By Todd Ceisner
If today’s MLF Bass Pro Tour results are any indicator of what the fishing is going to be like at Lake Chickamauga this week, look out! The numbers posted by Group A seem like they’re straight out of a video game as many of them dwarf previous highs from this season.
> Total bass caught: 705 (the previous single-day high in the Bass Pro Tour was 473).
> Total weight caught: 1,396-05 (the previous single-day high was 935-00).
> Anglers with 50-plus pounds: 6 (in the previous three events combined, the 50-pound mark had been reached eight times).
> Anglers with 30-plus fish: 3 (that had only been done once before this season).
All that and most will tell you the conditions were less than ideal.
It was a banner day, though, for many competitors who feasted on a lake full of bass starting to flood the bank to spawn. When 3:30 p.m. rolled around, marking the end of the day, Dave Lefebre was atop the leaderboard with 59-14. His 34 bass matched Marty Robinson’s record for most fish caught in a single day. While excited about where he’s sitting, Lefebre knows he could’ve piled up more weight. His biggest fish was 3-06.
“You’d have seen more if the water didn’t muddy up,” Lefebre said. “Every bed fish I found I couldn’t see because of the water.
“It could’ve been way better. I definitely lost more than I caught, and I never had a big one. I had a 6-pounder that I tried to swing, which was stupid. It came off. I lost a couple other 4s. I’m happy, though, because it was plan B. The rain messed up my plan A area and I didn’t know until we blasted off. I’m stoked to pull it out in there.”
Aaron Martens caught almost half as many fish (18) as Lefebre in piling up 57-03, which has him in 2nd. Jordan Lee caught 24 fish and has 55-08 in 3rd while Brandon Palaniuk tallied 54-12 (26 fish) to occupy 4th.
Mark Rose swung 31 bass into the boat for 53-08, good for fifth. Justin Lucas (6th) also eclipsed the 50-pound mark as he looks to make his first Knockout Round of the season. Keith Poche (7th) was the other angler to catch 30 fish.
It seemed the only thing that kept the catch totals and weights from climbing higher was the stained and muddy water that resulted from more than an inch of rain that fell Monday. The water continues to rise slowly and with water temperatures in the 60s, that’s a recipe for more fish to move into obvious spawning areas. The Group B anglers will enjoy sunny skies Wednesday with a light breeze, so any areas that clear up in time could be ripe to be sight-fished.
Aaron Martens caught six bass today that weighed four pounds or more.
Lefebre said he wasn’t concerned with being the Group A leader until he worked his way to the top later in the day. He was 12th after the first period with 18-00 and moved up to 4th by the end of the second. He caught nearly half of his fish (16) in the third and tacked on 23-15 while swapping the lead with Martens.
“I was telling myself it doesn’t matter to win, but when I got the lead with 90 minutes left and I saw Aaron passed me, I really wanted to lead because I was already there,” he said.
In the third period, he made the decision to keep fishing productive water rather than back off or search for new areas.
“I thought about conserving, but with the days to come, I figured that’s stupid with so many fish coming and going and all the locals out here and Group B fishing tomorrow,” he said.
He figures it’ll take close to 80 pounds to advance out of Group A, so he wanted to get as close to that number as he could today.
“I started thinking about Saturday and not making stupid mistakes so I wanted to catch as much as I could,” he added. “Who knows, my blown-out area might clear up and it could be a blessing in disguise. Everything is exciting to me right now.”
As nice as the $500 bonus for leading after today would’ve been, Martens said he was focused more on later in the week.
“I probably could’ve led pretty easily,” he said. “I fished as fast and as hard as I could and didn’t see a 1/5 or 1/6 of the lake. It was not a matter of winning the round. You have to make the top 20 and make it through to the Knockout Round. That’s what’s important. I’m feeling pretty comfortable, but still not safe.”
If he maintains the 3.2-pound average that he caught today (nobody else averaged more than 2 1/2 pounds per fish), he’ll be a lock to make his third Knockout Round of the season. Six of his 18 fish were 4 pounds or bigger, including a 6-07 he caught in the first period and a 7-07 he caught just after noon.
