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Smith grabs early Invitational lead with 22-11

Smith grabs early Invitational lead with 22-11

EUFAULA, Ala. – Ten pros caught 20 pounds or better on Day 1 of the MLF Invitational at Lake Eufaula on Friday and 17 pounds went all the way to 23rd place, with an offshore bite that is starting to fire responsible for a lot of the damage.

Former Auburn University star Tucker Smith of Birmingham, Ala., sacked up 22 pounds, 11 ounces to take the initial lead. Behind him, Hemphill, Texas pro Marshall Hughes bagged 21-13, local favorite Justin Barnes of Ellaville, Ga. tallied 21-11, and Flint Davis, Cal Lane and Jake Lawrence also crossed the 21-pound mark.

The full field of 150 anglers will conclude the two-day opening round on Saturday, with only the Top 30 based on their two-day cumulative weight advancing to Sunday.

Just 22 years old, Smith has put college aside to chase a pro fishing career, and early on, it’s looking like a good move. A talented offshore angler who’s very proficient with his electronics, Smith also has spent plenty of time on Lake Eufaula.

“It went really good,” he said of Day 1. “I ended up running around a bunch and landed on some. It was a rough morning. I didn’t catch anything really big this morning. And then, I’d say about 10:30, I pulled up on a place and there was a bunch of fish. I ended up catching around 18 pounds and then started bouncing, just graphing a bunch of places. I ended up catching a bunch of bigger ones that upgraded.”

Smith put most of his eggs in the offshore basket early on.

“I kind of had an idea that I wanted to fish offshore,” he said. “That’s my favorite way to fish – offshore. This time of year is tricky because the fish are just moving off the bed. They’re not super fat – a lot of them are pretty skinny, and they’re kind of finicky right now, so you kind of have to work for them to get them to bite.”

Fishing brush and schools, Smith saved some stuff for tomorrow and has high hopes for the rest of the event.

“I left some places untouched that I think I can catch them on,” he said. “At the end of the day, I left them biting on a place and caught my last 4-pounder and then ran in with an hour left. I think tomorrow should be fun. Hopefully there is not too much wind, and I can get on some places and catch some more.”

Though perhaps not a local by the typical definition, Smith is definitely on familiar grounds this week.

“I’ve fished here (Eufaula) a bunch – it’s one of my favorite lakes,” he said. “I’ve spent countless hours out here. Going to school at Auburn, this is the only place that I would come to.”

Here's a look at the Top 20 after Day 1:

1st: Tucker Smith, Birmingham, Ala., five bass, 22-11
2nd: Marshall Hughes, Hemphill, Texas, five bass, 21-13
3rd: Justin Barnes, Ellaville, Ga., five bass, 21-11
4th: Flint Davis, Leesburg, Ga., five bass, 21-8
5th: Cal Lane, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 21-4
6th: Jake Lawrence, Buchanan, Tenn., five bass, 21-0
7th: Kyle Hall, Granbury, Texas, five bass, 20-14
8th: Dakota Ebare, Brookeland, Texas, five bass, 20-13
9th: Paul Marks, Jr., Cumming, Ga., five bass, 20-10
10th: Mark Condron, Murfreesboro, Tenn., five bass, 20-0
11th: Jaden Parrish, Liberty, Texas, five bass, 19-2
12th: Justin Lucas, Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 19-1
12th: Buddy Benson, Dahlonega, Ga., five bass, 19-1
14th: James Maupin, Stanardsville, Va., five bass, 18-14
15th: Jon Canada, Helena, Ala., five bass, 18-3
16th: Matt Baty, Bainbridge, Ga., five bass, 18-2
17th: Adrian Avena, Vineland, N.J., five bass, 18-0
18th: Blake Hall, Rogersville, Ala., five bass, 17-14
19th: Jordan Wiggins, Cullman, Ala., five bass, 17-13
20th: Kyle Cortiana, Broken Arrow, Okla., five bass, 17-11

Davis earned the $1,000 Berkley Big Bass award on Friday with a fish that weighed 6-5.

Anglers launch at 6:30 a.m. CT each day from Lakepoint Resort State Park, located at 104 Lakepoint Drive in Eufaula. Weigh-ins are also be held at the State Park and begin at 2:30 p.m.

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