We’ve been to Beaver Lake a number of times over the years and it’s a place that I like to visit. Beaver offers the opportunity to fish both deep and shallow and it typically doesn’t take much weight to earn a check there. In fact, nine pounds a day will usually get you paid, and that’s a rarity at the tour level these days.
I spent the first day of practice on the lower end of the lake, and it wasn’t as productive as I’d hoped it would be, largely because I spent a lot of time fighting the wind. The second and third days I was up the river. The fish there were the right quality – on the final day I caught three that would’ve weighed 11 pounds – but it was a sketchy deal. You could catch a big bag, but it was also possible to strike out.
I had a long day to fish on the first day of competition and that gave me the opportunity to pursue a two-pronged strategy because the wind stayed down. I started on the lower end, close to the ramp, with the knowledge that once I had a decent limit I could run up the river and hunt down a kicker. With two largemouths in the first 30 minutes, I was on a roll. Then I added one of the bigger spotted bass I’d seen all week and my partner caught a keeper smallmouth, which is a bonus on that lake. Things got even better around 10 am, when I absolutely lit up a school of spots. I must’ve caught 50 of them and managed to cull up around seven or eight times. I had 8-04, which was about what I thought the area could reliably produce, give or take a pound or so. Unfortunately, when I got the big smallmouth bite that would’ve bumped me up, I lost it. Still, I wasn’t that disappointed because I was still in position to make something big happen on Friday.
Looking at the weights, it appeared that I’d need 12 pounds or so to make the 20 cut. With nothing to lose, I wasn’t shooting to just make a check. I had to go upriver. That decision was made easier by the fact that Glenn Browne had caught 14 pounds up that way the first day. He only had seven bites, but they were the ones he needed, so after discussing it with him I was confident in my decision to abandon my water from the first day.
Unfortunately, it took me until noon on Day Two to land my first keeper. I must have caught 20 short fish and it seemed like most of them were between 14 ½ and 14 7/8 inches long. Still, I’d make the same decision again. It’s just a flighty deal up there. The guy who was leading the tournament up there the first day only had 4 pounds the second day. You can’t fish scared against this caliber of competition, and once I broke down and basically lost my first day at Hartwell, I knew that finishes in the sixties and seventies wouldn’t do me much good – I need top tens, which means I need to take risks.
In hindsight, my Humminbird units were the key to my first day success. I fished vertically for bass in 30 to 35 feet of water and I would have been lost without my electronics. A dropshot rig and a Lunker Lure Shakey Head (3/16 and ¼ ounce), with a trick worm and a Gary Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm were the tickets. On day two, I cranked a DT6, flipped a tube and threw a 3/8 ounce double willow Hawg Caller spinnerbait, trying to get something to happen shallow. Unfortunately, I never really got the Alabama Rig to pay off the way some of the other anglers did.
I don’t have much time to obsess about tournaments once they’re done. This week I’m headed to the PAA event on Old Hickory, with a quick stop-off at Percy Priest to fish the Porter Wagoner Memorial Artists and Anglers tournament. I figure the fish up that way should be either in the act of spawning or just post-spawn, so I don’t expect to have to worry about an offshore bite, but I’ll keep an open mind.
While the FLW event gave me an opportunity to take a risk, I’ll have to fish a little bit more conservatively in the PAA tournament, because I really want to make the TTBC again. With a third place finish in the year’s first tournament (the team event) and the ability to throw out my worst finish, I’m in good shape, but I don’t want to leave anything to chance.
106th place; 6 fish, 10-12