At the conclusion of the first day of competition in the 2015 Bass Cat National Team Championship, presented by Mercury Marine, the Texas team of Lee Morris and Josh Priest sit atop the leaderboard, with dual limits from Lake Taneycomo and Bull Shoals that totaled 14.42 pounds. That puts them ahead of their nearest competitors, the father-son team of Roger and Cory Cook, by a margin of 3.35 pounds.
Morris and Priest were the only team to catch a limit at both lakes. They trailed the Florida team of Edwin Rivera and Pete Saraf by 0.18 pounds after the morning session at Taneycomo, but the Floridians could only muster a single bass in the afternoon and fell to 4th overall.
The Alabama team of Hunter Hayes and Alex Alford were the only competitors to weigh any of the two possible “bonus trout” at Taneycomo. At the end of the day, their lone 0.75 salmonid allowed them to move from 9th place to 8th, but with a difference of less than 12 pounds between 1st and last, and two sessions remaining on Tuesday, it’s still anybody’s tournament to win.
“We went to Taneycomo blind,” said Priest, noting that the teams were not allowed to spend any of Sunday’s practice day there. “We found our fish in shallow grass around boat docks, in water less than 4 feet deep. All of our fish were caught on shakey heads and dropshots.”
Despite being from Texas, the pair reported that they frequently finesse fish, but are not used to the clear water of the Ozarks region. Nor did they have any lures in the 2008 Puma that they thought might attract a trout, so at Taneycomo they focused exclusively on bass, forgoing the bonus category.
Temperatures are supposed to be in the 40s at take-off tomorrow, climbing into the mid- to upper-60s, with clear skies. Morris said that those are their desired conditions, but they recognize that there are “some good sticks out there.” One of those teams is the Cook-Cook pairing on their heels. Father Roger Cook won the Championship with another partner last year and recruited his son – the new owner of a Cat of his own – to compete with him this in 2015.
While this is a Bass Cat event, when Ozarks region team Albert Scott and Stephen Clayton broke down yesterday, Rick Pierce extended the “family” umbrella a bit wider, allowing them to fish out of Scott’s Champion. The pair only mustered 2.69 pounds of Taneycomo bass today, but that’s 2.69 pounds more than they likely would’ve caught from the bank.
“It goes hand-in-hand with our sponsoring the Tournament of Champions for Champion boat owners and their guests on Table Rock the past few years,” Pierce said. “It has been held of Cape Fair Marina for a long time and in 2013 they ended factory support of the event and we picked up sponsoring the event.”
Competition will continue tomorrow morning at Bull Shoals, where Morris and Priest jumped into the lead today, and this marathon “test of the best” will conclude tomorrow afternoon at Norfork.