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Follow my Fish of 2014
With a club tournament the next day, Brad and I got out Friday to do some prefishing. Though Brad couldn't fish it with me, he wanted Josh and I to win, so he broke his cardinal rule of avoiding Wheeler and took me out.
We started out fishing deep. The first place we stopped was a set of hard placements on rip ramp banks just upriver from the marina. Things started out pretty well as Brad caught 4 smallmouth on a PTL 7" Stickler and magnum shakey head. You will recall that the magnum shakey head has easily been our best bait in 2015. You can read about the technique here.
Around 8am, the bite died drastically. We tried to flip some grass as well as hit the edges with a variety of top water baits without a single hit. When the sun got high, we hit the ledges. Using the Lowerance electronics, we scanned around 3 miles of ledges, fishing around 5 different spots. Bait was plenty and we were graphing what we thought were bass. But, they were hugging the bottom, a classic sign that they would not be actively feeding.
Eventually, we determined that the fish simply weren't going to be biting. Though the water temp was down to around 83, there was no current. We packed it in early.
I traded texts with Josh that night where I told him that we needed to avoid Decatur all together. I felt like we needed to head to 1st Creek where Brad and I had caught a lot of fish earlier in the year.
But, Josh convinced me that we should stay tight to Decatur and use a series of small spots that we had exploited in 2014 to cash a good check in a very similar circumstance. Not only was the weather and lake conditions similar, but the competition was almost identical. You can read about that and watch the video in the link below.
I bought in to his recommendation. We would flip and throw frogs all day. But, first we started at the hard placements Brad and I had caught fish the day before. It produced one small fish and we quickly left. We ran further up river and fished a series of scattered grass.
Each patch failed to produce until Josh snagged one out of a particular patch. I fished around the edges with a Spro frog before one nailed it. A few casts later, I had another blow up, but the fish didn't connect. With the spot only a few feet away, Josh flipped his creature bait into the grass. The fish hit, but didn't connect. He threw in again and the fish bit hard. We had 3 keepers for around 6 pounds. Not a bad start. These were the quality fish we would need.
We headed down river to the spot we had success fishing.
The bites were quick as we covered a whole bank of scattered grass. On one of the very first casts, Josh slammed back the rod and the fish came flying out of the grass. From the corner of my eye, I saw a really long fish. I was excited until I realized it was a gar. I have to admit, catching a gar while flipping is pretty impressive.
Josh caught another fish flipping.
I fished a shoreline on the other side of the boat, paralleling the grass. I burned the frog over the thick stuff and hit the brakes at the transition of the thick grass and scattered grass. BOOM! It resulted in fish #5.
We had a good limit, for Wheeler. But, the last keeper was small. The other 4 were solid fish. We felt like a 5-pounder would probably win the tournament. So, we pounded the same cove until it was obvious that it wasn't going to yield more fish.
We tried another spot by Hard Dock that had yielded fish. It produced another keeper sized fish to Josh as he flipped, but nothing else.
Meanwhile, I couldn't buy a bite...once again. It seems like the fish don't want me to have any confidence in flipping.
At 9 AM, we had a limit, but we hadn't had a bite in an hour. No worries, right? Just needed one more.
At 12PM storms began rolling up the lake. We tried to idle some ledges, hoping to find an active school. TVA had kicked the current up to 20,000, and while that isn't nearly enough, we hoped it would at least spur a bite. But, the win and lightening ran us back up river.
At 1PM the lightening was 3 miles away. At 115, the lightening was within half a mile so we headed to Ingall's.
Apparently around 10 of the 18 boats had already called it quits and went home. We weighed in 9.5 pounds and it began to rain. I was ready to head home, but they informed us that we were in 3rd place. Alas, the last boat weighed in 11 pounds.
The winning boat had almost 20 pounds. 2nd had 14. I wish I knew how they did it!
From those that I talked to, their bite had also been shallow and had also dried up at 8AM. It leads me to believe that the winning bags were caught on either ledges or bluffs down by first creek. 3rd place weighed in 2 smallies, which is a good tipoff.
We ended up catching only 7 bass all day. Ugh.