OSAGE BEACH, Mo. — They took different courses, but Kyle Patrick and JT Thompkins tied for the Day 1 lead of the St. Croix Bassmaster Open at Lake of the Ozarks with limits weighing 19 pounds, 15 ounces.
The leaders head into Day 2 with a 1-ounce lead over Darold Gleason of Many, La.
Patrick of Cooperstown, N.Y., struck first with a limit that included a 5-6. While he fished new water, Patrick said he mirrored the productive scenario he found late in his practice.
“The last hour of the last day, I caught one 4-pounder and said, ‘I’m going to start here (on Day 1),’” Patrick said. “I pull into this one little area that was close to where I practiced, and I catch a 4, a 5 and a 5-06. I was like, ‘Holy smokes! This is going to be a good day.’
“I left there around 10:30 to save some fish so I can go back up there tomorrow.”
Patrick said his practice had been spread out until he happened upon a promising scenario upriver from the tournament site. Getting that one big bite encouraged him to cement his game plan.
“I felt the most confident with how I got the bite, which was flipping a jig in brush; and the brush has to be a little off the dock,” Patrick said. “The fish are mostly suspended off the brush, but some are down in it.
“I’m seeing the fish on (Garmin) LiveScope and they’re eating the jig either on the fall, or I’ll let it hit the bottom and then I’ll reel it really quickly and they eat it. It was a reaction bite either way.”
Patrick caught his fish on a 3/4-ounce football jig with a Missile Baits Chunky D trailer. The football head proved helpful in smoothly traversing the rocky bottom where brush was anchored, but occasional entanglements actually worked to his advantage.
“One of my bites came when I got hung in the brush,” Patrick said. “When I pulled it out, a fish smoked it. I saw it all on LiveScope.”
Coming off a second-place finish in last week’s Open at Watts Bar Reservoir, Thompkins of Myrtle Beach, S.C., said his prepractice back in July helped him dial in a 3-mile area with what he considered the greatest potential. Concentrating on this region during the event’s official practice allowed him to dial in exactly where he wanted to fish.
“I was focusing on an area of the lake that I felt confident had the biggest concentration of fish,” Thompkins said. “I knew I was around big ones. I just had to put it in front of as many as I could throughout the day.
“I ended up getting a good bit of bites. I was culling 2 1/4- and 2 1/2-pounders. Hopefully, we can get out there and do it again tomorrow.”
Fishing midlake, Thompkins threw a 3/4-ounce jig with a Strike King Baby Rage Craw trailer and targeted a mix of rocks, brushpiles, docks, cables and concrete blocks. Most of his bites were in less than 15 feet of water, although one came out of 25.
“Two of the fish I caught today came off of spots I fished in prepractice,” Thompkins said. “I had a limit at 9:30, and I had 16 pounds by 11:30. I made my final cull in the last 45 minutes of my day.”
Sitting in third with 19-14, Gleason anchored his bag with a 6-05. That catch, he said, was one of those meant-to-be moments.
“That 6-05 was my second bass today, around 9:30 or 10,” Gleason said. “That fish bit a 1/2-ounce V&M jig with a V&M J-Bug trailer 10 feet from the boat. It was amazing I was able to get it in. I don’t know how I was able to keep it together, but I’m grateful I did.”
Gleason stuck with the jig all day and focused his efforts on docks and brush. Covering a lot of water was essential to his plan.
“It’s September and I haven’t seen a lot of fish in any one place. It’s amazing, you’ll run into one pocket and catch two or three and then you’ll run five pockets and not get a bite.”
Gleason is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 6-05.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. CT at Public Beach #2 in Osage Beach with weigh-in back at the launch site at 3:15 p.m.
1. (tie) Kyle Patrick: 19-15
1. (tie) JT Thompkins: 19-15
3. Darold Gleason: 19-14
4. Jamie Bruce: 18-09
5. Trey McKinney: 18-03
6. Andrew Hargrove: 18-02
7. Daisuke Kita: 18-00
8. Stephen Browning: 17-01
9. Chad Grigsby: 17-00
10. Lafe Messer: 16-13