Canadians Gustafson 14th, Chris Johnston 31nd & Cory Johnston 49th
Matt Robertson of Kuttawa, Ky., is leading after Day 2 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake with a two-day total of 40 pounds, 5 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Saito)
DAYTON, Tenn. — Before this week’s Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Chickamauga Lake, Matt Robertson made an important decision.
After a tough start to his season, the second-year Elite Series pro from Kentucky came into this week determined to fish more to his strengths — and so far, the strategy has worked well as he’s climbed into the lead with a two-day total of 40 pounds, 5 ounces. He caught 21-13 on Day 1 to open in third place and added 18-8 Friday to move atop the leaderboard heading into Semifinal Saturday.
An offshore prespawn pattern has been the ticket for him so far.
“I know the fish are still wanting to spawn, so I’m happy we got this little cold snap to slow them down a little bit,” Robertson said. “I’m throwing a lipless bait in grass and then going headhunting with a big swimbait after that.
“Yesterday, I was fortunate enough to get a couple of big bites out of the grass, but today I didn’t. That was really the only difference in the two bags.”
Robertson’s biggest bass Friday — a 5 1/2-pound largemouth — came on the big swimbait around 11:40 a.m. That was the only difference-making fish the lure produced, but he’s confident in his two-pronged approach.
“Tomorrow, I’m gonna do the same thing, just fishing for five bites,” he said. “I don’t care if I catch a fish, I’m going to fish how I want, do what I want. If I come in with no fish tomorrow, that’s fine because I’m fishing how I want.”
After picture-perfect weather on Thursday, the temperature dropped 20 degrees Friday and the winds blew 10 to 20 mph all day with occasional light rain and even some sleet.
While the conditions might not have been pleasant for many on the lake, Robertson said they helped in multiple ways. Besides the cold weather possibly delaying the approaching spawn, the wind also gave him a boost.
“Whenever that wind blows, the fish bite — especially on a lake with this kind of pressure,” he said. “The only thing that equalizes the pressure is the weather. I wanted it to blow hard.”
With more cold, windy weather on tap for Saturday, Robertson is feeling plenty confident. But he’ll need to keep up the pace with Japanese rookie Daisuke Aoki just 1 ounce behind him with 40-4.
Aoki, who was in second place with 23-12 after Day 1, maintained that spot despite a lighter bag of 16-8 on Friday. After weighing in a five-bass limit that included two 7-pounders on Day 1, his two biggest bass Friday were in the 4-pound range.
Aoki has been using the same two-part game plan all week.
“I started off with the shallow pattern today early just like I did yesterday. Then as it got tougher, I moved offshore,” said Aoki, with longtime B.A.S.S. photographer Seigo Saito serving as his translator. “The fish are getting less and less in my area, so it was tougher today.”
The plan for Saturday, Aoki said, is a little less certain.
“I’m going to start out doing the same thing I did today — start sight fishing shallow and then move offshore when that gets tougher,” he said. “But then I’m going to have to go searching for new bites.”
One of the most consistent anglers in the event has been Mississippi pro Brock Mosley, who now sits in third place with a two-day total of 38-1. After catching 19-6 Thursday, Mosley added 18-11 Friday and will start Saturday less than 2 1/2 pounds back of the leader.
“I honestly didn’t know if I could catch one at all going out yesterday morning, and I felt the same way going out today,” said Mosley, who has four second-place Elite Series finishes on his resume. “I figured out one deal in practice the last afternoon, and yesterday I went and did it until about 11 o’clock.
“Today, I stayed at it all day and ended up catching about 15 keepers.”
Like Robertson, Mosley welcomed the colder, windier weather.
“I’ve always said these Tennessee River fish seem to like nasty weather,” he said. “I don’t know what it’s going to do to these shallow fish. But where I’m fishing, I think those fish kind of live out there all the time.”
Florida pro Scott Martin took Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day honors with a 9-12 largemouth. His bass ranks behind the 10-5 caught by Wisconsin's Pat Schlapper on Thursday for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Week.
It took 25-10 to make the Top 47 semifinal cut — and by placing 20th with 32-9, Florida pro John Cox maintained his lead in the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 366 points. He is followed by Drew Cook of Georgia (339), Brandon Palaniuk of Idaho (336), Drew Benton of Georgia (326) and Clifford Pirch of Arizona (325).
The lead continues to change hands in the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race, as Wisconsin pro Jay Przekurat moved back into the top spot with 299 points. Alabamian Joseph Webster (255) fell into second place, followed by Masayuki Matsushita of Japan (197), Jonathan Kelley of Pennsylvania (191) and Matty Wong of Hawaii (189).
Wong jumped from ninth place in the ROY standings to fifth by catching 25-13 Friday — a five-bass limit that currently leads the race for VMC Monster Bag of the Week. With a two-day total of 36-6, the native Hawaiian moved into eighth place in the event.
The Top 47 remaining anglers will take off Saturday at 7 a.m. ET from Dayton Boat Dock with weigh-in back at the dock at 3 p.m. After Saturday’s weigh-in, only the Top 10 will compete on Championship Sunday for a chance at the $100,000 first-place prize.
FS1 will broadcast live with the tournament leaders beginning at 8 a.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday. Live coverage can also be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms.