Day one of the 2016 Bassmaster Classic on Oklahoma’s Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees is in the books, and two of South Carolina’s three anglers are in the top ten. Oklahoma angler Jason Christie sits in the lead with a one-day limit of five bass weighing 20 pounds, 14 ounces, and although his lead over second-place angler Greg Vinson is more than 2-pounds, a lot can change on day two.
Casey Ashley of Donalds, last year’s Classic champion, is in eighth place with 15-5, and Marty Robinson of Lyman is in tenth place with 14-12. Robinson caught the big fish of the day, a 7-pound brute. South Carolina’s other angler, John Proctor is in thirty-ninth place with three fish weighing 7-6.
Robinson, who weighed in four fish, is the only top ten angler who brought fewer than five fish to the scales, and only one of two anglers in the top 20 with fewer than five. Talala, Oklahoma's Edwin Evers also brought only four fish to the weigh-in. He sits in thirteenth place with a total of 13-12.
Alabama's Greg Vinson, who almost missed the event due to the lingering effects of a concussion, goes into the second day in third with 18-1, while Texas pro and 2008 Classic champ Alton Jones is third with 17-13.
Christie said from the weigh-in stage that the fishing was tough.
“It was slow. It was a grind, but it was a grind in practice,” he said. “I honestly didn’t think I had that kind of weight, but the fish up here just fool you because they’re thick and heavy.
“I’m not getting a lot of bites. I think the most I’ve had in one day is nine — and that’s including practice.”
With the daytime temperatures expected to rise into the 70s the next two days and the water temperature continuing to rise into the mid-50s, Christie said he might be forced to change areas.
But he was clear that he won’t be changing techniques.
“I’m committed to what I’m doing,” said Christie, who decline to expound on the tactics he’s using this early in the tournament. “I’m going to stick with it and either go down in flames or do well. I’ve just got so much confidence in the way I’m fishing.
"I may only catch three tomorrow, but they might weigh 16 pounds — and the potential for a really big bag is there.”
Vinson said his experiences last week were critical to his second-place performance today.
“The first day of practice this week was really important to me, because it was the first day I had been on the water since the little episode," he said of the slip that led to a concussion. "Just to be able to fish all day fluidly and feel like I was thinking clearly and making good decisions — that was big for me.”
It was during that early practice period that Vinson developed the pattern that vaulted him into second place. He said he fished all day Friday without seeing another angler.
“I didn’t feel like I would catch them in the exact same spots where I caught them in practice,” he said. “But I felt like, if I stuck with that type of pattern, I would eventually be able to get the bites.
“I had to run a lot of stuff today, but I hit two little flurries when they were right.”
Best of all, Vinson felt good physically.
“I finally feel normal,” he said. “To start with, I still had some headaches. But after the second day of practice, I really started to feel like myself again — and I’m OK now.”
Jones said his good opening round was a result of a choice he made prior to competition.
“I made a decision in practice, with this warm-up that was coming, I was going to fish where the fish were coming to,” he said. “There were a few of them already in there in practice, and I felt like I knew where they would be setting up when the tournament started.
“It was sort of an educated guess as to where the fish were going, and it worked out well for me today.”
The tournament resume tomorrow, with the full field of a 55 anglers leaving dock at 7 a.m. Weigh-in is set to begin at 3:15 p.m. at the BOK Center in Tulsa.
The field will be trimmed to the Top 25 for Sunday’s championship round, with the winning angler claiming a $300,000 prize.