Talk about starting off with a bang...Shaun and Wes lit a fuse at 7am Saturday morning and that bomb dropped when they put two 15 lbs. limits and a team weight of 17.5 lbs. on the scales in the TNCBA season opener at South Holston Lake. 17 out of 21 anglers brought fish to the scales and four individual bags over 12 lbs. were weighed, marking one of the most successful season openers in recent years.
Anglers were greeted with temperatures in the upper 30's as the boat ramp at Painter's Creek Boat Dock came to life. Guls were already on the move as they prepared for their early morning feed. It may have just been me, but everyone seemed more amped for this year's opener...I guess its easy to get pumped when you know it is going to be in the 60's in February.
Most anglers reported a much stronger bite in the morning hours until about 11am and then it slowed into the afternoon hours. The top teams reported catches on an array of different lures and techniques. The first place team of Shaun Renfro and Wes Meade reported that they caught all of their bass on a Damiki Rig. Renfro and Meade made their way up towards Virginia where they focused on points and islands. The key depth was 30'40' for the Damiki bite and Renfro and Meade wasted little time filling the livewell...they were both culling by 8am.
The second place team of Bob and Kelsey Harvey returned to a dependable wintering hole down the lake and threw a duck feather fly to catch their 15.5 lbs. limit. Both anglers were not able to find a limit, but they were able to put together a solid, five fish, team limit...this is a good time to talk about this new rule change on the team side of competition...Instead of simply combining the weight of both catches of a team, a team is only allowed to weigh their best five fish for their team weight. This is going to make the team competition at each event much more competitive. This was evident here at our first event where Renfro and Meade would have had a combined weight of 29 lbs. and a gap of over 12 lbs. between themselves and second place...but...since they could only weigh there best five fish, they had a weight of 17.5 lbs. and the gap from first to second was only two pounds. This rule change will allow teams that are struggling to catch five per angler, to just focus on catching five good fish and going after the team win.
Ryan Pope and Lynn Feagins rounded out the top three and would be considered the junk fishermen of the top three. Pope and Feagins caught multiple fish on a Damiki Rig down the lake, but they had to move around and fill their limit out with a swimbait and an A-Rig. This is another example of a team that wasn't able to fill both of their limits, but Lynn Feagins caught a bass that was bigger than Pope's smallest bass and improved their best five team weight with his catch.
The remainder of the TNCBA field added to the assortment of baits that caught bass on Saturday. Teams outside the top three reported catches on Silverbuddies, Kietechs, and Crankbaits. It took 9.5 lbs. to make the top five on the team side of competition and Shaun Renfro's 15.5 lbs. was enough to win the individual competition. Wes Meade's 4.76 lbs. Smallmouth was just enough to edge out Shaun Renfro's 4.52 lbs. Smallmouth for big fish. While it is still early and we have multiple drops and scenarios to play out, the AOY battle looks like it will shape up to be one of the best in years. There will be several players at the table this year and any mistake could be detrimental to an angler's AOY hopes!
This was a great turn out for our first tournament of 2017 and I want to thank everyone who fished with us, especially our newcomers Loni Perkins, Andrew Perkins, Shaun Renfro, and Wes Meade!