line. That was my second fish; I caught her at 6: 45 a.m. She was a blessing.”
There’s not a much better way to start a tournament than with a giant, but almost as good is having the majority of your weight by 8:20 a.m. and leaving your fish biting as Wood did.
He’s not making a far run, and his lone area is producing a mixed bag, as he had a near 4-pound smallmouth to go with his giant largemouth. He’s also doing it on a technique he’s keeping under wraps for now.
As for tomorrow, he’s simply hoping for a repeat of today and not of last year.
“I was in ninth after the first day here last year,” Wood says. “Then I struggled badly on day two. So I just have to make sure I don’t do that again.”
3. Todd Castledine – Nacogdoches, Texas – 16-14 (5)
Morris may be making the longest run of anyone, but Castledine sure is trying to keep up with him in terms of burning gas.
“I probably ran 80 miles; used 35 gallons of gas,” says the FLW Tour pro, who weighed in a mixed bag of largemouths and smallies. “I was just checking a lot of stuff.”
Castledine ran two set patterns today. The first was sight-fishing, which is where the majority of his running occurred. Like many pros, he said a good number of his big fish he’d marked in practice had left, but he also had plenty of “oddball” ones that he figured would stick around and did.
Yet, what has him really excited is his smallmouth pattern.
“I didn’t know if I could catch [the smallmouth] all day,” says Castledine, who didn’t see anyone else doing anything like his pattern. “So I started on it but then left it to do some sight-fishing.
“I came back to it late today and figured something out. I caught my biggest smallmouth at the end of the day today, and it has me really excited for tomorrow.”
4. Spencer Shuffield – Hot Springs, Ark. – 16-3 (5)
Shuffield has no idea if he can replicate today’s pattern tomorrow, but it was fun none the less.
“I was fishing for spawning fish, but I couldn’t get them to commit,” Shuffield says. “They’d just follow my bait out and show themselves before swimming back to their beds. I just figured out a way to follow up and catch them when they did that.”
Shuffield originally planned to fish for smallmouth, but when he saw so many quality largemouth roaming the banks in practice he figured he had to commit himself shallow. Yet, if his shallow pattern doesn’t go tomorrow he says he’ll probably go chase brown fish.
“I’ll just keep adapting,” Shuffield says. “I mean, today just worked out. I had a 4-pounder on an obvious bed that I figured everyone had seen and I was sure someone had caught her. I guess everyone else thought the same, because I checked her and she was there. She bit first cast.”
5. Wesley Rogers – Mammoth Springs, Ark. – 15-12 (5)
Most pros are catching keepers at will, but Rogers is not one of them.
“I caught my last keeper with about 5 minutes to go,” Rogers says. “That’s the way it goes with how I’m fishing, though.”
Rogers opted to keep his pattern to himself right now, but he did say he’s worried about tomorrow with how much conditions keep changing and how few bites he got.
“I just have to keep grinding and working hard,” Rogers says. “I’m getting the right bites when I can get them.”
5. Brent Algeo – Ozark, Mo. – 15-12 (5)
Put Algeo is the quality-over-quantity basket as well, which is something a lot of the top pros seem to have going for them.
“I only caught 12 keepers today,” says the Missouri pro. “But I also missed a bunch, which is going to happen when you’re fishing the way I’m fishing.”
What helped Algeo is his extensive history on the fishery, allowing him to run around throughout the lower and mid sections of the lake to key stretches where he knows big ones live and he feels he can make his pattern go.
He also sampled a smallmouth pattern at the end of the day, but he admits it didn’t do much other than load his front deck with rods.