Thursday, March 28, 2024

DAIWA: Better "Bait Finesse" Fishing


DAIWA’s "pixy" PX BF70 baitcaster provides supreme performance in an ultralight, palmable package. 

Just when you thought every conceivable freshwater fishing technique was a, “been there, done that,” something novel comes along. Such is the case with “Bait Finesse,” aka BF.

Like many hyper-techy methods, BF has Japanese origins. The allied Asian nation supports a robust number of anglers who pursue bass on a limited number of freshwater resources. Consequently, the fish, being under pressure, are warier and less likely to accept conventional North American bass baits like flamboyant spinnerbaits, aggressive topwaters, upsized crankbaits, and such.

So, to combat these challenging conditions, the Japanese developed BF. And like other specialized Japanese techniques and baits – dropshotting, spybaits, Senko worms, etc. – it’s come ashore to North American waters.  

The baseline for BF is presenting smaller, more natural baits with the same authority achieved via their larger counterparts. To do so requires the downsizing of gear without sacrificing performance. And that necessitates specialized baitcasting gear.

The good news is that a dedicated BF baitcasting reel is now available stateside: DAIWA’s new PX BF70.

“It’s ninja fishing,” said DAIWA Marketing Manager about BF. “Think of those stealthy anglers who fish small lakes, ponds, streams, and canals. They travel light, and fish small and technically. BF is gaining momentum with this crowd.”

Wednesday, March 27, 2024

Shimano Unleashes the Next Evolution in Baitcasting Excellence

Shimano North America Fishing, a renowned global leader in the fishing industry, is proud to announce the debut of the redesigned CAIUS C low-profile baitcaster. This updated CAIUS encapsulates the perfect blend of cutting-edge technology and attainable pricing. 

Inside the lightweight, compact body of the CAIUS, anglers will discover a host of proven technologies designed to elevate the fishing experience. The Variable Brake System (VBS) is a standout feature, employing centrifugal force and weights instead of magnets to temper initial spool acceleration. This Innovative design allows the spool to spin freely until the end of the cast, significantly reducing backlash. Paired with CAIUS’ Super Free Spool technology, friction is eliminated, offering a baitcasting experience that redefines overall casting performance.

MSRP: $79.99

Shimano proudly introduces the revolutionary S3D Spool technology in the CAIUSa game changer in reducing spool vibration. Crafted from balanced and uniform thin-wall aluminum, the S3D Spool ensures an incredibly smooth casting and retrieving experience, setting new standards for baitcasting enthusiasts. 

“The CAIUS redesign represents a leap forward in baitcasting excellence,” says Freshwater Marketing Manager Bob Mahoney. “With the introduction of S3D technology, we’ve significantly reduced spool vibration to provide anglers with an unmatched smoothness in casting and retrieving lures. Furthermore, we’ve trimmed the weight by 12% compared to the 2019 model, making it a lightweight option designed for anglers with unmatched smoothness in casting and retrieving lures.”

Monday, March 25, 2024

Justin Hamner Wins 2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors on Grand Lake!

Canadians Cory Johnston 6th, Gallant 12th & Chris Johnston 25th

By Bryan Brasher


When most anglers win the Super Bowl of Bass Fishing, they at least pretend like it came as the biggest surprise of their lives.

But not Justin Hamner.

The fourth-year Bassmaster Elite Series pro from Northport, Ala., said openly that he “just had a feeling” coming into this year’s Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors that he was going to win — and in three days on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees, he turned that feeling into a hard-core reality.

Hamner completed an assault on B.A.S.S. history with a Championship Sunday limit of five bass that weighed 15 pounds, 13 ounces, and pushed his three-day total to 58-3. He became only the 10th angler in the 54-year history of the event to lead all three days.

“I have no idea what’s been going on, but this past month has been pretty dang good,” said Hamner, who earned $300,000 and the coveted Ray Scott trophy. “I can’t explain it, but I really did feel like I had a good chance to win.”

That feeling wasn’t exactly reinforced during a tough practice when Hamner said the best bass he caught was a 3-pounder. But he started the tournament on the spot where he caught that fish and used a shad-colored, deep-diving jerkbait to put together a limit that weighed 22-6 and gave him the Day 1 lead.

He went back there for Day 2. But, just like in practice, he couldn’t replicate a pattern and was forced to redirect.

