Robertson Goes Offshore To Grab Lead In Bassmaster Elite Series Event On Pickwick Lake
COUNCE, Tenn. —

Matt Robertson has been waiting for a warm-weather tournament on a Tennessee River fishery since he qualified for the Bassmaster Elite Series two years ago.

He’s got one in the Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake.

The 36-year-old Kentucky pro took the Day 1 lead with a five-bass limit weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces and said he felt “at home” on Pickwick’s offshore ledges, which he exploited for his best bass, the heaviest weighing 5 1/2 pounds.

Unless something drastically changes, Robertson will head straight back to the ledges Friday when the derby resumes on this 43,100-acre impoundment that flows between Alabama, Mississippi and Tennessee.

“We’re doing what we like to do,” Robertson said. “I’m just rotating through some spots. Nothing special. Hopefully, we’ll go back out there and crack ‘em.”

Robertson has spent at least a quarter-century learning his sport on ledge fisheries like Kentucky Lake (his home water) and other lakes along the Tennessee River. He said the experience helped him Thursday.

“You’re not getting a lot of bites, but I think I’ve figured out some things to trigger some of the bigger bites,” he said. “There are one or two little things I don’t think (other guys are) doing. It’s only the first day, but we’ll go bang on ‘em tomorrow.”

The 91 pros entered in the derby predicted that getting away from boat traffic would be difficult on Pickwick, which is one of the country’s more popular recreational lakes, especially coming off the Memorial Day holiday. Robertson said he had no such problems on a hot and still Thursday, when temperatures stayed in the mid-80s and humidity was over 70 percent.

“I fished some community holes and I had a few guys let me fish behind them,” he said. “But places where I caught the weight, I was good to go.”

The trick, of course, will be getting a few repeat performances. True to his style, Robertson is confident he can get that done. “I do feel at home,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for this one a long time, a Tennessee River ledge-fishing tournament ... I’ve had to really adjust my fishing the past couple of years, but I’m really an offshore fisherman. I love fishing deep. I know that’s how some of the (Elite) tournaments have been won (recently), but here, you have no other choice.

“You come to the TVA in the summer, you better get off the bank.”

Jason Christie, the reigning champion of the Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk, is just behind Robertson with 22-2. Japanese-born pro Takumi Ito is third with 22-1 with veteran pros Brandon Palaniuk and Brandon Lester on their heels with 21-13 and 21-6, respectively.

Lester, of Fayetteville, Tenn., is in the lead for Phoenix Boats Big Bass honors with the 6-9 he weigh-in today.

Christie’s bite came offshore as well, with one bass caught in at least 30 feet of water. He said he was fishing scared Thursday and he wasn’t kidding.

“In practice, I wouldn’t stand up to fish,” he said. “If I saw (fish), I just kept on going. Today I’m even scared to fish. I pull in, look around, catch three or four and go to the next spot. I’m afraid someone’s going to see me.”

The potential threats came from land, too.

“There was a dude on a four-wheeler about 500 yards away on the bank watching me fish,” the Park Hill, Okla., pro said. “I was afraid he was gonna tell his buddy where I was.”

Christie’s biggest bass Thursday weighed 5-2, but he said many of his bites are “skinny.”

“If you interview anyone up here, they’ll say they got lucky and got five big bites,” Christie said. “My next five (heaviest) bass would have weighed 12 pounds.”

Ito is a finesse fisherman who said the muggy and warm conditions suit his style just fine. Like Robertson learning to fish ledges at a young age, Ito said fishing patiently is a reality for all anglers learning the sport in Japan.

Unlike Robertson and Christie, Ito said he tried his hand on the banks Thursday, as well his methodical approach on Pickwick’s ledges. He said he caught his heaviest bass on a baitcaster in the morning and found other sizable fish in relatively shallow (5 to 6 feet) water. Others came from as deep as 25 to 26 feet.

“If there’s a strong wind, I cannot hold bait (in place),” he said. “So, no current is perfect for me.”

Palaniuk vaulted up the leaderboard courtesy of a 6-2 bass he caught in the waning moments.

“It was a place I caught a bunch of 2-pounders in practice,” he said. “(The 6-2) was literally a 3-pound upgrade.”

Palaniuk, the veteran pro from Rathdrum, Idaho, maintained the lead in the Progressive Insurance Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings with 539 points. He is followed by John Cox of DeBary, Fla., with 490, Lester with 473, Drew Benton of Blakely, Ga., with 457 and David Mullins of Mt. Carmel, Tenn., with 455.

Jacob Foutz, another Tennessee River specialist from Charleston, Tenn., took the lead in the Falcon Rods Bassmaster Rookie of the Year race with 365 points. Wisconsin pro Jay Przekurat, who has led the race much of the season fell to second with 353, followed by Alabamian Joseph Webster with 348.

Day 2 of the event will begin with a 7 a.m. CT takeoff from Pickwick Landing State Park. Weigh-in is scheduled for 3:10 p.m. The Top 47 anglers will advance to fish on Day 3. Full coverage can be streamed on and FOX Sports digital platforms.

The Whataburger Bassmaster Elite at Pickwick Lake is being hosted by Tour Hardin County.