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everythingthatswims

My Toughest Tournament Ever

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You better strap in for a story because this is gonna be a long one. I spent the last 5 days on the northern end of Kentucky Lake. You would think that at one of the best fisheries in the world, early March would be a slugfest, but that was NOT the case.

 

Winter pool on Kentucky Lake is 354', summer pool is 359'. Practice started at 361', and rose every day to reach 364' during the event. Had this happened in April, it would have been incredible fishing, but since it was still early and water temperatures were cool, it made fishing very difficult. I started off in practice fishing secondary points, mainly cranking rock, targeting fish that were starting to stage for prespawn, and fish that had moved in from the main lake to get out of the current, it was so strong that you could see eddies on main lake points. I caught tons of fish and it was very predictable, but they were ALL 10-13" long, super tiny.  A keeper on Kentucky lake is 15".

 

Water temperature was around 53-56 depending on where you were, my second plan of attack was to target the warmest water I could find, and flip flooded brush and trees. There would be acres of flooded forest in the backs of most creeks and pockets. I was able to access the backs of these because I was fishing in a 17' aluminum boat. I caught tons of fish, but still only tiny ones. My first full day of practice produced NO keepers :wacko:.

 

On day two of practice I did some more cranking, and still could not catch a keeper doing it. Most people I had talked to said they only got *** keeper bites day one of practice, and it was all over the place. I scrambled and scrambled, looking for any little trail of breadcrumbs but there was nothing. I finally got my first keeper bite, and it was a big ol' 5lber, flipping the exact same stuff as the day before. Not really a clue but I did my best to roll with it. I caught a 3lber later that day doing something kind of similar, and tried to expand on it the next day.

 

Day 3 of practice was pretty similar to day two. Two keepers, one was a 5lber, both were in flooded brush/trees. One was in 6" of water, the other in 6'. The keepers were right alongside the short fish, and it seemed like you had to catch 10 or 15 shorts for every keeper. I started marking waypoints where we caught shorts, hoping that bigger fish were on their way in with the rising water.

 

On the first tournament day, I decided I was gonna put my head down and flip the whole time. I didn't think I would get 5 bites, but if I did, I knew I'd have a nice bag of fish. The day started off pretty well, I put a keeper in the boat in the first 30 minutes, and caught several shorts. I had changed from the jig to a t-rigged D-Bomb, my friend had done well with it in the same area in practice, and it came through the hay, briars, and buck brush a lot better. Things slowed way down after that first keeper, and at 11:00, I still only had one fish. The wind had picked up and the sun was bright. I changed from a 1/4oz tungsten to a 1/2 oz and started dropping my d-bomb right in the middle of the thick stuff. I caught a skinny little 15&1/4 incher pretty quick, and that was a huge morale booster, I was glad to have him. I continued "punching" into briar patches and other crazy stuff, and I started whacking the short fish. I was going at a rate of about a fish every 5 minutes, but they were still tiny. I was yo-yoing the bait in the brush like how people fish heavy vegetation in Florida, and often times the fish would hit after the 3rd or 4th pickup.

 

I finally pitched into a briar bush that changed my whole day. The bait turned to mush and I reared back on a solid 5lber. Boy did that feel good! It was 1:00, and I needed two more fish before my 3:00 check in. I really only had an hour, because my little boat is slow going, and the wind was blowing 20-25mph and I don't even want to guess on the gusts. We were on the protected side of the lake, but it was still NASTY when we had to cross the mouth of a creek. I started fishing new water, it was rough enough that it made more sense to just put my head down and fish than to try to run to a waypoint. 1:30 or so I put fish number 4 in the boat, about a 2 &3/4lber. Fished a little longer and headed back towards the ramp. 2:15 I'm running down the lake and realize it's not going to take as long to get back as I think, I start watching my GPS for a pocket similar to what I've been fishing, and when I see one, I head in. There are 4 boats in the small creek, but I idle past them and troll into the woods. I fished the whole back of the pocket and start working my way back out of the trees, pitching as I go. 5 minutes before I need to leave and I crack a big girl. I bet you every boat in that creek heard me when we got her in the net! She was 5 or 5.5ish. Got out of there as fast as I could and made it to check in with a few minutes to spare.

 

After day 1 we were sitting in 11th place with 17lbs, 3oz.

 

Day 2 was a different story. I stuck with the same approach but it was a much slower day. I knew it would be slow, and that fish would back off, but I had absolutely nothing to branch out on. I knew the conditions would be tough on everyone, and I probably only needed two or three bites to make the top 10% and qualify for the championship.

