Hoyle Surges To Bassmaster Southern Open Lead On Lake Norman

Despite a slow start, North Carolina pro Cody Hoyle stuck to his game plan, made a couple of key decisions and took over the Day 2 lead at the Basspro.com Bassmaster Southern Open on Lake Norman with a two-day total of 31 pounds, 2 ounces.

After placing second on Day 1 with 14-9, Hoyle trailed Blake Smith by 14 ounces. Adding a Day 2 limit of 16-9 — the event’s heaviest bag, which included a 4-10 — Hoyle now leads second-place angler Joey Nania of Cropwell, Ala., by 6-7.

Confident in his pattern from Day 1, Hoyle returned to the Mountain Creek area and targeted docks in 10 to 20 feet. He targeted the area because he knows the locals have planted a lot of brush near their docks.

“It was the same thing today, it just took longer to get them,” Hoyle said. “I guess it was just a timing deal right now. I fished one dock four times and I went back the fifth time and that big one was there.”

On Thursday, Hoyle fished 150 docks, but Friday he only needed 70. With a better idea of the most productive areas, he caught fish on a few of the ones that produced on Day 2.

Focusing mainly on the docks’ deeper outer ends, Hoyle caught his bass on two different finesse rigs — one for the bottom, one for fish suspending around brush. The latter delivered the most consistency.

“I had three keepers around 11 o’clock and then I moved to the mouth of the creek and caught two big ones between 12 and 1,” Hoyle said. “I culled up a few more times throughout the day. It was really consistent, I’d catch one good one an hour.

“I was really just going out there trying to get 10 pounds. I just got lucky and came across the right ones.”

With 15 keepers on Day 2, Hoyle said it took him all day to amass his weight. Heading back to weigh-in, he made a final stop and managed a couple of upgrades.

“Around 5:45 (p.m.), I just went right across from Blythe Landing (weigh-in site) and fished a little dock I’ve fished before and there was fish under it,” Hoyle said. “They were smaller fish, but I got a couple more ounces out of those culls.”

Looking ahead to Championship Saturday, Hoyle intends to execute the same game plan one more time.

“I’m going to go out and try to catch 8 to 10 pounds,” he said. “That ought to do it.”

With a two-day total of 24-11, Nania gained 12 spots after placing 14th on Day 1 with 11-14. Turning up the heat on Day 2 with 12-13 was a matter of dialing in a strategic presentation.

While many of his offshore competitors stayed busy chasing schooling fish, Nania focused on a main-lake point in 30 to 35 feet and targeted fish relating to the bottom. He used his Garmin LiveScope to spot bass and then used a light braid-to-fluorocarbon setup to cast an unnamed finesse bait and let it sink down to the fish.

“Yesterday, I figured it out when my co-angler caught one off the bottom and I caught three good ones late in the day,” said Nania, who qualified for the 2022 Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk with a win in a Southern Open on Pickwick earlier this year. “Today, I knew if I just committed to fishing deep, I’d have a shot at a better average.

“I caught about 40 fish yesterday. Today, I caught only 25, but they were better quality. I had two over 3 pounds. That was the goal — stay clear of the fish that were up in the water column schooling and stay deep.”

Christian Shoda of Homosassa, Fla., is in third place with 23-1. After placing fourth on Day 1 with 13-1, he added 10 pounds and rose one spot Friday.

Shoda caught his bass around docks both days. While Day 1 saw a good topwater bite, his prop bait only produced two keepers Friday. For the rest of his Day 2 bag, Shoda had to slow down and catch most of his keepers on a 5/8-ounce tungsten jig with a chunk-style trailer.

“I only had one fish at noon and then I figured out what was going on,” Shoda said. “They moved shallower for me today. Usually, the second day after a cold front is tougher, so I was not expecting that. All the ones I was after today are up there eating bream and crawfish.”

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Shane Lineberger of Lincolnton, N.C., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with a 5-7.

Alex Reece of Greenville, S.C., won the co-angler division with 11-11. On Day 1, he caught a three-fish limit of 5-5 and found himself in a three-way tie for ninth place. Adding 6-6 Friday clinched the win and earned Reece the top prize of $17,000.

“I don’t know what to say; I fished my heart out the last two days,” Reece said. “I fished harder than I’ve ever fished and we had everyone praying.”

Reece caught fish on a Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait in white and clear blue colors and a drop shot with a 4-inch Roboworm in morning dawn and bold bluegill colors. He fished the jerkbait in shallow water, while the drop shot delivered in greater depths.

Using 3/16- and 3/8-ounce weights, depending on depth, Reece would cast his drop shot and fish it at an angle to keep the bait away from the boat and hold it closer to the bottom.

Christopher Teague of Lincolnton, N.C., won the $250 Phoenix Boats Big Bass among co-anglers with a 3-14.

David Williams of Newton, N.C., leads the Southern Open standings with 573 points. Jacob Foutz of Charleston, Tenn., is second with 568, followed by Josh Douglas of Isle, Minn., with 545, Blake Smith of Lakeland, Fla., with 541 and Masayuki Matsushita of Tokoname-Shi of Japan with 529.

Based on their points standings, Williams, Foutz and Douglas will receive invitations to fish the 2022 Bassmaster Elite Series.

Jacob Powroznik of North Prince George, Va., leads the overall Falcon Rods Bassmaster Opens Angler of the Year standings with 1,171 points.

The Top 10 remaining anglers will take off Saturday at 7 a.m. ET from Blythe Landing Park. Weigh-in will be at the Bass Pro Shops in Concord Mills, N.C., at 4 p.m.

Bassmaster Opens LIVE presented by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs can be streamed on Bassmaster.com and the FOX Sports digital platforms. FS1 will also broadcast live with the tournament leaders beginning at 8 a.m.

Visit Lake Norman is hosting the event.