Date:11/8/2007 - 11/11/2007
FLW Stren Series Championship: Mobile-Tensaw Delta
November 8-11, 2007
Mobile Skyline from the Marsh
The Stren Series Championship is the culmination of 200 of the best anglers from across the United States that have finished in the top 40 in one of the 5 division of the Stren Series circuit. Many of the top FLW Tour pros still compete in the Stren Series and this year was no exception as over 25 full time pros qualified.
The Mobile-Tensaw Delta comprises over 200,000 acres of swamp, marshes, bottom river lands plus miles of the Tombigbee and
The Basin Negro Lake Aerial View
Contour maps of the delta are non-existent, the only mapping products are drawn maps of the land and bayous or aerial photos. Exploration is the only viable means to see if you can get into the bayous, backwater and where to navigate. I spent numerous hours with the map products available looking for areas that I felt were areas that could hold fish or fit my style of fishing. The use of products like Google Earth are very helpful for these types of fisheries as satellite images allow me to view the layouts, structure and cover in some areas but you never know the water level and time or year of capture.
I arrived mid afternoon to the Mobile Delta and instead of launching the boat I got in my truck for a drive around the delta to look at water conditions and to get a better understanding of the conditions and to locate launch facilities for my practice days. I had a plan to start up north and work my way south towards the tournament launch facilities.
Practice Day One:
I headed for McIntosh, AL which is located about 60 miles up river from take-off. I had noticed a nice backwater lake up the
Practice Day Two:
I met good friend and co-angler Bill Rogers from Jasper,
Upper Delta Backwater
Practice Day Three:
Today Mr. Bill once again met me to go exploring the delta. We launched at Cliff’s Landing just below the I-65 bridge on the
Mifflin Lake Channel Bend
Practice Day Four:
Today was the last day prior to Day One. I decided to launch at the take-off landing and head back up to explore more areas around The Basin Negro Lake. I entered Smith Bayou and quickly caught several nice keepers including a couple 3 pounders. This area had a great feeling as I fished and reminded me of home. I continued to explore more backwaters in the area and when the conditions got right – stumps or logs near deeper water I would get bit again. I made the decision that this area would be my starting area, since it was closer to take-off and then I would move up river. I had another limit today approaching the ten pound range again.
Tournament Day One:
I took off this morning it was a cool brisk morning. The tide was falling and predicted to fall for an additional hour. On tidal waters a falling or rising tide creates current and periods of higher activity for feeding fish. First stop today was Smith Bayou near The Basin Negro Lake. I picked up the Luckycraft BDS 1.2 and on the first channel swing caught a short fish and lost a keeper. I then headed up the bayou to the next channel swing and quickly put a solid keeper in the boat. I kept heading up the bayou and fishing only the outside swings with logs or stumps on the channel break. I quickly hooked up with a big bass that had a 5 pound head but only weighted 3 ½ pounds. I caught another solid keeper as the tide began to slow. I knew the fish were here and there were several quality fish in this area. I’ve been told time after time, “You never leave fish to go find more fish.” So I decided to stay in the area and grind out a limit. As many anglers were predicting 8 to 9 pounds a day would get you in the top 10. And I already had 5 pounds in the box. I headed up to Maple Bayou just around the corner to see if they were biting and after about an hour and no keepers, and the tide beginning to rise I decided to do or die in Smith Bayou. As I returned, I noticed my stumps and logs were covered with water now. I quickly switched my Humminbird 797c2 over to Side Imaging view then used my trolling motor to relocate the underwater structure I needed to hit with my crankbait. I quickly picked up a keeper. Then on the next bend another one, then I lost another one that would have been a twin or maybe larger than my biggest of the day. I finished my limit on the next bend, so I made the decision to head back to the mouth of the
Local Resident of Smith Bayou
Tournament Day 2 (Cut Day):
