Tharp Leads Day 1 of the Bassmaster Classic
What an exciting day it was in Birmingham, Alabama on Friday as Day one of the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro was held on the fantastic fishery of Lake Guntersville. The weather for the practice days had been frigid and the eve of the competition turned out to be one of thunder and lightning with a lot of wind and rain. In a sport that requires one to adapt as quickly as the bass they seek, all the anglers were faced with challenging decisions to pattern the water that was clouded and stained over night as the water rose. All anglers were affected; however, it was Randal Tharp that moved to the top at the end of day one.
The lead that Tharp finished with on day one of the Bassmaster Classic was impressive considering the recent weather that changed the dynamics of Lake Guntersville. It was even more impressive when you consider that Tharp had lost first first big bass of the day.
“At about my fifth stop, I finally got into a little school and caught an 8 1/2 and a 5. From then on, it got pretty easy,” said Tharp, a Florida native, who finished day one with 27 pounds, 8 ounces. Tharp’s lead was only 11 ounces over Edwin Evers of Talala, Okla., who weighed in 26-13 for second place. Third place was taken by David Walker of Sevierville, Tenn., with 24-13. On this lake, one fish could have easily changed the outcome by pounds instead of ounces.
Fourth place ended up in a tie at 23-2 between Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., and Fred Roumbanis of Bixby, Okla. Roumbanis not only tied for fourth place but ended the day with largest bass of the day - an impressive 9 pound 3 ounce Guntersville lunker that is holding the Carhartt Big Bass Award of up to $2,500 for the largest single catch.
Tharp lived much of his life in Alabama near Lake Guntersville, and he considers it his home water. He's won several events on the lake over the years, including a 2008 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open presented by Allstate.
The 55 Classic anglers had to adjust their tactics on day one following the hard rain and wind Thursday night that churned Lake Guntersville. “I think the rain hurt everybody,” Tharp said. “This lake typically fishes better when it’s a little lower. It was high, with too much current today. Obviously it muddied a lot of water up. I could tell by the way the fish were biting. They were slapping at the bait. But as the day went on, they started eating the bait a little better.”
An 8 1/2-pound Guntersville kicker later in the day greatly helped Tharp. “When you catch a fish like that, that’s a lot of weight in one bite. You definitely need a bite like that every day here to win this tournament,” he said.
Tharp’s tactic of switching up his lures paid off as he switched between a lipless crankbait, a jig, a crankbait and a jerkbait. “I’m fishing specific places extremely slowly to get the bite,” he said.
Tharp reported culling six or seven times to complete his final 27-8. Besides a fast start toward the Classic’s first prize of $300,000, Tharp pocketed the $1,000 GEICO Everyday Leader Award, plus another $1,500 if he had a GEICO decal on his boat’s windshield.
Second place contender, Edwin Evers had to adjust to the muddy water as did the entire field following the storm that brought torrential rain and high winds to Guntersville. “It was a grind today,” Evers said. “It looks great on paper — 26-13 — but I really didn’t catch that many fish. I had the right ones, and I’m fortunate to be where I am.”
Evers credited his success on the bass moving up toward spawning beds in the rapidly warming water. Catching two of his larger bass on two consecutive casts, only to lose a third fish on the next cast, Evers said, “Then I went hours without a bite. You come across little pods of them. You just have to keep moving, roaming until you find them.”
His largest bass was a 7-4. Evers said there are more where that one came from.
The full 55 angler field will return to Lake Guntersville Saturday for day two and on day three, only the top 25 contestants will compete.
Fans can catch the Saturday and Sunday weigh-ins in Birmingham at the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex. Arena doors will open at 3 p.m. There’s no admission charge.
Photos courtesy of Bassmaster Media. Evers Photo Credit: Seigo Saito