“The wind was blowing a ton of bait into the pocket I was fishing,” he said. “When all of that bait got in there, those fish were keyed in on the bait and they wouldn’t bite my jerkbait. I couldn’t make them bite it, and I still can’t really explain it.”

That’s when Hamner relocated again and started using Garmin LiveScope to target largemouth in brushpiles. He quickly caught two 5-pounders that pushed him to a 20-pound limit and helped him maintain the lead going into the final day.

Despite being in the most visible spot a professional angler can hold, Hamner said he never got nervous until around 1 p.m. on Championship Sunday. At that point, he said he lost four big bass, but he couldn’t say if nerves caused him to lose the fish or if losing the fish caused the nerves.

Sunday, March 24, 2024

Justin Hamner Wins 2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors on Grand Lake!


Hamner wins! Story to follow.

2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors on Grand Lake Day 2: Justin Hamner Widens Lead!

Canadians Gallant 6th, Cory Johnston 20th, Chris Johnston 22nd & Gustafson 31st

By Bryan Brasher


Since practice began last week, Alabama pro Justin Hamner says he hasn’t been able to duplicate two patterns from one day to the next.

That trend continued Saturday, but it doesn’t seem to be affecting him adversely.

Hamner caught yet another five-bass limit that weighed 20 pounds and increased his two-day total to 42 pounds, 6 ounces, to maintain the lead in the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees.

Hamner, who has seemed strangely calm all week, said his only plan for Championship Sunday is to “win the Bassmaster Classic.” Beyond that, he isn’t sure what he’ll be doing once the tournament resumes.

“The dream is going pretty good so far, but we’ve still got one more day,” said Hamner, who is fishing only his second career Classic. “I had to do something totally different today than what I did on the first day of the tournament. The area I started in this morning had completely changed, and I left there around 10 or 10:30 (a.m.).

“In my new spot, I immediately caught three big ones and left there.”

Hamner had been hoping that increased winds would improve his bite. But on Saturday, he said it actually hurt him and forced him to change his plans.

“Yesterday, when I caught all of those fish in those creeks, there was zero bait,” he said. “Today, the wind actually blew directly into those creeks and the fish were more active. They were feeding on the bait, but I could not get those fish to bite.

“It was the weirdest thing and I have no explanation for it.”

The forecast for Championship Sunday calls for 20 to 30 mph winds with occasional gusts up to 40 mph. Hamner said he plans to start on the same brushpiles where he caught his best fish Saturday — and if that doesn’t work, he’ll redirect on the fly once again.

Friday, March 22, 2024

2024 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors on Grand Lake Day 1: Justin Hamner Scores 22-06lbs for Lead!

Canadians Chris Johnston 17th, Gallant 28th, Gustafson 29th & Cory Johnston 38th!

By Bryan Brasher


TULSA, Okla. — “I’m leading the Bassmaster Classic,” said Justin Hamner, sounding as much like he was asking a question as making a statement. 

But it was 100% true. 

The young pro from Northport, Ala., weighed in 22 pounds, 6 ounces Friday to take the Day 1 lead at the Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Classic presented by Jockey Outdoors. The fourth-year member of the Bassmaster Elite Series found a pattern on Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees that placed him just over a pound ahead of Missouri pro Cody Huff and continued the flow of what has been a dream 2024 season. 

“This whole year has just been so much fun,” said Hamner, who opened his Elite Series season with a 14th-place finish at Toledo Bend and a third-place showing at Lake Fork last month. “I’ve just been fishing free and doing what I want to do with no stress. I’m just going back to my roots and bass fishing knowing it’s my only job for the first time ever.

“It still hits me sometimes that this is the first year that I don’t have to have a side job anymore. This is what I do now — and obviously, I couldn’t be any happier than I am right now.”

2024 Classic Release: Old Town® Introduces Limited Edition AutoPilot

Fire Tiger colorway pays homage to the classic lure pattern

Old Town®, built on a legacy of quality and innovation, is thrilled to release the limited edition Fire Tiger colorway, paying homage to the legendary lure color of the same name. The Fire Tiger colorway is available in the Old Town Sportsman Line AutoPilot 120 and 136, with limited runs of each model being produced.

