We’d visited Ft. Loudoun-Tellico a couple of times on the FLW Tour, so I was familiar with how the waterway laid out, but we had always been there earlier in the spring. This would be my first experience with the lakes in what I presumed would be a purely post-spawn bite.
I was under the impression that of the two lakes Ft. Loudoun tends to produce better stringers of fish during the post-spawn phase. It’s usually a little bit dirtier there, which fits my style, so that’s where I started my practice. The first day was decent. Some of the main lake areas were pretty clear, which confused me, and a lot of the backwaters were fairly dirty. I had expected the fish to be moving out to the main lake, but they were way behind where I expected them to be, still hovering around their spawning areas. I could have put together a pretty solid limit, but I only found groups of fish in a few places, which left me fairly concerned.
With only limited success on Ft. Loudoun, I decided to spend the second day of practice on Tellico, where I’ve done well in the past. I saw lots of fish on the beds, as well as quite a few fry guarders, but things were changing by the day or even by the hour. They’d be there one minute and gone the next. Still, that’s where I saw the greatest numbers of catchable fish, so I spent the third day of practice in Tellico once again, trying to expand on what I’d learned.
Once the tournament started, the changes continued. Fish were leaving at an alarming rate. I had found certain key pockets and key spawning areas, and there were still enough fish there to salvage a decent bag, but I lost a lot of key fish. I had to scramble and head to Ft. Loudoun during the last hour to fill out my limit and even then it didn’t weigh much.
Despite not doing as well as I would have liked the first day, I knew that my best areas in Tellico still had a lot of fish. Many of them were in beds, but in the dirty water they were tough to see. On the first day it had been cloudy, making it all but impossible to see them. On the second day, the sun came out, but the water fell, making them skittish – a perfect storm of bad luck. I still had a chance to salvage the event with a square-bill crankbait, but they were just slapping at it and I jumped off a few good fish. In the end, I weighed in just three small ones.
This is the type of event that is truly frustrating. I went from a practice period where I thought I had a legitimate shot of winning to a middle-of-the-pack finish. I found plenty of fish, but they were so far up Tellico that by the time I needed to punt there wasn’t much I could get to in time to make something happen. Most of my bigger bites came flipping a tube on 20 lb. fluorocarbon around cedar trees, winching them out with an 8-foot extra-extra-heavy Carrot Stix flipping stick and a Lew’s Super Duty reel. Later on, I switched to a Strike King KVD 1.5 square-bill in a shad pattern, fished on 12 lb. fluorocarbon and a Carrot Stix cranking rod. I had the right tools, but I just lost too many fish to make a run at it.
After a tough start to the PAA season and now this middling result, any chance of qualifying for the Toyota Texas Bass Classic is a stretch. Table Rock is next up on the PAA schedule, and we just bought a condo there. It’s one of my favorite lakes and one where I feel like I consistently have a chance to win. With nothing to lose, I’m really going to put a lot of effort into that one and try to get my PAA season back on track.
8 fish, 12.59