BASS Elite Event, Potomac River, Charles Co, MD, June 11th – 14th
I’d been to the Potomac River several times before with the FLW Tour and I’d experienced mixed success on the big tidal waterway – there was a top ten finish, but I’d also had my share of struggles. After a few years away I was looking forward to going there and chasing the bass in the grass.
When I arrived, I realized that while the grass had improved in the past couple of years, it still wasn’t what it had once been. I spent my practice trying a number of different things, not just flipping grass, and while I got some decent bites, they were just one here, one there. It was hard to lock down on a particular technique or to identify one area that was holding more fish than the others. Read More
BASS Elite Event, Cayuga Lake, Union Springs, NY, June 23rd – 26th
We’d visited Cayuga a couple of years ago slightly later in the season and it was a grass flipping paradise, so I was excited to come back and build on what I’d learned. Unfortunately, after a couple of days of practice I was a little less excited because the grass was substantially behind and the fish were doing a variety of things. There were a lot on beds, some still coming, and some that were done with the spawn.
Because the grass wasn’t fully up yet, you couldn’t just drive down the lake and get a good, predictable sense of where the bass would be. It took a lot more work, and with the super-long days this time of year that meant I put in two 16 hour practice days and a third day that was also unusually long.
Throughout the course of my practice I kept revisiting certain areas hoping that they’d get right. I didn’t want to play the smallmouth game because I didn’t think you could win with them and they’ve burned me in the past. On the third practice day I found the mother lode, one of those pristine, untouched areas just loaded with fish. I caught several and saw hundreds more.
I rushed to that area on the first day of competition and Seth Feider was the only other Elite Series angler there. By 9 o’clock we both had nearly 20 pounds. It was easy fishing that didn’t require much work but once it became obvious that we were unlikely to upgrade much if at all, Seth and I agreed not to beat the area up. That rested the fish and gave me time to expand a couple of miles in either direction. I found plenty more fish but nothing that would help me out. Read More
BASSFest, Lake Texoma, Durant, OK, June 8th – 12th
Heading into the week of the BASSfest event, Lake Texoma was 8 feet high and rising. Flooded cover and dirty water means one thing to me – FLIPPING – and that’s my favorite way to fish. I’d never seen the lake before and given the atypical conditions I was glad that I hadn’t gone to pre-practice as that scouting would have been wasted.
When the water is super-high and getting higher, the best places to look for bass are the banks where the fish can’t get too far behind the cover. It was textbook situation and by following it I got a lot of bites during practice. It was sunny and calm every day, which made it a no-brainer that the fish would be in that thick cover. The only questions were whether you’d get a bite and whether you’d be able to extract him from the mess of limbs.
Most of the fish that I found were in creeks and I resolved to spend the tournament in those tributaries where I’d gotten the most bites. I had no idea what the quality would be because I generally didn’t set the hook during practice. Nevertheless, I was confident because as other anglers sang the blues about the tough bite I didn’t think that catching fish would be a problem. As a result of the falling water and the off day on Saturday, I felt like things were just going to get better as the week progressed. Read More
BASS Elite Event, Toledo Bend, Many LA, May 5th – 15th
After finishing 2nd at Toledo Bend in 2014, I was excited to go back, especially since I knew that the record high water would have a sizeable number of fish up shallow. Nevertheless, I wasn’t quite prepared for how high the water would be and how much of it would be behind the bushes, which put a bunch of fish even shallower than I was prepared to go.
For the first few days of practice I tried to fish out in the 10 foot range and cover a lot of water with my heavy Lunker Lure jig. I got plenty of bites doing it, but the size wasn’t there. On top of that, it was windy and cloudy, so I didn’t know how the flipping fish would react when the weather changed for the better. With that in mind I spent some time out deep and I’m glad that I did because the offshore fish became an integral part of my tournament strategy. Read More
BASS Elite Event, Wheeler Lake, Decatur AL, April 28th – May 1st
After a tough tournament in Arkansas I was excited to make my way to Wheeler on the Tennessee River chain of lakes. While I don’t have a tremendous amount of experience on the lake, I’ve spent plenty of time on the other bodies of water on the chain, and I figured the fish would be in the pre-spawn to spawn mode, allowing me to power fish.
I roomed with Britt Myers, who gets up at 4:30 every day, so that enabled me to put in long, long days on the water. Despite my best efforts, I struggled until the last day. I’d found good numbers of fish on the ends of bluffs, and I could catch plenty of them, but at best five of them would weigh 8 to 10 pounds. I didn’t think that kind of weight would do me any good during the event, so I kept searching. Read More
BASS Elite Event, Bull Shoals/Norfork, Mountain Home AR, April 21st – 24th
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. Read More
BASS Elite Event, Winyah Bay, Georgetown SC, April 7th – 10th
Without any experience on Winyah Bay or its nearby rivers to rely upon, I went into the second Elite Series tournament of the year with an open mind. I knew that all of the good fishing was going to be a long distance away, typically an hour or more, and would require crossing big water to get there. Over the years I’ve confronted many such situations, and the lessons that I’ve taken away are that you’d better be dialed into the bite and if you’re fishing multiple spots they all need to be relatively close to one another.