“Fewer fishing colors are as universally cherished as fire tiger,” says

Ryan Lilly,  Johnson Outdoors Watercraft Brand Evangelist “This limited edition Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot FireTiger is a celebration of our angling heritage, showcasing the vibrant chartreuse and orange hues synonymous with the mainstay lure color in every angler’s arsenal.” Old Town® reimagined fishing from a kayak with the introduction of the AutoPilot at ICAST in 2020. Now, anglers can further stand out from the competition and increase their chances of landing their next “personal best” in the limited edition Fire Tiger colorway. Additionally, Old Town has partnered with Berkley to include a selection of bait, tackle, and fishing line with each Fire Tiger purchase. The Old Town Sportsman AutoPilot remains the pinnacle watercraft for hands-free fishing. Anglers can command this high-tech kayak.  For more information on Old Town® and where to find a Limited Edition Fire Tiger kayak, visit

Wednesday, March 20, 2024

Who’s in the 2024 Classic?

 See who is in the 2024 Bassmaster Classic in Tulsa, Okla., on Grand Lake ‘O the Cherokees March 22–24.

Find out who's competing in the 2024 Bassmaster Classic on Grand Lake. 
Click on the photo to link over to see the competitors. 

Monday, March 18, 2024

Dustin Connell Wins 2024 Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Powered by OPTIMA Lithium on Lay Lake!

Make it 2! Connell dominates on Lay Lake for second REDCREST victory

Mitchell Forde

BASS PRO TOUR Press Release 

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Just about every day in the 13 months since Major League Fishing announced that Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Powered by OPTIMA Lithium would take place on Lay Lake, Dustin Connell has thought about what it would be like to taste victory at the Coosa River impoundment where he grew up fishing. 

But in all his dreaming, scheming and practicing, the Clanton, Alabama, native didn’t envision this.

Connell routed the rest of the Championship Round field Sunday, stacking 28 scorable bass for 83 pounds on SCORETRACKER® – more than 30 pounds better than runner-up Alton Jones Jr. The dominant performance earned Connell $300,000 and made him the first ever two-time winner of the Bass Pro Tour’s championship event.

It wasn’t just his margin of victory that surprised Connell, but how he made it happen. As recently as Saturday evening, he planned to spend the final day fishing current seams in the riverine portion of the reservoir, as he had during the Knockout Round. But at the last minute, he called an audible, opting to start on the lower end of the lake targeting suspended, schooling spotted bass. One of several clutch decisions he made over the four-day event, doing so led to Connell landing on a pile of unpressured bass and unleashing an avalanche that buried the rest of the Top 10.

“This tournament has been on my radar ever since they announced it last year,” Connell said. “I’m like, ‘Oh man, I gotta win that one. That’s a great opportunity. I gotta win that one.’ And I won it today unexpectedly. I didn’t know that many (were) in there. They just moved in there.”

Here’s how the Top 10 anglers finished the Championship Round:

  1. Dustin Connell — 83-0 (28 bass)

  2. Alton Jones Jr. — 52-2 (19)

  3. Ron Nelson — 39-9 (12)

  4. Takahiro Omori — 36-11 (13)

  5. Jesse Wiggins — 32-8 (12)

  6. Jacob Wheeler — 29-13 (11)

  7. Gerald Spohrer — 29-9 (11)

  8. Cole Floyd — 25-15 (10)

  9. Nick Hatfield — 24-2 (9)

  10. Michael Neal — 18-1 (7)

Complete results

A fresh approach to a familiar playing field

Competing on a fishery that an angler knows well comes with obvious advantages. Connell put his lifetime of experience on the Coosa River to use all week – knowing how baitfish and bass would behave amid the heavy current that rolled through Lay Lake, where bass would set up in that current, the best baits to trigger bites.

Sunday, March 17, 2024

2024 Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Powered by OPTIMA Lithium on Lay Lake Day 3: Cornell Leaps into Lead!

Dustin Connell won the Knockout Round with 18 bass weighing 52 pounds, 14 ounces. Photo by Garrick Dixon.

Mitchell Forde

BASS PRO TOUR Press Release

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The Knockout Round at Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Powered by OPTIMA Lithium turned into a no-holds-barred melee. It didn’t matter whether anglers were chasing spotted bass with forward-facing sonar, beating the bank or dissecting current, the bite caught fire across Lay Lake, with the top spot on SCORETRACKER® and the weight needed to qualify for Sunday’s Championship Round fluctuating all day as a result.

