Coming off a top twelve finish in the Elite Series tournament on Guntersville, I didn’t get much time to practice for the second Southern Open of the year. After fishing the final round on Sunday, we didn’t get our camper moved until Monday and I didn’t get out on the river until Tuesday at 10:30. That left two partial days to practice on a body of water I’d never fished before. After giving it everything I had mentally and physically through practice and four tournament days at Guntersville I was wiped out.
The Alabama River is a large body of water, so with my practice period significantly shortened I had to focus on a limited section of water. I decided to go south both days, fishing the first 20 miles from the launch on Tuesday, and then on Wednesday I picked up at that 20 mile mark and worked down to the dam. I tried to check out both main river and backwater areas but I didn’t find a whole lot of productive water in either location.
The current was on and off, and it rained the entire time we were there. With changing conditions I was fortunate to find a few spotted bass here and there. When I’d get a bite or two I’d leave and try to find something else.
I’d been planning to fish the grass along the bank but on Thursday’s first day of competition they dropped the bottom out of the river. It was about 2 feet low so that plan went out the window and I had to regroup. My backup plan was to spend the majority of the day in a backwater close to the take off. I knew that it produced a lot of fish and with all sorts of lily pads and other cover it just looked fishy.
I landed a keeper very quickly, but after that it became a grind and I gradually added three more small fish to my livewell. I had two opportunities to really upgrade my catch, but the two 4-pounders I hooked got off and I only weighed in four small bass. My co-angler had a 5-pounder, so clearly the quality fish were there, but it wasn’t fast and furious by any means. We’d sometimes go 30 or 45 minutes without a bite.
On Day Two, the water jumped back up. I knew that there was still a good stringer to be caught somewhere in my Day One backwater, so I committed to spending at least a few hours there. Once again, I caught one almost immediately. Then my co-angler caught a 3 ½ pounder. That size fish is pretty golden on that body of water. I tried to slow down and fish methodically, but I just couldn’t get bit.
At 11 o’clock I moved out to the main river and headed south. Even though I had not yet caught any of the big spots that I know live there, I was going to have some fun looking at new water trying to figure them out. The current was running harder at that point, which is typically good for spotted bass, and after running about 20 miles I caught three of them. I also jumped off a nice largemouth. That was frustrating, but at least one of the spots was the 4-pounder I’d been looking for the whole time.
Unfortunately, when you’re worn out and mentally drained, you end up losing some fish. I don’t know if I could’ve made a run at winning, but losing fish both days prevented me from doing much better. I took away some satisfaction from finding the fish to do well, but that wasn’t enough. You have to execute, too.
Once the tournament was over, we drove 11 hours home, unpacked the camper, cleaned everything out and then repacked on Sunday to get ready to go again. Next up is the Elite Series on the California Delta, a complicated waterway that I haven’t fished for over a decade. I’m not as familiar with it as some of the field, but I think it fishes to my strengths. After making a huge move in the points at Guntersville, I’m looking to carry that momentum forward. Because I’ve already qualified for next year’s Classic, I’m in a position to fish freely and that’s usually when I do the best – and now that I’m rested I’m prepared to eliminate the mental errors and capitalize on good instincts.
106th Place; 8 fish, 13-14