HUNTINGDON, Tenn. — Brooks Hibbit and Grant Buzard of the Hartley’s Hawgs Youth Fishing Club used an 8-pound, 1-ounce kicker largemouth to anchor a five-bass limit of 12-1 that leads the opening round of the Mossy Oak Fishing Bassmaster Junior National Championship on Carroll County 1000 Acre Recreational Lake.
“That was our first fish of the day,” Hibbit said of his big catch. “We were about two hours into our day and we weren’t off to a great start. We pulled up to a new spot and I caught it on the fifth cast.
“I thought I was snagged on something at first, but then it started moving and fighting back. It swam under the boat and jumped on the other side.”
The only team with a double-digit weight, Hibbit and Buzard caught their fish on finesse baits. As Hibbit explained, their day turned out much differently than they had anticipated.
“In practice, we found a spot where we caught fish, but it didn’t seem to work today,” he said. “Then we fished another spot where we only caught a 1 1/2-pounder in practice. We thought there would be a bunch of people on it, but there was no one there.
“We sat there and fished for probably 2 1/2 hours. We actually got our limit there.”
Noting that he and Buzard caught their bass in 15 to 25 feet of water, Hibbit said knowing when to abandon an unproductive effort was key to his team’s performance.
“The fish are pretty much in their fall pattern, but (not many) are coming up shallow, they’re still hanging deep,” Hibbit said. “We thought they’d be pretty shallow because it’s still pretty warm out, but they’re not. We had to switch up and fish deeper water.
“We were marking bait on the fish finder, so we tried throwing crankbaits. It didn’t seem like crankbaits were working, so we switched to finesse and started catching fish.”
With stocked Florida-strain largemouth swimming its waters, the Carroll County 1000 Acre Recreational Lake has a reputation for producing impressive catches. Hibbit said he was thrilled the lake saved its quality for when it mattered.
“At the registration meeting last night, we heard that the lake has verified 10-pounders,” he said. “In practice, the biggest thing we caught was 1 1/2, so we thought that we were going to have maybe 6 pounds today.
“That big fish shook us up a little bit. I had to take a 10-minute break to cool down. I was getting jumpy and setting hooks on logs. I took a break and then got back to it and in the next hour and a half, we had a limit.”
Nolan Holloway and Jackson Fanning of Morgan County Middle School are in second place with 9-8. The anglers initially tried throwing reaction baits but ended up getting all their bites on slower presentations.
“We came into this event thinking a moving bite was going to work for fish that were pushing shad up, but we really couldn’t find a pattern on that, so we just moved back and forth from deep to shallow all day,” Holloway said. “We were fishing 1/4-ounce War Eagle shaky heads with Zoom Trick worms around deep brushpiles. We caught our biggest shallow fish on a Texas-rigged Zoom Old Monster worm.”
Fanning said that remaining diligent was their formula for success.
Parker Adair and Jackson Miller of the Arkansas Youth Anglers team are in third place with 9-5. While they weighed only two bass, one of them was Adair’s personal best — a 7-14 that ranked as the event’s second-heaviest bass.
Adair caught the big fish around noon by fishing a soft plastic bait with a slow presentation.
“I had just changed from a reaction bait to this slower technique,” he said. “I caught that fish in about 4 feet of water. It was close to wood and sandy bank.
“I didn’t think it was a 7-pounder, I thought it was more like a 2-pounder. But when it got up and jumped, it was like ‘Oh man, we gotta get that one.’”
Miller added: “We were on the trolling motor most of the day; we didn’t really use the big motor much. Once we got that fish, we tried to find a similar pattern. If the conditions are the same tomorrow, we’re hoping to do the same thing.”
Hibbit and Buzard are in the lead for Big Bass honors with their 8-1.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. CT at the Carroll County Lake Launch. The weigh-in will be held in downtown Huntingdonat 19463 West Main Street at 3:30 p.m.
Tournament coverage will be available on Bassmaster.com.
The Bassmaster Junior Series National Championship is being hosted by the Carroll County Chamber of Commerce.