He fell just one ounce short of calling his own shot.
Kilgore had an opening-day haul of 19 pounds, 15 ounces, to take the early lead at his home lake. Todd Auten of South Carolina holds down second place at 18-5.
Kilgore, among the first to weigh-in on Thursday, put up a big total early — despite cold, rainy conditions on the lake — and made it stand.
“It could have been better today,” Kilgore said. “They were biting in the morning, then they just quit biting. I think the weather has them screwy. Obviously, I’m around some big ones, if they will just bite right.”
Kilgore’s largest catch came in a 6-6.
“I’ll get a bigger one tomorrow,” Kilgore told the crowd.
With temperatures expected to rise throughout the weekend, Kilgore is looking forward to the next two days on the lake.
“(Friday) should be good. Let that sun start warming the lake and around lunch it should be great. Saturday should be awesome. It’s supposed to be sunny and real warm,” Kilgore said. “I’m excited about (Friday). I’m ready to go get them again.”
The top six anglers are separated by less than four pounds heading into today’s second round of the three-day tournament.
Following today, the field will be cut down to the top 12 professionals and co-anglers for the final day.
After Day 1, Brandon Lester (17-15) is in third place followed by Clifton Coffey (17-6), John Figi (17-6), Warren Barnes (17-3) and Derek Cummings (16-2). Cullman anglers Jesse Wiggins (15-10) and Greg Pugh (15-4) hold down eighth and ninth place, respectively.
A total of 111 pro anglers caught the five-fish limit on Thursday. Four came away empty handed.
The tournament winner earns a check for $6,741, a Nitro Z9 powered by a Mercury 225 Pro XS and an invitation to the 2015 Bassmaster Classic, if the winner participates in all three Southern Open series tournaments.
On the co-angler side, Stephen Longobardi is tied with Jonathan McGinn for the lead. Both anglers finished with a 3-fish limit and weighed in at 9-7.
Jasper’s Jamie Butler is in a three-way tie for 8th at 8-3. On the co-angler side, 117 caught at least one fish with 40 competitors finishing with an empty bag.
Anglers will take off at 6 a.m. the next two days from Smith Lake Dam. Today’s weigh-in begins at 2 p.m. at the dam. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the Bass Pro Shops in Leeds at 3:30 p.m.