Sunday, May 23, 2010

Clark's Hill

Clark’s Hill is definitely a unique fishery in my eyes. All blueback based lakes that I’ve fished have been difficult for me to adjust to, and this tournament was no exception. I had some decent days out there, but in the end the bad days were enough to keep me out of the top of the pack.

The last time we came to Clark’s Hill we hit the blueback spawn dead on. This year we were about 2 weeks late. And in this lake the bite only gets worse after those bluebacks spawn. Everybody out there was concentrating on an offshore, schooling fish bite. So on day one of practice I tried to find the same kind of thing. On day 2 of practice I ran around a lot, and eliminated a bunch of water. However, I also found a really unique area. I ran way up a creek, and up this creek I found a large area of matted grass. It looked a lot like the gator grass they have down in Florida. It was the perfect place to throw a frog, and almost immediately I boated one that went about 4 lbs. I then cut the hooks off my bait and had several more quality bites in just a short amount of time. I knew this spot was something different, so I left it until tournament time. I spent the last day of practice trying to find more areas to catch schooling fish. In hindsight, I should have spent the last day exploring my matted grass area and getting familiar with it.

The first day of the tournament was a good way to get things started. I caught a limit of schooling fish in the first half hour. After that I ran to my matted grass and culled out a few of my small schoolies. After the first day I was sitting in 26th place, which is a great place to be after day one of a tournament. On the second day I couldn’t get anything going in my primary spots. Finally I pulled up on a point that I had caught some schoolies on in practice. I caught a 2 ½ lber pretty quick, and then caught several hybrids. Then I caught two more largemouths, and after those two fish all I could get to bite were hybrids. That was a really strange scenario. On the third day I ran to my schooling areas first, only to find local tournament fisherman sitting on my points. I tried a few other points that I hadn’t fished before, but had no luck there. I ran up to my grass mat area at about 8a.m. I had one bite on the frog, and lost it. I bailed out of there at about noon. I decided the only thing I could do was get out there and “practice fish” for the rest of the tournament. I ran new areas and new patterns, and managed to catch a couple of squeakers on a small tube. That day really hurt. But what hurt even more was the fact that the only other person that found my grass mat spot was Cliff Crochet, who wound up in second place. All I can say is way to go Cliff, and that I wish that I would have played my cards a little bit differently. My key baits this week were a 5” basstrix swim bait that I used to target shcooling fish, and a hollow body top water frog used in matted grass.

Now we have two weeks off and we are headed to Biloxi Mississippi to spend some time with family, and it looks like instead of watching the waves roll in on the beach we’re going to watch the oil slicks roll in! Oh well, time with family is always fun. The week after this we are headed north to Kentucky Lake so that we can get set up and prepared for the next event. I plan on spending some time on Guntersville trying to get dialed in on a Tennessee River ledge bite, or at least that’s my excuse for fishing there for the third time this season!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Between Guntersville and Clark's Hill

This past week has been a very welcomed and necessary week off. Got a chance to rest up, and have some fun with the family. I got Mason his very first bait cast set up and gave it to him during the Guntersville tournament. He practiced and practiced with it, and after the tournament Mason and I went and fun fished on Guntersville together. We had a ball, and caught a lot of fish. Mason got to break in his new rod and reel, and he caught a 6 ½ lber with it, his best yet! It was a great moment, and I am so proud of him.

On Friday we were in Birmingham for the Mark’s Outdoors tournament on Lay Lake. That store is so cool, it has everything you could ever want for fishing. Friday night I got to meet fans and do some promotional stuff. On Saturday we fished the big event, which had 500 boats. This tournament is a random partner event, so I fished with a young guy and had a lot of fun. Before take off at this event, each boat is handed a bag of Florida strain fingerlings that are to be dumped out at the first fishing hole of the day. It’s a really cool deal, and I think this tournament has helped Lay Lake to become the fishery that it is today. The tournament, as fun as it was, didn’t come without its share of frustration. When it was time for us to head back to weigh in, I did a final check on our fish. We had 5 fish in the box, that weighed about 15 ½ lbs. However, when I checked them before we took off, our biggest fish was dead and floating. There was no reason for it to be dead, ran the recirc all day and took good care of them. This time of year is just more stressful for the fish than other times of the year. We ended up weighing in only 4 fish, and missing out on some money. If I would have known that fish was dead I could have culled it out with a 2 ½ lber, because we caught tons of fish that size, but by the time we found out that fish was dead it was too late. It was still a fun tournament, and I’m happy to be a part of it.

