BROOKELAND, Texas – Sometimes it can pay to go into a lake with no prior experience, at least it has for 23-year-old Alec Morrison of New York. He leads the season finale of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Southwestern Division event on Sam Rayburn with an impressive 27-pound, 9-ounce limit on his first competitive day on the big Texas reservoir. Jeff Reynolds netted the Berkley Big Bass of the day – an eye-popping 10-10 – to secure second place with a 24-5 limit.
The New York angler spent the majority of his day on the move, hopping from spot to spot that he located in the weeks prior to practice on Rayburn. With no experience on the 114,000-acre fishery, Morrison spent 10 days idling around the vast reservoir just trying to get the lay of the land.
Normally an avid smallmouth fisherman, five sizable largemouth have the young gun sitting pretty on top of the leaderboard heading into Day 2.
“I guess I just got on the right rotation,” Morrison said. “I think my biggest strength is my ability to use my electronics and graph. I’m confident in the stuff I found, and I think it should hold up for tomorrow as well.”
Morrison said that he was mainly focused on brush piles and standing timber in 20 to 30 feet of water. He would hop from spot to spot, get a few bites, cull and move on.
“My success is really coming from moving to a lot of different spots,” Morrison said. “These fish seem to move around a lot, but I made some good decisions on where to look today.”
With no professional-level wins on his résumé yet, Morrison is in prime position to add one in a hurry. He has a 3-4 lead over second place, but there are three other anglers with 20-pound bags looking to keep pace with him. His accent may sound a little different than a lot of the locals in east Texas, but he sure is fishing like one.
“I got probably 30 bites today,” Morrison said. “I’ve got a couple of deals that I left them biting on. I’ll start on my same rotation of spots tomorrow, but I’m also going to check a lot of new stuff, too. I idled for the last hour of the day today just looking for new ones, so I’m curious to try those spots out tomorrow.”
It wasn’t exactly the day that he pictured, but Angler of the Year leader Todd Castledine is more than happy with sitting in 12th place with 15-3 on Day 1. The Texas native said that his plan coming into this tournament wasn’t to win, but just to finish high enough (28th place by his calculations) to earn enough points to hold off Stephen Johnston, Cody Ross and others.
He came into Thursday with a plan, but that plan quickly fell apart. He was able to catch five, but Castledine feels a little more pressure than he wants to as he heads into Day 2.
“The one guy I’m worried about, Stephen Johnston, is in the Top 10 right now,” Castledine said. “I got really lucky today because I had a plan, and only caught one fish following that plan. I’m not upset about the weight I caught, just upset that now I don’t know what I’m going to do tomorrow. I think if I’m able to catch 11 pounds tomorrow, that will be enough to make the Top 25 cut, which was my goal all along.”
Johnston and Ross need to finish 29 places above Castledine if they want to win AOY. Johnston currently sits in sixth place with 16-12 while Ross is in 26th with 13-2.
Mark Sloan’s nervousness was visible after he got off stage. The Arkansas Strike King co-angler held up his 7-15 – the Berkley Big Bass on the co-angler side – for pictures with a smile and trembling hand. He’s yet to lock up a Toyota Series win in his young career but earned his first Top-10 finish last month at a Phoenix Bass Fishing League event on Lake Hamilton.
After catching a limit on Thursday, Sloan has 15-4, good enough for a 2-4 lead over Robert Williams. The lead is great, but Sloan knows it’s far from safe with two more days to go.
“I’m pretty nervous right now because it was really a grind to get what I got today,” Sloan admitted. “Someone could come out firing tomorrow and I could zero, so it’s really just about having an open mind. I’d like to be flipping brush tomorrow, but we’ll see what my boater wants to do.”
The season finale of the Toyota Series Southwestern Division continues on Friday with Day 2. Takeoff is at 6:30 a.m. CT with weigh-in beginning at 2:30 p.m. CT. The weigh-in can be streamed live at MajorLeagueFishing.com.
1. Alec Morrison – 27 – 9 (5)
2. Jeff Reynolds – 24 – 5 (5)
3. Kris Wilson – 22 – 4 (5)
4. Derek Mundy – 21 – 9 (5)
5. James Ware – 16 – 15 (5)
6. Stephen Johnston – 16 – 12 (5)
7. River Lee – 16 – 10 (5)
8. Garrett Hilton – 16 – 8 (5)
9. Tristan McCormick – 16 – 5 (5)
10. Tater Reynolds – 15 – 14 (5)