The two-day 2017 Bass Cat Owners Invitational commenced on Friday, with over 250 teams blasting off onto the fertile waters of Lake Guntersville, but for many of them the dreams of big grass bass went unfulfilled. The fish seem to be in an in-between stage, done with the spawn, but not yet out on the main river, and that left many hopefuls scratching their heads. Nevertheless, the team of Steve Doty (Jonesboro, Ark.) and Tracy Robinson (Gadsden, Ala.) sacked a limit that weighed 23.46 pounds and have established a lead of more than five pounds over second place team of Derek Duvall and Kylie Scavona of Louisiana.

Despite forecasts of rain, it remained sunny all day. In the afternoon, the wind kicked up and that turbo-charged the bite for some anglers who’d struggled until then. Forecasts once again call for rain tomorrow.

Doty has only been on Guntersville once before, last September, but it seems to fit his style. He and Robinson, fishing together for the first time, worked diligently to manage their fish to ensure that they’ll have a shot to hold the lead under the rapidly changing conditions.

“On our first spot we caught two approximately six-pounders and left,” he said. “Then it took us two hours to catch another keeper. It was 12:55 when we finally put the fifth fish in the livewell.” They’re fishing for transitional fish, intercepting them as they move out to their summer environment. “What we’re doing is slow. We have to make them eat.”

Duvall and Scavona could not be reached for comment.

The third place team of Sebastian Roy and Christopher Martin sit only half a pound behind Duvall and Scavona, and just five and a half pounds behind Doty and Robinson. On Guntersville, that’s just a single bite. Deroy, from Ontario, has been practicing since Monday, and while he’s tempted to swing big by changing up their pattern, he’s confident that what they’ve done so far will continue.

“We found a lot of fish relating to the shad spawn,” he said. “It’s lasting longer than most people think. We start off with moving baits, but when that dies off we slow down. We’ll probably do the same thing tomorrow.”

With a fickle bite, Guntersville’s incredible fishery, and a number of top sticks all within striking range, this one is far from a done deal. The winners will receive a Bass Cat Margay, and one lucky team will win a brand new, fully rigged Cougar FTD in a random draw. Numerous other prizes, including a Mercury outboard, will be offered to those who find lucky “rubber ducks.”

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