2008 FLW Stren Series – Central Division
Lake Norfork – Mountain Home, Arkansas
2007 was a life changing season for me with a Top 10 Finish in the Stren Championship. But the more I look back the harder it is to accept just a Top 10, I really wanted to win and had very strong that I was on something really special on the Mobile Delta. An uncontrollable mechanical failure on the boat I was required to run caused my mental game to go array and forced me to make some decisions I did not want to have to make. I was so close to winning my first major event and it makes me more eager and thirst even harder for perfection and making it back to the Championship for 2008. This year it would be even sweeter since it right in my backyard on Table Rock Lake and closer to home.
I knew that this first event could be a pivotal tournament just as the Bull Shoals event last year was in a quest to return to the Championship. With a long and cold winter fishing conditions would be tough for me as I have a major weakness in having the patience to slow down and fish a winter pattern. I’m a powerfisherman by choice I love to run water picking off the easiest fish I can fish and keep moving covering water and typical winter fishing is boring sitting there waiting for the fish to come up and eat.
Practice Day One:
This was the first day to drive my new Skeeter 20i and put the first few hours of break-in on the motor. I typically do not recommend this during a tournament but winter weather had forced me to arrive at this event with a fresh boat. I spent the first couple hours running my boat through the exact recommendation for break-in. My plan was to locate fish close to take-off as I would be limited to making long wide-open throttle runs since my motor would not be properly broke in. I started near the take-off area fishing a Kinami Grub on a ¼ ounce darter head on bluff ends. The first bluff a big-fat Spotted Bass engulfed the grub. This was a nice start. I continued down the bluff looking and searching for more but with no success. I continued hitting bluff ends with the grub and a LuckyCraft Deep Diving Pointer looking for active fish. I could see several fish suspended deep in the 20 foot range both in 2D sonar and Side Imaging but they didn’t seem to want to move up. I decided to put some more time on the motor and run some areas up the North Fork Arm that had produced in the past. I started on the bluff end and began working all the way back since the weather was extremely nice and warm today. This pocket had some huge boulder rocks that are key ambush spots for largemouth on Norfork. I picked up my LuckyCraft Fat CB G.D.S. Mini DR in Ghost Watermelon Craw and immediately picked up a really nice largemouth and as it came in another bigger largemouth was accompanying it. I really love this bait with it’s very distinctive wider wobble and added depth range to reach the deeper ledges and boulders. I continued the day running in and out of pockets and picked up several more nice keeper largemouths. I finished with 6 keepers in the 12 – 14 pound range.
Practice Day Two:
With forecast for bright and sunny and warm with temperatures expected near 80 degrees I decided to head further up river and cover some more bluff ends and pockets I knew that contained the key ledges and boulders I have found the fish on the day before. I started on a nice little bluff and immediately hooked up a nice spotted bass on the G.D.S. Mini DR. I continued down the bluff and hit a small pocket and where the big rocks started hooked up on a really nice 4 pound largemouth. Things were really starting to fall in place. Norfork is not known for big stringers and the buzz amongst anglers was the lake was fishing really tough. I continued running the pattern hitting bluff end and rocks and ledges and catch several more nice fish. I hit one bluff late in the afternoon that was just loaded with fish it seemed like the G.D.S. Mini DR would catch the largemouth on the ledge and jerking a Pointer 78SP in MS MJ Herring the Spotted Bass would just hammer it cast after cast. As the sun was falling it was time to head back to the room and cook up some dinner.
Practice Day Three:
Today’s forecast was for heavy rains and falling temperatures. When I awoke this morning it was a toad strangler rain and the forecast was for freezing temperatures by evening. What a change in weather. I made the decision to work on organizing the boat and trying to keep it dry so the storage boxes would not freeze shut. The rain slacked up just after-noon and I headed out to check out Bennetts Bayou and immediately started catching fish. I hooked up with a really nice largemouth on a channel swing and the next cast another one. I moved back out to a point with a a foundation and some great rock structure and hooked up the another real nice spotted bass. Things looked the same and I hated to keep wasting fish as I was really getting dialed in to what I need to accomplish to get off to a great start for 2008. The sun was setting again and it was time to head back.
Practice Day Four:
The weatherman was correct it froze last night and along with it came snow. IT was really beginning to snow hard and a good friend called and told me that several angler that put in before sunrise were trying to get out of the water and couldn’t get their trucks and trailers down to their boats. So I spent the morning inside playing with tackle, studying the map and Goggle Earth.
80 Degrees, Then 4" Rain, 4' Lake Rise and Now SNOW!
FLW called an day one of the event would be cancelled and they allowed us to continue practice until the meeting started Wednesday evening. About 1 PM the snow ended and started to melt. I dug out my boat and headed to the ramp. I wanted to check the water temp and see how the lake was fairing. I kept exploring the Bennett’s Bayou area nd hooked up on two more solid keepers this afternoon. Then I ran out of daylight once again.
