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everythingthatswims

Breaking The 20lb Mark (In A Tournament!)

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I have been on the road for 2 weeks and am just now settling back in at school. (One of those two weeks was my spring break guys, you can breathe a little sigh of relief). During those two weeks, I had 2 College tournaments, one at Kentucky Lake with FLW, and one at Smith Lake with Bassmaster. Both went really well! I am going to start with Kentucky Lake since that one happened first.

 

We only got two days of practice because what would have been our first day was consumed by 20-30mph winds and thunderstorms. That isn't a thing you play with on Kentucky Lake! Our tournament launched near the dam of the lake, and I wanted to fish in an area about 30 miles south of there, because it seems like the fishing there is exponentially better nearly all times of the year.

 

We started on a small point in that general area (Paris is the general area I'm talking about for anyone wondering) and I caught about a 3.5lb smallmouth on my 5th cast with a red MD little john. A good sign, so we ran similar stuff in the area, and connected on about a 3lb largemouth on almost an identical point. I didn't know it yet, but the ingredients for this week would be a small point on the downriver side of a creek mouth or mouth of a pocket, with lots of current pushing on it. The best ones would have the boat sitting in 6-12FOW casting into 3-6FOW. Both of the places I got those fish on fit that description, but again, I didn't know that yet.

 

There was plenty of water in the bushes, but it was forecasted to be out of the bushes by the time our tournament started, so I had to leave them alone no matter how badly I wanted to cross a 5lber's eyes in the middle of a big bush! I kept the MD Little John in my hand most of the day, the water was 47-51 degrees and stained, so there really aren't that many lure choices to begin with. My partner mixed in a big spinnerbait, and several different crankbaits until he finally tied on a Little John himself and started popping some. He used the shallower diving squarebill version in spring craw, we very rarely throw the exact same baits during a tournament, much less in practice! By the afternoon, we had over 20lbs individually for our best 5, and on one spot, Casey hooked a 5lb largemouth as I was unhooking my 5lb largemouth I hooked on my first cast there. We had at least 6-8 places that fit the description and had gotten bites on, we were feeling very confident!

 

I tried a DT6 in the same type of places as the Little John caught them, but for whatever reason they would not eat it. When I hadn't had a bite yet and Casey landed his second 4lber behind me on the Little John, I gave up on finding something else they would eat. Our first day of practice ended with 5 fish going 24lbs! (I am going to start abbreviating Little John with LJ from this point forward)

 

The tournament was 2 days, and day two was supposed to be so windy that making the 30 mile run to where we found our fish would be nearly impossible, so we spent our entire second day of practice within 10 miles of the launch site. I caught about a 3.75lb smallmouth on the red MD LJ on our very first stop that fit the bill, but after that we didn't catch another keeper for the rest of the day, and we tried EVERYTHING! The a-rig is allowed in FLW College events and when they don't eat that in high 40s/low 50s water, something is not right. Water levels were steadily decreasing, about 1' per day, so we were just hoping the bite we found on day one of practice would hold up well enough to catch a big bag day 1 and scrape something together day 2.

 

 An interesting variable for this tournament was that we would probably have to stop for gas in order to make it back, but most marinas were still closed from the recent flooding. I called about 6 marinas before day 1 blastoff, I found one Marina who said to give them a heads up before coming and they'd have someone meet us at the fuel dock! It's very cool to be in parts of the country where people understand and support tournament fishing.

 

 Day one started with a "nice" 30 mile run, it may have been longer than that but I know it felt like forever, even at 60mph. We started on that same point where I caught the first fish of practice day 1. After a handful of casts, I hooked something really big that was rolling, I knew it was a big drum or catfish and was bummed to have to start the day like that. This thing started peeling line heading straight out towards main lake, and I fought it for quite some time, never pushing it just in case it did happen to be a bass. I finally get this thing near the boat and it shows itself about 15' away from us, it was a giant largemouth, I don't know how big we are talking but after handling multiple 5s in practice I'd say this fish was no less than 7. What I do know is that my crankbait popped out of her mouth nearly as soon as we saw her, and she was gone!

