So close….again.

This was the second straight tournament where I barely missed the cut to fish on Saturday – this time by a mere 3 ounces – but in many respects I wasn’t as disappointed by them as I was by some struggles earlier in the year. At the Potomac and Hartwell some things that were out of my control took me out my game and at Beaver Lake I just took a bad gamble. Now I’ve got my head on straight and I’m fishing up to my abilities.

I spent the first day of practice up in the northern end of the lake looking for both largemouths and smallmouths and it did not go particularly well. Around 11am, Glenn Browne called me from Ticonderoga. He’d had about 40 or 50 bites, including some big ones, and that started to work on my head. I had two days left to practice down south, so I wanted to make the most of my one day on the other end of the lake, but all I could muster was about 12 or 13 pounds. The smallmouths weren’t bunched up deep and because the water level was lower than last year the key largemouth cover wasn’t in the lake. I knew I was unlikely to contend for the win up there.

With a rough start to my practice up north, I spent the rest of my time down in Ticonderoga and after two days of practice down there it was clear that I was going to live or die on that end of the lake. Of course, there are always complicating factors. In this case, I had to make a 70 mile run and if the weather didn’t cooperate it could get ugly. Fortunately, the wind that reared its head on the off day died down by the time we launched on Thursday and it was smooth sailing. I made it down in 55 minutes and with a long day ahead of me I could pick my spots and my rotation carefully.

The day started out great, with a limit in 20 minutes on a frog, including one over 4 pounds. That gave me the freedom to work patiently with a big ¾ ounce black and blue Lunker Lure jig. If I could just get two or three more key bites, I knew I’d be in the running for the lead. Things worked out exactly as planned and the bites came. In fact, I executed well and was able to cull several times. When the scales closed I sat in 4th place overall with over 20 pounds.

After a luxuriously long day on Thursday, Friday would be an early weigh-in. Short days and I don’t get along too well and things didn’t get off to a great start. I switched up my rotation and started in the area where I’d gotten my better bites the previous afternoon. Unfortunately, the water there had muddied up and rather than going somewhere else immediately I forced the issue and stayed too long. I didn’t get a single frog fish in the morning. In the last hour or so I abandoned that stretch and hit a protected pocket and they started biting. In fact, I caught three of the fish I weighed in during the last hour and two in the last 10 minutes. The wind was blowing pretty hard at that point and I had no idea how long it would take to get back, but my decisions in the last hour tell me that I’m fishing well – I made the adjustments I needed to salvage a decent day and when they didn’t eat the frog or jig as well as they had the day before I had the sense to switch over to a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver.

After a few weeks at home I’ll head to Alabama to fish the PAA tournament on Neely Henry. I can hardly wait – the way I’m fishing right now I feel like at some point my number will roll up. While I’m disappointed that I won’t be going to Lake Lanier for the Forrest Wood Cup, if I excel in the remaining PAA tournaments I’m in good shape to head back to the TTBC at Conroe, where I’ve done well in the past.

 22nd place

10 fish, 34-01

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