Royce Railey, a 33-year-old youth minister from Thomson, Ga., caught five bass weighing 17 pounds, 14 ounces on Thursday to take the lead in the $200,000 BASSMASTER Georgia Invitational on Lake Hartwell.
Although he lives about two-hours' drive away, Railey is competing in just his second tournament on Hartwell. He finds himself in the lead of a national event in just his fourth Bass Anglers Sportsman Society tournament.
"It was a real good day. I only fished one of my two good spots and I caught my fish early in the morning. But the place I caught them is pretty well known and a lot of people (other contestants) are fishing around there. If I don't get there early on Friday, I might not catch anything."
Like most of the top 10 after the first round, Railey admitted he's fishing a top-water plugs.
On Railey's heels is Gerald Swindle of Warrior, Ala., who caught five bass weighing 17 pounds, 3 ounces, including the day's biggest bass of 6 pounds, 11 ounces.
Scott Martin of Saluda, S.C., is 102nd with three bass and 6 pounds, 8 ounces.
The tournament continues through Saturday, with 3 p.m., weigh-ins at Hartwell Marina free to the public.
Hybrid-striper guide David Willard reports of cleaning his favorite fishes and finding their stomachs crammed with cicadas -- those insects that are conducting sing-alongs around the lake.
"When they land in the lake, they flap their wings and buzz and I've seen bass hit 'em," Willard said. "If you had an artificial lure that would do that, you could be in business."
The Nashville Network will present "Ask the TNN Outdoors Experts" live on Wednesday, May 20, from 8 p.m. to 9 p.m. at Sea World of Florida. The experts are Bill Dance, Al Lindner, Roland Martin and Mark Sosin, each of whom hosts his respective outdoor show.
Viewers may e-mail questions in advance via TNN's website, country.com, through May 20. More information will be forthcoming.
STROM THURMOND LAKE
Soap Creek Lodge, Lincolnton, Ga. (Toye & Sue Hill, 1-706-359-3124) -- Alec Willingham of Lincolnton has been catching real good on catching crappies in shallow brush, which is four feet deeper than it was were last week. Bob Guillebeau of Lincolnton continues to catch shellcrackers around the bank, some real nice fish that bite Louisiana pinks. David and Elizabeth Duffy have been catching some nice post-spawning crappies even under bridges.
Raysville Marina, near Thomson, Ga. (Doug Pentecost, Leon Buffington, 1-706-595-5582) -- W.D. Smith and his wife, Stella, caught 20 crappies from a half-pound to a pound on small minnows fishing around Raysville. Helen Dorsey of Thomson caught 40 crappies in our fish house. Jerry Walker of Raysville caught a 9-pound striped bass on live herring. Mike Berry of Thomson caught 20 nice crappies, fishing with minnows in the fish house. April Mock of Lincolnton caught 31 crappies and one bass on small minnows in the Raysville area. She was fishing with Golous Mock.
David Willard, Little River Marina, U.S. Coast Guard-licensed professional fishing guide specializing in hybrids and stripers. (1 (803) 637-6379) -- Fishing would have been fabulous this week had it not been for the fact that the lake reached 334 feet. It was still good, with the water hitting 75 degrees -- warmest of the year. Only problem is, after launching the boat, the walkways are under water so you have to "snorkel" out to your boat.
Jamie and Richard Grant of Cheraw, S.C., had a great day catching hybrids and stripers up to 12 pounds. Rob Turner and his son, 11-year-old Chris, from Martinez and relatives Don and Rick Hankins of Grand Rapids, Mich., had fun catching their first 11 hybrids, although we were forced to sit out the best fishing hours waiting for the Mother's Day thunderstorms to pass. Ruby and Joe Sloan of Hardy, Ky., and relatives Sharon and Matt from Chicago caught a cooler full of hybrids. Ruby gave everyone a fishing lesson and limited out early. This is an annual trip for Ruby and Joe, who were glad to be back on Thurmond.
