Canadians: Gallant 26th, Cory Johnston 48th, Chris Johnston 65th & Gustafson 75th
Matt Robertson of Kuttawa, Ky., is leading after Day 1 of the Marathon Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray with 25 pounds, 8 ounces. ( Photo: Seigo Saito/ BASS)
COLUMBIA, S.C. — At mid-morning, things were far from perfect for Matt Robertson.
With three little bass in his livewell, the Kuttawa, Ky., pro was back at the ramp at Dreher Island State Park trying to work out some motor issues and calm more than a few frustrations.
Fortunately, he was able to get them fixed and had one of his best days on the water this season, catching 25 pounds, 8 ounces. That has him leading the Marathon Bassmaster Elite at Lake Murray with a 2-8 advantage over second-place angler Drew Benton.
Robertson's five-bass limit was anchored by the Phoenix Boats Big Bass of the Day, a 6-14 largemouth.
“You know what? I’m happy my boat broke down,” he said. “Because if it hadn’t, I probably wouldn’t have caught those fish. Some things just happen for a reason.
‘I’m telling you, I can take a lot of credit for a lot (of stuff), but today wasn’t me. It was something else. We’ll just roll with it.”
As many anticipated, Lake Murray is showing out so far. The weather was almost as good as the fishing, with 16 bags over 20 pounds hitting the scales on the warm, calm April day. Of the 103 anglers competing, 97 limits were recorded and every angler caught at least two bass.
Robertson has spent some time on the central South Carolina reservoir in the past, but most of those days were in winter.
While the day couldn’t have started much worse for Robertson, he got into a rhythm when he was able to return to the water after midday. Every bass he brought back to weigh-in was caught after 12:50 p.m. according to BassTrakk.
“I just kind of went with it and went fishing,” he said. “I just assumed I was going to weigh in three for 6 pounds. I’ve been caring too much and today I stopped.”
Robertson’s practice period did not go particularly well either. He had only one decent day on the water and decided to run some new water when the tournament began. His afternoon rally went down on a couple of different spots.
There were several other competitors in the area, but they filtered out as the day wore on.
“I caught all of the big ones on one bait mostly,” he said. “These places have big ones. I think I just got lucky.
“I hope I can be as lucky tomorrow as I was today.”
Benton, meanwhile, has felt right at home on Lake Murray. The Panama City, Fla., pro caught 23-0 on Day 1 cruising around the shallows looking for spawning largemouth.
“I had some things go my way today,” Benton said. “I went and caught bed fish early. Went to one that was probably done and it was 20 or 30 feet off the bed. I pitched a wacky worm to it as I was going up there and got it to bite. That was my biggest one. If stuff like that doesn't happen today, then I (would have) had 18 pounds.”
Benton found one section of the lake in practice where the water is a little cooler, and that is where he has been focusing much of his attention. The warmest water he has seen in that area is 70 degrees.
With his trolling motor on high, he has been cruising around looking for beds. In between spawners, Benton said he picked up a few bonus fish by throwing a moving bait.
Along with the bedding bass he found in practice, he found several new ones Thursday. Others he found were completely gone.
He spent an hour on a big female and thought it was going to bite. But just when he thought it was going to bite, it vanished.
“I think we are right in the middle of the spawn, moving toward the end,” he said. “There are some that are yet to spawn. Some of them are done, obviously. This place is kind of odd. They move up and do it really fast and get gone really fast.”
Benton added that he tried to find bass that were keying on blueback herring, but couldn’t find anything consistent.
Patrick Walters has plenty of history of Lake Murray and that helped him locate and catch 22-11 on Day 1. The Summerville, S.C., native bounced around several areas and caught bass doing just about everything.
“I did what I needed to do today,” Walters said. “The goal today was to survive. I’m thinking my bite is going to get better as the week goes. I’m catching some spawning fish. I’m catching some fish that are moving around. My goal was to be consistent every day.”
An assortment of baits played for Walters in two sections of the lake — one of which was better than the other.
Since the herring spawn is not progressing as quickly as Walters thought it might, a lot of the bass he is catching are roaming.
“I’m just looking for as many fish as I can possibly find,” he said. “You aren’t going to catch them until they are ready to bite. So, it is about being in the right place at the right time.”
Louisiana pro Tyler Rivet, who is in 12th place after Day 1 with 20-5, continues to lead the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year race with 299 points. He is followed by South Carolina’s Brandon Cobb with 282 points, North Carolina’s Shane LeHew with 260, Australian pro Carl Jocumsen with 258 and Alabamian Kyle Welcher with 257.
The full field will launch from Dreher Island State Park beginning at 7 a.m. ET Friday morning and return for weigh-in at 3 p.m. The field will be cut to the Top 50 anglers after the Day 2 weigh-in. Bassmaster LIVE coverage begins at 8 a.m. on Bassmaster.com, Tubi and the FOX Sports platforms.