 

I am all about being positive and not letting lost fish get to me, but when you lose one of that caliber, you know you can't fully recover from it, no matter how good of a day you have. Thankfully, Casey popped one that was over 5lbs a handful of casts later, but I felt the pain of that big one coming off all day. Still on the same spot, I catch one over 3lbs a few moments later, and it feels like things are coming together. We roll to our next spot and while we are there, a dang 4lber busts a school of shad on the surface, I put a jerkbait right in there as soon as it happened, but no dice. While we were working the point, I see a shad zipping around out in the middle of nowhere, and then a bass smokes it! I really didn't know what was going on, here we were in muddy 49 degree water with bass doing that! It got weirder though, Casey makes a cast into 3/4FOW with the LJ, a cast he had made 4 times already, and locks up on a bass that was probably over 6lbs, and she went in the box with the other big one! As you can imagine, I am now thinking harder and harder about that big one I lost.

 

We head back to our starting spot, and fish through the area where they were in the morning with no bites. Once we get to the main lake side of the point, I hook a big fish and in my head all I can see is a replay of earlier in the morning happening. Thankfully this one stayed pinned and I was able to put a 5lb fish of my own in the box! A short while later, I hook a keeper to fill out our limit, and we were feeling good. I decided we better double back and fish the point again, and it was a good call as Casey catches a fish pushing 3lbs to get rid of the 15"er we had.

 

You are probably imagining some vast point with lots of rocks and wood scattered across it, but the area all the fish came from was right on the bank, it was about the size of 3 bass boats, and was nothing but clay and gravel. The current break is what made it good. It was still extremely weird for me to repeatedly throw a small crankbait to the same spot and then all of a sudden you would catch one. I don't know where they came from or what they were doing, but they were doing it and I wasn't complaining.

 

We ran our other waypoints for the remainder of the day and caught all of one keeper bass that didn't help. Water levels had receded and so had the bass, we did our best to adjust but I honestly have no idea where the fish went. We ended day one with 5 bass for 22lbs 6oz. That felt great, but there was a slight nagging feeling after weighing a 3lb fish and watching a 7lb (or bigger) fish come unbuttoned. That had us somewhere around 10th place after day one, there were 21 bags over 20lbs brought in! Not bad for some college kids.

 

Day two was cut short due to the wind forecast, so we had to be back by 12:30 for weigh-in. We still decided to make the 30 mile run, because if our fish had reloaded we didn't need much time to catch them. Our first try on that spot resulted in one short fish and one big fish that I never saw and lost, it's a great feeling I tell ya! We ran our second spot that had schooling fish the day before and no dice there either, things were not looking good. Water levels had dropped considerably, so I decided to run new water in the area and hope to stumble across some. I caught one decent keeper in a new place, but we didn't find anything else and headed back to our starting spot. Thankfully, we pulled 2 keepers from it this time, but nothing like the 5lb class of fish that were there the day before. We were running low on time and the wind was starting to pick up, so we started heading back down the lake fishing new water. I caught one more keeper on a new spot, and after that we fished and fished but could never connect.

 

We brought 4 fish to the scales for 10lbs and change, but thankfully the short day and changing conditions had hurt everyone, we finished the event in 13th place out of 200-ish boats, qualifying for my 3rd consecutive FLW College National Championship! That made me feel better, but tournaments aside losing a big fish just sucks, I will probably never forget that big one who spit my crankbait in the first few minutes of the first day! I replace my hooks religiously, sometimes you just lose fish, and rolling with it is part of the game!

 

Hope you guys enjoyed the read!

 

 

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Good fishing.  Always a good read.  Congratulations on making the Nationals

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Great write up!!  My OCD kicked in when that closeup shows the long tag end of line on that crankbait.:P

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Sweet story.....ya just can't beat those emotions ya get on the water.

