PLATTSBURGH, N.Y. — Cody Huff knew he had options, but the second-year pro from Ava, Mo., stuck with his strength and sacked up 23 pounds, 3 ounces to lead Day 1 of the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Elite at Lake Champlain.
Anchoring his bag with a 5-pound smallmouth, Huff leveraged his renowned forward-facing sonar skills to hunt down sizable bass in Champlain’s Inland Sea region.
“I would rather go out and use my electronics and spend my whole day throwing at fish, instead of just running the bank and casting,” Huff said. “I had an awesome day, but I didn’t expect that. I knew I was on some good ones, but whenever I got around, they got to biting.
“It’s kinda crazy here because there are so many fish, you don’t know if you’re going to catch a 3-pounder or a 5-pounder. They’re just all mixed together, but it’s a heck of a lot of fun.”
Huff said he worked an area of approximately one square mile with depths of 20 to 50 feet. The key, he said, was covering water and continuously hunting fish that were following bait schools.
“They’re really just moving a lot. They’re never on a waypoint,” Huff said. “They’re in an area swimming.”
Huff said his action started early and he was able to put himself in a good position within an hour of takeoff.
“I had 20 pounds by 8 o’clock and then I just picked off a few big ones throughout the day,” he said. “I caught a lot of bass and had a lot of fun.
“I caught a lot of them out of the same area. It’s a big area, but I really don’t know what (attracts them.) They’re just in there eating, and I hope they stay put.”
Doing most of his work with a finesse bait, Huff said that calling an audible was the key to his success.
“I actually caught all of my fish on a bait that I hadn’t really thrown that much in practice, but the conditions changed and the fish’s mood kind of changed,” he said. “I caught some big ones on it early and just rolled with it.
“I wanted to change my presentation because of the wind. The boat was moving a lot and the fish were moving a lot, so I was just trying to present the bait correctly to them.”
Huff spent his practice dialing in the area that delivered his Day 1 weight. The results, he said, fueled his optimism for the tournament’s potential.
“I knew I had a chance of doing good, but I didn’t know how good,” Huff said. “I caught a couple of 4- and 5-pounders and saw a bunch more on my (Garmin) LiveScope.
“I didn’t throw on them, so I really didn’t know if they were all big. It turned out a lot of them were pretty big.”
Alex Redwine of Blue Ash, Ohio, is in second place with 22-14. Noting that he caught most of his weight prior to 10 o’clock, Redwine attributes his success to getting his weight before the fish scattered.
“The reason I was able to capitalize on those bites was because I was able to catch what I caught before (the area) got too pressured,” he said. “There was a lot of boat pressure on them and those fish were definitely feeling it.
“I was able to catch my fish and get out of there with what I got in time.”
Redwine spent his day in the Inland Sea area, where he focused on covering as much water as possible to find the aggressive fish. This, he said, proved more challenging than it was during practice.
“It was a good one here, a good one there,” Redwine said. “It’s not the same as I saw in practice. The fish are not as grouped up; they’re a lot more scattered, and I think that’s because of the pressure they’ve been getting.”
Jay Przekurat of Stevens Point, Wis., is in third place with 22-11. Working broad areas with abundant bait schools, Przekurat caught all of his fish on one finesse rig with two different bait colors.
Przekurat, the 2022 Rookie of the Year, who claimed his first Elite Series win last year at the St. Lawrence River, said the second half of his day yielded his best results.
“I caught my biggest fish late, it was like 2:30 when I caught that one,” Przekurat said. “The fishing just picked up. The fish kept moving up and up in the water column and, finally, they just started reacting.
“Before that, I would have so many follows; I don’t know how many big ones would follow my stuff. Finally, I connected with that one, then I made another pass and caught another big one in the same exact spot.”
Przekurat claimed the day’s Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with his 5-4.
Brandon Cobb of Greenwood, S.C., leads the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 645 points. Przekurat is in second with 618, followed by Kyle Welcher of Opelika, Ala., with 617, Patrick Walters of Summerville, S.C., with 613, and Drew Cook of Cairo, Ga., with 607.
Joey Cifuentes III of Clinton, Ark., leads the Dakota Lithium Bassmaster Rookie of the Year standings with 607.
Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. ET at Plattsburgh City Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 3 p.m. Bassmaster LIVE kicks off tournament coverage at 8 a.m. ET on Bassmaster.com, Tubi and the FOX Sports platforms.