By Todd Ceisner
Lake Conroe was kind to Jordan Lee again today. Only a handful of his Group B competitors could say the same thing.
Fresh off a win at the inaugural Bass Pro Tour event in Florida two weeks ago, Lee picked up where he left off at Conroe two years ago when he pulled off a massive final-day rally to win the Bassmaster Classic.
Lee boated a dozen fish today that weighed 32-03 to finish the Group B Shotgun Round in first place. He was the only angler to eclipse the 30-pound mark on a day that saw Conroe’s bass play hard to catch.
Of Lee’s 12 fish, just one weighed less than two pounds. He started the day with a pair that each weighed 3-02 and he moved into the lead to stay with a 4-05 in the third period, then tacked on a 3-03 to gain some separation from Andy Montgomery, with whom he shared an area for the better part of the day.
“This morning, things were going pretty good and I was getting a few bites,” Lee said. “Without ScoreTracker, I would’ve figured the fish were biting everywhere, but when you see you’re doing well, it makes you keep doing it so I stuck with what I was doing.”
Needless to say, the former national champion college angler is brimming with confidence right now.
“I feel like I started on the right place and was doing the right thing at daylight,” he said. “I wasn’t wasting time. I do have a lot of confidence right now and coming off a win, I feel like I’m making good decisions. I’ve heard guys say that when you’re fishing good, things just kind of roll.”
Montgomery tallied eight fish for 25-11, including a 9-06 kicker on the final cast of the first period that provided the only real jolt of excitement of the day. The fish surprised Montgomery as his bait was only a few feet from the boat. After failing to boat-flip the fish onto his front deck, Montgomery frantically grabbed the line and eventually hauled the fish over the side of the boat as his official was calling lines out for the period.
Check out Montgomery’s kicker catch below:
David Walker had a steady day and sits in third with 22-02 (11 fish). Rounding out the top 5 are Jared Lintner (20-07) and Randall Tharp (20-02), who were the only other competitors to eclipse the 20-pound mark. The Group B Elimination Round is set for Friday with the top 20 finishers based on their cumulative two-day weight moving on to the Knockout Round on Saturday.
To say the fishing today wasn’t near as good as it was Tuesday would be a severe understatement. There were four anglers with 10 or more fish today compared to 12 yesterday and half as many (five) caught 20 or more pounds today versus Tuesday’s field. Overall, Group B caught 86 fewer fish than Group A.
Some will attribute the dropoff to the post-front conditions. Overnight air temperatures around the lake were near freezing, but the water temperature didn’t seem to take a hit as it warmed up to 60 later in the day. Today looks to be the end of the cold snap, but weather will continue to be a factor as Group A’s return to the water for the Elimination Round on Thursday will be hampered by a 15-25 mph wind out of the southwest.
Lee said he carried a stubborn attitude into the day and was fortunate to generate bites in the two areas he focused on. He was the first competitor to reach the 10-pound mark in the first period and was a fixture in the top 5 most of the day.
“I knew going in what I was going to do regardless if I got bites because I didn’t have a plan B or C,” he said. “I was like, ‘I’m gonna do this in two areas and fish them hard and see where that puts me.’ I knew I wouldn’t be running the lake. A lot of times that doesn’t work in a tournament.”
Lately, though, any decision he makes on the water seems to go his way. He caught six fish in the third period, matching his total from the first and second, and he thinks the warming water had something to do with that.
David Walker had plenty of reason to smile after landing this Conroe 3-pounder today.
“I don’t mind the muddy water as long as it’s warming,” he said. “When you have cold, muddy water and it’s in the low 50s, it’s tough. It warmed up and got my best bites late in the day.
“The water was warming through the day and that’s what you want. With this warming trend, I’d expect to see bigger weights and bigger fish get caught. They’re on the verge of spawning. They want to be up there. They just need some stable, warming weather.”
Montgomery, who finished 2nd behind Dave Lefebre in the 2009 Toyota Texas Bass Classic at Conroe, said he had a strong practice and came into today with a bit of tempered optimism. His focus was getting off to a good start so he would allow himself time Friday to possibly explore new areas that could come into play on Saturday if he advances.
“Based off practice, I felt like I could have a good day,” he said. “I wanted to get into a comfortable spot because the Knockout Round is three days away. I was hoping to get to a point Friday where I could look around without the pressure of catching one. I still have to catch some, but this is pretty much what I wanted.”