 

 A cold front rolled in and it snowed for the first half of the day, with high winds on top of that. Air temps around 40 degrees. Water temps dropped from 54 in the fronts of pockets and 56+ in the backs, to 53 in the fronts and as low as 49 in the backs. We were still plucking away at short fish but no good bites. At 11:00 I hooked a 4lber that came off just feet from the boat. Boy was that a tough pill to swallow. My next keeper bite didn't come until 1:30, about a 2.5lber that also came off. I was a wreck but I kept my head down and kept doing my thing. 2:30 and I finally stick another good fish! This one stayed pegged, and it was a good one. I grinded it out and fished til the last second but that is all I managed, and boy did I fish hard! I figured I would miss the cut by a few ounces, and those two I lost would certainly have done it for me.

 

Low and behold that one 5lb13oz fish was enough to nab 24th place, the very last qualifying spot in the standings. In a field of 216 boats, only 7 caught a limit both days. There were 71 blanks on day one, and only 16 limits. 50 boats didn't even fish day two, and in 2 tournament days, 5 boats sank. Thankfully, everyone made it out okay, but the conditions were definitely less than ideal, I am surprised the event wasn't cancelled. I would guess that nearly every boat there had some sort of equipment malfunction due to the rough conditions on the lake, it was a mess. If you read this far I congratulate you!!!

 

The first two photos are from practice, the tournament organization hasn't posted any photos yet but I am waiting to find the picture of my day 1 limit!

5aa1da12a57db_FullSizeR(42).thumb.jpg.aa1a28939611ae2d7f4b2bab48c0364a.jpgIMG_7452.thumb.jpg.15e6de4885e55f15d02750e50ab7784d.jpg5aa1da0e07cfd_FullSizeR(41).thumb.jpg.efdbb2e558a4b83bf1bcb5b265464ff2.jpg

This is the lonely big girl that gifted me with a championship berth!

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What a great write up. Persistence paid off. Congrats on the championship birth! 

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Great report.

 

Last weekend there was a tournament on Buggs Island.

 

My friend's friend fished it and caught a 7.5 pound lady in the first hour. He followed up with a nice 4-pounder a half hour later. Then no bites for the rest of the day.

 

His coangler got one bite around 1:30 and landed a small keeper. No other bites for him for the rest of the day, too.

 

So overall, you did fantastic on a day Buggs shut down and other lakes suffered from the weather.

 

We are all proud of your tournament accomplishments. Keep up the good work.

 

 

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Great write-up and nice work on getting the championship birth!  You definitely earned it.

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Great recap. Thanks for sharing, congrats on sticking with it

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Excellent report.

 

No question, you are a savvy young bassmaster.

 

Congratulations!

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Well done.....enjoy the ride

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Great writeup!! Keep up the grind!!  There seems to be a big hub bub about not cancelling the tournament due to conditions.  Sounds like you played it safe.  Good for you.  

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Well done .... As KVD would say "It's All About The Attitude"! ....:thumbsup:

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Great job and  Great report. Congratulations! Five boats sank??? Oh dear. I don’t fish the river downstream of Sweetwater  if the wind is blowing. It’s basically an ocean in the main channel from Chattanooga all the way down if the wind is above 15mph. Kentucky dam is still pushing over 250,000 cfs, here’s a visual of the lake level haha

6C98402B-CFFD-4459-B625-201EE2E28A82.jpeg

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Great job grinding it out . Congrats on the championship birth.

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4 hours ago, TOXIC said:

Great writeup!! Keep up the grind!!  There seems to be a big hub bub about not cancelling the tournament due to conditions.  Sounds like you played it safe.  Good for you.  

And there should be, it was too rough out there for a tournament, especially college kids. My buddy who played it safe like I did split his hull less than 2 miles from the ramp on a 20' G3, on the calm side of the lake!

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I have to echo the feeling of the membership above ~ Superior write up.

Way to trust your instincts right there.  Sounds easy to do but many an angler will second guess themselves (guilty as charged right here) and it often doesn't pay off. 

As for "playing it safe" - is there ever a good reason not to?  

 Live to fish another day.

Congrats to you your finish and good luck moving forward.

#prodigy

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

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Thanks for the detailed report, and good job!

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Way to hang tough 😉

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Have to echo what others have said. Well written summary, and impressive performance in harrowing conditions. Good luck!

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12 hours ago, N Florida Mike said:

Enjoyed the write up and congrats !

What'd next on the agenda ?

Pickwick in April :D

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That was a written piece Nolan, which was a pleasure to read as it’s becoming a lost art. Congratulations on making the cut and gaining a berth in the championship. Wish you nothing but continued success, JB 

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Excellent write up. I have never fished Kentucky Lake, or anywhere close to it, but I felt I was right there in the boat with you. I don't know if you have explored writing as a career but you should look into it. 

 

Grit wins more tournaments than talent.

 

Don't ever let anyone out grit you. 

 

(Paraphrased from Gerald Swindle)

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The force is strong with this one .

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Congrats on qualifying and like the others have said excellent write up!!

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