By B.A.S.S. Communications Staff
KINGSTON, Tenn. — Bobby Lane didn’t want to overstay his welcome, but protecting a special spot allowed the Lakeland, Fla. pro to bag a limit of 15 pounds, 2 ounces to lead Day 1 of the Bassmaster Open at Watts Bar Reservoir.
In a tight Top 10 with 2-07 separating first place from 10th, Lane leads second-place Tyler Williams by 3 ounces.
“The problem with where I was this morning was I caught ‘em quick and there were about eight boats around, so I couldn’t leave the spot,” Lane said. “That was where the fish were and the minute I left they would go right there because no one was catching anything around me.
“I would have loved to have had the place to myself where I could have caught five and gotten out of there. As tough as it is to get bit out here right now, I really wish I could have saved some of those fish for Day 2, but I couldn’t leave as early as I wanted to.”
Having grown up fishing Florida’s grassy lakes, Lane said he enjoyed fishing familiar habitat, although he had to adjust his Sunshine State tactics for local scenarios.
“I felt at home, but it doesn’t fish like home,” Lane said. “The grass fishes differently and it sets up differently. There are so many different kinds of grass here. Back in Okeechobee, we have hydrilla and eelgrass. Up here, you have coontail, you have hydrilla, you have milfoil, you have this leafy grass and it’s all mixed together.
“A lot of it’s matted up and some of it’s thin and you kind of had to fish your way through in practice to figure out which grass they wanted. After today, I decided they didn’t care which grass it was. You just had to fish your backside off.”
An early topwater bite with the new Berkley Swamp Lord popping frog in the copperhead color yielded seven keepers, two of which crossed the weigh-in stage. Lane ended up filling his limit by fishing Texas-rigged Berkley Powerbait plastics.
“I hadn’t caught many on topwater this week,” he said. “But this morning, one of those big ones came on the frog. Right after that, one came up schooling, so I threw over there and caught it. It was a 2 1/2-pounder.”
Notably, Lane said he initially had not planned on fishing what turned out to be a surprisingly productive area.
“It finally clicked today. It was a tough practice, and I only had a limit one day,” Lane said. “I shook a few fish off (in practice) and I said, ‘Man, I've got to go back.’
“I put that Power-Pole Move trolling motor on about 10 and just cruised through that grass.”
Lane said the key to maximizing his main area’s productivity was dialing in a specific habitat element. Once he finally yielded his spot, he did so for the purpose of checking on a possible Plan B that might serve his Day-2 objective.
“I left one little area alone today. I ran into it, made one cast, caught one almost 3 pounds and left,” Lane said. “I’m hoping that will pan out for tomorrow.”
Hailing from Belgrade, Maine, Williams is in second place with 14-15. He did most of his work without his trolling motor and Power-Poles, which stopped functioning early into his day.
Anchoring his bag with a 4-12, Williams salvaged his day by drifting across promising areas and doing his best to fish as many isolated targets as he could. Defining resilience, Williams overcame what he termed the most mentally taxing day he’s ever spent on the water and made the best of what he had to work with.
“I don’t get spun out on the water and I was getting spun out today,” Williams said. “I nearly gave up this morning, but I sat down, ate some Jack’s Links beef jerky – the barbecue flavor – and gave myself a pep talk.
“I figured the best thing to do was to fish areas with these isolated targets – a stump, a brushpile, a grass clump – but because I couldn’t use my trolling motor, I couldn’t turn my (forward-facing sonar transducer), so I had to lean over the bow and turn it by hand. I nearly fell in three times.”
Dale Hightower of Mannford, Okla., is in third place with 14-08. Similar to Lane’s story, Hightower was not planning to fish the area that carried his first-round effort, but a last-minute decision delivered surprisingly favorable results.
“I almost didn’t go to this spot, but then I thought, ‘No better than what my practice was, I’d better go,’” Hightower said. “I never really keyed in on a topwater bite all through practice. It happens early and it’s only a short window. In practice, I don’t think I was getting out there early enough to cover enough water to see.
“I got 15 bites doing that today. Later in the day, I just went fishing in the area where I’d caught some fish in practice. I just slowed down and caught them on finesse baits.”
Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7:15 a.m. CT at Kingston Boat Ramp. The weigh-in will be held at the ramp at 3:15 p.m.
Here's a look at the intial Top 10:
1. Bobby Lane: 15-02
2. Tyler Williams: 14-15
3. Dale Hightower: 14-08
4. Tucker Veronee: 13-14
5. Jacob Bigelow: 13-07
6. Mike Surman: 13-04
7. John Garrett: 13-01
8. Jason Abram: 13-00
9. Sam George: 12-13
10. Jason Lambert: 12-11