EUFAULA, Ala. — He may have saved the best for last in terms of weigh-in order, but Danny Murphy, of Granite Falls, N.C., actually got his work done early, en route to topping the Day 1 leaderboard at the B.A.S.S. Nation Southern Divisional on Lake Eufaula.
With Georgia’s Chase Hancock holding the top spot with 18 pounds, 14 ounces since the beginning of the weigh-in, Murphy brought up the day’s final bag and dropped 19-12 on the scales to secure the lead. Murphy said he believes a rise in lake level stimulated an early bite that allowed him to lock up the lead by late morning.
“The water had been low, but it came up overnight so we got on a deeper bank today,” he said. “The fish were moving in from the main lake to the back of the pockets.
“My boat partner and I caught our limit by 11, and we started looking around for more areas after that,” continued Murphy. “We didn’t pound it really hard.”
Murphy, a member of the Riverview Bass Anglers club, said he targeted prespawn staging positions with a Hawg Caller spinnerbait and a brown Shooter jig with a Zoom Super Chunk Jr. Murphy dipped the tips in chartreuse dye for additional visual appeal.
“The bigger ones were shallow, like in 2 feet of water,” he said. “I caught one of them under a dock, one of them under a tree, just here and there.”
Overall, the Day 1 weights were much lower than expected, and the 20-pound bags that many predicted never materialized. More than half the field fell short of the five-fish daily limit. The average fish was a little more than 2 1/2 pounds. The Top 10 had 16 pounds, 10 ounces or more, but the vast majority of competitors brought in 4 to 13 pounds for their total weight.
A cold front blew through Eufaula with the usual chilly rain a day before the tournament. True to form, the weather cleared in time for a brilliant sunrise, followed by the dreaded bluebird skies. This high pressure and bright sunlight probably tempered what should be a strong spring bite. Fortunately for competitors, the day brought steady increases in air and water temperatures, promising cues for a more active second day.
Eufaula mayor and Alabama team member Jack Tibbs jokingly lamented his team’s slow start, which is currently in sixth place.
“We wanted to be good hosts to everyone, but that’s just for today!” said Tibbs. “That front that came through really messed the fish up. But the fishing has been on fire and it should get better the next two days.”
Murphy agreed. He and second-place Hancock both noted observing shad spawn aggregations, which never go unnoticed by opportunistic bass. Warming weather plus abundant baitfish should have the fish ready to go on Day 2.
“We started seeing some shad activity later in the day, so I think tomorrow the bite should be good by early morning,” Murphy said.
Murphy’s North Carolina team placed third today with 145-7 in total weight, behind first-place Georgia (163-4) and second-place South Carolina (156-13). The Georgia B.A.S.S. Nation state team has two anglers in the Top 5, as well as a 6-pound, 7-ounce lead for the state competition
Other state leaders at the end of Day 1 are Coby Carden, Alabama; Chad Prough, Florida; Chase Hancock, Georgia; Michael Boggs, Kentucky; Danny Allen, South Carolina; and Raleigh Todd, Tennessee.
The winner of each state will advance to the 2014 B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
Jack Smith, of Cadiz, Tenn., is in the lead for the Carhartt Big Bass honors with his 7-pounder.
Competition resumes Thursday at 6 a.m. CT for the launch at Lakepoint State Park Marina. The weigh-in will be broadcast live at 2 p.m. CT on Bassmaster.com.