Dean Rojas of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. landed 5 bass that weighed 21 pounds, 2 ounces to lead day one of the Bassmaster Classic on Lake Hartwell near Greenville, S.C.
“I’m fishing slow,” Rojas said. “It’s pretty consistent all day. I caught 8 keepers today including one on my second cast of the day. I’m just totally jacked up to catch 20 more pounds at the Classic. I’m not going to get too ahead of myself. I feel like I can go do it again tomorrow. Just fishing slow but covering water.”
Rojas used a variety of baits on day one but was tight lipped on what exactly he’s fishing and how but feels confident it can happen again tomorrow.
This morning started out like most expected in the 2015 Bassmaster Classic at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C. —a frozen mess. Take off was pushed back because local and BASS officials knew that ice could be an issue and they wanted it to be daylight before they started the good fight. But even with pushing back launch more than an hour it was delayed further because of so many boats being frozen to their trailers and the caution they were using to have trailers drip the water off before pulling up the ramp so the ramp wouldn’t ice up.
We spent half the day on the water chasing pros around and watching it unfold. There was a good mix of guys running and gunning in the shallows and fishing deep slowly and vertically. The story of this event already looks to be who can get those few key big bites. There’s not a lot of them with the colder temperatures. But even guys that came in with 4 had good weight because they got some big bites. If a guy grinds out 5 big bites in one day they will jump to the top of the leaderboard.
Here’s a sampling of the field and what they had to say about the fishing today on Hartwell and their plans for tomorrow.
2nd Skeet Reese, 20 pounds, 2 ounces (5 fish)
I thought I had about 17 pounds. It’s a grind. I worked my tail off to get 6 or 7 bites today, but I was just fortunate to get two really good ones. I caught a fish on my very first cast today. Normally that’s a bad luck deal but not today. All I can do is just go out and grind and get on a little deal again. Obviously Dean got on a good deal today. There are some really good fish in this lake.
I’m fishing really quickly and I know a pattern to catch those 4 and 5 pounders but I didn’t have the time to run it on the short day. There are plenty of 20 pound bags on the lake but it’s a difficult lake to duplicate that in a tournament. I still think 46 pounds has a good chance to win this tournament. Tomorrow will be a good day. A lot of guys are catching fish first thing in the morning in practice and we’ll have more time to do that tomorrow. Hats off to Dean for catching what he did today.
3rd Keith Combs, 18 pounds, 8 ounces (5 fish)
I caught my first fish this morning in 36 degree water, the rest of my fish came from 45 degree water. I’m looking for something very specific. If I find it, I can catch fish. I’m fishing my bait incredibly slowly. Tomorrow I will be happy if I just catch 5 fish. I don’t think the warmer weather will really make a difference. I think it will still be tough. I’m fishing a lot of creeks off the main lake.
4th Brett Hite, 15 pounds, 7 ounces (5 fish)
I caught that big 4-8 spot on my very first drop with a drop shot today. I thought to myself, ‘oh man, it’s going to be on today.’ But it was a grind to catch those fish today. I actually had to go to a secondary pattern to fill out my limit.
Man I only caught one fish doing my deep thing. But I had my secondary deal and ran that and it saved me today. I know from past experience you have to have that to do well here because you just have these days where the fish just vacate all the deep places. I am going to run all that stuff again tomorrow and they are liable to be on every place. So you have to have both a shallow and a deep deal you can to survive on those crazy days.
I’ll fish my same stuff and run both deals again but I’ll probably start out deep again and check that because I still believe that’s where you’ll win.
5th Randy Howell, 15 pounds, 5 ounces (5 fish)
I had 7 keepers that I put in the boat and about 3 others that hit it pulled for a second or two and got off and then I had one great big one that I had hook that rolled off during the fight. But I’m just running up the river where the water gets a little dirtier where I can fish a medium diving crankbait. I only saw 3 other boats up there and they were all fishing way up past where I was fishing.
I knew today would be the tough day for fishing the pattern I was fishing, so if I could just survive today, maybe it would get better later in the event. I feel like with the clouds and warmer temps and wind coming that my deal could get better. I didn’t find the blueback feeding deal so I decided to spend my time in the river where the bluebacks aren’t so significant.
8th Greg Hackney, 14 pounds, 15 ounces (4 fish)
I’m fortunate to have what I have and that they weighed a little more than I thought they did. I had a little bit of a late start and they started biting pretty good when I had to leave. So I’m glad to have the fish. It’s tough out there. That weather was something. Fishing is funny. When they are biting it doesn’t matter if it raining hammered nails, it’s no big deal. But when they are not biting you start concerning yourself with the weather.
I didn’t catch my first fish until noon. At 11:45 my mindset was pretty terrible because I let the weather creep into my head. But I caught my limit really quick once it started happening. I was catching fish that I had already fished for earlier in the day. They just turned on finally. The cold doesn’t bother me but you have issues with your equipment and it’s so hard to fish efficiently. When you’re only fishing for a few bites, you need to be efficient to have a shot.
