27th Place / 15 fish, 47-12
I’d previously fished two tournaments on Lake Seminole, an EverStart and a Bassmaster Southern Open, in February and October, respectively. I did decently in both of them, finishing in the thirties both times, but they were very tough events so I wasn’t sure that my past knowledge would help me much in this season’s Elite Series opener. I’d been hearing that the fishery had rebounded, so while I tried to utilize my past knowledge as much as possible, I knew that it would also be possible to get a fresh start.
On the first day of practice I started off in a place I’d found on Google Earth, a little backwater opening where the water was really clear. I entered before daylight and saw bunches of fish back there – lots of 2 ½ to 4 pounders, but no true monsters. I probably spent about two hours back there and had a couple of bites, but didn’t catch any. There wasn’t really any reason to catch those bedding fish, especially since I might need them in the tournament. I left that spot around 9 o’clock and in my next little backwater I caught a bass around 6 ½ pounds.
After that I started working my way down the river, fishing lots of similar stuff, but I didn’t see much that I liked. When I got a good way down lake I started seeing a few fish in just about every pond I entered, but I only caught one more small fish that day.
During the fall tournament I’d fished there a few years ago, I ended up fishing up the river for shoal bass. It’s one of the best places for that species and they’re just fun to catch. I didn’t think I could win this event exclusively with shoal bass, but felt that they’d give me a pretty good chance of getting a check, so I spent almost half of the second day of practice way up there. It was pretty easy to catch 12 to 14 pounds that way, which would probably be enough to get a check, but the 15-16 pound mark would be tough to hit. At that point, it seemed like the best thing that I had, though. I went back down the lake for the second half of the day to look for more sight fish but couldn’t find the size I needed.
The last day of practice was divided between Spring Creek and Fish Pond Drain, two of the best-known spawning areas on the lake. I saw a lot of fish and a lot of beds, but nothing very impressive. Heading into the tournament, that left me needing to decide whether to start on the shoal bass – almost a sure thing for a check, but not likely to produce 15 pounds – or the sight fish. In the end, my best bet seemed to be the sight fish.
I started the tournament in the little backwater where I’d started on the first day of practice. I didn’t think I’d have it all to myself but I didn’t expect there to be 12 boats, either. There were three or four when I got there and six or eight came in right behind me. It was uncomfortable to fish that way at times, but there were no problems that I know of. I stayed in there all day and didn’t start up the big motor again until it was time to come in. That’s not something that I do very often, but it seemed to be the best tactic in this case. In fact, several of the other boats started leaving around 9 or 10 am, right when it was getting easier to see the bedding bass.
I caught every fish I weighed in sight fishing. That first day I had one fish over 4 pounds and the rest were just solid keepers in the 3 pound range. I had 17-11, which was the second best bag out of there after the 21 pounds that Mark Davis weighed in.
My decision for Day Two was pretty easy – I did exactly the same thing. My weight went down a little bit to 16-04, but the bite was tougher for many people and I moved up from 25th place to 20th, less than 3 pounds out of the top 12.
I figured that I’d need 20 pounds or more to make the top twelve, and since I hadn’t been catching the majority of my sight fish until after 10:30 I considered running up the river to the shoal bass. I eventually talked myself out of it and elected to start where I’d caught the 6 ½ pounder in practice. I caught a good one there, about 3 ¾ pounds, before heading back to my main sight fishing area for the rest of the day. A lot of the easier fish had been picked off by then, but I eventually managed to cull up to 13-13. Overall, I fished very clean and didn’t lose any fish that I hooked. There were a few that I couldn’t get to commit, though. In particular, there was one big fish about 6 or 7 pounds that picked the bait up by the tail, nudged it or moved it several times, but she wouldn’t eat it. She wasn’t locked on and I never got her to bite. That’s what happens this time of year and there’s nothing that you can do about it.
Most of my fish came on a watermelon red 4” Berkley Power Hawg. I threw it on a 7 foot Fenwick Aetos heavy action extra-fast rod paired with a Pflueger Patriarch reel (7.9:1 gear ratio) spooled with 15 lb. test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. I paired the Berkley Power Hawg with a 3/16 ounce Reins tungsten weight and a 3/0 VMC worm hook.
I also managed to catch a few fish on a stickworm, but the other bait that really came into play was a Berkley Havoc Sick Fish swimbait. Sometimes I’d just pull it through the bed to get the fish mad and then catch it with the Power Hawg, but on several occasions the Sick Fish enticed them to bite. I fished it on a Fenwick Elite Tech 7’3” medium-heavy extra-fast rod paired with a Pflueger Patriarch (7.1:1) and 17 lb. test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. I also used an 8/0 VMC swimbait hook.
I really don’t have any regrets about this tournament. I suppose if I had it to do over again I might’ve gone up the river that last day, if nothing else just for the fun of it. I could’ve weighed that same 13-13 up there, but probably not much more.
Overall, I’m happy with this finish, especially since I started off last season with a 79th place finish at the Sabine River. If you can consistently finish in the twenties and occasionally make a top twelve without bombing, that’ll have you in the running for Angler of the Year. Obviously it’s too early to start thinking much about the title, but it’s important to avoid taking yourself out of it too early. Considering that I had a mediocre practice, I’m glad to come away with a good result.