Michael Neal heats up on Day 1 of Bassmaster Southern Open

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Local pro Michael Neal works offshore ledges on Day One of Bassmaster's Southern open on Lake Chickamauga. (Bassmaster/RonnieMoore)

Dayton, TN — Day One of Bassmaster’s Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on Lake Chickamauga finds Hunter Shyrock of Newcomerstown, Ohio on top of the 195 boat field with 25-7 pounds.

Big Bites Bait pro Michael Neal on Day One. (photo contributed)

But it could be Dayton’s Michael Neal who’s sitting in the catbird seat.

Neal closed the day in fourth place with 23-0 pounds, and he’s feeling pretty good about his chances.

“The feeling I have is kinda like I’m leading,” Neal says because a lot of the others appear to be sight fishing which is hard to do consistently for several days.

The day began slow for the Tennessee River pro but says his fortunes began to change around lunchtime.

“Right now the fish are in transition, and I’m fishing offshore where like I like to fish,” confesses Neal.  “I just got to hope enough swim out to me.”

A lot of those fish are moving from their beds out to their “summer places” – and on Lake Chick – well that’s Neal’s hunting grounds.

“As long as I can stay somewhat consistent, I’ll have a real good shot come Saturday.”

Three time FLW Angler of the Year Andy Morgan of Dayton finished with a 5 fish limit of 13-10 pounds while Spring City pro Wesley Strader struggles with two fish for 5 pounds.

Day Two weigh-in begins at 2:45 PM Friday at Dayton Boat Dock & Grill.  Anglers will weigh-in for the final day (Saturday) at the new Bass Pro Shops in East Ridge.