CULLMAN, Ala. – After a cool morning takeoff for the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats event on Lewis Smith Lake, the weather and fishing began to heat up for the 228 pros and Strike King co-anglers. Many anglers reported slower starts to their morning, but the fish got more active as the sun got higher in the sky and the wind picked up later in the day. This became apparent as the relative size of the bags steadily increased throughout weigh-in. With bags hovering around a 10-pound average, it was a lone sack of 18 pounds brought to the scales by Jeremy Gordon that held the lead at the end of Day 1.
“It feels good, I had a blessed day,” Gordon said. “My morning was slow. But it seemed like once the wind started kicking up, I started catching some more fish.”
Gordon mixed it up on Day 1, focusing on spotted bass with forward-facing sonar to start his morning. The Rutledge, Tennessee, pro filled out a limit he estimated in the low teens around midday. In the afternoon he shifted gears and started searching for bigger and better bites to upgrade, targeting largemouth with more aggressive tactics.
“I’m just kind of running and gunning,” he said. “I had 13 pounds at probably about noon. And then I went big fish hunting after that and made a couple of pretty big culls. I’m starting deep, then I’m on a really specific pattern shallow covering as much water as I can.”
With the warming trend forecast to continue to the next two days, Gordon, like most of the field, thinks that things are only going to get better as the competition progresses. Although, he readily admits there are no guarantees.
“I think it should improve the next few days,” he said before reconsidering. “At least I hope so. I really do. But, this lake is notorious for changing every day. I’m just going to have to run new water and check some of the same stuff. I’m just hoping for the best and trying to expand on it and see where it takes me.”
Gordon holds a 1-1 lead over his nearest competitor, Kent Ware, and is 5 pounds ahead of 25th place.
1. Jeremy Gordon – 18 – 0 (5)
2. Kent Ware – 16 – 14 (5)
3. Lucas Black – 16 – 0 (5)
4. Jordan Wiggins – 15 – 14 (5)
5. Tristen Jernigan – 14 – 14 (5)
6. Ken Vicchio – 14 – 7 (5)
6. Mike Lowry – 14 – 7 (5)
8. Ricardo Gonzalez – 14 – 5 (5)
9. Wesley Sams – 14 – 4 (5)
10. Austin Swindle – 13 – 15 (5)
Andy Vance began his day slowly before picking up the pace as the sun came out and the fish got more active.
“My boater’s pattern started to slow down about mid-morning and he went to a different pattern,” Vance said. “So, I kind of went to doing what I do best. Later in the day, it started working out for me.”
While Vance was tight-lipped about specifics regarding his bait choice, he was clear that low-and-slow finesse baits along with taking advantage of the late afternoon sunshine were important factors to his Day 1 success.
“I went from zero fish at 11:40 to culling at 2:00,” he said. “It’s crazy. This morning, I couldn’t get bit. I had two short fish. Then when that sun came out and that wind picked up a bit, I started putting them in the boat.”
Vance believes tomorrow’s forecast should play right into his strengths as he looks to back up his Day 1 bag with yet another limit of Lewis Smith bass.
“You know you can’t win it on the first day, but you sure can lose it,” he said. “So, I put myself in a position to at least make the cut. We will just have to see what tomorrow brings.”