Ultimately, Dustin Connell wound up atop the leaderboard with 18 scorable bass for 52 pounds, 15 ounces. Connell, who lives in nearby Clanton, Alabama, bailed on the main-lake area where he caught most of his fish during the Qualifying Round, instead opting to run up the river and fish beneath the Logan Martin dam. He started slow, spending the first two periods below the cut line, before making an adjustment and boating 10 spotted bass for 29 pounds even in the final period. He finished just 1 ounce ahead of Gerald Spohrer

Meanwhile, after 39-1 across two days proved enough to qualify for the Knockout Round, it took nearly as much Saturday alone to earn a spot in the Top 10 and a shot at the $300,000 first-place paycheck. Nick Hatfield claimed the 10th and final spot with 38-14, 1-8 ahead of BFL All-American champion Emil Wagner. University of Montevallo angler Dalton Head narrowly missed extending his dream event another day as well, finishing 12th.

With weights once again zeroing overnight, all 10 qualifiers in the stacked Championship Round field will have a chance to win the single-day sprint for the trophy. MLFNOW! will provide live coverage of all the action starting at 7:15 a.m. CT. 

Full results can be found here.

Connell committed to old-school current fishing

Connell has emerged as a vocal proponent of forward-facing sonar, and for good reason. The technology played a role in each of his five previous Bass Pro Tour wins, including Stage One on Toledo Bend.

Saturday, March 16, 2024

2024 Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Powered by OPTIMA Lithium on Lay Lake Day 2: Ryan Salzman Grabs Lead!

Ryan Salzman caught 10 bass for 30-3 on Friday and a two-day total of 65-14 and a Qualifying Round win.

Mitchell Forde

BASS PRO TOUR Press Release

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Since the start of practice, the buzzword at Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Powered by OPTIMA Lithium has been “change.” That remained the case on the second day of qualifying, with Thursday’s sunny skies giving way to morning thunderstorms and subsequent overcast conditions.

The ever-evolving spring bite on Lay Lake shifted as a result, and so did the name atop SCORETRACKER®. Alabama pro Ryan Salzman climbed to the top spot with a two-day total of 65 pounds, 14 ounces. Fishing at the upper end of the playing field below Logan Martin Dam, Salzman boated 10 scorable bass Friday for the second day in a row, adding 30-3 to his tab for a 65-14 Qualifying Round total. 

Salzman leads a tightly bunched and dangerous group of anglers at the top of the standings. Coosa River local and 2021 REDCREST champion Dustin Connell finished the round in second place with 63-4. Within 4 pounds of him are former Bass Pro Tour winners Michael Neal and Jesse Wiggins as well as Dalton Head, the Abu Garcia College Fishing representative from the University of Montevallo who happens to call Lay his home lake. 

Considering the logjam at the top of the leaderboard and the fact that weights will zero when the Top 20 anglers take the water for Saturday’s Knockout Round, the race for the championship trophy and $300,000 first-place paycheck remains wide open. Just about every technique still has a chance to account for the win, too, as the suspended spotted bass pattern that dominated Day 1 appeared to cool and shallow power fishing in pockets, bedding bass and heavy current all produced big days.

The Top 10 finishers during the Knockout Round will qualify for Sunday’s Championship Round. All the action during the final two days can be streamed live on MLFNOW! from 7:15 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT each day.

Complete tournament results can be found here.

Salzman fishing his strengths

Salzman first branched out from pond fishing as a college student at North Alabama on the shores of Pickwick Lake. The only vessel he had access to was a jon boat with no electronics and a 25-horsepower outboard, so he quickly found that the easiest way to catch bass on the Tennessee River impoundment was by braving its turbulent tailraces.

He’s has been enamored with fishing heavy, manmade current ever since. Now a guide on the Tennessee River, Salzman focuses many of his outings on various tailraces. 

While Salzman said the area he’s patrolling on Lay is smaller and shallower than most of the tailraces he fishes at home, that knowledge has served him well so far at REDCREST.

“The main difference is this one is shallower,” he explained. “Our (Tennessee River) dams are so massive, there’s sections that set up just like this. So, we just have more options. This dam is just a lot smaller.”

While the current tends to position fish predictably, Salzman said the front that rolled through the area Friday morning impacted his bite. He caught just three bass in his first four hours on the water. He closed strong, though, catching more than half his weight (17-9 on five fish) in the final period.

Salzman kept coy about the nuances of his approach, but he said the key to his strong afternoon was getting into the perfect spot. He shared the area with two other anglers during most of the Qualifying Round, and one beat him to his primary location Friday morning. That’s why he wasn’t afraid to keep catching fish long after he’d locked up a place in the Knockout Round – by qualifying in the top spot, he’ll be the first boat to launch Saturday.

