Randall Tharp said local knowledge was one of the keys to his 27-pound, 8-ounce showing today that put him in lead of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on Alabama’s Lake Guntersville.
“The fish are in some places I haven’t seen them in five to seven years,” the Florida pro said. “Every time I fish a tournament here this time of year, I make a point to check these places — and the fish haven’t been there in years.”
But in his fall practice he found the fish were stacked up.
“There were schools of fish in them,” Tharp said.
Oklahoma’s Edwin Evers goes into the second day of competition in second place with 26-3, while Tennessee’s David Walker was in third with 24-13. Fred Roumbanis of Oklahoma was tied for fourth position with South Carolina’s Casey Ashely with 23-2.
Louisiana's sole Classic competitor — Pierre Part's Cliff Crochet — finished 51st with 7-10.
Tharp is fishing areas scattered all over the lake, and he caught numbers of fish.
“I fished all over this lake,” Tharp said. “The longest I sat in one spot today was maybe 30 minutes.”
The run-and-gun approach yielded about 20 keepers.
However, he said he expected to catch heavier fish.
“I wanted to catch 30 pounds,” Tharp said. “I had one of the best days of practice I’ve ever had in our three days of (Classic) practice.”
He said he mixed up a few lures to build his sack of bass.
“I’ve got a couple of key baits,” Tharp said. “I weighed fish on maybe three baits; I caught fish on five baits.”
Evers said he had a few key stretches, but believes he should be able repeat that success elsewhere if needed.
“I think it’s a pattern I’m fishing,” he said.
He’s using a lipless crankbait and a Mega Big Bass Flip Slap to put together his fish.
Walker said he had to mix things up.
“It’s not so much just one pattern,” he said. “There’s too much changing this time of year.”
Instead, he had different baits that worked for different patterns.
And he said he was happy things were tight at the top of the leaderboard — there’s less than 4 pounds separating him from Tharp.
“This is Guntersville,” Walker said. “After today, I’m actually pleased it is going to be tight like that because this lake is prime for someone to just walk away with it.”
Roumbanis, whose stringer included a 9-pound, 3-ounce bass, fished a jig pattern. Ashely worked a protected area, picking off fish from a spawning flat.