After the weigh in we headed out for Clark’s Hill. We rolled in at about 3 a.m. Sunday morning, and, needless to say, spent all Sunday resting. Historically, Clark’s Hill has been pretty tough, but I’m still going to aim high. I’m looking for a top 30 finish, and won’t be satisfied with anything less.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gville Gratification

Guntersville proved to be a pretty crazy tournament. It was frustrating, and awesome all at the same time. Practice was difficult, but somehow things turned around for me. I have to thank Alton Jones for turning me onto the offshore bite that was going on out there.

There has been a lot of rain in the south recently, so while we were on Guntersville, there was pretty much no current. On a lake where current defines the behavior of the fish, having no current makes things a little difficult. Fish were everywhere, kind of like Pickwick. On day one, I started on a spot and caught fish on every cast for a while. I was able to put together a small limit before the school shut down. From there I ran to a community hole that had a few other pros fishing on it. Kevin Wirth clued me onto a good school of fish that I caught a 6 ½ and a 5 lber out of. Day one really kind of helped me realize what exactly the fish were doing out there. On day two, I started in that same community hole and caught fish on a football jig. After I put together a limit, I ran to another spot and flipped a couple 3 and 4 lbers out of the grass and caught a couple decent fish on my DT6 in the grass. On day three the deep bite had turned off. I went and fished in the grass again. This specific spot was a grassy hump in the middle of a creek. I ripped the DT6 through the grass all day, and my smallest fish was 3 lbs. But, I never was able to find any big fish.

I feel relieved now that the Gville tournament is over with. I have been keeping true to my goal, and I just got to keep it up. I’m 40th in AOY standings right now, so as long as I work hard I should be able to build myself a nice little cushion before the end of the season and make it to the Classic.

This weekend I will be fishing on Lay Lake with a lot of the other pros for the Mark’s Outdoors tournament. This has always been a fun promotional event, and I expect it to be just as much fun this year. After this weekend we are headed down to Mississippi to visit family, and then we’re off to Clark’s Hill.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pickwick Paid Off

When I got to Pickwick I was in need of a confidence booster, a points cushion, and a check. Well, Saturday I got everything I needed. It feels great to get a good tournament under my belt. Pickwick was a lot of fun, and it gave me an opportunity to get back to the basics and fish my strengths.

Catching fish on Pickwick was not a problem, but getting the big bite and capitalizing on it was a problem. On Thursday I lost 3 fish that were all 3 lbs or better. It really stings because those 3 fish would have gave me a weight of around 18 lbs on day one and would have got me through to the final day. But it is what it is, and I can’t dwell on what could have been.

I flipped a War Eagle jig with a Tightlines UV Hog during the entire tournament. In practice I was able to get bigger bites with this bigger profile bait. Thursday and Friday were spent down lake flipping visible cover. When Saturday came around, I knew that my down lake pattern wasn’t going to hold strong for another day. So, I took a gamble and fished around the take-off area, a place that I hadn’t fished at all. In this area I caught my limit in 15 minutes, and one of those first five fish was a 3 lber. After that I made a short run to fish some barge tie-ups where I caught a 3 lber and a 4 ½ lber right off the bat. It was really cool to take a gamble and change up my plan like that and have it pay off. I feel like I was able to get some redemption on Pickwick. I redeemed my confidence, and I redeemed my previous lack of success on that lake. I feel like I am back in the classic hunt, and am looking forward to what the rest of the season brings.