I spent my entire practice period in the Cooper River which is reportedly the best quality fishery. There was one area in particular that seemed to have the most appealing vegetation and not coincidentally it also produced the most bites. With a stop for fuel, it was going to take 2 hours to get there and then an hour and 45 minutes to get back, so it was critical to maximize my fishing time once I got there. Read More
BASS Southern Open, Lewis Smith Lake, Jasper AL, March 31st – April 2nd
I’ve visited Alabama’s Smith Lake quite a few times over the years and it’s a fishery that I’m very fond of. It reminds me quite a bit of my adopted home lake of Table Rock, with the main difference being that Table Rock has a lot of big smallmouths. The bass in Smith, and especially the magnum spots, have ballooned over the past few years since the introduction of blueback herring and that has made it an incredibly vibrant fishery.
When I was heading to the lake I figured it was setting up to be a bed fishing tournament but the weather changed that in a hurry. Heavy rains muddied it up and raised the water, meaning that even those fish that remained on their beds couldn’t be seen. With that in mind I started targeting pre-spawn areas – behind docks, secondary points and all sorts of transition zones. I never went deeper than about 15 feet, but I had lots of bites and felt good heading into competition. Read More
BASS Elite Event, St, John’s River, Palatka FL, March 17th – 20th
Even though it’s not a typical Florida fishery with lots of matted grass, which I consider my strong suit, I was still excited to go to the St. Johns River. I’d done well in our last Elite Series visit there, finding a little deal in the eel grass that I had all to myself and I was hopeful that it would work again. Unfortunately, when we returned this year the eel grass that I’d been banking on had all disappeared as the result of high, muddy water.
I knew that Lake George would be a player in the outcome of the event but I wasn’t looking forward to fishing there because it always draws a huge crowd, so I started off the practice period trying other things, like the main river and various backwaters. I caught plenty of fish, but there was no quality, so on the last day I caved and went into George to join the party. Read More
BASS Southern Open, Lake Toho, Kissimmee FL, Jan. 28th – 30th
After punching my ticket to the 2016 Classic through last year’s first Southern Open on Toho, I was eager to return and start off 2016 the same way. It’s no secret that I love Florida and it has been very good to me.
I felt like I’d need at least 6 to 10 days of practice to develop a winning strategy. The weather changes so often and so severely at this time of year that it’s necessary to fish various areas through those changes. I wanted to spend time in all four lakes on the chain under the different conditions – and it certainly changed a lot. We saw 40 mile per hour winds, 38 degree nights, 70 degree days and everything in between. I tried to learn something every day and then put it all together one piece at a time. Read More
BASS Elites, Chesapeake Bay MD & Detroit River MI, August 27th – 30th
I’d never fished the Upper Chesapeake Bay before this year, but I was excited to go there because of the famed Susquehanna Flats. Any time I hear that a fishery has big productive grass beds, I feel like I’m going to be in my element and it’s just a matter of picking them apart. Unfortunately, for reasons that still aren’t clear to me, the grass was not a player at all in this event.
During practice we experienced unusually high tides and I had very few bites. I know that the tide would be critical – and that it was important to be on the best places at the best tides – but I didn’t know when that might be. It was going to be a matter of survival. Read More
BASS Elite, St. Lawrence River, Waddington NY, July 29th – August 2nd
Historically the St. Lawrence River events have been won with big limits of smallmouths, and even though the big lake was off limits to us this time around there was no reason to think that brown fish wouldn’t be the winning ticket once again. That didn’t bother me at all because I like to fish for smallmouths and felt that I’d be able to figure things out pretty quickly.
Unfortunately, they weren’t ganged up like they were the last time the Elites went there. The water was still pretty cold and while most of the fish had spawned they were scattered out both deep and shallow. I tried both strategies in practice and the problem was that you could get just enough bites doing one or the other to become dangerous to yourself. It was easy to get committed to something that wasn’t a winning pattern. That’s what happened to me. Read More
BASSFest, Kentucky Lake, Paris TN, June 1st – 7th
There was no doubt in my mind that the Elite Series event on Kentucky Lake would be won offshore. Even though that’s not my primary strength, I committed to the ledges from the beginning and spent nearly my entire practice with my nose pointed at my Humminbird graphs. By the end of practice, after hours and hours and hours of idling, I’d dialed my electronics in to an unbelievable level of detail. I’d located five schools of fish and felt that I could catch a limit pretty easily, but getting quality bites was going to be tough.
