DAYTON, Tenn. – Day one of the Walmart FLW Tour finale on Lake Chickamauga was supposed to be filled with drama. Instead, Eufaula champion Randy Haynes returned to the deep ledges and quickly reasserted his dominance while Andy Morgan took a major step towards claiming his first Angler of the Year title.
While Haynes struggled at Grand Lake, it turned out to be a shallow-water flipping tournament. Now that he’s back offshore, Haynes is back in his comfort zone.
“I caught around a dozen keepers today, all largemouths,” said Haynes, who is quickly garnering a reputation as one of the best deep sticks in the sport. “A lot of them were pretty small, though. The smallest fish that I weighed in today was 3 pounds, which was kind of disappointing considering I had three over 5 (pounds).”
Haynes said that he was fishing 10 different schools, rotating throughout the day. While he visited Chickamauga for a few days of prepractice, he doesn’t have any water all to himself.
“I think that the areas that I am fishing are all pretty obvious,” Haynes added. “It’s real crowded out there. I was boat No. 50 this morning but several of the places I wanted to start on were already covered up.”
The humble Haynes was characteristically reticent about patterns and baits, but it’s clear he’s fishing offshore. He did say he experienced several flurries throughout the day, but that his bigger bites were solo fish that came at random times.
“I don’t know what I’m doing differently. I’m just doing what I do. This one is going to be a tough tournament. I really think it could wear out tomorrow.”
Haynes’ official weight registered 23 pounds, 8 ounces.
Morgan takes control as Thrift, Powroznik, Ehrler stumble
Morgan couldn’t have written the AOY script any better on day one. While he caught a workmanlike 18 pounds, 1 ounce, his biggest threats struggled. Unofficially, Stetson Blaylock, who came into the tournament 32 points behind Morgan, is now in second. But if Morgan catches a mediocre 14 or 15 pounds tomorrow, the 2013 AOY race is all but over. The hometown hero currently sits in 22nd while Blaylock is 14th, unofficially 24 points behind.
“Today really went smooth,” said Morgan. “I visited a bunch of places, fished real slow and it all worked out. It could be a whole lot worse, but it could also be a little better. But I’m happy with that and I feel like I’m on pace to catch some more fish.”
Morgan said he doesn’t consciously think about AOY or what he’ll need to catch tomorrow, instead focusing on making the cut and possibly making a run at winning the tournament.
“It would great to win Angler of the Year right here in the hills and hollers of east Tennessee.”
Dan Morehead was ecstatic with his 23-pound, 7-ounce opening-day effort. Barring a colossal meltdown on day two, the Kentucky pro punched his ticket to his 13th Forrest Wood Cup.
Known for his ledge prowess on Kentucky Lake, Morehead wouldn’t reveal how he’s catching his Chickamauga fish. He did say he stayed on one spot all day and, had just two rods on the deck and that no one came in on him.
“I made a long run this morning and then I caught my limit early – like in 45 minutes to an hour. Then I went a few hours without a bite and thought about leaving. But I knew there were big ones there so I never left.”
Morehead thinks he can duplicate his day-one success if he receives cooperation from other anglers.
“If the guys will honor my spot, I think I can catch them again. I figure if I catch about 7 pounds tomorrow I’ll get a big check and I’ll make the Cup. I’ve won a lot of titles in bass fishing, but I have yet to win that Cup. It might darn-near kill me, but I will win that Cup.”
Third-place pro Casey Martin shared an offshore area with Mark Rose and JT Kenney, but still caught a 22-pound, 15-ounce limit. Coming in to the event, Martin sat 54th in the points race and figured he needed somewhere around a top-10 to make the Cup in his rookie season.
“I knew there were enough fish there to go around and Mark was nice enough to wave me in,” said the New Market, Ala., pro, who left the dock this morning as boat No. 76.
While Martin caught his limit on the shared spot, he upgraded two times elsewhere.
