Day One: The trip to Pickwick is never a easy one, and it has nothing to do with traffic. When it comes to fisheries, Pickwick is the least favorite of all my travels. I don't care what they say or hype, Pickwick is a poor fishery. Yes, they will be some fish caught, but I guarantee you it will center around long runs, locking and perhaps even visiting several states in the process. Seems just like last week I was at Pickwick for the Everstart Championship. That tournament also saw several of the top finishers either locking twice into Wheeler or making long runs all the way to Bay Springs in Miss. I hate events like this, where you have to many options. I arrive at my hotel for the week, get settled in and prepare for a tournament that will not only be tough physically, but mentally for me.
Day Two: One thing good about visiting Pickwick, I get to renew some old friendships made over the years. One is a guy named Mike, who is a retired Florence City Fireman. The first time I went to Pickwick, I met him by chance. He offered us a house to rent for the week, and since, I have always stayed there. I pick at him because he's an avid "minner" fisherman for crappie. Which, always works out great, because he and one of his buddies will fry up some a night for us.
Mike is going to join me today, despite the bitter cold and wind. One thing about Pickwick, if the wind blows against the current, she is one mean mudder. The plan to day is stay on Pickwick, and perhaps find something that will maximize my time from a long run and locking. The lake is down as usual. I have never fished Pickwick when was not atleast 9 feet low or more. The day will go as most of my past days on Pickwick, several fish, just not any over the 15" size requirement.
Day Three: Call it hardheaded, or just being stupid, but today I will again fish Pickwick opposed to one of the other lakes. I am bound and determined to eliminate the locks by finding something on Pickwick. Today I will fish the lower end of Pickwick. That will be about a 50 mile run from takeoff, but still compared to some runs, not far. Example is that my roommate Chris, is going to Bay Springs today. That run is over 90 miles one way from take off.
The day starts out like yesterday, several fish, but most are under the legal size limit. The water is still cold, and very clear, so I decide to try a jerkbait. My first area that I fish, I will land a nice 4 lb smallie on it. Perhaps I have found something. After about 4 more hours of this, I manage only a few short smallmouth. Back at the room, Chris tells me he has decided that he will concentrate the last practice days on Bay Springs. Me? I think I too had better get off Pickwick. So tomorrow its Wilson.
Day Four: Today its Wilson Lake. I like Wilson, well, I like the way it looks. Alot of docks, wood and some grass. Its reminds me of a small Lake Gaston, with clear water and some slightly stained water in the backs of creeks. The water is very cold, in the low 40's. I can't seem to get anything going today, but do manage one keeper fish. Past events this time of year have been won on Wilson, and my bets are that most of the field will lock into Wilson. But then again, who knows, with so many options, the field may go to Wheeler and even Guntersville. Yes, Guntersville, which would require locking 3 time one way and leave one about 3 hours fishing time.
Day Five: Lets go for the Hat Trick. Today I'm hitting Wheeler. I hate spreading out my time and practice on so much water, but I don't have any confidence anywhere still. I managed a nice smallie on the jerkbait the first day on Pickwick, so I think I will try that some on the bluffs in Wheeler.
My first couple bluffs will produce nothing. But on my third bluff, I will catch a keeper smallmouth, about 3 lbs. MMmmmmm, maybe something, maybe a ray of hope. After about an hour of this, I manage to catch another keeper doing this, a largemouth at that.
This pattern is very dependent on current. By midday, the water flow seems very slow. Its a strange way to fish, you can be fishing the bluffs close enough to reach out and touch them, but yet still be sitting in 50 or more feet of water. I guess the fish just sort of suspend around the small ledges, waiting for bait to be pulled by. The water is so clear, anything that comes by is visible to them. Overall, my day on Wheeler is slow, leaving me still guessing on where I will fish.
Day Six: Today my good friend and co-angler Roger Heister will join me. Again I will decide to fish Pickwick. I don't feel good about Pickwick, but I am catching fish there, just not keepers. Maybe I can figure out how to upgrade the size. One thing good about Roger, he loves to throw that finesse stuff, like a jighead worm. That's something that may work behind the jerkbait.
The weather is perfect for the jerkbait, cold and with a slight breeze. There seems to be more traffic on Pickwick today, perhaps its because others are struggling or just tired of fishing way off destinations. Chris will again go to Bay Springs today. He has not even put his boat in Pickwick. He maybe the only smart one in the bunch.
While fishing the bluffs, Roger makes the comment that he hopes no rock falls on us. It is an eerie feeling as you pass under some of the large rock cliffs. My first couple bluffs will produce a keeper spotted bass, which only needs to be 12". Largemouth and Smallmouth has to be 15". I continue to fish the bluffs, with an occasional white bass and smaller bass. I notice one thing that all the fish producing bluffs have in common, small eddy's off the little points. I run to a likely looking bluff and begin my slow jerkbait retrieve. On my first cast, a huge fish will peel off drag as it take the bait into the current. After about a minute fight, I will land one of the biggest largemouth I have every caught on Pickwick, heck, one of the biggest fish period, of course, not including the pesky drums. I didn't even think there was fish like this in Pickwick. I now have a ray of hope, just one fish or two like this will go along ways.