“Yesterday, we had someone who had zero run up there in the middle of the day, and he kind of got on one of my main places and sacked it pretty good,” Salzman said. “Then he was on it all morning, and then he finally got off of it, and I was able to get on it at the end of the day, and I caught some of my bigger fish. That was really the big goal was to win the round so that I could have a good boat number.”

Fishing his first REDCREST, Salzman said he’s not nervous entering the weekend – for good reason. He has a strong track record when championships are on the line. In both his two previous appearances in championship events, the 2019 Forrest Wood Cup and 2021 Tackle Warehouse TITLE, Salzman finished among the Top 10. He thinks being able to take risks and not worry about points suits his style.

“I feel like I feel no pressure, because you don’t have to worry about just going and getting a few bites,” Salzman said. “You can just go all-in on whatever you’re doing.”

Salzman isn’t quite all-in on fishing the tailrace. He recognizes that a change in generation at Logan Martin dam could occur at any time and make the area far less productive, if not unfishable, so he has a few backup patterns in mind. But he’d much rather stick to his comfort zone in the current.

“Pending a drastic change, I will be up there,” he said. “But I did figure out some patterns down the lake that I felt good about. I didn’t know that I could catch the weight that I caught up there, but I feel like I can catch fish in other places. I’d like to be up there, but you just never know. With the current, every day is different up there, and you’ve just got to keep an open mind.”

Friday, March 15, 2024

2024 Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Powered by OPTIMA Lithium on Lay Lake Day 1: Michael Neal Scores With Spots!

Michael Neal leads the way after the first day with 21 bass weighing 52 pounds, 9 ounces. Photo by Garrick Dixon. 

Mitchell Forde

BASS PRO TOUR Press Release

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In the days leading up to Bass Pro Shops REDCREST Powered by OPTIMA Lithium, no one seemed to know what to expect from Lay Lake. While it’s normal for competitors to keep coy prior to lines in, the air of mystery felt real this time – Kevin VanDam even reported that he took to the water on Day 1 with 43 rods rigged and ready.

Through one day, at least, the answer has been lots of bass, particularly offshore on the main lake. The 50-angler field accounted for 362 total scorable bass, with 20 pros topping the 20-pound mark. And even though air temperatures climbed into the 80s Thursday and water hit the 60s, spotted bass chasing bait in the main channel on the lower end of the reservoir produced much of that weight, with more than half of the Top 10, including leader Michael Neal, roaming the same stretch.

Neal stacked 21 scorable bass weighing 52 pounds, 9 ounces on SCORETRACKER®, giving him a lead of 8-3 over Dalton Head. The 21-year-old University of Montevallo angler put his local knowledge to good use, creating plenty of distance between himself and the cut line and even climbing to the top of the standings at one point. Anthony Gagliardi, who fished within sight of Neal for much of the day, sits in third with 38-13, just 13 ounces clear of Coosa River local Dustin Connell.

Complete results can be found here.

While many of the top performers Thursday employed similar approaches, that could change as the weather, water clarity and current all remain in flux. Connell even went so far as to predict that using forward-facing sonar to target suspended fish will not win. And with weights set to zero twice before a champion is crowned, the event is still wide open. Continue to follow the action live on MLFNOW! from 7:20 a.m. to 4 p.m. CT each day.

For about the first six hours of competition, Neal never cranked up his Mercury. He spent that entire time milling around an area on the main lake, spinning rod in hand, scanning for spotted bass.

It didn’t take long to see why he started in that area, which he found the final day of practice, and spent so much time hunkered there. During a 30-minute flurry that started around 8 a.m., he boated seven scorable bass that weighed a combined 17-10, vaulting to the top of SCORETRACKER® in the process. 

Neal described his approach as typical late winter/early spring spotted bass fishing: find the baitfish, find the bass.

“They focus their whole life around bait besides when they go to spawn, and that’s what I’ve been doing is just focusing on bait,” he explained. “It doesn’t really matter how deep it is or where it’s really located; just the more bait the better.”

Yesteryear’s conventional wisdom would have suggested that, with the water temperature in the 60s, it was time to beat the bank. And while we did see a few anglers sight-fishing for spawning bass Thursday, Neal believes the healthy population of Alabama bass in Lay Lake spawn later than their largemouth counterparts, especially given the amount of current that’s been rolling through the reservoir recently.

