FLW Stren Series – Central Division – Bull Shoals Lake, Arkansas
February 28 to March 2, 2007
With past history on this fishery I have focused on several patterns that may be available for success. In the past I have done well on this lake locating fish but come tournament day she has been rough on me. My main tactics for establishing a pattern will be a vertical presentation with a spoon or dropshot, a cranking pattern, a jerkbait pattern and a jig bite. I have broken down the lake into areas of concentration that I need to cover for each day of practice.
Practice Day One:
Today I headed up the Thedosia Arm and explored several areas of past success. I started by fishing channel swing and bluff banks. After no success, I started graphing banks with my Side Imaging, I immediately noticed several schools of baitfish suspended over the channel and a few smaller fish on the channel banks. I moved to the next channel bank that contained a large cropping of rock boulders and noticed several larger fish and then I seen a school of baitfish with larger fish in the school. I tried to position my boat over these fish to try vertically fishing but they were on the move after wasting about an hour trying to stay on top of them I abandoned that idea and picked up a jig and immediately caught a nice fish from the boulder rocks. I spent the rest of the day graphing and exploring trying to locate a concentration of fish. With very minimal success I headed back to the room to prepare for the next day.
Practice Day Two:
Today I headed for Tucker Hollow area and to explore the upper reaches of the White River. My first stop was a major creek that had a nice expanse of boulder rock and a channel swing bank. On Bull Shoals with the absence of timber, the bass use boulder rocks for cover to ambush their prey and is a key component in early spring fishing. This first stop showed signs of success and immediately hooked up a nice 3 ˝ to 4 pound fish on a Phatom Green Wiggle Wart. I continued down the bank with no success. I kept heading up river to explore more areas and just about every channel swing and main lake point I could catch a fish from Spotted Bass to Largemouths. Today was better with several solid keepers and over 15 pounds of fish. It was back to the room to regroup and study the maps again.
Practice Day Three:
Today I headed back up the White River to expand the area I had found success in. Today I would focus more on the main lake swings and farther up the river. On the first bank bank I hooked up with 3 solid spotted bass. I moved on to an awesome looking creek that I began scanning with my Side Imaging and noticed several nice fish and quickly hooked up with a great largemouth that I estimated was nearing the 7 pound class and another one near 4 pounds. Things were beginning to fall in place. The next bank I landed two more solid 2 to 3 pound largemouths all on the Wiggle Wart. This is one of my favorite tactics this time of year as the results can be great. I continued the day with even more success. With the sun set near on the horizon I headed back to the ramp and to regroup for the final practice day.
Practice Day Four:
With a solid pattern established up river – I decided to concentrate my efforts closer to take-off area to give me something to fall back on when I returned from my long journey up the river. I fished several creeks and main channels swings trying to target smallmouth, largemouths or spotted bass. I fished some great banks and areas that in the past had been very successful for me. I never felt one bite all day in these areas. With rods and tackle to prepare and a boat to organize; I left the water close to 2:00PM to prepare for Day one of this Stren Series Event. At the meeting tonight I drew Tony Nation, a Walmart Employee, we drew boat 148 and a late flight. I was happy because it would give me the added time needed to capture the afternoon warm-up and late bite. Next I headed back to try and get a few hours of restless sleep. I always have a bad night sleeping prior to the first day hoping and praying that I will be guided in the path for success.