SAVANNAH RIVERNew Savannah BluffLock & Dam
Lock and Dam Bait and Tackle (Bob Baurle and Finley Peel), 1-706-793-8053 -- Fishermen are catching bream, shellcrackers and redbreasts. Sok Choi caught 25 nice bream and redbellies off the wooden pier. Some mighty big shellcrackers are being caught up the river on Louisiana pinks, wax worms and crickets, finding holes in the moss. The water is clearing. I haven't seen any shad lately. The mullet have arrived and fishermen are catching good numbers downstream. Mack Peeler of Wrens, Ga., is among those who have been tearing 'em up.
MERRY BROTHERSBRICKYARD PONDS
Bill Gibson 1 (706) 722-2980 -- Mike Murchison caught a 5-pound, 8-ounce bass fishing minnows from the bank of the Bradford Pond.
Artie Jewell and Donnie Hawkins won our Friday night tournament with 11 pounds, 5 ounces of bass, including the big fish of 5 pounds, 9 ounce. Tony Grier and James Free caught just 4 pounds, 15 ounces of bass for second.
Our Friday night tournaments run from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Entry fee is $20 per person, including the big fish pot.
FAYE & JOANN'S LAKES(Formerly Sears Lakes)
(706) 722-8263 -- Vivian Dupree caught a 14-pound catfish on chicken liver. Eleanor Turner caught a 14 pound catfish and 20 more a pound or better on chicken livers. Jack Connell caught five bass: 3, 6, 8, 8 1/2 and 2 pounds on a spinnerbait. Wanda Green caught 14 bream on red worms and 27 catfish on liver. James Green caught four bass: 3, 6, 7 1/2 and 8 3/4 pounds on a pumpkinseed worm. Willie Williams caught 26 on red worms and 14 catfish 1 1/2 pounds or better on liver. Ricky Smith caught three bass: 6 1/2 , 8 and 10 pounds, all on spinnerbaits. Johnny Green caught four catfish toting 22 1/2 pounds on liver. Paul Smith caught a 23-pound catfish and 14 others a pound or better on liver. James Jewell caught 15 shellcrackers on pinks and 12 bluegills on pinks. Rosa Lafavor caught catfish weighing 9 1/2 and 4 1/2 pounds, a 4-pound bass on a plastic worm and five bream on red worms. Fay Stringfellow caught 14 catfish on liver and 12 bream on red worms. Johnny Bauserman caught 17 catfish on liver and his mother, Erna, caught 29 catfish on liver. Frank Stone caught 22 catfish on liver and Randy Goodman caught a 22-pound catfish on liver.
ATLANTIC OCEANBEAUFORT, S.C. & VICINITYIncludes Paradise Pier
Joe Mix, Island Outfitters, Ladys Island, 1-(843)-522-9900 -- With the exception of tarpon, all inshore fish species have showed up in our creeks and sounds. Cobia catches are only fair, although we have many reports of cobia pods finning on the surface, frustrating anglers in the fishes' reluctance to strike any bait except live fish. Shark action is strong, with fishermen catching their two-per-day limit. Our short run of large roe speckled trout has begun, with the best catches reported around Parris Point and the middle marsh areas, Whiting landings remain excellent.
Offshore reports are encouraging for those boats capable of reaching drops 45 to 60 miles out. On Sunday, a party fishing with charter captain Kevin Ragsdale took two wahoo up to 45 pounds, five king mackerel and two barracuda trolling ballyhoo about 61 miles out. Another boat found a school of dolphin beneath a floating pallet and boated 31. Boats fishing less than 45 miles out report disappointing results. Spanish mackerel and blues continue to school off the Bay Point bars.
Miss Judy Charters, Capt. Judy Helmey, 912-897-3460. Large "gator trout," a.k.a roe trout, are being caught on plastic grubs and live shrimp, with the shrimp likely to take precedence soon. Dead shrimp fished on the bottom are catching whiting in the shallow areas of the sounds, with the best feeding time when the tide is moving.
Offshore, fishing is picking up on our artificial reefs, especially the Savannah Snapper Banks, while Gulf Stream reefs are producing great catches. Just hope the weather stays mild.