Some of the previous events was with a 12" size limit, this time it will be 14". When I left home in Broadway, NC,, it had been in the mid 70's, above normal temps. When I arrive at the house we have rented for the week, it is cool and raining. After unloading my gear, a quick run for license, I'm off to the lake. My good friend Allen P., a co-angler in the field, will prefish with me the first couple days. The lake appears near normal level, with some area's having stained water. The water temps are alot warmer than expected, with some creeks in the upper 50's. Today will go by fast, but very successful. Between Allen and I, we will land several fish, mostly small, but a few good keepers. Our best 5 will weigh close to 16 lbs. I like what I saw today. Allen is stoked also.
March 7: The bottom fell out overnite, with up to 2 inches of rain. And the temps are falling. Its cool and with a crisp wind. Its also very foggy this morning, so Allen and I get a late start. Today, I will try and expand the little pattern we found in a different area of the lake. The backs of the creeks have gotten some good color from the rain. The lake also seems to be on the rise and the water temps on the fall. As is the forecast for the weather, with the air temps falling tonite with an incoming cold front. Today, we do not do very well, with only 3 keepers out of around a dozen or so smaller fish. Everyone at the house says about the same.
The wind bites you thru several layers of clothing. To make things worse, the little pattern I found seems to be leaving. We do manage a few keepers. One Allen caught was pretty unusual. We are fishing this little point, he hooks into what appears to be a 5 or 6 pound fish by the size of its mouth trying to shake the crankbait. He keeps the fish down because there is a boat near, as seems to be everywhere you go, the lake is fishing very small. But as he brings the bass to the boat, pulls it in, it looks like the fish had a shark come up and bite off its tail from about the dorsal fin. The fish literally has the head of a 5 lb fish with the tail of a 10 incher. Looks like someone cut of its tail and glued on the small fish, strange ! We laugh, it will weigh around 3 lbs but not measure 14". Later Allen will hook into a nice healthy 5 lb fish. Allen is feeling really stoked about the tournament. He thinks what we are doing will work as long as his pro is around fish. Only bad thing, the area I'm in is getting alot of boat pressure. Back at the house, everyone seems to think the bite is getting tougher. And it will with the lake getting muddier and the water temps falling.
March 9: Allen has decided to stay in today, work on tackle, run to the Nashville Bass Pro Shop. Maybe a good choice, its forecast to drop down into the 20's today and snow. But my friend and co-angler Chris Coester will grin and bear it with me. He has never seen the lake, and wants to get a feel for it. We only fish till around 1, its just too miserable to bear, with wind and what starts out as light snow, then rain. We manage only two keepers, both over 3 lbs. On the return trip in, we notice something big and brown in the water. That's either the biggest beaver I have ever seen or a bloated deer. When we get close, its a cow, must have gotten swept into the swift current and drown. There really is trash, logs and junk floating everywhere. I have decided that I will beat my first day area to death tomorrow, hope for the best and hope its not too crowded. The pairings meeting is somewhat quiet. No one is really crying the blues, nor is anyone really talking. It will be a tough tournament anyway you look at it. The lake level is falling, as is the water temps, what was in upper 50's is now in the low 40's. The meal tonite is pretty good, serving barbeque and beans. I draw boat # 27, and my co-angler is from St. Louis. He has not been on the lake. I tell him dress warm, and prepare to just "go fishing".
March 10: Day one is cold, with morning temps in the low 20's, and windy. There's a heavy frost on my boat. Since I have a early blast off number, I think I will get to my area before anyone else. But I will also get a shorter day fishing, with the later time for fishing better. We arrive to my starting area, begin fishing. I catch several short fish, one that just barely is short. Then as expected, one after one boat comes in. It doesn't take long for the area to get crowded. A boat comes in, runs by me to the back. Now, I'm almost in the back, so I make the comment "Where does he think he's going"? He starts fishing about 75 yards to my left, the direction I am heading. My co-angler makes the comment they have a fish on. The pro lands one, throws it back. Then the co-angler catches a keeper. As we get closer, the co-angler in the other boat lands another keeper. Well, the fish are still here, just I'm getting too much help catching them. Soon I grow tired of fishing in the crowd, and decide to abandon the area. The new area is even smaller, but there is not a boat there. We catch several shorts, then I land a nice 3 pound fish. As the day ends, I have managed several shorts, with only one keeper. I think the water temps in the area hurt, with some being almost 40 degrees. A 15 degree drop. Surprisingly, or maybe not, they do catch them better than expected. No many limits, but alot of 1 and 2 fish bags. I think almost 50 pros will blank today. The weights are deceiving, its really alot tougher than it appears. I talk to Allen, he has blanked today, over half the co-angler field blanked. He's really down since he had caught some really nice fish in practice with me. Points will be a premium in this event. When we get back to the ramp to load the boat, there is a small girl sitting next to our rigs in the parking lot holding up a sign. The ramp parking was limited, and there is a small field adjacent to it where several parked their truck and trailer as overflow. I guess the field was private, and the little girl is there to collect an outragous $10 parking fee. My first reaction is as all, this is a major rip off. But then we all get mad because the adult who came up with this scam didn't have the nerve to collect it, rather send out an innocent 10 year old.
March 11: Today is like yesterday, cold and blustery. Only exception, it is supposed to be sunny. I have decided to abandon my previous days area. It got hammered, plus didn't produce like I expected. I need to bust a big bag, so today I will go junk fish. My co-angler today is from Missouri, and did not catch a fish yesterday. We start of as before, landing several short fish. In fact, if it was still a 12" size, I would have a limit early, and would have had one the first day. I do manage to bring on a keeper early, and so does my co-angler while I am putting the fish in the livewell. Maybe today will be the day. Several hours go by, and no fish. I run into my good buddy Todd Auten who says he hasn't any thing. I tell my partner to pack up, wrap up, and prepare for a run. The move appears to pay off as I manage 2 more keepers. The day will end with only 3 fish over 6 pounds in my livewell. I will finish just outside the money, a growing trend this season. There is some huge stringers coming in but alot of blanks also. Its a strange tournament, it appears better than it really is. Some have them, most do not. I really thought I would do well in this event, but my pattern fizzled. Well, least I will get home in time for to be able to cheer on my daughter in her volleyball tournament and the Wolfpack in the ACC tournament.
March 6: The drive to Old Hickory is the shortest of the FLW season as far as distance for me. Unfortunately, it will go painstakely slow in and around Knoxville due to construction. Its kind of ironic that I sit for almost an hour in traffic under a road sign directing one to an exit for a Tenn. town called BROADWAY. I've fished Old Hickory a few times before, one being a FLW and the B.A.S.S. MegaBucks. I did well in MegaBucks, making the semi-final round and ok the last FLW. Each was later, in May, than this one. Personally, I do not think Old Hickory is a great fishery.
March 8: The front is here with a bang! The temps this morning is in the low 30's, and the wind is howling. The forecast is for rain, and winds up to 30 mph sustained and gusting higher. It will be correct. Man, is it ever so wicked out there today, brutal. To top it off, the lake had risen at least 3 feet and there is huge trees and logs floating everywhere. The backs of creeks look like orange soda. On the main river, there is a wall of debris coming down that looks like a mudslide. Its really tough to practice in this weather, you can't run any because of the wind and waves. If you aren't careful, you will come down a wave and be on top of a huge log or even a refrigerator or some house lawn furniture. Its a mess.