By BassFan Staff
Four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam didn’t have a terrible first day at the 48th Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell. But then again, he didn’t have the day he expected to, either.
“I didn’t take myself out of it today, but I really came into this with pretty high expectations after what I saw in practice,” said VanDam, who was in 16th place with 14-07. “I shouldn’t be disappointed, but I really am.
“You just don’t get that many opportunities like this when you really have an opportunity to win and I felt like I was on that kind of pattern going into (the event). It’s getting way warmer than what they said and I was kind of hoping that it wouldn’t. The fish that I’m fishing for are pre-spawn and they’re definitely going to be making a move with as warm as it’s getting and these conditions. It was 80 degrees on the truck thermometer when I left the lake.”
VanDam sounded like a man who wanted to file a complaint with the weatherman.
“When we (practice), I look at the forecast for the future. Usually, they get it pretty close. It was supposed to be in the 50s and 60s (this weekend), and that’s it, and then they called for three days of rain. And now it’s a 180-degree change.
"If I had known that, I would have fished a lot differently. Right now, I’m kind of committed to figuring out what the ones I was fishing for are doing now.”
He certainly wasn't ready to throw in the towel.
“You’ve got to have a 20-pound day, or close to it, so I know what I need to do and what lives here. I’m far from out of it.”
“I have an idea of some things that I want to try a little bit different (on Saturday). “Especially first thing, because it’s definitely important to capitalize on that morning bite and I didn’t today. I should have trusted my gut this morning on the area that I wanted to go to first because it couldn’t have been any worse than where I started.”
27th: Palaniuk Committed
> Day 1: 5, 13-00
Reigning Angler of the Year Brandon Palaniuk didn't plan a lot of changes for day 2 even though his first-day haul landed him in the middle of the pack.
"This doesn't take me out of it," he said. "Really all I can do is look forward to tomorrow and try to make up that ground. I think the weather will help – today it seemed like it was a little tough to get bit.
"I have other patterns I can run, but I'm pretty committed to doing one thing. I feel like that's my best shot to win."
His goal for day 2 is 20 pounds.
"I feel like that would put me back in the hunt. If I catch 15, I'd still have a chance, but it'd be a longshot."
34th: Ike Missed his Mark
> Day 1: 5, 12-02
Mike Iaconelli's bag was several pounds short of what he was hoping for.
"My mark was 15 or 16 pounds," he said. "I'm below the mark, but it's not like I caught 8 pounds, either. I've got a little bit of work in front of me tomorrow.
"I hate (coming in light) on the first day because that means more work on the second day, but that's reality. I need 16 or 18 pounds tomorrow to level things back out. That's a tall order, but it's possible."
He's working a three-pronged program: chasing the blueback herring bite for the first hour, pursuing deeper spotted bass until about 1 o'clock and then heading toward the bank in search of kicker largemouths.
"I think it's the right plan, but tomorrow I'll hit some new places and change my rotation on some of the others. If we get the thunderstorms, that'll extend the herring bite a little bit and that will help."
34th: Cox's Bed-Fish Gone
> Day 1: 5, 12-02
The spawning fish that John Cox had located during Wednesday's final practice session were nowhere to be found on day 1.
"I tried it until noon, but I wasn't even seeing them," he said. "I would've thought (that program) would've gotten better and better, but they were just gone.
"I don't know what to do tomorrow – maybe I'll just go fish the dirty water. I could run up a creek and just spot-hop my way back. I've got a couple ditches where I should be able to catch 12 pounds in about an hour."
He hadn't totally given up on sight-fishing.
"If the spawning fish come back, a bag in the mid-20s is possible. They're giants."
39th: Lester As Relaxed As He Can Be
> Day 1: 5, 11-08
Brandon Lester’s wife, Kimberly, is very pregnant. As in 38 weeks pregnant, with a due date of March 30. Her doctors in Tennessee advised her to stay at home while Brandon came to Greenville, S.C., for the Bassmaster Classic.
The Lesters were having none of it. Brandon knew that if Kim had to stay home, he’d be a wreck, constantly checking his phone and worrying all the while trying to get ready for the biggest tournament of the year.
“I couldn’t stand the idea of her not being here,” Lester said after catching 11-08 on day 1. “We have a really good relationship and this tournament just means so much and I wanted her to be here.”
As a precaution, Kimberly had her medical records transferred to a hospital in Greenville.
“If it goes down here, that’s fine,” Lester said. “She’s close to me and we have family here, too.”
As for day 1 on Hartwell, Lester was encouraged by what he saw in the afternoon compared to a morning beset by getting in a bad rotation. He wound up with four largemouth and one spotted bass.
“I started running around and caught one and then the next three places I tried to get on had local boats on them,” he said. “It was one of those days where I got in a bad rotation. It finally ended up coming together. About noon, I went shallow and started fishing some of that dog fennel grass and caught most of what I caught. The water temp was starting to rise before weigh-in and I started getting more bites. I’m crossing my fingers for tomorrow because they’re right on the verge.”
48th: Lane Befuddled
> Day 1: 5, 10-02
Bobby Lane has some serious catching up to do in order to extend his streak of top 10 finishes in Hartwell Classics to three.
"I'm still scratching my head, wondering how in the world I could catch only one 3 1/2-pounder all day," he said. "What's frustrating is I was running a pattern that had worked for four straight (practice) days. I'm not saying they were the winning fish, but I was catching good quality fish here and there.
"I'm kind of clueless as to what's going on. The water temperature was a little cooler this morning, but not much. I'm just not sure what those fish are doing."