He wanted to start the day on a bridge corner, but Lee beat him to it. His first fish was a 2 1/2-pounder just before 9 a.m. and he then went an hour before landing his second fish. The 9-06 thrust him into the lead after the first period with 13-13. His first fish of the second period was a 3-11 and he was able to land four more fish the rest of the way.
“It was slower compared to practice,” he said. “I was worried about how much pressure got put on the fish yesterday because you don’t know who’s fishing where. I was confident after practice, but the number of bites was down, but I’m right there with everybody as far as the number of bites. Everything went semi as expected.”
When Walker saw where the Conroe event fell on the calendar, he feared he’d be walking into a sight-fishing hornet’s nest. To his glee, the weather’s been chilly, the water’s been muddy and it’s a safe bet this likely will not turn into an all-out spawning tournament.
“This is my favorite time of year to fish,” he said. “I don’t enjoy this weather, obviously, but I’ve always done well in late winter and when they’re really pre-spawn. When it comes to sight-fishing and spawn tournaments, I hate it and I thought that’s how this would be.”
He was one of five anglers to tally at least 10 fish today and he came out of the Shotgun Round feeling like he has some momentum now after missing the money cut in Florida.
“I felt better today at the end of the day about what I was doing and how I was doing it than I did at the beginning,” he said. “My confidence got up and I know I’m doing the right stuff.”
A pair of 3-pounders in the third period served as the hard evidence for the Tennessee pro, who said being stubborn was another key today.
“I had to really be that way because I wanted to make an area work instead of a pattern,” he said. “In Florida, my being stubborn bit me, but here it was the right way to be. Practice wasn’t good, but I was all right with that because I figured they just weren’t biting well.”
> Day 2 stats – 40 anglers (First period: 75 fish, 171-02; Second period: 63 fish, 124-06; Third period: 86 fish, 176-06; Total: 224 fish, 471-14)
> Thurs., Feb. 14 – Mostly Cloudy - 75°/58°
- Wind: From the SSW at 15 mph
> Fri., Feb. 15 – Mix of Sun, Clouds - 72°/44°
- Wind: From the NW at 12 mph
> Sat., Feb. 16 – Mostly Cloudy - 65°/47°
- Wind: From the ESE at 6 mph
> Sun., Feb. 17 – Mostly Cloudy - 66°/51°
- Wind: From the ENE at 9 mph
Day 2 Results
1. Jordan Lee -- 12, 32-03
2. Andy Montgomery -- 8, 25-11
3. David Walker -- 11, 22-02
4. Jared Lintner -- 9, 20-07
5. Randall Tharp -- 6, 20-02
6. Dave Lefebre -- 12, 19-07
7. Chris Lane -- 10, 17-15
8. Mark Davis -- 9, 17-13
9. Shin Fukae -- 6, 17-10
10. James Watson -- 8, 17-03
11. Andy Morgan -- 8, 16-08
12. Takahiro Omori -- 9, 16-04
13. Casey Ashley -- 8, 15-03
14. Keith Poche -- 7, 14-04
15. Gary Klein -- 7, 14-02
16. Brett Hite -- 6, 13-11
17. Gerald Spohrer -- 8, 13-07
18. Randy Howell -- 5, 11-04
19. Edwin Evers -- 5, 11-03
20. Zack Birge -- 5, 11-00
21. Ott DeFoe -- 6, 10-15
22. Mike McClelland -- 6, 10-15
23. Matt Lee -- 5, 10-10
24. Stephen Browning -- 4, 9-10
25. Ish Monroe -- 5, 9-05
26. Michael Neal -- 5, 8-11
27. Fred Roumbanis -- 4, 8-04
28. Justin Lucas -- 4, 7-06
29. Mark Daniels -- 4, 7-01
30. James Elam -- 3, 6-06
31. Cody Meyer -- 3, 6-03
32. Russ Lane -- 3, 6-02
33. Roy Hawk -- 4, 6-00
34. Greg Vinson -- 2, 4-00
35. Brandon Coulter -- 2, 3-11
36. Jacob Wheeler -- 2, 3-09
37. Jason Lambert -- 1, 1-15
38. Kelly Jordon -- 1, 1-15
39. Tommy Biffle -- 1, 1-03
40. Tim Horton -- 1, 1-02