“Any time you can catch a 3-pound average on 18 fish, it’s a great time,” he said. “I got to set the hook on fish that didn’t move, ones that feel like a snag. Big fish make fishing so much more fun. Little fish are fun, but there’s nothing like snatching a hawg. I had a blast today.”
Dean Rojas started fast today with more than 33 pounds in period one, then shifted into "wait-and-see" mode.
It was an enjoyable day for Lucas, who came into the week 72nd in points after three lackluster finishes to start the year. He started slow with three fish for 7-09 in the first period, then racked up 21 bass for 43-01 over the final two periods.
“It feels beyond good,” he said. “We finally got out of shallow, pre-spawn largemouth fishing, which is my worst deal. Now, we’re doing some stuff I’m comfortable with. The fish have moved up and they’re spawning and they’re all around the bank.”
He made the most of the areas he had after having to bypass a number of stretches because of the water clarity.
“There’s nothing we can do about it,” he said. “We all knew what was happening yesterday when we came off the water and it started dumping rain. It definitely could’ve been better. There was a lot out of play with the dirty water.”
He felt the key to his day was a 30-minute stretch early in the second during which he caught six fish for 10-03.
“That really helped me settle down and move back up the leaderboard,” he said. “From there, I climbed up steadily.”
Sixteen different anglers caught at least 20 pounds in a period today. Dean Rojas set the pace in the first period with 33-11 (16 fish). He retreated from his productive area in the last two periods and caught just two fish the rest of the way, dropping him to 18th with 36-14, roughly 2 pounds above the top-20 cut.
“I had to get away from them because they were biting,” he said. “I wanted to see how good we were going to catch them and I didn’t want to blow it all out the first day, especially with the weather changing. I wanted to see where I was at. The rest of the day was just a matter of trying to find more stuff and look around.”
He’d hoped to find other areas to expand on, but that search will have to continue Thursday.
“I know I need to make some adjustments throughout the event because of the nature of everything that’s going to happen,” he added. “I’m just pacing myself. It’s a wait-and-see type of thing. It’s not like we’re going to a different lake like we did in Raleigh.”
> Wed., April 10 – Sunny - 77°/57°
- Wind: From the NE at 5 to 10 mph
> 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 1 Standings
1. Dave Lefebre -- 34, 59-14
2. Aaron Martens -- 18, 57-03
3. Jordan Lee -- 24, 55-08
4. Brandon Palaniuk -- 26, 54-12
5. Mark Rose -- 31, 53-08
6. Justin Lucas -- 24, 50-10
7. Keith Poche -- 30, 49-02
8. Stephen Browning -- 25, 48-01
9. Jesse Wiggins -- 22, 46-13
10. Bradley Roy -- 22, 46-12
11. James Elam -- 27, 46-06
12. Terry Scroggins -- 25, 45-14
13. Randy Howell -- 22, 43-13
14. Casey Ashley -- 25, 42-04
15. Jeff Sprague -- 17, 39-12
16. Cliff Pace -- 21, 38-03
17. David Walker -- 17, 37-10
18. Dean Rojas -- 18, 36-14
19. Chris Lane -- 17, 35-11
20. Greg Hackney -- 14, 34-11
21. Dustin Connell -- 16, 34-08
22. Ott DeFoe -- 18, 34-02
23. Bobby Lane -- 15, 33-01
24. Jeff Kriet -- 17, 32-14
25. Ish Monroe -- 13, 31-05
26. Tim Horton -- 14, 28-11
27. Brent Chapman -- 13, 27-13
28. Britt Myers -- 14, 27-12
29. Roy Hawk -- 15, 25-09
30. Jonathon VanDam -- 17, 22-10
31. Gerald Spohrer -- 13, 22-05
32. Scott Suggs -- 12, 22-02
33. Matt Lee -- 12, 20-08
34. Skeet Reese -- 8, 19-08
35. Marty Robinson -- 11, 18-00
36. Brett Hite -- 10, 17-13
37. Russ Lane -- 7, 14-15
38. Mike McClelland -- 6, 13-14
39. Takahiro Omori -- 8, 13-06
40. Shaw Grigsby -- 7, 12-13