Although I didn’t have much experience on either Norfork or Bull Shoals – just a few previous trips to each – I was excited about this split format event where we’d alternate lakes each day. I was pretty sure that both of them would set up like Table Rock, my adopted home lake, and with four days to practice any way you wanted, there was a lot of strategy involved in building a good tournament finish.
I spent two days on each lake, aware that Bull Shoals had been hammered in recent weeks, with a 400 boat Bass Cat owners tournament the week before and a 300 boat benefit tournament the week before that. My first day on Bull Shoals I figured things out pretty quickly and caught a lot of fish, including the quality that you’d need to do well in the tournament. I developed multiple patterns that I figured would hold up through any changing conditions. I spent the second and fourth days on Norfork, and that proved to be my burden. No matter what I tried, I just didn’t feel confident there. I wasn’t catching numbers and I certainly wasn’t catching anything of any size.
When we launched the first day of the tournament on Norfork, I had a few fish pinpointed on beds. I’m not the best sight fisherman in the world, but I figured I could catch them and then adjust from there. Unfortunately, with an hour and a half fog delay, my short day became even shorter. My key area had about 10 bedding fish in it, and by downsizing to 6 lb. test fluorocarbon and a finesse lure, and staying way off of them, I managed to fool a few. Fortunately my eyesight is still good, as long as what I’m looking at is past the length of my arm.
I’d expected the bed fish to be small, but they were bigger than expected and I had a limit in less than an hour. When the day ended, I was pleasantly surprised to find myself inside the money cut in 43rd place. The weights were tightly packed, and I felt that when we moved to Bull Shoals I’d have enough going on to improve my position in the standings. Unfortunately, the reality proved to be the opposite of my expectations.
The fish on Bull Shoals were in various stages of the spawn, and I targeted them two ways: The first was with a Super Spook on 20 lb. test Gamma Polyflex line. The second way was flipping bushes with a Missile Baits Baby D Bomb, paired with a 5/16 ounce Reins Tungsten weight. Of course I fished it on a 7’3” heavy-action Lew’s Custom Lite rod paired with a Lew’s Super Duty reel spooled with 16 lb. Gamma fluorocarbon. The key was to go extremely slowly and milk key spots for everything they were worth. The fishing was relatively easy, but the size was way off. After expecting a minimum of 12 pounds in my livewell, and realistically as much as 15 pounds, my best limit on the second day of competition weighed 8-04 and that was extremely disappointing.
It was just one of those deals where I fell into a one-day trap, and it was made worse by the fact that I didn’t adapt to the changing conditions on the two different lakes. I’m not very happy, but it’s over and it’s on to Alabama as we near the halfway point of the season.
86th Place; 10 fish, 19-09