Just after I finished up the event on Toledo and prior to the start of the next BASS Elite Series #5 at Lake Dardanelle, AR, I drove to Lake Chickamauga in Dayton, TN. I was able to spend a few days on the lake scouting for BassFest that was to take place in June. I had a busy week thoug,h catching up on emails and also taping another episode of Bass Edge Radio (bassedge.com), a bi-monthly podcast on iTunes that I co-host. I was ready for some certain shallow water fishing coming up at Dardanelle and of course looking to get back on track after a disappointing week at Toledo (read previous blog entry).
May 15-18, Lake Dardanelle, Russellville, AR – BASS Elite Series #5
I was rested up and ready to go, revitalized to have a fresh start on the trail after a bump in the road at the last event. I had all my necessary tackle work prepped and studied the maps of the areas I was anxious to look at based on my pre-practice period. The forecast for the week was much colder than normal in this area of the country and on top of that rain, rain and more rain. It was going to be an interesting week on the river. As I fished through a few bays on the first practice day, I was finding the bite to be fairly slow. Catching a fish here and there but really no big ones and not establishing any sort of pattern.
The rain was coming down consistently and it would for the next several days. I noticed many backs of creeks that I thought would be productive areas were becoming muddy. The water flowing into them was also dropping the water temperature fast. I thought surely this would hurt the fishing in those areas and on Day 2 of practice I began looking for main lake cover and pockets with very little water drainage. Still getting very few bites, I called another angler to see how they were doing and he tipped me off to a swim jig bite. I rigged one up and immediately starting catching lots of fish and some of very good quality.
I don’t have a ton of experience with swim jigs and was having some trouble keeping some of the fish hooked and getting them to the boat. I made some equipment adjustments and felt I had it figured out. I was starting to land nearly every bite I desired to but also shaking off many of them along the way. By the end of the third day of practice, I had three areas that I knew I could get bites in and figured it would be easy to expand on new water during the tournament. Using the swim jig was an efficient way to cover water fast. I was feeling confident going into competition Day 1.
Event Day 1: 5 Bass / 16lbs 1oz – 29th place of 107
I started at the mouth of the most productive creek I found in practice. I had lots of bank grass and some pepper grass just off shore as well as good depth in several areas near the vegetation. It wasn’t rapid fire but every 30 minutes or so I was getting a quality fish. Most importantly, I was landing everything that bit! I felt like I was back in the groove where I started the year. I made a couple of very good moves to help my catch that day. One example: As I worked a lay down log on the main river, I was tossing the swim jig and I was close to the cover. A fish swam out but got too near the boat before committing to the bait and turned off. I continued to ease on by with the trolling motor and then turned back toward the log where the fish had come out from. I decided to throw a worm to work it slowly around the log… 1st cast no fish… 2nd cast no fish… I decided one more attempt and BAM! There she was a solid 3 ½ lb-er. I was culling up to over 14 lbs and looking good with still a half day left to fish.
In the Afternoon, I began running some new water and was not getting many bites then rolled up on a shallow point and WHAM! A 4 lb-er! I was now over 16lbs and feeling great! On nearly the final cast of the day, I lost a fish that would have culled me up to over 17 lbs but I wasn’t terribly disappointed. (Little did I know, it was just the beginning.)
I felt overall, I had a good day. I didn’t catch a bunch of fish but the 8-9 fish I boated were all pretty solid and I knew I left plenty more. I was sitting in the top 30 with confidence going into competition Day 2.
Event Day 2: 2 Bass / 4 lbs 10oz – 92nd place of 107
Day 2 there was a fog delay… about 1 ½ hours. It concerned me with the shorter day because again I wasn’t getting tons of bites. I figured it was going to be very critical to capitalize on everything that bit. Once we finally got started, I began in the same creek as Day 1. I fished several hundred yards without a strike but I wasn’t concerned. I knew it was a matter of time.
I approached an area I knew had a small ditch near the water willow just off the bank. I worked it with anticipation and BOOM there was the first bite of the day… it jumped! A solid 4 lb-er! I was working her to the boat and everything going according to plan… she jumped several times and all is good. I work her down the side of the boat and reach down to lip the fish… and just as I touch her the jig falls out and into my hand… UNBELIEVABLE! I was in shock! I couldn’t believe it. I say a few choice words and moved on. I couldn’t let it get to me.
I fished down the bank and again, it was very slow going. I landed a small keeper to finally break the ice about 30 min later but I am beginning to feel a little pressure. The next two bites I get on the swim jig I load up on them and they somehow get free. I am not capitalizing on the bites and the day is beginning to get away from me. I switch up and start flipping some of the water willow and within about 10 minutes I pick up a nice fish! My 2nd for the day and I have about 2 hours left to fish. I’m hoping I begin stroking some fish as time is running out, to no avail. I switch up some areas and fish hard to make something happen.
I get five bites on competition Day 2 and only land two of them. JEEZ! That is tough to take! I move down the standing from 29th to 92nd. This is an unforgiving group of anglers and I took it hard. I had a great opportunity to rebound from Toledo’s disappointment and after a successful Day 1 with emotions riding high… they are crushed in a couple of hours. The ups and downs of professional fishing are grueling!
Event Total - 10 Bass / 20lbs 11oz / 92nd place of 107.
My goal all year was to condense my areas of practice so I could be more focused and successful in the shorter practice period of the Elite Series - 2 ½ days. It was apparent to me in this event that I didn’t do that and in my opinion is a large part of why I didn’t have the success I was looking for. I was amped up after the tournament as I was about to compete in my first Major League Fishing Event. You can be sure to check out the SELECTS in the Spring of 2015 to see how it went! That is an adrenaline packed bass fishing format!
Next blog… Bassmaster Northern Open #1, Lake Douglas, Dandridge, TN – May 29-31