The sixth stop on the FLW Tour this year was a place I have never fished – the Upper Mississippi River out of La Crosse, Wisconsin on pools 7, 8 and 9. What a cool fishery! Shallow water, current, wing dams, grass, flooded timber – the fishery has it all. The cool thing is that you can catch fish a number of different ways. The tournament was won by Brian Schmitt throwing a swim jig and second place was flipping flooded cover in back waters. I didn’t have my best tournament and finished 66th, but I’d love to have another crack at it another year. I look forward to our return trip.
In all the tournaments I’ve fished on the Tennessee River, I have never fished the tail race below the dams. So the other day while in Florence, Alabama at the Cabela’s Collegiate Bass Fishing Championship, Wade and I decided to try the Wheeler Dam tail race on the upper end of Wilson Lake. The amazing thing was the variety of fish we caught – from drum to catfish to white bass to black bass to small mouth. The cool thing was that we got so many bites in the current. Though we didn’t catch a whole lot of bass, the drum were biting extremely well, and we could have caught them all day long – lots of five to eight pounders. The white bass were literally every cast, and if that’s what we had been targeting, we could have filled the boat with them. If there had been a bass tournament there, I don’t think that’s where I would have wanted to fish. The bass we caught were scattered, though we did catch some nice ones. But it was cool to see what the tail race was all about
One of my favorite lakes in Texas is Lake Amistad on the border near Del Rio. It has clear water, a lot of cover. and I’ve had some great days down there over the years. The last 4 or 5 years have been rough for Amistad, however, with some kind of fish kill that made fishing really tough. I have been hearing good things recently though and went down recently to film a show for Fishing and Hunting Texas, and, wow! It was great. First, there is cover everywhere – shallow bushes and grass. We caught a ton of fish, mostly in the 2-3 pound range. But had one giant, an 8 pounder. I look forward to you seeing the footage! I caught most of them on Crankbaits including a Strike King KVD 2.5, 5xd and 6xd. It was an awesome trip, and I look forward to another trip as soon as I can!
I recently returned from the FLW Tour event on Lake Cumberland, Kentucky.This lake is nestled in the hills of South central Kentucky, and it’s truly one of the most beautiful lakes I’ve seen. It looks like Beaver Lake on steroids – clear water, small water falls everywhere, turkey gobbling, three species of bass and great people.The tournament is a really unique one because of the different size limits on the different species. Spotted bass are 12 inches, largemouth 15 inches and small mouth, 18 inches. I’ve always liked catching smallmouth, especially those in the pre-spawn, so I targeted smallmouth. The unique thing was that all I needed was 5 keepers a day to win the tournament. An 18” smallmouth there weighed nearly 3.5 pounds. The math is clear – with 5 keepers, it’s 17pounds – a good sack on a clear water impoundment. I fished a really good tournament there for three days. I caught most of my fish leading up to the last day on a jerk bait and a small crank bait and had some good patterns going for all three species. I had a nearly four pound lead going in to the last day, but the fickle smallmouth snake-bit me the last day. I caught a lot of good keeper smallmouth late in the day Saturday and made a decision to play offense on Sunday. But between Saturday and Sunday, I believe those fish started spawning and would not chase anymore. I did catch several smallmouth during the day on Sunday, but none of them kept, and I ended up not weighing in a keeper bass the final day for a 9th place finish. It was still a great week, but I definitely left something on the table. I head to Beaver Lake this weekend, and will be looking for FOUR great days there!
What probably used to be the most used lure in any tackle box was the spinnerbait. In the day of swim baits and vibrating jigs, the spinnerbait is often totally overlooked, but there are many situations in which it is still the best bait. The spinnerbait shown here is a Hack Attack Heavy Cover Spinnerbait. The one feature the spinnerbait has that many of these imitations do not is its ability to come through cover reeled very slowly, which can be especially important in the colder months of the year. Take last year, for example. Jason Christie was leading the Bassmaster’s Classic going into the last day, and was the only person in the field relying on a spinnerbait. His comment was that he could keep the bait in the strike zone longer. I think we often overlook the importance of this. Though I also don’t throw a spinnerbait as much as I used to, but there are times when it is undoubtedly the best bait.