9th Mike Iaconelli, 14 pounds, 7 ounces (4 fish)
It’s frustrating man. I had a shallow deal that I was going to do for the first couple of hours each day on that blueback golden hour deal and then I was going to go deep and fish for a few big bites. Today I ran a couple of pockets early and I had a 3-pounder just headbutt my bait. I saw him come up and hit the swimbait without ever opening his mouth. I was crushed because it was early and I was counting on a few fish in that early morning deal.
I went deep and had some really good fish but I only had those 5 bites today so weighing 4 fish is frustrating. I’m around the fish to do it. I mean if a guy gets 5 of those to bite he could have a really good bag. But it just didn’t happen today. I mean I’m fishing a jig out deep and I feel like that’s the way to win here. But I just have to get 5 to bite and that’s pretty hard right now. Maybe with a full 8-hour day tomorrow I can do it. I really think I can get them to bite in that first couple of hours in my pockets but I need the low light to do it.
12th Chris Lane, 14 pounds (5 fish)
I only caught 5 fish today. I had one more on but it came off. Two of my fish were just under 4 pounds. I’m fishing shallow and today was more of getting a little groove of understanding where these fish are sitting when I approach an area. I’m committed to going for the quality bites at the sacrifice of quantity. I believe the way I’m fishing now has the potential to produce some big ones. I’m not thinking about or considering the weather. It’s out of my control so I’ll just keep doing what I’m doing.
13th Paul Mueller, 13 pounds, 12 ounces (5 fish)
I had to fish deep today more than I wanted because of the conditions. I ran around the mid lake area. I had a 4 pounder on Reins Bubbling Shaker on a drop shot. I had several on the Reins 4-inch Reins Fat Rockvibe Shad swimbait on a 1/2 ounce head. I started out throwing a swimbait on a fish head spin and they were just bumping the bait. So I took the spinner head off and just threw it on a plain swimbait head.
I caught a 4-pound largemouth fishing out deep for spots and didn’t catch a big one fishing shallow for largemouth. I went to some of my main areas in practice that had bait an they had no bait today. So I think it’s about revisiting areas each day and figuring out where the bait has moved to and then fishing in those areas.
The short day hurt everyone but it hurt me because I wanted to run around a little more and I couldn’t. I had to just focus on one small section of the lake. I think tomorrow I will be able to burn a little more gas and figure it out as I go. I want to go more on a pattern tomorrow and Sunday. So I want to get out there and piece it together a little faster tomorrow so I can run around and make it work and find the right bites.
16th Mike McClelland, 12 pounds, 2 ounces (5 fish)
It was an issue for me with the ice in my reels. When everything ices up in your rod guides it messes up your cadence. I didn’t feel like I was in a rhythm. I caught a lot of smaller spots today where I was catching bigger largemouths in practice. I would have switched to a jig day to counter the ice issue, but I just couldn’t get that pattern dialed in perfectly. I feel confident I can turn it around the next two days.
26th Gerald Swindle, 8 pounds, 13 ounces (5 fish)
My day was all about hand warmers. I had hand warmers stuck in places that would embarrass Miley Cyrus. Do they make a snot sleeve? I am about tired of wiping my nose with velcro sleeves.
Made some mistakes this morning and didn’t fish where I should have. I went fished for spots for 2 hours and then I pulled out my largemouth deal and caught 8 keepers from about 10:50 to 2:00pm. I’m really not fishing a lot of water. It’s a pretty small area. I thought if I could catch 14 pounds, I would stay in the hunt. But on this lake you can catch an 18-pound bag and you can get right back in it. But there’s a lot of us fishing up there. Hopefully tomorrow if I get a full day doing my largemouth deal, I can get back in this thing. I’m going to go home and put my hands on the heater for an hour to thaw out.
35th John Crews, 7 pounds, 8 ounces (2 fish)
I only got two bites the entire day. I think the delayed start affected my day. I caught a 4 pounder right off the bat. I was on a good morning bite in practice, but missed it with the late start. I had two areas of the lake that I liked in practice but they are too far apart to fish on a short day like today. So tomorrow I’m going to the other area. I think that morning bite is key for me. I fished today how I thought you were supposed to fish this lake to win the Classic. If this was a normal tournament, I wouldn’t be fishing like this.
38th Shin Fukae, 6 pounds, 14 ounces (5 fish)
I’m catching my fish deep on a drop shot Yamamoto California Roll. I can get bites but I just haven’t found the quality yet. If you get the drop shot around one, they will eat it. But it’s just hard to get the bait around one right now.
41st Randall Tharp, 4 pounds, 8 ounces (2 fish)
This is one of those days I wish I could just forget. The Bassmaster Classic only comes along once a year and you can’t have a bad day in this event. My water in my motorhome froze up, then my boat was frozen to trailer for 15 minutes this morning. Then I ran around to my area I was going to fish all morning and it was a solid sheet of ice. Then to top it all off my truck driver broke my rim and blew the tire on my truck. So I’m going to go fix my tire and forget about today and just go tomorrow and try to catch one of those big bags that this lake can produce to get back in this.