By Todd Ceisner
BassFan Editor

Cliff Crochet says he felt like he was step behind everyone at the first three Bass Pro Tour events. This morning, he lapped the field at Lake Chickamauga.

The genial Louisiana native set a torrid pace in the first period of the Group B Shotgun Round, catching 31 bass for 65-11, breaking the single-period weight record in the process. He caught only three fish for 3-11 the rest of the day, but he could’ve quit at 10 a.m. and still been in the lead at day’s end.

His 69-06 total put him atop Group B and his 34 fish tied the single-round record also matched by day-1 leader Dave Lefebre.

“That was fun, but it was all business, too,” said Crochet, who started the day by catching a 5-01 and a 3-10 within a minute of each other.

Points leader Edwin Evers, who has qualified for the Championship Round at all three Bass Pro Tour events so far, was 22nd after the first period with 9-13 (four fish) then caught 24 over the final two periods to move up to 2nd with 55-02 (28 fish).

Zack Birge used a 30-pound third period (30-01 to be exact) fueled by a pair of 4-pounders to go from 18th place after the second to 3rd with 51-04 (23 fish). Fletcher Shryock caught 25 bass for 47-12 and sits in 4th while Michael Neal leads the Tennessee contingent in Group B (seven anglers hail from the Volunteer State) with 47-10 (22 fish) in 5th.

Overall, Group B’s totals were a bit lower than what Group A turned in on Tuesday, but the average fish caught was slightly larger. Alton Jones Jr. caught the first 8-pounder of the event in the second period today, but most would agree Chickamauga has not shown off what it’s truly capable of producing

Group B enjoyed a mild spring day as the sun beat down on the lake for the duration of the competition, but it didn’t help the sight-fishing bite all that much as sections of the lake are still fairly dirty. Thursday’s forecast calls for partly cloudy skies with temperatures near 80 and winds out of the south at 10 to 20 miles per hour.

While Crochet’s finishes got progressively worse over the first three events, he didn’t get discouraged.

“My start was not as rough as it seemed on paper,” he said. “In this format, a missed hookset or a 2-pounder jumping off is all magnified. Early in the year, it’s not like I was on my A game. I felt like I was always a step behind.”

That’s why having a day like today is so meaningful.

“Today just makes you feel good,” he added. “It’s enjoyable. We put in so much time and work and effort just have to a successful tournament. Nowadays, a successful tournament is getting a check and these dudes are getting better, so it feels good. It feels really good.”

MLF/Josh Gassmann
Photo: MLF/Josh Gassmann

Edwin Evers overcame a slow first period and finished the day with 55-02.

He says he’ll enjoy sitting down one day and watching the GoPro footage of his first period from today, but for now he’s focused on what Friday and Saturday hold for him. That’s why he spent the second and third periods exploring and checking on other areas that caught his eye during practice.

“The conditions are changing,” he said. “The water is coming up and I saw a couple things in practice that I thought would get better in those conditions. I ran some maybe stuff that was in the back of my mind. Now, it’s out of my mind. At a certain point, things could change or slow down and I wanted to make sure I used today to make a good decision when it comes time to do that.”

He said the action was so furious in the first period that he didn’t realize how much weight he’d piled up until later in the day.

“I really didn’t know how much weight I had,” he said. “When it finally stopped, I didn’t realize where I was. I just wanted to keep catching them.”

Crochet recorded his first fish at 7:42 a.m. (a 5-pounder) and landed three more in the next 10 minutes. He then carded 13 fish between 8 a.m. and 8:30. By 9 o’clock, he’d racked up 25 fish for 53-05. His best five for the day would’ve weighed 23-01

“I was just fishing through an area and when I hit the second load, for a second it felt like every cast,” he said. “As fast as I could cast, catch, weigh it and start over, that’s how fast it went down.”

Evers said he had to rely on his plan B and C strategies today and that the day amounted to “taking what the lake was giving me.”

“We had calm conditions, so I did what I did to generate some bites,” he added.

Action picked up for him in the second when he totaled 25-02 (13 fish). What surprised him, though, was that he didn’t connect with anything bigger than 3-14.

“I couldn’t believe that,” he said. “I was figuring at any second I’d catch a giant because I saw some big ones in practice where I was.”

Looking ahead, he said he’ll need to be prepared to alter his approach with rain in the forecast for Thursday night.

“I need to keep generating bites and keep the right kind of water in front of me,” he said. “I don’t think I’ll be able to catch them how I caught ‘em today come next round.”