“I went to the bank and tried to make them be on the bank, kind of like everybody else did, and just didn’t get any bites,” Neal said. “And the ones I did were just real little. It’s just a matter of listening to what the fish have got to say and not worrying a whole lot about what the weather’s telling you. You’ve just got to fish where they are and let them tell you what they’re doing. 

“I think these spots will be spawning way after the largemouth here. I think they wait on like no current and things like that to spawn on the river, and they just haven’t had those options yet.”

While Neal said he could have put more weight on SCORETRACKER® – he went into practice mode with about 90 minutes left in Period 3, once he hit the 50-pound mark – he doesn’t think he can ride his starting spot to a championship. For one thing, he’s concerned about the number of other anglers in the area. Neal plans to use the second day of qualifying to try to find a less-popular school.

“I’ve got some other places I can go run, and I’ve pretty much got a full day tomorrow to go try and find some other stuff, too,” he said. “Just gotta be smart with how I play the day tomorrow to try and find some fresh stuff.”

There’s also a weather change in the forecast, with thunderstorms expected Friday. While Neal doesn’t think that will have too great an impact on the fish he’s targeting – of all the bass in the reservoir, they should be the most stable – he said there’s a chance it stirs up the pollen that has collected in the water. Pollen has proved to be the enemy of ‘Scopers, clouding their screens and making it difficult to identify fish.

“It wasn’t bad – like, I didn’t really notice it to start,” Neal said of the pollen Thursday. “But as the day went on, it got worse and worse. But we’re supposed to have like an inch of rain tomorrow, so it’s going to change. Whether it makes it better or worse with the pollen, I don’t know, but it’ll be one or the other.”

While he hopes to find new fish Friday, Neal doesn’t plan to veer too drastically from his game plan. He’s fully committed to targeting spotted bass on the lower end of Lay Lake.

“I’m going to do some shallow stuff, but I’m not going largemouth fishing at all,” he said. “I’m going to go in some pockets and fish some places where I feel like spots would spawn and stuff, but I’m going to go to the same area of the lake and kind of put all my eggs in one basket and hope for the best.”

Head not shrinking from REDCREST spotlight

The first ever Abu Garcia College Fishing angler to compete at REDCREST, Head admitted he experienced some nerves Thursday morning. Running to his first three spots and finding established touring pros sitting on each of them didn’t help. 

But the Moody, Alabama, native, who grew up fishing Lay Lake, leaned on his well-earned Coosa River expertise to put a few fish in the boat and calm himself down. He did so by finding a school of spotted bass on a spot he didn’t even check during the three-day practice period. 

“I got up to a place that I didn’t check in practice and caught probably 30 off of it, but I had a couple keepers off of it,” Head said. “So that kind of eased the nerves, just knowing like, okay, I’m catching some fish.” 

Around 10:30 a.m., Head settled into a groove. Over the next 90 minutes or so, he caught 11 bass for 30-2, briefly taking the lead from Neal in the process.  

And yet, while his day looks great on paper, Head believes he should have had an even bigger total. 

“The thing is, I lost so many fish, I don’t even feel super confident,” he said. “I felt like I just fished so not clean today, and it kills me, because I could be sitting way better than I am right now.” 

Head will have a chance to correct those mistakes Friday. Assuming he can catch a few more fish early, he’ll also get a rare opportunity to practice during an event. Competing in an every-fish-counts event for the first time, the 21-year-old said he’ll have to remind himself not to catch too many fish Friday, but he’s excited for the chance to observe how the bass react to the change in weather. Typically, he said, a spring storm is “usually when this lake fires.” 

“The main thing I want to do is just see what the fish do,” he said. “I just want to see how they treat this weather. And I think I just need to keep telling myself, I don’t have to smash ‘em. I don’t need to just destroy ‘em tomorrow. I just need to get a general look at things and see what the fish are doing, so if I do make it to the Knockout Round, I can use that to my advantage while other people are maybe guessing.” 

However long he can stay on the water and in contention, Head will have plenty of support. An entourage of Montevallo teammates and other fishing buddies followed him around the lake Thursday, cheering each catch. That contingent should only grow in size come the weekend. 

“It was awesome to me,” Head said. “That’s all you can ever ask for is something like that, to get supported by people like that doing something you love.”