Practice Day Five (Day one Cancelled):
It was a bright blue bird, post-frontal day. The fishing was tougher but I also headed towards the clearer water today to see if I could get something going but nothing. I ran back up and check the area I had found the fish earlier on the first couple days of practice and the water conditions were stained but very fishable. The lake had risen 4 foot and the water temperature was still very stable. I pulled onto a bluff near where I launched and began cranking the G.D.S. Mini DR and hooked up on a really nice largemouth. In just a few casts another nice largemouth hammered the bait again. I felt that conditions were changing but I had a pattern I could run and catch a few fish. As I idled into the marine I was Side Scanning and found the floating dock cables loaded with fish. I dropped grub and caught a couple shorts real quick. Hmm. This is another pattern I could run if I ran into trouble.
Fish on Dock Cable With Humminbird 1197c Side Imaging
Tournament Day One:
I drew out in the last flight and that was happy with me. I like the added time and especially this time of the year when the fish seem to move up better as they days warm. But I also got news that in Arkansas it is not allowed to fish within 50 feet of a Commercial Dock. Well that puts those fish I found late yesterday off-limits.
I started the day making a very short run up the North Fork Arm ( Remember still breaking the boat in.) I started down the bank and it looked like Chocolate Milk. The mud had finally overtaken the most productive waters I had. But hey the fish are there I just got to figure out how to make them bite. I ran several bluffs and pockets with no success. I stuck with my plan but decided it would be best for me to head back down to cleaner waters. I arrived in the Cranfield Area where I had some success. The water was a tad cleaner but still not to my preference. I headed down the bank cranking my G.D.S. Mini Dr and right on the point of a small bluff cut I Had this feeling there should be a fish here. The next cast my rod loaded up and I swept the rod and it was game on. This fish was a TV fish as all it wanted to do was jump and smile for the camera. I could not keep it down and finally it spit the bait back at me. Man that was a really good fish in the four pound range. And it hurt even more since it was tough just getting bit today. I kept my head on and finally decided to make a major change and head back up Bennett’s Bayou where I knew the water color suited me better. It started to spit snow and the sunshine I needed today never produced. I started scrambling late in the day and picked up my grub and started running bluff ends and immediately started getting bit. They were all Largemouths from 14” to 14 ¾” just shy of the legal mark. Why couldn’t just one be a spotted bass and give me some desperate points. I bet I caught 12 fish in the last hour but not one keeper. I finished the day with a horrible first day with zero keepers. This was very depressing since I felt I had found a way to put a few keepers in the boat each day. This was seven more upsetting since the forecast was for heavy snows across the area and a possibility that the day could be cancelled.
What a great day for a Bass Tournament!
Tournament Day Two:
The crazy weather came again! The area received heavy snow accumulations of 4” to 6” of snow. About 6AM the tournament director called and said that the roads in the area were in good shape and the ramps were fine. That the tournament was still on and for angler to proceed with caution over the bridges as they were snow packed. I made it the decision I was going to start with the grub and run new water all day hitting every bluff end that had clear water.
I started the day as boat number 7 and ran to a bluff end about 100 yards away and on my third cast my rod bowed up and up came a big spotted bass. Close to 3 pounds by all estimates. Hot Dang I said I’m going to get on the board and I just heard boat 12 being called! But this spot was mean it came up and then stripped drag. The 4 pound fluorocarbon was really getting a workout and then all of a sudden just about the time we could get the fish to the net. He headed under the boat and started really ripping drag. Then all of a sudden – pop. My line snapped. I think all of the abrasion against the boat finally had it’s toll. I’d lost a great opportunity. But at least I was starting on a more positive note. I headed to the other end of the bluff and started working the grub and boom – fish on. This one came right in and it was another spotted bass and a keeper! I had finally found a points fish. I continued to hit every bluff end and instead of hooking up with spotted bass it was largemouths, 14 ½” , 14 ¾”, 14 7/8” but I just couldn’t catch the right species and the right size fish. I caught 20 some fish today and had two keeper bites. And lost one. What a disappointment. But I felt highly relieved that I finally got a keeper. I’ve never had a 12 ½” spotted bass excitement as that one did today. It was the difference between no points and 100. That’s hard to make up with only 4 total qualifying events on the schedule. I now have my work cut out but these next three are more my style of fishing and getting back to what I like to do.
The Baits: Luckycraft Staysee, LuckyCraft Pointer, LuckyCraft GDS Mini DR and Kinami Grub
Visit 7-24 Outdoors as more journal enteries are coming as I travel to more FLW Stren Series Event. Next Up Kentucky Lake.