MLF/Garrick Dixon
Photo: MLF/Garrick Dixon

Michael Neal figured the fishing would be better today, but his confidence remains strong.

Neal said the fishing quality didn’t meet his expectations, but he’s still pleased with where he sits after the Shotgun Round. He moved through five or six areas that are confined to one section of the lake.

“I think there are more fish coming to me, but it didn’t go as planned,” he said. “I thought I’d catch 30 fish, but my confidence is still really high. I have to catch fish (Friday) to advance, but I feel like I can catch 50 pounds a day if I want to from here on out.”

He started strong with 23-02 in the first period, bolstered by a 6-01 and a 3-10 within a minute of each other. After 9 a.m., he didn’t catch anything bigger than 2-07.

“It was a little worse (than expected) for me, especially the quality bites I was getting,” he said. “It wasn’t terrible, but it was not as good as I was expecting.”

The challenge that awaits Friday will be how BPT anglers co-exist with anglers practicing for the Chattanooga Bass Association event on Saturday.

“For me, the challenge will be on Saturday when the local tournament goes out of the lower end and I know I’ll be fishing the same stuff as guys in that tournament,” he said.

In most Bass Pro Tour events, catching 17 fish for 31-08 would constitute a solid day. Not at Chickamauga in April. Andy Morgan knows as much, which is why the three-time FLW Tour Angler of the Year wasn’t thrilled about where he sits after the Shotgun Round – 21st place, nine ounces outside the top-20 cut.

“I just made one bad decision after the other,” he said. “I was lucky to catch what I caught. I started in a bad place. That got me off on the wrong foot. I started coming back and running my alternate plans and ran into guys who caught ‘em pretty good. I just started in the wrong spot.”

His first fish all weighed less than 2 pounds, but seven of his last eight were above that threshold.

“I really didn’t learn much today, but it’ll be just another guess where I start and where it goes Friday,” he said. “I hustled in the third period to save myself, so I’m thankful for that.”


> Day 2 stats: Period 1 – 265 fish, 529-06; Period 2 – 189 fish, 368-06; Period 3 – 207 fish, 411-14; Total – 661 fish, 1,309-10.

Weather Forecast

> Thurs., April 11 – Cloudy - 78°/61°
- Wind: From the S at 10 to 20 mph

> Fri., April 12 – Morning rain, partly cloudy - 73°/52°
- Wind: From the SW at 10 to 15 mph

> Sat., April 13 – Overcast - 73°/55°
- Wind: Light and variable

> Sun., April 14 – Rain - 70°/56°
- Wind: From the S at 5 to 10 mph

Day 2 (Group B) Standings

1. Cliff Crochet -- 34, 69-06

2. Edwin Evers -- 28, 55-02

3. Zack Birge -- 23, 51-04

4. Fletcher Shryock -- 25, 47-12

5. Michael Neal -- 22, 47-10

6. Gary Klein -- 25, 47-00

7. Brent Ehrler -- 21, 44-08

8. Jared Lintner -- 24, 44-07

9. Todd Faircloth -- 21, 43-14

10. Luke Clausen -- 25, 41-15

11. Mike Iaconelli -- 23, 39-14

12. Cody Meyer -- 17, 38-12

13. Alton Jones -- 16, 37-15

14. John Murray -- 20, 37-11

15. Tommy Biffle -- 19, 37-08

16. Adrian Avena -- 17, 36-13

17. Fred Roumbanis -- 18, 36-01

18. Greg Vinson -- 20, 32-05

19. Josh Bertrand -- 14, 32-04

20. Jacob Wheeler -- 15, 32-01

21. Andy Morgan -- 17, 31-08

22. Andy Montgomery -- 17, 31-06

23. Mark Davis -- 17, 28-08

24. Paul Elias -- 18, 28-04

25. Mark Daniels -- 10, 27-00

26. Alton Jones Jr -- 9, 26-14

27. Boyd Duckett -- 12, 26-13

28. Jason Christie -- 11, 25-14

29. Kevin VanDam -- 15, 24-14

30. Brandon Coulter -- 11, 22-09

31. Wesley Strader -- 12, 20-13

32. Gerald Swindle -- 11, 20-10

33. Shin Fukae -- 12, 20-08

34. Jacob Powroznik -- 11, 20-01

35. Anthony Gagliardi -- 10, 19-01

36. James Watson -- 7, 18-01

37. Kelly Jordon -- 9, 18-00

38. Jason Lambert -- 8, 17-01

39. Randall Tharp -- 10, 17-00

40. Justin Atkins -- 9, 13-10