I’ve been fortunate to fish several TTBCs over the years and as always the 2015 iteration was an awesome event. It’s an honor and a privilege to get to fish the only tournament all year that takes the best of the best from both major tours and pits them against one another in a winner-take-all format.
In many respects it’s like the Bassmaster Classic. There’s no mindset of fishing for points – you just want to win. The major differences are that the field is even stronger and more stacked from top to bottom. On top of that, Lake Fork is absolutely full of giants, so in order to win you really have to catch them well every day.
This year the weather threw a monkey wrench into everyone’s plans because Texas had experienced a ton of rain. The lake was flooded for the first time in about six years. While we all knew that the deep bite would probably prevail, the flooded shallow cover gave us new options. There were still a lot of fish on the bank, including some big ones, so it spread out the field and required some choices.
I spent the first day of practice up shallow and had a blast. Immediately upon launching the boat I saw rows of flooded willow trees that hadn’t had water on them in a long time. That’s just too tempting for me to resist. I had to go flip them and in the first 10 minutes I caught an absolute giant on a one ounce Lunker Lure jig. That kept me shallow and over the course of the day I had about a dozen bites, all over 5 pounds.
The second day of practice I forced myself to go out deep and spend the whole day there. I didn’t have a single bite. Not one. That made my decision to stay shallow during the tournament relatively easy because it was all that I had. On top of that, they were predicting more rain, so I figured that would keep the bass up there. I knew that the guys who stayed out would be fishing for at most five to seven bites a day, but if any of them could capitalize on it, they’d have a good shot to win, but after zero bites doing that I didn’t have that option.
I caught a ton of fish during the event and weighed in over 18 pounds each day. Normally, that’s enough to put you pretty high up in the standings, but not at Fork. I was 22nd after the first day and dropped a place after Day Two. My pattern was to run spawning pockets off the main lake, not the big creeks. There were willows in there, and I also figured out that some fish were spawning in the grass on what must’ve been the old shoreline in 4 to 6 feet of water. I love to fish that way and it was a blast.
Every fish came on the big Lunker Lure jig. Longtime readers of these journals are probably guessing that it was my standard black and blue model, but this time I really diversified – my jig was black, green pumpkin and pumpkinseed, which I felt mimicked the bluegill down there pretty well. I added my typical Big Salty Chunk, but dyed the tails chartreuse. The rod, reel and line didn’t change, though – 7’8” extra-heavy Denali Kovert, Shimano Chronarch Ci4 (7.6:1) and 50 lb. Gamma Torque braided line.
My hat is really off to Brent and the other guys who stayed out deep and made it work. He’s a tremendous angler, one of the best deep water experts I’ve ever seen. Guys like Brent and Jason Christie knew that they’d probably have to milk one or two particular sweet spots, but they went in with the game plan necessary to make that happen. On top of that the weather was brutal. It rained every day and we had sustained periods of heavy winds. It’s hard enough to fish in 40 mile per hour winds when you’re up in a spawning cove, but trying to stay on offshore cover and present a bait efficiently in them is a whole different ballgame.
While my finish wasn’t exactly what I wanted, I’m proud to have been a part of this great event, competing against one of the strongest fields that the sport has ever seen. I’ll be glad to take a spot in that tournament any time I qualify. Next up is BASSFest at Kentucky Lake, so I’m taking off the braided line, switching out my flipping jigs for football jigs, and getting ready to focus on the deep bite that eluded me in Texas.
23rd Place; 10 fish, 36-12