Concluding the Table Rock event I stopped by Lake Dardanelle to look the place over. We were going there for stop #5 on the Elite Series. It’s funny, often we don’t fish much during some pre-practice periods when we visit a lake we’ve never been too. I drove the whole lake in about 2 days and then did a little fishing on day 3. It reminded me a lot of where I grew up in Northern Virginia on the Potomac River. The Potomac is a shallow water fishery and Dardanelle is just the same. Arriving home to Del Rio later that week I was on Lake Amistad guiding almost every day until I was to depart for the Toledo event. No rest for the weary… in hindsight, it cost me!
May 1-4, Toledo Bend Reservoir, Many, LA – BASS Elite Series #4
I arrived Sunday about 4pm prior to the first practice day. On my drive over from Del Rio I noticed I wasn’t feeling up to par. I had an obligation to make an appearance to talk to some High School fishing clubs that evening. With my tackle already prepared prior to arrival I enjoyed the evening with some of the other pros and the youth. I awoke early Monday morning and got right to work looking for some mid-depth grass fish as I assumed most of the bass would be post spawn.
It was a difficult morning of fishing and early afternoon didn’t get much better until I crept up into the shallows and began seeing several fish still on beds. To my surprise there were lots of fish still very shallow in the lower end of the lake were I decided to concentrate. As the afternoon grew to the evening my health was beginning to spiral downward and not long afterwards took a drastic turn for the worst… by 3pm I felt like mush… although I strived to continue practicing knowing how important it was to stay out on the water.
By 5:30pm I ran into fellow angler James Niggemeyer and immediately he could tell something was wrong… indeed I felt horrible! I could barely make a cast and decided to head in and get some early rest. Loading the boat and driving back seem to make things that much worse and by the time I returned to my lodging I felt like I was going to faint! Exhausted and drained I wobbled right into bed hoping I would feel better in the morning. I slept right through the night and woke up still feeling terrible. I made a very tough decision to hold off on going fishing and visit a doctor. It was that bad... I couldn’t believe I was making that decision, but I felt if I was to compete at any level in the tournament I had to go. The doctor gave me some shots and advised I should rest for the afternoon. Seemed as though it was a classic case of exhaustion and lack of rest… I was running too hard working for the last several weeks and it cost me that 2nd practice day.
As I tried to get up and out in the afternoon the medication and sickness forced me to continue resting and gave it a full effort for the final practice day. (I still can’t believe I missed that day… but really, I had no choice). On the final practice day I was feeling well enough to make a go at it and now had confidence I would be able to compete.
I continued looking for some bedding bass and fishing shallow… A few areas I had located some fish to catch so that’s where I would start day 1 of the event knowing I would need to find some bigger bass as the tournament progressed.
Event Day 1: 5 Bass / 10lbs 5oz – 97th place of 108
I ran just south of the launch to blind cast at a few fish I had located the final practice day… no luck… and I couldn’t see the fish. On to the next cove… blind casting to some bedding areas and still no fish. I decide to stay patient and fish slowly through the area… 45 min later… still no fish. I am bummed but not beaten. I run down to some clearer water on the far southern end and catch a small buck bass on a bed to gain some momentum. Immediately I catch another 2+lber. I am thinking… OK, now were moving in the right direction. I round the corner and see a giant on the end of a main lake point. I sit on her for about 35 min and the male was catchable but I decide to leave him on the bed hoping the female would move in later and settle down. She was continually swimming around the bed but just not set up correctly.
I moved to area 4 on my hit list, I found this Mon. afternoon during practice, and it must have been blown out from the wind. The water was very dirty… I don’t fish there for more than 5 min before I decide it’s just not going to work. I run right back over to the big female and she is still there but spooky. I work down the bank nearby and begin catching some keepers fan casting a weightless worm. I caught a limit but knew I needed a couple 3-4 lb bites to be competitive in the event. It’s now getting late in the day and my check-in time nears… I return to where I started the day hoping now that the sun was high I could relocate those bedding bass. No dice… Nada! I run back to weigh-in with a small limit.
Event Day 2: 5 Bass / 12lbs 12oz – 88th place of 108
The beginning of Day 2 my health is much better and I actually begin feeling back to normal. I was only a few pounds out of the top 50 after day 1. That monster I saw the day before gives me confidence I can make a comeback! I ran straight to that main lake point where she sat… I work her for about 35 min but can’t see that she will be catchable. I decide to pluck the male off the bed to get my day started.
I work down the bank nearby and again begin catching bass in the 2 lb range hoping a 3-4 lber will show up soon. Fan casting the weightless worm and working fish on beds as I sight them I boat a limit in the first 2 hours that weighs 1 0lbs. I am just a few big bites away from making a nice comeback!
I run to different areas on the southern end of the lake looking for more bedding bass and fishing shallow. I catch a fish here and there with some culling by ounces but not what I need to move up the standings. With about 2 hours remaining in the day I locate a 5 lber! I work the area she is located in not knowing exactly where the bed is. I catch a fish in the vicinity and again it helps by just ounces. Then I see the big girl swim by and my worm is right in her path! She dips down and as I twitch my lure gently she picks up the bait slowly! She has it! I swing and the lure is gone… I assume she only had one end in her mouth… unfortunately for me not the business end.
Jeez… That would have helped a bunch! That was the last time she looked at a lure. I move to one last cove hoping to find that big cull. I see a couple nice ones but they're just cruising, time runs out. I finish with 12+lbs for the day and near the bottom of the pack for the tournament.
Event Total - 10 Bass / 23lbs 1oz / 88th place of 108.
In all my years of tournament fishing I have never missed a practice day. Another day on the water maybe I could’ve located some additional productive areas and not had to rely on trying to find everything during the competition hours. Tough thing is I actually saw the fish to have a decent finish… the difference between success and failure from event to event is so small… it amazes me. The lesson here was to be sure I don’t overdo it prior to events. In my career though it seems it’s part of the game to make a decent income in the fishing industry, but balance will continue to be a focus for me in the future.
Next blog… Bassmaster Elite Series Event #5, Lake Dardanelle, Russellville, AR – May 15-18
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