OCT 20 - Its a 12 hour drive to Pickwick. Its a drive I have done before and one I do not look forward to. Pickwick is always a long row to hoe for me. I never seem to get comfortable there, the lake is mostly clear and more current than anywhere we visit. Usually the lake is being drawn down to winter pool, making all shallow water cover high and dry. I meet Chris 3 hours into my trip at a Bojangles in Charlotte. We have the same house that we rent again. Its a nice little cottage on the lake that a friend of mine found for us. The owners always treat us like family there. Past occasions, they have cooked out for us. It begins to rain when we hit the Ga border. Seems rain follows us. As I drive, I think that maybe this trip to Pickwick will be different. I also plan on spending more time on Wilson instead of Pickwick. There is a 15" size limit for Wilson, so it will be in effect for tournament, making it even tougher. I look forward to Pickwick like I look forward to a visit to the dentist chair. We arrive around 6 central time, unpack, hit the grocery store, and prepare mentally for a hard week ahead.
OCT 21 - First practice day: Forecast is for mostly cloudy, and light wind. Wind on Pickwick is a unwelcomed condition. When it blows against the swift current, it makes for one, if not the roughest lakes we visit. Today I will fish Pickwick, concentrating on the lower end. It will be a long run from blast off, but the water is less clear and more largemouth. The lake is low, leaving little shallow water cover. I begin covering water in the backs of pockets with a buzzbait, not much action. As the day progresses, I notice several area's with some schooling activity. I manage to catch several just barely short fish, but no real keeper fish. Tomorrow, I will go as I had orginally planned, go to Wilson.
Oct 22 - Its about a 30 minute drive to Wilson dam, where I will put in. The lake level remains pretty constant on Wilson, so I will concentrate on shallow grass. I run several pockets, casting a spinnerbait around the grass, catching several fish, just no keepers. The sun has come out today, first time in days, I begin flipping docks. Wilson is a heavy populated lake with homes, so docks are abundant. After a whole day working docks, I manage 2 really nice keepers in one area. Not much to go on, but it is better than day one practice. During supper, my roommates and I discuss how tough the conditions are. None of us feel very comfortable with what we have found. With tomorrow being the last practice day, I must decide which lake I will fish.
Oct 23 - Today the rain is back. I have decided to try Pickwick one more time. If all else fails, I can always lock into Wilson tomorrow and fish docks. I spend the day fishing close to the take off area. If I choose to lock thru, I will have a very short day, so I best find something close for after I come from Wilson. The dam tailrace is full of boats, and also full of drum and stripers. The drum are even hitting my spinnerbaits. Today was not what I had hoped for, only one just legal size bass. Strange, the conditions were perfect, clouds, light wind and a slight crisp to the air. Pickwick is being Pickwick again, tough. At the pairings meeting, most are crying the blues. Few that feel they can catch one or two keepers are counting on schooling fish, not very reliable. Course, I don't have much either, hope for sun and a dock bite. My amatuer partner is from Oklahoma, having flown in, never been on Pickwick, and very dissappointed when I tell him I am not really on anything, just going fishing.
OCT 24 - First day of the tournament, the conditions are not what I had hoped for, rain and clouds. Not good for dock fishing. At the meeting last nite, they announced there will be only one lock up and one lock down. The lock up into Wilson will be at 8:30, the lock down will be at 1:30. It will take 45 minutes to lock up if the lock is clear of barge traffic. The lock into Wilson is one of the largest lock in the world, with a rise and fall of 93 feet. With lock down at 1:30, it will give me just over 3 hours to fish before due back.
I am due in at 4:30, that will give me about 2 hours to fish once I lock back into Pickwick. There is probably about 70 boats making the decision to lock into Wilson the first day out of 209. There is no turning back now, just hope the sun comes out. Talk is limited among boats inside lock, where we are required to tie off to each other to form a link from one wall to the other. A large houseboat is trying to get into the lock as we settle in. The lockmaster calls on the bull horn for him to enter, not good, this will surely take time to tie him off. As we begin the 45 minute chamber fill up, we hear people yelling
"Cut the rope, cut your rope"! Seems someone has their rope caught in the lock wall and is being held as the water rises. Afer a few frantic seconds, the boat is freed. Once the water starts rising, there is no stopping filling this huge tub. When the huge doors finally open to Wilson, it every man to himself. The wakes make for a rough beginning. I begin the morning running grass with a spinnerbait.
