Before Lake Chickamauga went off limits I’d spent a few days idling around, trying to understand where the fish would be heading when we arrived for the tournament. There were already good numbers of fish on the main river ledges, with more coming, so I figured that’s where I’d focus my attention when the official practice period began.
My intention when I got back was to fish deep almost exclusively, and for the first two days I kept my nose glued to my Humminbird 1198c Side Imaging unit, trying to find the better schools of fish that I knew it would take to win or place high. Unfortunately, I probably targeted a range that was a little too deep. I found several schools of bass, but they weren’t of the quality it would take to do well. I struggled to find big schools of the right caliber fish but caught just enough on a Strike King 6XD, a Rapala DT20 and a ¾ ounce Lunker Lure football jig that I felt I could fish out there if I had to.
One thing that didn’t figure into my game plan was the super moon that occurred while we were at Chickamauga. It changed the bite substantially. I adjusted a little bit by getting out really early on the third day of practice. I started shallow, targeting bluegill beds and whatever little patches of vegetation I could find. The big, bright moon brought huge numbers of bluegills up to spawn and by fishing close to the main river in areas near where I’d caught bass I could’ve had a big bag that day.
The impact of the moon was changing so rapidly that with our off day in between practice and the tournament I didn’t know what to expect when I got out there to compete. I wasn’t comfortable with my deep stuff, and the lake was fishing really small. You’d find something that seemed good and subtle, and when you passed by a few hours later there’d be 10 boats on it. I don’t like fishing like that at all. I figured I’d start shallow and adjust from there. If I had to, I’d start practice all over again.