When the fish are on the move, it can make life miserable for anglers. Day one of the Toyota Series Plains Division event on Lake of the Ozarks showcased that pretty well.
While Corey Cook managed to stay on top of the transitioning fish to the tune of 23 pounds, 9 ounces, there were many big-name pros who failed to even bring in limits.
Yet, there are plenty of well-known anglers who also fared well today and should remain in the hunt the rest of the way if Cook gives up any ground.
2. Shane Long – Willard, Mo. – 17-7 (5)
When you have as much history – along with a top 10 and a win in Toyota Series events – on Lake of the Ozarks as Long, you probably don’t need much practice. So, he barely did.
“I practiced for all of four hours,” says Long. “I’ve been down this road before. Fishing in the Ozarks in this early fall transition, it can be very difficult. The best advice I can ever give anybody is to pick an area that you think is holding fish and put your head down.”
That’s exactly when he did, hanging in a 3-mile stretch. He says he had 10 rods on the deck and used them all, catching fish in 6 inches of water and some in 15 feet. Now, he didn’t catch many, as he didn’t have a limit until 11:30 a.m., but he was able to catch a fifth and cull twice after by 1 p.m. Thus, his game plan worked out nearly perfectly.
“I came back toward takeoff around 1 p.m. thinking I could catch one more big fish and I didn’t,” says Long. “I should’ve stayed in my original area.”
3. Lawson Hibdon – Versailles, Mo. – 17-5 (5)
The Hibdon name is legendary around these parts, and Lawson did it proud today.
He and his dad, Dion, had found a pretty good deep pattern in practice, but it unfortunately fizzled out for Dion. Fortunately, something else did start working for Lawson.
“It was a mixed bag of tricks for me,” says Hibdon. “I caught a couple on topwater this morning; pretty lucky bites we hadn’t been getting. I was able to work off that and go catch some more shallow. Then some deep. Some on brush. Some on rock. Just a mixed bag.”
A big key, according to Hibdon, was that while he caught plenty of 2-pound keepers, he got two of the “critical” 5-pounder bites – one came early on a topwater and other deep this afternoon in a brush pile.
“I don’t think there’s a really solid pattern to any of it,” says Hibdon. “It’s just junk fishing. It’s not easy and not going to get any better tomorrow.”
4. Andy Newcomb – Camdenton, Mo. – 16-7 (5)
When he looked at the forecast for the week, Newcomb figured deep fish would be his bread and butter. Instead, they were more burnt toast today.
“I really thought if I could find a couple deep spots that’s what would get me through,” says Newcomb. “I had some fish out there, but they didn’t want to cooperate. So, I pretty much scrapped that deep stuff and stuck shallow.”
Doing so meant covering “a ton” of water, but it allowed him to cull through 10 keepers and lose a couple more he says may have helped.
As for tomorrow, he’ll start shallow, but the deep fish will always be in the back of his mind.
“Oh, I’ll still check them,” says Newcomb.
5. Jake Morris – McKee, Ky. – 16-5 (5)
Five bites can go a long way so long as they’re the right five. They were today for Morris.
The 2019 Toyota Series Central Division Angler of the Year did what he tends to do best, which is beat the bank with a topwater, and as much of a grind as it was, it worked out.
“I just covered as much water as I could with that topwater,” says Morris. “I’m fishing super, super, super shallow in two big areas, just putting the trolling motor down and never stopping. Fortunately, I got lucky and got two big ones today, but we’ll see what happens tomorrow.”