NORTH LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — The University of Louisiana - Lafayette had, in Cody McCrary's words, "just a horrible practice," on the Arkansas River as they prepared for the fifth annual Under Armour College Bass National Championship.
McCrary and partner Justin Baremore were so clueless as to what they were going to do when the tournament lunched at 6 a.m. Friday, they literally flipped a coin to decide which direction, up or down, the river they would go.
A little over nine hours later, they weighed in a limit of five fish that went 12.82 pounds, which was good enough to put them in the lead by almost a pound. They quickly became tight-lipped about which way the coin sent them.
"We'll tell you more on Sunday," Baremore said.
All 60 teams in the field will fish the first two days of the tournament, and the top 5 will zero weight and decide the national championship in a one-day event on Sunday.
Judging from the Day One weights, UL-Lafayette shouldn't need much on Saturday to have a chance to keep their promise of full disclosure. On the cut in fifth place is Clent Davis and Chuck Holderfield of University of Montevallo with 9.3 pounds.
"We plan to fish everything we have tomorrow, but if we get four in the boat, we'll lay off the fish," McCrary said. "There's no reason to beat on them."
For better or worse, McCrary did say that there would be no flipping a coin on Saturday; they have a specific plan. They caught five keeper fish in all their practice, and then caught five in a matter of hours.
"It's like we went from the Dead Sea to Lake Falcon," McCrary said.
Baremore said they figured out something they'd been "overlooking" in practice.
Foster Bradley and Ben Weldon, of the University of Alabama, sit in second with 11.91 pounds, anchored by a 4.43 pound largemouth, the second largest of the day. Alabama didn't have a fish in the boat at 10:30 a.m., but they caught a flurry of activity a few minutes later after changing their approach.
"We knew it was going to be a grind," Bradley said. "We planned to just cover as much water as possible."
Foster said their practice wasn't much better than Lafayette's, but they at least came into the day with a plan. All their fish came off spots they marked in practice and they plan to hit a lot of the same areas on Saturday, hoping they'll get more from their deep-water areas.
"I think the deep fish will be there tomorrow and I think they were there this morning, we just didn't fish it right," Foster said. "We don't feel comfortable in our position. Anybody can go out there and catch a good bag tomorrow and bump us out. It's a river system; it changes every day."
There are only eight teams within 5 pounds of Alabama, a lead that almost seems insurmountable in a system that served up 18 zeros 32 bags under 3 pounds, but two bass over four pounds proved there is a big bag to be had on the river, keeping most of the schools in the running for the national championship.
Anglers launch from the North Little Rock ramp at 7 a.m. ET and weigh-in at the Academy Sports + Outdoors in North Little Rock, Ark., at 4 p.m. ET. Full coverage from the event can be found at ESPNOutdoors.com with live streaming from the weigh-in on CollegeBass.com.