COUNCE, Tenn. – Day 1 of the Toyota Series Championship Presented by Guaranteed Rate on Pickwick Lake went about to plan from a birds-eye view. The fishing was decent, the grass played a lot and topwaters and various winding baits did a lot of damage. Overall, the main surprise from Day 1 was how little the various tailraces played, and how much the section of the lake from the Natchez Trace Bridge to Florence, Alabama, was the place to be. Among the Top 10, the vast majority of the weight came from the shallow bars and islands at the upper end of the lake, and Friday’s big west wind could make things a lot harder on them, especially in the afternoon.
Hailing from Dallas, Texas, and the Southwestern Division, Chris Digino weighed in, took over the lead, and was almost immediately upstaged by Bryan Thrift. Still, Digino is right in the hunt, and he likes what he’s got going on.
“It was solid, a lot of the primary stuff I had been on, which were more spot fish, that didn’t pan out,” says Digino. “I was able to make an adjustment and find about a 200-yard stretch where I caught what I caught.”
Fishing grass in about 7 or 8 feet of water, Digino says he’s got a bait dialed in that a buddy turned him on to in practice.
“They’re choking it when they eat it, which is really nice,” he says. “I know what they want to eat, and tomorrow I think I’m just going to have one rod in my hand all day and go at it.”
Florida pro Mikey Keyso is a killer anytime he gets the chance to fish grass, so a fall bite in hydrilla made him feel right at home on the Tennessee River. Back in 2017, Keyso fished the Bass Fishing League All-American on Pickwick and finished 43rd, but he’s in a lot better shape this time around.
“There’s grass in the lake, and that’s what I like to do,’ he says. “So, I found some grass and caught some bass.”
Fishing one main area, Keyso caught his weight in about 4 hours of fishing, and laid off his primary stuff to a degree.
“I’m getting the right ones, just not a lot of bites,” Keyso says. “If I can somehow get eight bites, I’ll be a lot better off. I think today I caught six keepers, and probably 12 fish overall.”
The weather on Day 2 is supposed to be a lot less hospitable than it was on Day 1, but Keyso isn’t too worried.
“There’s a group of fish there, I don’t know if they’re going to turn on from the cold or they’re not,” says Keyso. “But, there’s a lot of fish there, they’re coming in off the river channel, I think I’ll be alright.”
One of two Bass Pro Tour pros in the Top 10, James Watson got off to a good start on Pickwick. Of course, Watson and a fall topwater bite go together like peanut butter and chocolate, so it’s no huge surprise to see him doing well.
“I had a great day, since I’ve been here I had one other day I had five scorable bass,” says Watson. “Today I had eight bites, seven of them were scorable, one was not. Every bite I had today I caught. It was just fish a mile, get a bite. Go another mile, same stuff, maybe get a bite. Just all day long, one here, one here.”
Remaining tightlipped about what exactly he was fishing, Watson says his main bait was a Tackle HD Worldwide Buzzer in black with a gold blade.
Last October on Sam Rayburn, Aaron Johnson put himself around shallow hydrilla with a moving bait and rolled to the win in the fall Toyota Series event. Now, the Shreveport, Louisiana, angler is once again up to his old tricks.
Having never been to Pickwick before and short on practice after hitting a stump with his lower unit, Johnson got in a good area on Day 1 and wound around a moving bait.
“It’s not easy, but I’ve got some areas that are holding fish, and I think they’re big enough to last,” he says. “There’s a lot of pressure on them, but they’re definitely keying on a specific bait, so I was able to catch them around other boats today.”
Fishing mostly shallow grass, Johnson is happy with the start and didn’t miss any chances.
“I had one other fish pull off today that I never really leaned into really hard, so I’m not really sure how big it was,” he says. “But, I had quite a few that short struck the bait today. I think that was due to the pressure in the area. I thought they were going to bite better than they did, but I’m happy so far.”