Things were changing every day, with more fish moving out to the main river and others moving to secondary spots, so timing was going to be critical. I didn’t expect the ridiculous amount of pressure to play such a big role, but that ended up being a major factor in the tournament, with competition boats, spectator boats and recreational fishermen all vying for key positions. Read More
Toyota Texas Bass Classic, Lake Fork, TX May 23rd – May 25th
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. Read more
BASS Elite, Lake Havasu, Havasu City, AZ May 7th – 10th
Until you actually arrive at Lake Havasu, you can’t imagine quite how beautiful it is. Coming from the urban environment in Sacramento, it was a complete change. Several times I just looked up and said “Wow!” out loud. Making it even better, it’s a fantastic fishery where you can catch fish just about any way you want – largemouths and smallmouths, deep or shallow, flipping, fishing vegetation or hitting deep offshore structure.
We really only had a day and a half of practice and I knew absolutely zero about the lake, but after the “Groundhog Day” series of troubles that we had at the Delta, I was completely relaxed once I crossed the state line into Arizona. It was a different world, and my attitude improved the moment the speed limit switched from 55mph to 75mph. Read More
BASS Elite, The Delta, Sacramento, CA April 30th – May 3rd
The logistics of getting out to California were challenging for many of my fellow pros, so I hired someone to bring my rig out west. That would give me more time at home, where our new house project is still underway, and it meant that I could fly out and spend some time with Jasper Engines and Transmissions clients before the practice period started. I met up with some great guys at Lake Berryessa and we enjoyed a couple of fantastic days on the water, which got me in a good frame of mind.
After that, I moved down to the Delta. It’s a body of water where I don’t have much history, but it sets up well for the way I like to fish. It is loaded with all sorts of vegetation and reminds me of Florida, just with the addition of tides. Read More
BASS Southern Open, Alabama River, AL April 16th – 18th
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. Read More
BASS Elite, Lake Guntersville, Guntersville AL April 9th – 12th
I’ve spent a lot of time on Guntersville over the past two years, and while I’ve never fished an April tournament there, I feel like my knowledge of the lake is pretty vast. Heading into practice I had a strong idea of what the best patterns would be. If I could get them dialed in and avoid mistakes I expected to be in position to have a great event.
Because of my familiarity with the lake, I could spend most of my practice on the lower end, where I thought it would be won. I did run far up the lake one of the three days and that was a good decision because it eliminated that zone from my thoughts. I wouldn’t even be tempted to go there. Read More
BASS Elite, Sabine River, Orange TX March 19th – 22nd
While many of my fellow Elite Series pro had fished the Sabine back in 2013, I didn’t have that history to fall back upon, so this vast waterway was a mystery to me heading into the official practice period. I expected that would be tough, and that a lot of gas would be burned, but other than that I went into it with an open mind. There had been a lot of recent rain which made the water high and muddy. While I didn’t know whether that would hurt the fishing or improve it, it didn’t really matter. With the luxury of a 2015 Classic berth already in my back pocket, I was able to fish comfortably even when things didn’t quite go my way.
While some of the field committed to making runs of up to two hours, I started off practice in an area just 20 minutes away from the launch and never saw much reason to venture away much more than that. I put the trolling motor down and had 30 or 35 bites in the course of the first day. I put my hands on three or four pretty nice ones and shook off a bunch more that felt pretty solid. Read More
Bassmaster Classic, Lake Hartwell, Greenville SC Feb 20th – 22nd
I’d fished Lake Hartwell before on the FLW Tour, but I went back in December to get reacquainted with the lake before the cut off. Judging from what I learned then and what I knew about the general seasonal patterns, I figured there was a pretty good chance that the tournament would be won out deep. I was hoping that wouldn’t be the case, though. Those deep fish are often tracking schools of blueback herring and they can be difficult to relocate, even if you think you understand where they are. Read More
BASS Southern Open, Lake Toho, Kissimmiee FL Jan 15th – 17th
What a way to start the year! I’ve made no secret of the fact that I wanted to win a high-level event. In late 2013 I won the Bassmaster Wild Card to qualify for the 2014 Bassmaster Classic, and that just whetted my appetite for bigger things. Now, by winning the first B.A.S.S. Open of 2015, and thereby becoming the first qualifier for the 2016 Classic, I feel that I’m really starting to show that I can compete anywhere, anytime, against anyone, and have a fighting chance to come out on top.
This wasn’t an easy tournament for anyone, as you can see by all of the top sticks who had one good day and then struggled on the next. Most people said it couldn’t be won in Toho. I disagreed and while everyone else bumped boats in the locks, I stayed in the first lake and did what I do best – flip heavy grass. Read More