Anglers in Action Championship Journal
Fresh off a bittersweet 10th place finish at the Bass World Sports Classic on Kentucky Lake, I headed down to Stockton Thursday morning in hopes of putting together a plan that would culminate in Shawn Crabtree and I walking off with the $25000 first place prize. Shawn and I both had Thursday and Friday to practice, so our hopes were high that we could solve the puzzle of high water, cool temperatures, and the fishing pressure associated with year-end fish offs.
After putting in at Orleans Trail, I pointed my Smithville Marine Skeeter ZX200 south to check a few spots that had produced fish in the past. Upon arriving at my first stop and finding several boats in the back of the cove, I moved back out to a secondary pocket and started down the flood brush line. I was flipping a tube and running a buzzbait, spinnerbait, and Daveís Custom Baits Black Market Balsa squarebill along the outer edge of the flooded brush. With water temps in the upper 50ís, I was hoping to find fish that had followed shad into the back end of the coves and pockets, but the spot I was in didnít appear to have a ton of bait, although there were a few shad dimpling the surface in the middle of the cove. Having fished to the back, I turned and started out across a little flatter stretch. Not feeling like the fish were responding to the buzzbait, and thinking the spinnerbait looked like, well, a spinnerbait in the clear water, I focused on the Black Market. I immediately hooked up with a short, followed by three keepers and another short in the next six casts. No size, but maybe I was on to something.
Long story short, I was able to reproduce those results in several places throughout the day, although I had to switch to a lipless crankbait after I introduced the Black Market to a Skeeter windshield. I knew better than to try and rip the bait free of the bush I had it hung in, but in the end, commonsense lost out and I was left with a lipless squarebill!
Shawnís day proved to be better, as he had success with a spinnerbait and buzzbait fished the same way I had, yet his size was better. He felt like his best five would have been in the 17# range which we felt would be enough to take the title if we could repeat it two days in a row. With Thursdayís results in our pocket, we decided to try and expand on Shawnís area on Friday by fishing everything similar on either side of his best two spots. By that afternoon, Shawn had another decent day, although tempered somewhat by the buzzbait producing good swirls rather than hookups. Great for practice, but was it a sign of an impending change? My day was about the same as the day before, although the bite seemed to shift from the Black Market to the spinnerbait along with one three-pounder that was stuck by a homemade Mustad-equipped buzzbait. It was the only bite I had on the buzzer for the day, but the best of the four keepers I boated. After trailering the boat, Shawn headed to Clinton to watch his son play football, while I headed to the dinner/meeting where I enjoyed the company of Jim and Travis Williams, fellow West Central Bass Club members who were also vying for the $25k first place pot.
Saturday dawned much the same as our practice days, cloudy, windy, and cool. As soon as Randy called boat 70, we high-tailed it to the spot where Shawn had his best catch on Thursday. However, by the time we had worked through the area, all we had to show for our efforts were two small keepers that rolled on my spinnerbait but never hooked up. We decided to move to a spot Shawn had fished on Friday, but again, a few shorts and a couple of swirls, way behind his buzzbaits, were all we could dredge up. With the clocking ticking, we ran back past our starting spot and continued on down to a spot I had fished the day before. I told Shawn as we started our pass that I had a short off a particular laydown the day before, and as soon as I tossed the spinner in, a nice three-pounder hooked up. However, halfway to the boat, the same nice three-pounder unhooked and was gone. Big mistake! We worked the rest of the hump without anything of note, so we pointed the Skeeter on up the way and into the spot where I had the buzzbait fish on Friday.
Our first pass didnít amount to much, as we didnít boat anything off of the channel side of the flat, but as soon as we pulled up on the flat, we quickly boat three fish, one of which went in the box. Shortly after, again on a group of willows that had produced a short the day before, I swung on a big fish that came unbuttoned in the net, but went in the livewell nonetheless. Thinking we had big fish for the day, we continued on and managed two more keepers apiece, culling a few ounces with our sixth fish. At the afternoon weigh-in, our 6.13# would only muster a fourth place spot for big fish, but bumped our total to 13.99, pushing us to 6th overall for the day. Feeling like a limit would garner us a high finish, we were hopeful as we took out for the day, as we were less than three pounds behind Darrell Reach and John Bennett who held first, followed closely by the Truman division team of Kevin Smith and Matt Gunter.
Sunday brought clear starry skies and freezing temps as we launched, followed by an hour fog delay. With the 139 boat field inverted from day one, our boat number of 70 landed us in essentially the same spot in the takeoff order as Saturday, and when we were called, we immediately made our way back to our flat. Feeling like the clear skies and cold night may have stymied the fish somewhat, we committed ourselves to the area, as we were confident the fish were present although we may have to hit them in the head to get them to bite. Contrary to the day before, I managed two fairly quick keepers on the spinnerbait, but as the day would progress, thatís all we would take to the scales. I did have another keeper hooked up, but lost it in a manner consistent with the three-pounder from Day 1, while Shawn rolled a keeper that never hooked up. The mistakes would cost us dearly, as we would fall to 20th place with a second day bag of 3.21 and a total of 17.20 pounds. We werenít alone, as Darrell and John managed only one fish to relinquish the lead, while Kevin and Matt didnít fair much better with 4 pounds. Matt Emerson and Terry Bradley healed a few wounds they suffered by finishing just out of the money at the previous weekís BWSTA Classic on Kentucky Lake by turning in the second heaviest stringer of Day 2, with Truman Points leaders David Ryan and Robb Barker right on their heals in third for the day.
However, consistency would prove to be the key, as James Watson and Corey Eustler took the big prize with 25.43 pounds. Truman division veterans Steve Olive and Bobby Williams finished in third with David and Robb moving up to 6th overall. The slide for Darrell and John settled at ninth place, one spot in front of Kevin and Matt. Matt Emerson and Terry Bradley landed in 14th on the strength of their Day 2 bag. Check out Anglers in Action for a complete tournament results.
Semi-content to still manage a check despite a bad second day, Shawn and I will switch gears as Shawn will team with his son and while Iíll pair up with Dave Gaulden in this weekendís Joe Bass Championship on Truman Lake, taking off from Bucksaw Resort and Marina. With two of the three championships for the 2009 season under my belt, and two money finishes to show for the effort, Iím hopeful the Lord will grant Dave and I a great weekend with which to culminate the season.
(With the hunting seasons beginning to kick into full gear, be sure and check out Chris Carsonís The Buck Stops Here Taxidermy site for your deer, turkey, and waterfowl mounts. Give Chris a call if you already have your deer or turkey, or better yet, check with him ahead of time to get his suggestions on how to handle your harvest prior to getting it to him to ensure a perfect trophy. With only a few days before the start of duck season, take a look at Smithville Marineís website as they have plenty of duck boats ready for the upcoming season. Donít wait until the season starts to wish you had prepared a head of time!)
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18