16th place; $655
Pre-practice Studying and Plan
I knew from the prior year’s tournament the spawn would be in one of the initial waves, but there’d still be a lot of prespawners to catch as well. My plan was to save the area I’d gotten 10th in and fish different areas of the lake to try to build the pattern. There were two reasons for going about it this way. One was to keep pressure off my fish, and the other was to go in blind so I would fish the conditions and not history from practice. I’ve found it’s hard to change how you were catching them in practice on tournament day so if you can go in blind it can really help you out.
On Thursday I explored one of the only places I’ve never been to on Fork and skunked. The reason I chose this part of the lake were the similarities it had with my tournament area. Although I blanked that day of practice, I took a lot away from it that would later help me in the tournament. There were a lot of fish on beds and staging to move up in the coming days, but I couldn’t buy a fish to save my life. I went through my power fishing and blind-bed-fishing baits with only a few pecks. Usually in practice I don’t slow down enough to thoroughly break down an area, and that all stems back to my theory of fishing blind is better than fishing history. I began fabricating a plan of how to finesse the bedding bass into biting and tied on a 4″ Damiki Stinger(a soft stick worm) for tourney day.
Overcast, south wind, cool; maybe 60 degrees or so to start out the morning. It warmed later in the day and the sun peaked out behind big, fluffy white clouds.
Baits tied on the night before:
- 5/16 bluegill swimjig
- 3/8 bluegill spinnerbait with a silver colorado blade and gold willow leaf on the back
- 4″ green pumpkin Damiki Stinger wacky rigged weightless with a size 1 Owner wacky hook (this info will be very important to remember)
- Spro Rat size 40
- Wise Lures Custom Jerkbait in Ghost color
- Red DT-6
- Dropshot with texas rigged 4″ swimbait
- Bluegill colored Rat’L’Trap
When I got to my spot I could see how much life there was popping all over the water. From gar chasing fry, to big bass eating bluegill and shad, the water was exploding everywhere. I started with the rat and picked up a 15.5 incher early. I went probably 20 minutes without another blowup so I began soaking my jig next to probable bedding areas. After another 30 minutes or so I had had one small peck of a bedding bass, but nothing else. This is when I resorted to the wacky rig. At first I had it rigged weightless with a size 1 hook, but with it being so windy I didn’t feel I could sit it on the bed properly. I added half a nail weight to it and began getting bites. For some reason the fish wouldn’t hook up, and I had had that problem on Friday as well. After getting snagged and breaking off I switched to a size 2 and started hooking up with fish. I filled my limit with 70 some inches and put the fairy wand away. Eventually I would cull out every fish caught on the wacky rig, but ended up keeping a 16.75 incher on my card. By this time it’d warmed up a bit and the wind had picked up. With the spinnerbait in hand I preceded to cull up to a decent limit, including my 21″ kicker. The key to this bite was making contact with standing trees and laydowns. That’s when they would suck it up. When the spinnerbait bite died down I started cranking with a DT-6. Again, the bites would come when it’d deflect off a stump. I rounded out my 91.25″ limit with a 19 incher.
What I took away and what I’ll do different next time:
- Late in the day when I was trying to get one more big bite to move into the top 10 I made a color change. I switched from a red DT-6 to a shad pattern. The reasoning behind this was to match the shad that had become thick in the small cove. I could see big bass boiling on them throughout the afternoon. Immediately I picked up a decent fish that didn’t help my total. If I would’ve made this change earlier when the bites ran out on red I might’ve connected with another good fish.
- When fishing for the bed fish with the wacky rig I had a few peck it without ever really picking it up. I committed these precise spots to memory and would hit them from different angles for the next couple of hours. Many of the ones that had showed me where they were at by hitting the stick worm ended up coming to the boat. Blind fishing beds is just like sight fishing beds. Different fish want it different ways. I would play around in the area where I had gotten the bite until I found that sweet spot that drove them crazy.
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