Tournament Day One:
With the arrival of the first rays of sunshine, I strapped everything down for the long run back to Missouri in hopes of catching a good stringer of fish and position myself well for the following two days. Finally boat 148 was called and the 67 mile one way trip was on. I quickly prepared my rods and tackle and got my 797c2 fired up on the trolling motor and immediately started seeing fish suspended on the drop just off the bank. But those weren’t the fish I was looking for. It was the larger females crusing the banks in search of a meal to help prepare them for the upcoming spawn. I quickly put fish number one in the boat a nice 2 ˝ pound largemouth. It wasn’t the size I was looking for but it was a great confidence booster to keep chugging away. I fished down the bank a little and kaboom another fish knocked the Custom Painted Wiggle Wart hard and with a couple cranks of the handle it was gone. I could feel the head shake. It felt good but I never got the chance to see it. I knew every mistake would be costly. I fished a couple more banks with no success then headed to add a little fuel to guarantee my trip back home. I was waiting for the sun to get on the banks and pull the better fish up into the range I needed to present my bait to them. On the next bank I quickly caught another keeper Spotted Bass that adds another pound to the creel. I was accompanied by two other anglers on this bank David Cochran and Cary Bever (both would be in the top 10 after day 1). They had reported the fishing was tough but they had a few small ones in the livewell. Next I headed to another channel swing and had three good fish follow my bait all the way back to the boat but they just would not eat it. What was happening. I needed these key bites. Soon I hooked up with another fish and the head shook a couple times and it was off. These fish were eating the bait in practice and today they are looking but not eating. They must know it tournament day. I quickly switched to brown craw pattern and headed to a creek that has been very good to me. I quickly hooked up with another keeper Spotted Bass that adds another pound to the box. Is today really that tough that every bite is going to count big time? On the other end of the channel swing another fish hits the brown wart and this time the fight is on. I see the fish and it’s the quality I was looking for in the 5 to 6 pound class and just as we get the net ready it hits the bottom of the boat and comes un buttoned. Man is it just not my day. Time was running thin and I needed to start my journey back down but I really wanted to stay because the fish were really starting to move up on the banks. I made the decision to head back and weigh my results. I had 3 fish for 4-06 and was in 49th place. It was a tough day for most.
Tournament Day Two:
With only one thing I felt confident in I knew that any day I could catch a big stringer up river and salvage this event. I headed back to Missouri with high hopes that the fish would bite today. Forecasts were for a high wind advisory for the lake.I was boat 48 today and when I got to the area I was fishing 2 and 3 foot waves were pounding the banks. They always say the wind is your friend, I hope it so today. I fought the wind all morning and tried to slow the boat but to little avail. It would have been a good for a drift sock as these fish really wanted the wart cranked as low as you could in front of them. It was tough to feel the bottom and finally near noon I knew I had to do something. I quickly started running areas were the Spotted Bass had been hiding. On the first spot I quickly caught a Spotted Bass. Then I ran to another area and quickly picked up another. I thought if I just could get 5 spots it might help me retain my position or move me up. I ran a few more areas with no success. I started working my way back and seen a great looking bank and made a few quick casts and hooked up on another spot. I had three in the well and time was about out with the added time I felt I needed to get back to weigh-in safely with the high winds. I finished the day with 3 fish for 3-05 and that moved me up to 41st place and in shot of a check.
Tournament Day Three:
With two unexpected days up river, I needed to figure away to maintain my position and try to move up. I needed a strong day, where could I go produce those results. The only place I had confidence in was where I had spent the previous two days. I fired up the Yamaha and headed back to Missouri. The wind was strong again today and I added a new twist as I was going to throw a jerkbait on the same banks early and see if that would help me fight the wind disadvantage. I caught a few small fish on the jerkbait but no keepers. Why was I changing my game plan so late in the event? I picked the wart back up and went back to chunking and winding and hitting any bank that looked good. One thing I did notice was the additional number of anglers that had ventured into the area that I had not seen before. On one of the best banks I had I was even cut-off by one of the other competitors and he caught two keepers just yards in front of me. But that part of competitive fishing, many times the same fish you found are the same that others have found. I can not control who will be in my areas, the only thing I can control is my performance. With little success on my best areas and the wind howling again. I decided to scramble and try to hit new water – hoping to get on a new bank that had not been harassed as much as the productive waters I found in practice. I quickly picked up a keeper spot. I kept running points and channel swings with little success. It was time to head back towards take off. I finished the day with only one small keeper and a 65th place finish.
Post Tournament Wrap-Up:
Bull Shoals had done it to me again. But one day I will tame the beast that lies with me in the clear waters. Bull Shoals has plenty of fish but she can be very stingy and the last three days was just that. I look back and try to figure what would have helped me succeed in this event. I just needed to perform on day one and probably needed to slow down and work the areas I had found with a jig or try a jerkbait early in the days. I still feel I made a good decision on where and had found the fish I needed I just didn’y make the critical adjustments during the tournament hours. One positive is that I left Bull Shoals with a great start for the 2007 season and with similar performances can make my ultimate goal of making the Stren Series Championship this fall.