BULL SHOALS, Ark. – It was hardly what you'd call a "bad day" on Bull Shoals Lake, but terms like "tough", "frustrating" and "wearisome" probably fit pretty well for FLW EverStart Series Central Division competitors.
With the influence of Friday's full moon pulling a new wave of bass shoreward, anglers caught a good mix of largemouth and smallmouth with a smattering of spotted bass. Pros produced 44 limits and co-anglers added eight more, but weights were lower than expected. One contributing factor was lower lake level brought about by dam activity. Also, many were counting on more cloud cover to help settle the hyper-cautious new arrivals, but day one saw mostly sunny skies and skittish fish.
Local pro Dave Crisenbery leads the pro division with 15 pounds, 7 ounces. His was a blended day with some of his keepers coming as he fished beds with Gitzit tubes, while others bit a 3/16-ounce shaky head with a green pumpkin worm and Alabama-rigged Berkley swimbaits.
"I just kind of switched it up according to whatever conditions I had," said the Flippin, Ark. pro. "I fished the shaky head and the A-rig early and then when the sun came out for a little while, I went and bed fished. When the clouds rolled in and the wind started, I went back to the shaky head.
"Nothing really outshined the other. I had two or three keepers on the shaky head, two or three bed fish and three or four on the A-rig. It was just kind of junk fishing."
Crisenbery found his bed fish on shorelines with scattered buck brush. He threw the shaky head and the A-rig around secondary points. Despite the warm weather, he said he did not see the numbers he thought he would today.
"I really didn't see a lot of fish today," Crisenbery said. "I looked quite a bit the last several days and I'm not seeing too many cruising fish. There should be more fish cruising the bank but I'm not seeing them."
With the weather forecast calling for overnight showers and thunderstorms lasting into the first couple hours of the second fishing day, anglers may find many of their bed spots murky and the fish hard to see. Crisenbery said this might force him to adjust his strategy.
"The weather will probably hurt me on two or three more fish that I've (located) on beds that I won't be able to see," he said. "I'm going to have to depend on the A-rig and shaky head, so I hope that will work out for me."
Dodson follows a close second
Trailing the lead by just 12 ounces was Harrison, Ark. pro Robbie Dodson, who bagged a limit of 14-11. Flipping green pumpkin beaver style baits was his top tactic, but Dodson said he felt his productivity was more dependent on mobility. Starting at the mouth of Lead Creek, he worked his way to the back and covered the bank meticulously.
"I never did really find a good bait; I just flipped beaver style baits and just covered a lot of water," Dodson said. "I didn't expect to sight fish in this tournament. I looked a little bit in practice and all the clear water is on the lower end and all I saw was little bitty ones (locally). I ran way up the lake to where I usually fish and just took off going down the bank."
Dodson caught most of his fish in three to five feet. The key, he said, was hitting a bunch of spots and stopping to thoroughly work the ones that offered promise.
"You just cover a lot of water and when you get one bite, you'll get three or four," Dodson said. "It was a pretty aggressive bite. You'd just flip in there, move it once or twice and if you didn't get a bite, you'd move on. Most of the bites came on the fall. The bait would fall down and you'd just see your line stop."
Caldwell, Foree, King tie for third
Larry Caldwell, of Saint Peters, Mo., Mike Foree, of Osage Beach, Mo. and Zach King, of Clarksville, Ark. all bagged equal limits of 14-6.
Early bites aid Caldwell
A 4-pound, 13-ounce bass led Caldwell's catch, all of which he caught by flipping the bushes with Texas-rigged beavers and brush hogs in green pumpkin and black/red. His tactics produced 15 day-one fish.
"They were biting today," Caldwell said. "They had been in the backs of the pockets and today they moved out to the outside."
"I had four fish by 8 o'clock this morning and then it took me until 10 o'clock to get the next one."
Foree finds success on top
"I started out with that topwater bait and had a limit by 7:45," Foree said. "I caught seven more keepers on that bait and upgraded one time.
"During practice, I'd been catching them in the afternoon when the sun's out. Today, I caught them all day, whether the sun was out or whether it wasn't out."
Foree said the key to consistency was long casts with a 7-foot rod and 10-pound monofilament. He hit about 10 spots today, with half of them proving productive.
"I have about five different spots that hold the right size fish and I just kept running back and forth today," Foree said. "I never had to do any bed fishing today.'
King moves out with fish
Targeting shallow buck brush was King's game plan, but with the water level dropping about a foot today, he found the fish pulling out with the declining water. Throwing a Zoom trick worm and a Zoom speed craw, both green pumpkin, King found a replicable pattern for where to expect his bites.
"Anytime you can find those deeper bushes and there's a gap between them and the bank with some smaller bushes, that's where they’re at," King said. "I did catch two of my bigger fish on beds. I have four more big fish located on beds, so hopefully I can catch them because man they were skittish today."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the Bull Shoals event:
6th: Cody Malone, of Sulphur Springs, Texas, 13-15
7th: Ray Meredith, of Smiths Grove, Ky., 13-12
8th: Joe Bennett, of Independence, Mo., 13-8
9th: Lance Ricketts, of Madisonville, Ky., 13-1
10th: Shane Long, of Springfield, Mo., 13-0
Bennett earned Snickers Big Bass honors for his 5-13.
Topwater and flipping tactics earn co-angler lead for Rose
Randy Rose, of Gainesville, Mo. jumped out to the early co-angler lead with a limit catch of 12-9. He started his day by throwing topwaters and transitioned to flipping soft plastics. Switching to plastics around 11 a.m., he worked spots from two feet to 10 and found a slow presentation was the key to his bites.
Second-place co-angler Steve Gregg, of Florissant, Mo. turned in a limit catch weighing 10-13. Flipping brush from the bank out to about five feet, he caught his fish on Texas-rigged Senkos, Zoom brush hogs and Crock-O-Gator Swamp Bugs.
Chuck Rounds, of Benton, Ky. took third place with 10-12, while Charles Radford, of Sullivan, Mo. placed fourth with 10-4. Fifth place went to Jeff Johnson, of Ash Flat, Ark. with 9-15.
Best of the rest
6th: David Gillham, of Heath, Texas, 9-14
7th: Ben Due, of Mauston, Wisc., 9-12
8th: Mark Howard, of Mesquite, Texas, 8-4
9th: Jeffrey Barrickman, of Spokane, Mo., 7-11
10th: Vershun Tolliver, of Lawrence, Ks., 7-9
Ronald Robbs took the Snickers Big Bass award on the co-angler side with his 2-pound, 14-ounce fish.
Day two of EverStart Series Central Division action on Bull Shoals Lake continues at Thursday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:00 a.m. (Central) at the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock located on Eastwold Cove in Bull Shoals, Ark.