By BassFan Staff
Lake Conroe didn't surrender anything close to a 20-pound bag to the star-studded field on a pleasant day 1 of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic. Maybe that'll change tomorrow, when the weather's expected to take a hard turn in the direction of nasty.
FLW Tour stalwart Jim Moynagh and Bassmaster Elite Series standout Todd Faircloth both weighed 17-pound stringers to grab the early lead. Bryan Thrift, who's struggled badly in previous visits to Conroe, was just 4 ounces back in 3rd with a 16-12 sack.
Texan Keith Combs showed that he's determined to put up a strong defense of his 2011 crown with a 15-12 bag that was good for 4th. The No. 5 slot was a tie between Clifford Pirch and Chris Baumgardner with 14-08.
Here's a look at the initial Top 10, with deficit margin from the leaders indicated by red numbers in parentheses:
1. (tie) Jim Moynagh: 17-00
1. (tie) Todd Faircloth: 17-00
3. Bryan Thrift: 16-12 (0-04)
4. Keith Combs: 15-12 (1-04)
5. (tie) Clifford Pirch: 14-08 (2-08)
5. (tie) Chris Baumgardner: 14-08 (2-08)
7. (tie) Brian Snowden: 14-04 (2-12)
7. (tie) Matt Herren: 14-04 (2-12)
9. (tie) Brandon Card: 14-00 (3-00)
9. (tie) Edwin Evers: 14-00 (3-00)
A big change in the weather is in store for day 2. Thunderstorms arrived in the area this evening and were predicted to continue through Saturday. A flash-flood warning will go into effect at 6 a.m. Saturday and continue for 24 hours.
The high temperature for the next 2 days is expected to top out in the mid-70s after reaching the high-80s today and the wind is forecast to blow at double-digit strength, particularly on Sunday after the front has passed through.
The massive largemouths that inhabit Conroe were mostly uncooperative today, but might put on the feedbag tomorrow under the gloomy skies. The change should definitely help the many competitors focusing on shallow water.
The 50-angler field will be cut to the Top 10 after the weigh-in, with the winner determined Sunday by highest cumulative weight.
Jim Moynagh caught only six keepers today, but several were high-quality fish.
Moynagh Boated 6
> Day 1: 5, 17-00
Moynagh caught just six keepers for the day, but one was a 4 1/4-pounder and a couple others were solid chunks.
"It's the best day I've had since I've been here, so maybe I exceeded my expectations," he said. "I felt like I could catch some fish, and today I caught some pretty decent ones. I also lost a couple that I could've used.
"Everywhere I wanted to pull up, there was nobody sitting on any of those places. A few times guys came around looking like they were wanting to fish where I was at, so I guess my timing was good."
He visited about 10 different locales. He opted to keep mum about the baits he threw.
"There was only one place that gave me more than one fish, and some didn't give me any at all. I don't understand these fish here that well, but with the type of weather that's coming, it ought to make them a little more aggressive tomorrow. A guy won't just have to sit there and dead-stick for 3 hours on one cast."
Faircloth Mixing it Up
> Day 1: 5, 17-00
Faircloth is a native Texan, but his Conroe experience is extremely limited. He got a couple of big bites in practice, but said he didn't know if today would be a boom or a bust.
It was a lot closer to the former.
"I was pleased with what I caught because the weights are off for what they normally are here," he said. "You can catch over 20 pounds here, but right now its pretty tough."
Bryan Thrift popped a 6 1/4-pounder on his fifth cast of the day.
A 4 1/2-pounder that he caught during the afternoon topped his sack. He went through about a dozen keepers and lost one that was a little over 3 pounds.
"We're supposed to have weather coming tomorrow, and I anticipate that the bite will pick up a little bit. They're in here – there's a lot of big fish in this lake. If a guy pulls up on the right spot, he can get well in a hurry."
3rd: Big One for Thrift
> Day 1: 5, 16-12
Thrift has had some rough outings at Conroe in the past, but today didn't follow that pattern. A 6 1/4-pounder on his fifth cast was the biggest reason for that. It was the second-biggest fish of the day, trailing only a 7 1/2 caught by Brandon Card.
"It's hard to have a bad day when you catch one that big," he said. "That fish just smoked it. I caught eight keepers all day and lost one in the 3 1/2- to 4-pound range.
"I fished shallow and I fished some deep water also. Tomorrow I'll just go out and chunk and wind, and I think it should be better. I think the weather might even make the deep fish bite a little better."
4th: Combs Rallied Late
> Day 1: 5, 15-12
Combs only had two fish in his livewell at noon, but things picked up considerably from then on.
"It was a good day," he said. "It really started out slow for me and I was doing anything just to try to catch a fish, but then it finally got rolling.
"It was definitely an all-day grind. It was one fish, at most, for each spot. I think this afternoon I caught one on six spots in a row. I made a very slight bait adjustment, and I hope that was the deal."
His bag was headed up by a 4-pounder and he failed to convert on only one bite. Unfortunately, that one was a 5 that got free right at the boat.
Defending champion Keith Combs had yet another good day at Conroe.
"I went to some of the same stuff (that he exploited last year en route to victory) and I was kind of surprised that certain places didn't give me any fish. But tomorrow will be a different kind of day (weather-wise), and I think there's fish in the areas I'm at that just weren't wanting to eat.
"I don't think the clouds will hurt me, but I just hope they don't help the guys who are fishing shallow too much."
48th (tie): Howell Blanked Again
> Day 1: 0, 0-00
Randy Howell came up empty on opening day for the second straight week – he also zeroed on day 1 of Toyota Trucks All-Star Week in Illinois.
He said this one was worse because Conroe is "a good lake." Few were impressed by the quality of the fishing at Lake Shelbyville.
"I didn't have a great practice by any means, but I still thought I could junk-fish and catch a limit pretty easy," he said. "I just couldn't get anything going and it blows my mind how hard it became to catch a keeper.
"I caught six little ones, but I don't think I ever had a keeper on. I fished shallow, deep and mid-range docks, and several of the guys around me caught limits and others caught three or four (keepers)."
He'll likely go for broke with topwater offerings on day 2.
"I wish I'd caught a few so that at least I'd still be in contention if I caught a really big bag tomorrow. Now I've just got to go out and catch whatever I can catch."
> In addition to Howell, the other anglers who blanked today were Chad Morgenthaler and J.T. Kenney.
> For full standings, click here.