Praise God

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1 hour ago, TOXIC said:

Great write up!!  My OCD kicked in when that closeup shows the long tag end of line on that crankbait.:P

If they don't see the first 100', they aren't paying attention to 1".  😂

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Very much enjoyed the write up. Congrats on a great finish, breaking 20 lbs, and qualifying! 21 bags over 20 lbs??? That’s pretty awesome. 50 degree water seems to be a great temp for fishing on the TN river 

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Nice work brother!

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You always do tell a good story. I should have start writing mine. 

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great tournament guys! congrats on the finish and the big bag sounds like "lj" done you good.nice write up 👍

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Keep kicking bass!  😉

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1 hour ago, Hook2Jaw said:

If they don't see the first 100', they aren't paying attention to 1".  😂

They might not see it but it sure as heck will grab a piece of grass or weed and run crooked if I had it tied on!!:lol:

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Nicely Done ~ On all accounts

Your consistency & solid decision making are no doubt impressive and seem equally matched by your coolness under pressure.  Most of that can't be taught, you either have it or you don't.  

Combining that with effective time on the water, commitment, intestinal fortitude and a healthy dose of Big Fish Mojo, makes you both a most formidable opponent.

Thank you for taking the time to share this here - always really enjoy it, regardless of the outcome.

Congrats on yet another great derby and Best of Luck at the FLW CNC. 

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

 

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Great read! Congratulations young man! Keep it up and good luck to you!!!

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Congratulations @everythingthatswims for your three peat in the FLW College National Championship! I enjoyed the read and appreciate the time you took to share it with all of us. Good luck to you and your tournament partner going forward!

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6 hours ago, TOXIC said:

Great write up!!  My OCD kicked in when that closeup shows the long tag end of line on that crankbait.:P

My OCD had me retying so often from rocks that I probably overlooked that. Short tags make me nervous, I trust my knots but there are some big ol bass swimming around in KY lake, if it happens to slip a little I want some forgiveness.

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Great write up. 

What jumped out to me was catching quality bass during your practice period you will need during the tournament? 20+ lb 5 bass limit is good anytime!

Tom

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Congratulations! and thanks for a great writeup.  I remember how windy it was during the KY lake tournament and wondered how that was affecting you guys. 

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Congrats Nolan! I Always enjoy reading your write ups! 

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7 hours ago, WRB said:

Great write up. 

What jumped out to me was catching quality bass during your practice period you will need during the tournament? 20+ lb 5 bass limit is good anytime!

Tom

Besides the two 5lb fish on back to back casts, we never caught more than one fish at a location before marking a waypoint and leaving, it's crazy to think about what weight we could have had if we stayed put on some spots that day!

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14 minutes ago, everythingthatswims said:

Besides the two 5lb fish on back to back casts, we never caught more than one fish at a location before marking a waypoint and leaving, it's crazy to think about what weight we could have had if we stayed put on some spots that day!

Bass caught in practice may not be caught during the tournament. Some top pro's bend trebles or cut off hook points so they don't get the bass to the boat. Just a observed critique from an old tournament angler. You put a good pattern together and placed high enough to continue and that says a lot about your fishing skills and deserve congratulations.

Tom

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16 hours ago, WRB said:

Bass caught in practice may not be caught during the tournament. Some top pro's bend trebles or cut off hook points so they don't get the bass to the boat. Just a observed critique from an old tournament angler. You put a good pattern together and placed high enough to continue and that says a lot about your fishing skills and deserve congratulations.

Tom

This is definitely an interesting topic. There were many short fish biting at Kentucky Lake, and in cold water on a crankbait, it is hard to tell whether a fish was 12" or 6lbs just from the strike (If I were to remove hook points). Since I was fishing main lake, current oriented locations on a 160,000 acre lake, I have a feeling that fish were cycling in and out of these spots by the hour, so catching one or two to get an idea on size probably wasn't too much of an issue.

 

I probably catch more fish during practice than most, IMO if what I find can't hold up to me checking on the size of the fish I have found, I need to find something better for the tournament anyway. It's quite the balancing act and like all things fishing, conditions determine how I approach it.

 

I have weighed in the exact same bass I caught during practice in two different tournaments, and those were just fish I could identify because of unique physical features, I am sure I have done it a handful of other times as well.

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