EVANS, Ga. — When Guy Eaker crossed the scales and weighed in a 9-ounce fish, it quickly became apparent that small fish would rule the day. The big fish bite on Clarks Hill Lake was definitely feast or famine on Day One.
Mark Davis was one of the anglers that figured out how to catch at least one bigger largemouth, and in large part thanks to that, he is in sixth place with 14 pounds, 12 ounces.
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"You need to get a little big lucky," Davis said. "I got a 4-pounder that was with the stripers. I think the bigger fish are mixing in with the stripers, but they are not easy to catch."
Not only are they hard to catch, but the fishing shuts down after the early morning hours.
"The fishing absolutely died after 10 am," Davis said. "I was sitting there with 14 pounds in the livewell thinking I needed to cull up a bit, but I never got a bite after noon."
Duckett also noted the tough afternoon fishing conditions and like Davis, found success around striped bass.
"At this place, it's not like bass fishing — it's like striper fishing," Davis said. "They don't get on the bottom, they just ride around looking for blueback herring."
While there are techniques to catch average keeper-sized bass, Duckett is foregoing that mostly in favor of a bigger bite.
"I finally got one after fishing and fishing and fishing," Duckett said. "I only caught 5 fish today, three of them came fishing for bigger fish. The other two I caught on a Carolina rig, but that's not easy either. It's not like you can go somewhere and boom, boom, boom, catch 12 inchers."
His biggest was 4 pounds, 15 ounces, just a hair shy of the day's big bass and it helped Duckett land in 16th place, with 12 pounds, 15 ounces.
For some anglers, the big fish never showed up. In Stephen Browning's case, he never was able to figure the puzzle out in practice and had to do what he could to just catch a limit.
"That was the best five I had today believe it or not," Browning said. "Everyone is struggling and you can go out there and throw a shaky head and get a few bites, but you are not going to be in contention. I'm fishing defensively, rather than fishing aggressively, trying to salvage the tournament."
After the first day, Browning sits in 76th place with 5 pounds, 9 ounces.
Mark Menendez couldn't stay on top of the fish as they sit in a funky period after the spawn.
"We're right in between the spawn and a summertime pattern," Menendez said. "I don't know if I'm ahead or behind, but I'm glad to have a limit. I caught some real good fish in practice, but they are just too scattered."
His limit weighed 7 pounds, 2 ounces, leaving Menendez with a hole to climb out of in 66th place.
The weather for Day Two might have the big fish picture changing quickly, with forecasts calling for a 40-percent chance of rain and scattered thunderstorms. Anglers launch from Wildwood Park at 6:10 a.m. ET and the field of 93 will be cut to 47 at the conclusion of the day's fishing.