“That main spot is a school of 2 1/2-to 4-pounders and they’re all pretty much suspended fish. It’s a ledge in 15 feet of water that drops into 25 feet. This lake is setting up exactly like Guntersville right now.”
Martin said he’s throwing a Strike King 10XD crankbait and a 3/4-ounce Omega football jig with a Paca Craw.
“I just hope we can get on it again,” Martin said of his main spot. “I did some idling around and I like some other stuff, but I really want to start there. I’m the first of the three, but a lot of people drove by us today.”
“Yeah, there are boats all around me, but I’m on the Tennessee River in the summertime; I’m in my element,” said the Walmart pro. “I’m right where I want to be, I just wish I had a few areas to myself. Everything I got, everybody knows about. I’m basically just trying to out-fish everybody and that isn’t easy.”
Rose estimates he caught 15 keepers on the day. His key baits were a Strike King 10XD and a 3/4-ounce Strike King football jig with a Rage Craw trailer.
“Hopefully I can get back on my primary area tomorrow. I’ve got some other places where I can punt, but I really don’t want to.”
Rose’s best five weighed 22 pounds, 12 ounces.
“There were a couple of other guys there and one saw me catch the big one," Day said. "That's OK. It was exciting. I've had a rough year and today was a blast.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros on Lake Chickamauga after day one:
6th: Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., five bass, 22-10
7th: Justin Lucas of Guntersville, Ala., five bass, 22-3
8th: Jason Christie of Park Hill, Okla., five bass, 20-8
9th: Tom Redington of Royse City, Texas, five bass, 20-6
10th: Jim Moynagh of Carver, Minn., five bass, 20-2
Johnson leads day one for third time
“I got six bites all day but they were the right ones,” said Johnson, who finished second at Eufaula and fourth at Beaver. “I caught that 6-pound, 9-ouncer early and I had five good ones by 10 this morning. I kept fishing, but I made an extra effort to stay out of Shad’s way and he caught a big sack too.”
Johnson still has an outside chance at catching Richard Peek for Co-angler of the Year. But he’s really focused on having a better final round – as he’s led twice this season with one day remaining only to slide down the leaderboard.
“He would have to stumble tomorrow,” Johnson said of catching Peek. “But at least I’m putting some pressure on him.”
Johnson said he basically fished one deep spot all day and couldn’t yet reveal how he’s catching his fish.
In second place is co-angler Shane Winchester, who fished with Luke Clausen. Winchester said he and Clausen bounced back and forth between shallow and deep. The Glasgow, Ky., co-angler caught eight keepers and his best five weighed 18 pounds, 11 ounces. Three came from shallow water and two were offshore fish.
“We were pretty much around fish all day,” he said. “We fished deep, shallow, targeted docks and points. I caught most of my fish drop-shotting. That’s not my favorite way to fish but sometimes it works as a co-angler.”
Anchoring Winchester’s bag was a pair of 5-pounders.
“This lake is just full of fish. It was a slugfest out there for Luke.”
Kite, Mosley, Smith round out top five
John Kite of Festus, Mo., caught an 18-pound, 7-ounce limit for third place among the co-anglers. One of Kite’s big fish was a smallmouth that surpassed the 18-inch minimum length requirement.
Brock Mosley of Collinsville, Miss., caught a 17-pound limit for fourth.
Josh Smith of Hamilton, Ohio, rounds out the top five with 16 pounds, 13 ounces.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day one:
6th: Kenny Beale Jr. of Blairs, Va., five bass, 16-5
7th: Wesley Watson of Bracey, Va., five bass, 15-12
8th: Mike Hardin Sr. of Robertsdale, Ala., five bass, 15-6
9th: Mike Devere of Berea, Ky., five bass, 15-3
10th: Andrew Luxon of Richmond, Ky., five bass, 15-1
Day two of the FLW Tour on Lake Chickamauga will begin Friday at 6:30 a.m. from the Dayton Boat Dock located at 175 Lakeshore Drive in Dayton.