Water, Water Everywhere
Water, Water Everywhere
In light of the horrible flooding and devastating tornados that ravaged much of the country, I am almost hesitant to talk about fishing. My heart and prayers go out to all of those who have been affected. People in my area of the world around Middle Tennessee were not spared damage, but the destruction was not nearly as bad as it was in other places. The biggest effect we saw was rain, and lots of it!
Water levels rose to record levels in most of the lakes I fish - even higher than during last years “1000 year flood” of Nashville. The difference was that this year, there was so much rain downstream that releasing water from the Tennessee and Cumberland River systems would have been dangerous for those downstream. So, the Corps of Engineers plugged the dams and backed up the lakes. Kentucky Lake crested around 373’ above sea level, which is 14 feet above summer pool. Other area lakes reached 12-13 feet above normal pool. Although this certainly affected the fishing, it was really interesting for me to see the big picture of how our river and lake systems could be used to control flooding. Had they been dumping the Tennessee River into the Ohio, the downstream flooding could’ve been much worse. It even led me to give my children a boring lecture on the way home from church about the creation of the TVA and its purposes for job creation, flood control, and recreation.
I had a tournament scheduled on April 30th, but due to the inaccessible boat ramps, it was cancelled. I expected the same thing the following week, May 7, on Kentucky Lake, but to my surprise, after consulting with the Corps of Engineers and the local marinas, the tournament director, Randy Sullivan, called to let me know that it was still a go. I had really been looking forward to this event because under normal circumstances, it would have been a great flippin’ tournament. However, with the edge of the bushes now in 13-14 feet of water, I had to adjust my strategy. Fortunately, I fished an event on Kentucky Lake under similar conditions several years ago. My partner and I did very well throwing crankbaits around the original bank line on the north end of the lake. I headed out early Friday morning with that as my main game plan, with one slight adjustment. I was going to fish the southern end of the lake.
In the past 3-4 years, most tournaments have been won from the Paris area south. So, naturally, I figured I’d fish that pattern down south and do well. Friday’s practice produced plenty of bites, but nothing over three pounds. I also caught a few fish in places where I could actually get on the bank (back yards, steep banks, etc.). As I headed for the pre-tournament meeting that night, I was really not sure what I needed to do. I hated to run 150 miles to catch two pounders, but I was also unsure about fishing all new water on a tournament day. I was the last boat out Saturday morning and rather than make a long run, I stopped at a marina close to the take off.
I’m sure my co-angler thought I was clueless (he wasn’t far off if he did). I started out throwing a jig and crankbait around some riprap, then I fished some boat slips, then I flipped down a grassy bank. Just as I was about to pull up the trolling motor, to head south, my line jumped, I set the hook, and quickly boated a 5+ pound largemouth. Now what do I do? I fished some more similar looking banks to no avail. So, being the brilliant fishing mind that I am, I fired up the Mercury and ran 50 miles. To keep this blog a little less boring, by the end of the day, I had burned 53 of the 54 gallons in my tank and boated four more keepers. I caught one a Carolina rig, one on a football jig, one on a deep-diving crankbait, and one more flipping. I spent my day jumping around from spot to spot and pattern to pattern. My limit weighed 14.66 and I did manage to scratch out the 9th place check. While I wasn’t too disappointed in that finish, when I figured out what happened during the day, it made me sick to my stomach.
Several of the top finishers absolutely smashed them on a crankbait. Just like I had planned to do, only they fished the north end of the lake, just like I had done several years ago. Some of the same places I had fished in the last flood event were probably loaded. Instead, I choose to burn as much $4.00/gal fuel as I possibly could to catch a small limit. Tournament bass fishing is a game of constant learning, data gathering and decision making. Hopefully, next time, I’ll do a better job of using my past experiences to help me make the right decisions!
Until next time, keep chunkin’ and windin’.
Boat US Angler Pro-Staff
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