For a lake most competing anglers said would “fish small,” Barnett Reservoir produced impressive catches in Thursday’s first round of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Elite Series tournament.
Sixth-year Elite pro Brandon Card of Knoxville, Tenn., sure wasn’t complaining, not after posting a 22-pound, 14-ounce five-fish limit to take a two-pound lead after the first round of the four-day event.
Bobby Lane Jr., of Lakeland, Fla., was happy, too. His 20-pound, 14-ounce bag landed him second in the field of 109 testing the 33,000-acre lake that is the smallest of the eight Elite venues this year.
“You’re going to hear about it fishing small, but what you won’t hear is that the fish are small,” said Bobby Cleveland, longtime outdoor writer from Jackson, who serves as a public liaison for the Pearl River Valley Water Supply District, the state agency that oversees the 52-year-old, 33,000-acre lake. “Those of us who fish it regularly know it can be tough, but it’s fair.
“It’s a good time right now on Barnett, even though the bass are in post-spawn. They’re still shallow, and the shad are spawning in the shallows in certain areas. That does limit fisheable water, but, obviously, it’s big enough to kick out big catches.”
Two other fishermen busted 20 pounds, veteran pro Mark Davis, of Mt. Ida, Ark., at 20-10, and fast-starting Keith Poche of Pike Road, Ala., who had 17 pounds in the first 40 minutes and finished with 20-2.
Two more just missed the 20-pound mark, Brandon Lester of Fayetteville, Tenn., was fifth at 19-15, and Elite rookie Dustin Connell of Clanton, Ala., at 19-12.
One Mississippi angler is in the race. Brock Mosley of Collinsville is in 20th place with 14-10, and in position to make the cut to the top 50 after today’s second round, guaranteeing himself a paycheck of at least $10,000.
The other two Mississippi entries, both former Bassmaster Classic champions, have tough tasks to make it to the third round. Paul Elias of Laurel is 86th after catching four bass and 8-9, and Cliff Pace of Petal is 107th with only one bass weighing 1-13.
The full field of 109 anglers will compete again Friday, but only the top 50 after the second round will advance to Saturday. Those 50 are guaranteed a minimum of $10,000. After the third round, only the top 12 will fish Sunday.