Harriman cracks 20 pounds to set the bar at Lake of the Ozarks - Major League Fishing
Harriman cracks 20 pounds to set the bar at Lake of the Ozarks
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Harriman cracks 20 pounds to set the bar at Lake of the Ozarks

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Travis Harriman was the only pro to catch over 20 pounds on Day 1. Photo by Patterson Leeth. Angler: Travis Harriman.
September 28, 2023 • Sean Ostruszka • Toyota Series

OSAGE BEACH, Mo. – When it comes to fall fishing, Travis Harriman says you need to check your expectations at the door. Well, to say he (and a few other pros) exceeded expectations is an understatement.

No one is going to say the fishing is easy on Lake of the Ozarks right now, but the lake’s quality is still showing pretty well for the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Plains Division finale. Less than a week after hosting a Bassmaster Open, the fishery still produced 13 bags over 15 pounds. And then there was Harriman, who decided to really show the lake’s potential with 20 pounds, 7 ounces to grab the lead right out of the gate.

The thing is, Harriman admits he let his foot off the gas today thanks to a dream start.

“My second cast of the day was a 5-pounder,” Harriman said. “That kind of set the tone for rest of the day.”

He would then follow that up with another 5-pounder shortly after, which allowed him to only fish a handful of his key places before running around to expand on his area the rest of the day.

As for patterns, it was just “junk fishing 101” for Harriman, who caught fish anywhere from 2 feet to 20 feet. For the guys behind him? They’re all over the map, too. However, they’re some of the best locals around, and they’re all pretty confident in what they’re doing.

Cody Huff mined deep fish on Day 1, but the other leaders are all over the board. Photo by Sean Ostruszka

A week after struggling up shallow in the Open, Cody Huff has committed himself to fishing deep, which obviously worked out well, especially once the sun got up, he said. He sits second with 18-1. Meanwhile, Roger Fitzpatrick couldn’t find a deep bite in practice that made him feel “warm and fuzzy.” So, he’s hanging shallow, and he boated 17-1 doing so on Day 1. He’s excited to have a longer day Friday with the afternoon bite being better.

And then there’s Angler of the Year leader Brad Jelinek. He made the Top 10 in the Open, and he prayed those same fish would carry him to another this week. Thus far, the plan is working. Then again, weighing in the biggest September bass of his life – a 6-8 giant that took Big Bass of the day – certainly helped put him in position to lock up AOY.

For now, though, it’s Harriman in the driver’s seat. He’ll need another big day tomorrow to secure his goal for the event.

“I needed a really good tournament here to make the Toyota Series Championship,” Harriman said. “Table Rock is my home lake. So, I really want to fish it. Today was a good start, but I need to do it again tomorrow.”

Top 10 pros

1. Travis Harriman – 20 – 7 (5)         

2. Cody Huff – 18 – 10 (5)           

3. Brad Jelinek – 18 – 4 (5)   

4. Roger Fitzpatrick – 17 – 1 (5)        

5. Adam Boehle – 16 – 13 (5) 

6. Tony Hatten – 16 – 3 (5)   

7. Lawson Hibdon – 15 – 13 (5)          

8. Jeffrey Barrickman – 15 – 12 (5)     

9. Joe Grafeman – 15 – 10 (5)

9. Bobby Shockley – 15 – 10 (5)         

Complete results

Nycholas Swanson was one of a handful of co-anglers to limit. Photo by Patterson Leeth

Swanson ahead amid tough sledding for Strike King co-anglers

While the pro side of the derby is being dominated by locals, the Strike King co-angler side is the exact opposite. The top three anglers are from Iowa, New York and Illinois, respectively. At the top is Iowa’s Nycholas Swanson. Fishing behind Darrin Willhite, the Iowa pro cracked 13 pounds, 1 ounce to put him 2 pounds ahead of co-angling superstar Sakae Ushio.

Top 10 Strike King co-anglers

1. Nycholas Swanson – 13 – 1 (5)         

2. Sakae Ushio – 11 – 0 (5)       

3. Brian Lopp – 10 – 15 (5)         

4. Tyler Neis – 10 – 8 (5)          

5. Anthony Johnson – 10 – 4 (4)           

6. Todd Mowery – 10 – 3 (2)

7. Ray Larson – 10 – 0 (4)         

8. Thad Hewitt – 9 – 13 (4)        

9. Scott Parsons – 9 – 11 (4)      

10. Mark Sloan – 9 – 3 (5)

Complete results