I immediately begin catching fish, just no keepers. I decide to abandon the spinnerbait, and go to my docks, knowing time is going fast. With no sun, I have my doubts about the flipping bite, but also had little confidence staying on Pickwick. As the day progresses, it becomes apparent that the dock bite will be either one big one or none. With about an hour to go before we are due back to lock, I get a rod jarring hit. I set the hook, it buries behind a dock post. I make the comment to my amatuer that this is a big fish, and sure enough after some work, it comes out and is a big fish, a big drum. Man, does 3 hours past fast when its on the tournament clock. Everyone arrives at the lock on time, the talk is limited. If anyone has fish, they are not talking. I hear some say they have not had a bite. When we finally lock down and the doors open, there is a big barge waiting to enter the lock. The barge canal into the lock is narrow, and with 70 boats all racing to leave, making the wakes bounce off the lock wall and the huge barge, its one heck of a ride out. Some nut in a white boat has stopped right in the middle of the canal, making everyone scramble to avoid a collision. Looking back, I can't believe there was not a serious accident from it. Day one is over, and I have managed 2 keepers at 7.4 lbs, putting me in 18th place. I am pleased but know I am also fortunate, most have either blanked or had one. I think only 100 pros out of 206 actually weigh in. Pickwick is being Pickwick, tough!
OCT 25 - Day two. Today I am in the first flight, making for a very short fishing day if I decide to lock into Wilson. I have decided to stay in Pickwick, take my chances with the longer day fishing, for maybe one or two bites. I make a run down lake, and begin fishing an area that looked good in practice with a spinnerbait. The current is really moving, I'm glad I have 109 pounds of thrust on my Motorguide. The morning gets off to a great start, my first fish is a keeper. Unfortunately, it will be my one and only bite all day. Conditions have not changed, maybe gotten worse. There was only 4 limits weighed in the first day, today, there will be none. I find myself sitting in 28th place, I have made the top 50 cut and will fish tomorrow.
OCT 26 - The good news is, I have made the cut, will be guarenteed a check. The bad news is I have to spend one more day fishing Pickwick! Conditions have gone worse to disaster. Plan is to lock back into Wilson even though again the forecast is for clouds and rain. If I can get bit on the docks, it will be a good one. Only way I know to catch one after spending the second day on Pickwick. When I arrive at the lock, there is a huge barge about half way into the chamber, it will be atleast 90 minutes before he can get in and out. No time to wait, time to rethink my decision. It will be to make a long run down lake on Pickwick, try some of the schooling fish I found in practice and hope they have gotten bigger. Half way down the lake, into a 45 minute run, the bottom falls out, it is raining cats and dogs! Plus there is a huge fog bank, but I manage to find the area I want to fish. Second problem is the Corp has dropped the bottom out of the lake level! The lake must have fallen at least 3 feet over nite, and there is little if any current. I can't ever recall no current on Pickwick, but today there is zip-o. Things are not looking good. But my first cast with a spook, I hook up with a fish that is just barely under 15". Maybe today will be the day. Three hours later, two really nice fish have boiled on my bait, but not taken it. A huge school of bass has come up around us, just never within casting distance, making for even more frustration. When the school does finally come up close, I cast in with my spook, no takers. My amatuer cast in a rat-l-trap and connects. The fish is oh so close to 15", ask me to call it, I tell him "Thats a tough call, one I won't make". He throws the fish back. The day does not go well, I fire a blank. Overall, it was tough for all the top 50, with the few who have fish having waited on the barge and locked into Wilson. Again today, there will be no limits weighed in, has to be a record, only 4 limits in 3 days of fishing. I end up in 38th place and a check. I feel like I have finally gotten over the hump called Pickwick, by getting a check. Well maybe! A local ask me at weigh in if I want to go fishing in the morning with him again on Pickwick. I look at him and respond "Naa, I got a dentist appointment I just can't miss"!
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