Steve Kennedy's five-fish limit of 23 pounds put the pressure on the rest of the 54-angler field.
FORT WORTH, Texas — As the sun crested the horizon of Lake Ray Roberts in North Texas, 54 anglers had the same opportunity in front of them: a chance to claim the 2021 Bassmaster Classic title, one of the most coveted honors in all of bass fishing.
The Academy Sports + Outdoors Bassmaster Classic presented by Huk features a field with a number of big names, including last year's defending champion, Hank Cherry Jr.
However, after a wild Day 1 in which three anglers broke the 20-pound mark with their five-fish limit, it's Steve Kennedy leading the pack with a whopping 23 pounds.
Kennedy said he never even made it to his best practice spot, as he was able to capitalize on an early-morning shad spawn bite. He did most of his damage before 7 a.m., which was fortunate, as strong winds halted his original plan.
"I kind of got stuck up on one end of the lake because the wind was blowing so hard," he said. "I didn't go anywhere near where I was planning on fishing my second deal."
The 10-time Classic qualifier has finished as high as second in past years, but has never claimed the title.
The beauty of his situation this year, though, is that he can keep his hot spot until the end if he finds success elsewhere again in Day 2.
"Maybe I will tomorrow," he said. "Maybe I won't have to. If I don't have to show that until the final day, I sure don't want to."
Trailing behind Kennedy are Patrick Walters with 22 pounds, 7 ounces, and Cherry Jr. with 20 pounds, 4 ounces.
While Walters and Cherry Jr. echoed Kennedy's woes about the wind, both were able to keep him in sight despite his early jump.
"I was really hoping for an afternoon bite, but the wind made that nonexistent," Walters said. "I planned to spend the entire afternoon fishing offshore, but you really couldn't position on the fish and present your bait the way you needed to."
Frank Talley finished the day with the biggest bass, which weighed a healthy 8 pounds, 3 ounces, which drastically helped bump his four-fish total into the Top 15.
The middle of the pack remains fairly tight as Day 2 awaits, giving anglers outside the Top 25 the opportunity to make a big jump before Championship Sunday. But, there's a 3 pound, 2 ounce gap between Cherry Jr. at No. 3 and Chris Jones at No. 4.
Tomorrow's weigh-in will be held at 4 p.m. CT at the Dickies Arena in Forth Worth.
NEXT: TOP 20 BASS ANGLERS OF ALL TIME