I had fished here a couple of times in the past, but only once in a tournament. That was a Stren Series that took place in February. It was very cold and I had a great event, finishing 2nd. This was probably the tournament that I looked forward to the most when I saw it on the schedule. I knew it was a lake that not many of the competitors had much experience on.
Practice: The first day I spent covering most of the lake. I put in at the dam and went all the way up the river. It was not a great day for me. I did get a few bites on topwater and saw a few cruising fish. The next day I spent most of my time in the middle of the lake. Again I had a few bites but a couple of these were BIG fish. I found one small area that seemed to have the potential to produce a couple of good fish. The last day I started in the river because I had heard about the shad spawn taking place. I caught a lot of small fish and a few decent keepers. Most of these fish were on crankbaits on rocky banks.
Day 1: I started on the stretch that I found the last day of practice where the shad spawn was in full swing. When I got there, there were no shad to be found. The bass had pulled out as well. I did catch a couple of keepers working my way out of this creek. I went to another area that was similar and caught a couple more keepers. I kept working this pattern until about 9:30 and had a small limit, around 9 pounds. I had a few areas up the river further that had produced some better fish in practice. I went to those places and never helped myself the rest of the day. I ended the day with around 9 ½ pounds and sat in 57th place. This was the first time all year I had not been in the top 50 and I did not like that feeling.
Day 2: I decided to change things up completely. I started in an area in the middle of the lake. I caught a limit in less than an hour. Two of these were good quality largemouth. This gave me the confidence to just go fishing the rest of the day. One of my next stops landed me a 5 pounder on a chatterbait. My good friend and roommate Andy Montgomery had turned me onto this bait. I fished main lake points and banks that had clay and rock mixed in. The shad were spawning on these areas and the bass were eating them. I caught a few fish flipping trees as well. I had a great day and weighed over 17 pounds. This moved me up to around the 20’s.
Day 3: I started close to the ramp again to get an early start. I caught a keeper on my first cast! I caught 4 keepers in about 10 minutes. All of these were small spots. I finished my limit 30 minutes into the day with a decent largemouth. All of these early fish came on a spinnerbait. I went to the area that produced for me the day before. The bite was a little slower today. I did manage a couple of good fish on a spinnerbait and flipping a jig. I ended the day with 14 pounds and made my first top 12 of the year in 10th place!
Day 4: Again I started close by but only caught a couple of small spots to start the day. My upper lake bite was even slower today than it had been. I caught a good fish swimming a white jig out of a bush pretty quick when I got up the lake. I fished the main areas with only small fish to show. Then I moved to the area where I caught the 5 pound fish the first day. It was a small rock bank on the main channel. I threw my spinnerbait under the undercut bank and a fish hit it. I jerked but missed the fish. The fish followed the bait out and it looked to be about 5 pounds. I was heart broke! About an hour later I decided to check it again. I pitched a white jig where the fish had bit the first time… Nothing…. Other side of the rock, my line swims out! I jerk and it cuts my line on the back side of the rock! This was the last good bite of the day. I ended with 9 pounds and finish 11th.
Added edge: The biggest thing for me in this event was Andy Montgomery putting me on the right bait. I had been fishing the right pattern just with the wrong bait. It was an incredible difference in the size of fish that I caught after switching baits.