|Brandon Card of Salisbury, N.C., is leading after Day 1 of the 2022 Guaranteed Rate Bassmaster Elite at Lake Oahe with 21 pounds, 10 ounces. (Photo: Seigo Saito/BASS)|
The Tennessee native turned North Carolinian holds narrow advantages of 1-4 over Georgia's Drew Cook in second and 1-5 over South Carolina angler Patrick Walters in third. With his Day 1 bag, Card exceeded the biggest bag weighed at the 2018 Elite Series event on Oahe, a 20-11 sack brought in by Clifford Pirch.
“I didn’t know how good it was going to be. I had high hopes, and it turned out to be a lot better than I thought,” Card said. “It was weird. I had several flurries, but then lots of just nothing. There were hours of no bites and then several in a row. It was like there were small little feeding windows.”
With a rotation of baits, Card caught quality bass that were consistent in size, with his biggest smallmouth weighing 4-14.
Despite seeing miles of dead water, Card located six or seven areas in practice that held decent schools of smallmouth. One of those areas produced most of his action on Day 1, while he didn’t end up going to another of his better areas.
Fishing what he called “pretty deep,” Card landed a limit early and culled several times throughout the day.
A calm start quickly gave way to a gusty north wind that got stronger, giving Lake Oahe a decent chop. While that may sound daunting, Card said it actually improved his bite.
“In the South, a north wind is bad,” Card said. “But it must be good up here because they bit way better today with a north wind than the south wind for the three days of practice. It was interesting that they turned on with a north wind.”
Using his Humminbird MEGA Live imaging, Card has been able to see several different types of baitfish — and while he doesn’t know what types there are, they are the key to his bite.
“When you start seeing life, the bass aren’t too far away,” he said.
Cook got off to a frantic start, landing all of his 20-6 limit of smallmouth during a 30-minute stretch as soon as he reached his first spot.
“I ran an hour one way, sat the boat down, panned over on LiveScope and I hooked one the first pitch I made into them,” the 2022 Santee Cooper Elite champion said. “They sat under the boat and for 30 minutes I caught them at will. After that, the strategy kicked in. I still had a 3-something I wanted to get rid of but it wasn’t worth burning an 18-pound bag over. So, I left.”
Cook had five drop shots ready to go on his deck with a Big Bite Baits Scentsation SoMolly in a smelt color and a Big Bite Baits Scentsation Quarantine Craw with the pinchers removed. As soon as he hooked and landed one smallmouth, he would unhook it and drop to the next one with a different rod. Once he had hooked one on each of his drop shots, he re-rigged and started the process over.
“I had no idea it was like it was,” he said. “There is a different caliber of fish once you get to a point in the lake. They really start eating the bigger-profile bait. Whenever you hook one, they are spitting it up everywhere. They are spitting out like eight or 10 of them.”
Following his 30-minute rally, Cook essentially practiced the rest of the day. With the wind projected to blow harder out of the north tomorrow, he looked at areas closer to takeoff in the event the wind is too bad to make the run to his primary spot on Friday.
Walters did not benefit from a quick start but managed to work his way to a limit of smallmouth weighing 20-5 despite having a 14-incher in his bag.
“At 11:30, I only had three fish. I pulled up on a spot and on the first drop I caught one that was 12 inches,” Walters said. “At that point, I was so happy with that fish. I dropped back down there and caught a 2-pounder, and dropped down there again and caught another big one and culled the 12-incher.”
After practice, Walters thought he would be throwing a topwater bait with the goal of catching 15 to 17 pounds. On tournament day, Walters rotated through 12 different rods and kept an open mind.
“Don’t commit to anything,” he said. “Just go until you find the fish. Day 1 of practice I caught them in 3 feet with a topwater. Day 2 I caught them in 40 feet. Today I caught them in 25 to 30. Really, you find the good areas that have the bait and smallmouth and adjust accordingly.”
Greenwood, S.C., pro Brandon Cobb anchored his 18-13 bag with a 5-12 smallmouth, earning the $1,000 prize for Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day.
Rathdrum, Idaho’s Brandon Palaniuk remains on top of the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 665 points. David Mullins from Mt. Carmel, Tenn., is second with 609, and Georgia pro Drew Benton moved into third with 600.
Wisconsin pro Jay Przekurat continues to lead the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race with 541 points. Tennessee pro Jacob Foutz is second with 461, followed by Missouri pro Cody Huff with 457.
The full field of 90 anglers will launch from Indian Creek Recreation Area beginning at 7 a.m. CT Friday and return for weigh-in at the Walleye Up Statue in Mobridge starting at 3 p.m. The field will be cut to the Top 47 anglers after the Day 2 weigh-in, and the Top 10 will compete on Championship Sunday for a first-place prize of $100,000.
Bassmaster LIVE Coverage of Day 2 will begin on Bassmaster.com beginning at 7 a.m. CT and run through 2 p.m. Omnia Fishing and B.A.S.S. have partnered to simulcast Day 2 of Bassmaster LIVE as a shoppable stream on Omnia’s website and mobile app.