I made the decision to return to the same area – at least give it a chance to produce again. The fish were there and I was quickly beginning to understand how the tide influenced the behavior of the bass in the area. Plus today I had an additional 45 minutes of falling tide. I returned and began working the bends and immediately caught a short fish again. The next two bends I fished hard and nothing. Had I made the wrong decision? Was it going to be another “one day wonder”? As I approached the 4th bend that produced the kicker yesterday and I lost it’s twin, I hooked up on a solid 2 pounder, then just a few casts later another keeper. I turned my Skeeter around once more to hit the same bends over again. The tide had quit pulling and yesterday the fishing slowed during the bottom of the low tide, too. I never caught a fish in any of the four bends. I decided to see if any current remained at the mouth were I had culled yesterday. I fired a cast at a awesome log cluster and a huge bass engulfed my BMB. It turned around and went down in the log cluster and just as quickly as he engulfed the bait he rubbed the line against the barnacles and off she went. Man I needed that one. After fishing down the bank and the tide starting to rise I knew it was time to head back to the channel swings. On the first bend I caught another solid 2 pounder. Number 4 was in the box! I just needed one more. I fished all 4 bends and nothing but a few shorts. One more pass and then it would be getting close to time to head back. I returned to a log that had a turtle on it the day before and I caught a keeper off it on Day One. Mr. Turtle was back so this time I asked him where the fish was and he turned his head to the right side of the log. I fired down that side and what do you know number 5 was on and in the box. I finished the day with 5 more bass for 6 pounds 14 ounces, giving me a total of 15 pounds and 11 ounces – and making the top 10 cut!
Man what a night. The Stren Championship is a major event, the press and publicity was out in full force. Along with providing interviews, autographs; numerous anglers offered their congratulations. Many that I look up to daily. The one that touched me the most was fellow Skeeter Pro, Harold Allen. Mr. Harold and I have built a friendship over the years and he told me I was his hero today. There is no way that I felt I could be his hero – he’s the “Legend,” a man that has worked his tail-off from the beginning of tournaments and still hits the trails. Mr. Harold is a class act 110% of the time, and he’s the biggest cheerleader when it comes to fishing for his friends and counterparts.
Top 10 – Day 3:
I was really pumped up today and felt no pressure. I made the cut and now it was time to have some fun and win some money. I had been fortunate to save my best fish for the finals and felt very confident that I had just as much of a chance to win as anyone else, heck I hadn’t even been to my best fishing areas. The day started very early as we were once again mobbed by the press and festivities. FLW Outdoors goes all out to make this event special. Today I would be in the Bounty Boat powered by an Evinrude ETEC a motor I was very unfamiliar with as far as fuel economy and that concerned me. Chad Smith ,originally from
Top 10 Weigh-in at Mobile Convention Center
Tonight was another very long night because after weigh-in we produced tags and stills for the television show commercial breaks. I finally returned to my room at around 9 PM.
Top 10 – Final Day:
It was another earlier morning and I had to switch tackle back into the Bounty boat and get over to the landing. The crowds where huge at take-off every day.
What an event – it was a dream come true. I just wish that I had the power to control my destiny. But mechanical problems are unpredictable. If humans build it, it can and will breakdown. I really missed fishing in my own boat and it gave me a higher appreciation of the products I have to use. I have to give full credit to LuckyCraft for supplying me the bait to catch numbers – the BDS 1.2 in Chartreuse Shad – this bait matched the hatch of the smaller baitfish and numerous shrimp in the delta the bass were feeding on. I also have to give Dave’s Custom Baits credit as his baits helped me entice the larger less numerous bass to bite. The Black Market Balsa gave me the confidence and ability to find the better quality fish. Humminbird Side Imaging gave me the advantage to locate the stumps and logs I had to hit with the crankbait to get the fish to react when the tide rose the water level above where I could visually see the stumps. I appreciate my sponsors for giving me the products and support. I firmly believe in your products and in my best opinion superior to others. I got to experience the many differences this week and made me a believer even more in their products. I also thank all those that followed me and emailed or called expending your best wishes and success. I only wish that I could have brought home a bigger check or the Championship trophy.
The FLW Stren Series Championship was televised for Fox Sports Network. It will air January 13, 2008 at 10:00 AM Central Time on FSN Regional Networks (Locally Fox Sports Midwest).
Visit FLW Outdoors Television Schedule: http://www.flwoutdoors.com/tvschedule.cfm.