Many of the nation’s top pros struggled to get bites on the opening day of the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open at Douglas Lake in eastern Tennessee. That wasn’t a problem for Shane Lineberger of Lincolnton, N.C. He stopped fishing at 1 p.m. because his livewell was stuffed with 24-pounds, 6-ounces of largemouth bass.
“I spent the rest of the day helping my partner catch fish,” Lineberger said.
Lineberger caught a 6-7 bass, his biggest of the day, minutes after he started casting. He outfished a field of 180 pro anglers on a cold, windy, rainy, sock-wringing day.
“I probably fished 40 main-lake points,” Lineberger revealed. “I’m on a very specific pattern. Not all the points have what I’m keying on.”
Lineberger leads Terry Segraves of Kissimmee, Fla., by only 15 ounces. During practice, Segraves came upon one spot in the mouth of a creek where the bass schooled on shad “like a pack of mad dogs.”
He stayed in that area all day and ground out six bites. He caught his final bass, a 6 pounder, on his last cast of the day.
Seven of the Top 12 anglers caught 20 pounds or more, including Patrick Bone of Cleveland, Ga., with 22-13. By concentrating on one area of the lake and staying on the move, he boated 11 keepers.
“I would put the trolling motor down, make a few casts and jump to the next spot,” Bone said.
Bone is especially pleased with his effort today because he got few bites while practicing on cloudy days. Douglas Lake’s bass were much kinder to him under sunny skies.
“The forecast calls for some sunshine tomorrow,” Bone said. “That should help me.”
Bone, Segraves and Lineberger know they must keep up the momentum tomorrow to stay ahead of the pack. The winner will earn $10,000, plus a Skeeter boat rigged with a Yamaha motor.
Just as important is a berth in the 2014 Bassmaster Classic for any champion who competes in all three Southern Opens this year. Points toward a spot in the Bassmaster Elite Series add more even impetus for catching bass.
David Kilgore, in fourth place with 20-7, and David Mullins, in fifth place with 20-3, also hope to take full advantage of the opportunity.
The Carhartt Big Bass Leader was James Cross of Knoxville, Tenn., with an 8-pound largemouth.
David Gill of Knoxville, Tenn., leads the co-angler field with an impressive three-bass limit of 15-11. His biggest bass, 6-15, made him the Carhartt Big Bass leader. He may have trouble sleeping tonight with thoughts of winning a Triton boat and Mercury motor combo running through his head.
After tomorrow’s weigh-in, the field will be cut to the Top 12 pros and co-anglers. They will compete on Saturday for the top prizes.