The month of March is truly one of my favorite months of the year. Fist, the bass are moving shallow spawning, and the big ones are active. Some of my favorite baits this time of year include Strike King Sexy Dawg, Strike King Rage Menace, and a Pure Poison Vibrating Jig. In Texas, March will be the dominant month for spawning bass but there is a bonus in March – turkey hunting! The season starts in the middle of the month and this year promises to be the best year ever for turkey hunting in Texas. We’ve had good rains over the past 2 years and the nesting conditions have been nearly perfect. On the places I hunt turkey numbers are higher than I have ever seen them. March is a great month in Texas. So get out there and enjoy it!
As a bass fisherman, one thing I always look at when I put my boat in the water is water temperature – this time of year especially, and I’m always hoping it will be over 60 degrees. What’s so significant about 60 degrees? It’s when bass start to spawn, and if my Garmin says 60, I know there will be some on the beds or at least shallow. Depending on the water color, temps in the 60s tell me to slow down and fish for spawning bass. If it’s clear I might sight fish and if the water is stained or off color at all, I’ll fish around cover in 1-5 feet of water, looking for fish moving to the beds. My favorite bait this time of year is a Strike King 4.5″ Flip N Tube. And I usually fish it pretty slowly. If I miss a bite I’ll often cast back into the same spot because that fish might easily be on a bed and will bite it again. The reason you miss them this time of year is because they often take the bait and blow it out to get it off their bed. There are many big bass shallow this time of year and a giant could bite at any time. So be ready for that big bite, and have a great time fishing for spawning bass!
The most recent FLW Tour event was on the Harris Chain of lakes out of Leesburg, Florida. To be honest, I haven’t ever fished it before and really had not heard that many good things about it. It ended up being a great place to fish though. I caught some giants in practice including a nine one day and a ten another. Those fish came on a Strike King KVD 1.5. The tournament went well for me. I finished 11th, just ounces out of the top ten cut. I had two different patterns going. I caught my fish on a shallow crankbait over grass and also on a ½ ounce Strike King Red Eye Shad, gold with black back. My other pattern was flipping shallow pads and reeds in three to five feet of water with a Srike King Cut-R-Worm. I would look forward to goin there again. It’s a great fishery. Next stop on the tour is Lake Cumberland Kentucky, and I’m ready to get it going!
FLW Tour stop number 2 recently wrapped up on my home lake. Travis. There is always a little extra pressure that goes along with fishing your home lake, so I was anxious to get it started and get the jitters out. Travis is definitely on the upswing. There are bushes and cover all over, and the fish look fat and healthy. After the first day I was in 26th place with 12-7 – just could not get a big bite. But just getting that first day out of the way went a long way to relieve the home lake pressure. On day two I got that big bite I needed to catapult me closer to the top of the leaderboard. It was an 8-6 giant. I weighed in nearly 18 pounds that day and finished the day in 4th place. On day 3, I started out well catching 2 nice ones and ended up weighing in 12-4 – good enough for 3rd place. I needed a good bag the last day to win but only managed 11 pounds. I finished 5th, but it was still a great tournament and I really had a great week. Travis is definitely a fishing destination in Texas right now.
The first tournament of the 2017 FLW Tour was at Lake Guntersville, AL. I was ready to get the season started and starting off at one of the best fisheries in the country always feels good. The first day of competition I had 15 lb. 2 oz, and was in 38th place. Fishing was really TOUGH. One of the biggest problems was the large amount of floating eel grass. It’s really hard to fish a moving bait slowly when there is grass floating on top of the water. I caught most of my fish on a Strike King ½ oz. Red Eye Shad, and a few on a Strike King Pure Poison, but there definitely were not many bites to be had. I only weighed in 8 fish during the two days for a total weight of 23 lb. 6 oz., which was just enough for 49th place. I’m ready to hit the water tomorrow on my home lake, Lake Travis, and am hopeful it will be a better event for me. I’m feeling good about it and am ready to get out there!