By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Brandon Cobb expected his first day at the 50th Bassmaster Classic to at least turn out halfway decent. Instead, he caught just one keeper fish.
"The wind definitely gave me some trouble today, but I think the biggest problem was I caught just enough in practice to kind of make me think I knew what I needed to do," said the South Carolinian who won two events on the 2019 Bassmaster Elite Series. The thing was that I was catching the majority of my practice fish late in the afternoon and just a few early.
"I thought I could ride that same afternoon bite in the morning, but I realized pretty quickly that it wasn't going to work. Without the wind, I would've tried to run around and do some new things, but the way it was blowing, I tried to stick it out."
He was one of seven anglers who caught no more than a single keeper (his was a 2 1/2-pounder) in the opening round. That group included Paul Mueller, the runner-up in the 2014 Classic at Guntersville who caught a record-setting 32-03 bag on day 2 of that event.
Clifford Pirch and Chad Pipkens each boated one keeper that weighed 3-04. The former said that the fish in his main area seemed to have shrunk since the practice period while the latter said he couldn't get his to cooperate.
"We certainly had different (weather) conditions, but somehow my fish got rearranged from (larger) females to (smaller) males," Pirch said. "I don't know what happened because in practice I hardly ever caught anything smaller than 3 1/2 pounds. I got more bites than I'd been getting, but five or six of them were shorts (less than the 15-inch minimum).
"Before they were 3 1/2 to 7 pounds, with more of them on the 5 to 7 end. Today it just didn't happen. Maybe it was just a timing thing and (on day 2) I might do it all backwards."
He fished a mix of grass, rock and wood. His keeper came off a dock late in the day.
"I'll probably do more dock-fishing tomorrow, but I really felt like the grass deal was where it was at."
Pipkens targeted grass exclusively. He had one other keeper bite, but lost a 15-incher at the side of his boat.
"They didn't bite," he said. "It was tougher than practice because of the wind – sometimes the wind stirs that grass up to much. A lot of the guys who caught good bags caught them off bridges and rock. I found some big ones in grass, but it changed that bite a lot.
"It should be better tomorrow (with lighter wind), so I'm going to stick with it. My best chance to catch a 25- to 30-pound bag is in the grass."
Josh Busby, who's making his Classic debut, weighed in just one 2-03 specimen. He lost two others, including one that broke his line.
"The current was a lot stronger," he said. "I was fishing a deep current break with a big swimbait and for some reason they seemed to vacate the area. At one point the current was so strong that it was like whitewater coming through.
"I tried to force it because I felt like it was the only place I had. I don't have any other way to catch a big bag so I'll have to go back and take another look tomorrow."