Dean Rojas and Steve Kennedy both surpassed the 17-pound mark today to separate themselves from the field on day 1 of the Old Hickory PAA Tournament Series in Tennessee.
Rojas weighed a 17.43-pound sack and Kennedy was close behind with 17.27. Tim Messer was a distant 3rd with 13.81.
"I surprised myself today," said Rojas (pictured). "I thought 15 pounds would've been really good, and it would've been. I just bounced around a little bit and caught a fish late that helped me out.
"I think I've got a chance for another good bag tomorrow because I didn't beat up on them too bad today."
He caught about 10 keepers for the day and weighed all largemouths. The biggest of those was a 4-pounder.
Both he and Kennedy were reluctant to reveal any pattern details at such an early stage.
"I didn't have anything where I just hammered them – it was one here and one there," Rojas said. "I fished seven or eight different areas.
"The weather was kind of funky today. In practice it was pretty cloudy and today we had high skies, so it was totally different. It threw me a curveball and I had to adjust to it."
Kennedy had a similar mindset to begin the day – he thought his best-case scenario was somewhere around the 14-pound mark. The key was a late 5-pounder that had a baby duck hanging out of its mouth.
The duck went to the scale along with the fish.
"Oh yeah, he's going to digest it," Kennedy said. "I wasn't going to pull it out, I promise you."
He also weighed all largemouths and said he lost at least one that would've helped him. He missed his fifth fish on at least five occasions before completing his limit.
"I've got four different deals going, but I really didn't get the timing down. I didn't execute, but I still caught a good bag. It's all about a 5-pound bite here and hopefully I can dial in tomorrow."
Here's a look at the Top 10:
1. Dean Rojas: 17.43
2. Steve Kennedy: 17.27
3. Tim Messer: 13.81
4. James Niggemeyer: 13.72
5. Gary Yamamoto: 13.54
6. Mark Menendez: 13.28
7. Stephen Scoggin: 13.11
8. Keith Caka: 13.05
9. Jeff Baker: 12.40
10. Greg Hackney: 12.21
For the complete day-1 standings, click here.