We begin running more bluffs, hoping to expand perhaps on the small pattern. While fishing down this one bluff, we suddenly hear this loud crashing sound. Roger and I both look up to see some large brown object rolling down the bluff next to us. All I can think of is some wayward rock has come loose. The object crashes into the water next to the boat, and suddenly begins thrashing the water. Its not a rock, but a large doe deer. She has fallen down the cliff and now struggles to climb back onto its steep banks. Roger and I both can't believe she survived the fall. She will swim about 30 yards to a small ledge, there she tries in vain to reach the top, only to fall after fall back into the water. You can tell she's getting exhausted. Roger suggest we go help her. No way Hose'. Finally she finds a less severe cliff and manages to reach the top of dry land.
Today is the registration and pairings. Everyone is complaining about how tough it is, or if they are talking about catching fish, how far or how much money it will cost in gas. Me, I have decided to stay on Pickwick and maximize my time, hope that I can get two or three quality bites on my jerkbait. My co-angler partner for tomorrow is from Alabama. He said he even avoids Pickwick. We have a late take off number, which may help my chances. Only bad news is that the forecast is for 30 mph wind tomorrow my noon, that's a killer.
Tournament Day One: Everyone I have talked to plan on either a long run to Bay Springs or to Wheeler. I even talked to fellow team mate Greg Pugh, he's looking someone to make the long run to Guntersville with him as a safety measure incase one breaks down, the other will be there to ride in with. That's a big gamble, leaving less than 3 hours to fish. But like he said, he would rather spend 3 hours thinking he was around fish, rather than 8 hours fishing around no fish.
Me, I'm still torn on where and what to do. I had my best day on Wheeler with the jerkbait, if you consider the numbers. But overall, I had better bites, be much fewer on Pickwick. As they get close to my take off number, I decide I will stay on Pickwick and hope for a few quality bites.
The day will start of with a bitter cold boat ride down south on Pickwick. My first stop finds alot of company surprisingly. I will start getting bites pretty quickly, but again, the size is far smaller than the required 15 inches. The day will end just like that, with alot of bites, but not one making the grade. There was some pretty good sacks weighed in today. Word has it that most made long runs as expected, with day one leader locking twice into Wheeler. I've dug a hole sort of, but with so many blanks today, a good day tomorrow, and a check is not out of reach.
Day Two: My co-angler today is from NY. I told him last nite I was going to sleep on a decision to either lock or stay on Pickwick again. Pickwick has always bitten me, .......always. I hate this lake or this TVA chain with a passion. But I have to put my bad thoughts aside and concentrate on the task at hand, bear down and fish. Again, as yesterday, I don't really make a decision where to go until close to my take off number. My roommate Little E made the 200 mile round trip to Bay Springs yesterday only to find himself in the same position as me, firing a blank. He has decided to make the long run again, even telling me before he leaves, "You better get off Pickwick".
As they call my number, I again will decide to turn right, instead of left toward the lock. I still believe that maximizing my time, instead of locking, is my only real chance of catching up. My first stop today is in a small creek down river. I have a early take off number, so I beat several boats who decide to start here. The creek is only about 25 yard wide, and a couple boats begin fishing opposite bank as me. One boat is idling between us to go back further when some knuckle head in a Nascar branded boat never slows down and runs between us all. In his wake, he almost throws me and my co-angler out of our boat, and washes another up on the rocks. The boat that was courtesy and idling gets more of his wrath because he will spray them from the wake wash and also from the larger rooster tail as he passes only feet away. You can hear large yells of disapproval as he moves on. The guy who was idling quickly guns it after him. I imagine there might be a murder in the back of the creek, and well deserved.
Today will be a carbon copy of yesterday, with catching atleast 12 or 13 fish, but none will make the legal size limit. My jerkbait bite seems to have faded, as my hopes to catch up. My co-angler is use to fishing upper NY lakes, he is quick to point out that if he had to fish here, he would take up something else, perhaps golf or even ditch digging as a hobby. We both agree the facilities are the best of any where we visit. Unfortunately, I will a fire a blank for the entire tournament, something that I have never done in a FLW event. If you weighed in here, you accomplished something. Me, I plan on notching another "x" on my reasons not to like Pickwick. There's heaven, and there's Pickwick in the fishing world.
The next couple days will be spend working the Fun Zone at Florence Wal-Mart. I admit, Florence has some of the nicest people of all the towns we travel. One part of being on the Pedigree team is that we get to go out to different venue's and meet with the town's residents. On this trip, I will do something that I really enjoy, that's going to area schools and talking with kids. There is no hiding their eagerness and genuine fascination with fishing. It also reminds me of how simple fishing can and should be, hearing story's from the kids about sitting on the bank fishing for bream or just spending a day in the boat with their grandfather.
One little boy sums it all up with his story about a day he and his uncle spend down on the creek bank, we had fun digging for worms, seeing a big turtle and enjoying a rootbeer and can of vienna's. I ask him "if they did any good fishing"? His response was "I got to see a fish swimming". It's not always about catching them, its about seeing the positives. I did see a fish or two at Pickwick.......