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Cherokee Lake to Classic Week

Posted by jacob on March 23, 2017

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It’s been an absolute whirlwind since kicking off my Elite Series career with a win at Cherokee Lake.  Between traveling around prepracticing for upcoming events to trying to find a new house near Chickamauga Lake with my fiancée, Alicia, it’s been absolutely crazy!  I’m settling into Houston tonight for Classic week and doing a little deal with Academy tomorrow beforehand.  It’s hard to believe we’re this far into the season already.

I just finished up some looking around on Ross Barnett the past couple days.  I tried making a trip there earlier in the year, but passed because it was basically a monsoon there at the time.  Regardless of how the fishing goes at the time, I do think prefishing really pays off at times.  I’ve seen it firsthand with a place like Cherokee Lake this season.  All of the work put in during prefish graphing helped me have a lot of probable areas to check during official practice and be much more efficient.  It allowed me to spend less time looking and more time checking which ultimately was the key to winning that event.  Now don’t get me wrong, prefishing isn’t some magical way to always do well.  A lot can change in thirty days and this particular time it did not.

When prefishing, the time of year and the stage (s) of the fish play a big factor going in.  When things are in the process of changing, sometimes prefishing may actual backfire on you.  I’ve seen the situation where fishing history can hurt you as you are chasing what was happening and not readily adjusting to what is currently going on.  Sometimes preconceived notions will mess with you in this game.  In the past when I’ve fished big events like the FLW Cup it was generally at a stable time of year which limited the change and enabled my prefishes at those bodies of water to be very effective.

At Cherokee I had about forty places where I knew I could catch a bass.  Between prepractice and official practice, I narrowed it down to twelve of those forty that I felt held the quality of fish I would need to make a run at the win.  Coincidentally, one of my best areas in the event was one I didn’t think was that good.  The first time I went there I casted to the icon that was in twenty feet of water and missed one with a swimbait.  Right afterward I saw one and dropped the now famous Damiki Rig with the VMC Mooneye Jighead on it and caught a three and three quarter pound smallmouth.  Right after bringing that one up, I dropped down again and caught anotherthe same size!  When the weights were stacked so close, those ounces meant the difference in the event.

Some of the good areas I fished also had pressure from other competitors that did well in the event like Adrian Avena, Seth Feider, and Dustin Connell.  Sometimes this would move the fish around some and specifically the last day it forced me to start looking around in the middle of a pond we all were fishing.  I finally hit pay dirt when I graphed a hard spot that dropped about a foot and then my graph started to light up with all of them.  I turned to my cameraman and said to get the camera rolling because it was about to go down.  It was truly like one of those Kentucky Lake megaschools as there was an ungodly amount of them down there.  When I made first drop, ten of them came off the bottom to get it.  After hooking up, twenty actually followed that fish to the surface.  After seeing that, I knew it was over!

There was a lot that went into my Bassmaster Elite Series win at Cherokee Lake.  Prefishing like we talked about, was extremely beneficial in that event.  Because of that extra time, I was able to have that many more areas to fish and found a few sneaky spots that ended up making worlds of difference during the event.  Also, another factor was staying out and fishing with fellow competitor Dustin Connell when my boat went out on me.  It was very classy on his part doing that and despite me calling Trip, there were a lot of people not happy about how that went down which I don’t understand.  Knowing that rule and utilizing that time to cull up meant all the difference as well.  I ended up winning by ten ounces and I know that I wouldn’t have won without having that opportunity to fish while in Connell’s boat.

Our second event of the season went to a place I’m very familiar with, Lake Okeechobee.  I got to do some very early prefishing there in January, but like most fisheries in Florida at that time of year, they are constantly in flux.  I’ve spent a lot of time down there and knew how to catch them, but took a gamble that didn’t end up paying off.  In practice I fished down around the west shoal and Uncle Joe’s cut and noticed the outsides were pretty muddy.  I still managed to get a few big bites in those areas flipping a jig however and felt like it was worth the risk. 

Once I got to the ramp day one, I was sitting with my Marshal and he pulled out his wind app.  It showed it was going to be blowing out of the west pretty hard, but I decided to go back to areas I had gotten a few big bites and go flipping.  I got a few bites down there, but for some reason the bite was funky and they would just pull my bait off.  I only caught one little one in a couple hours then ran to the east wall and started throwing a swim jig.  I had five come up and just steal the trailer off the jig so I switched to a speed worm.  Soon after switching, I hook up with a two and half pounder and it jumps off.  Something was definitely off so I regained my composure and went to an area to throw a senko and caught five little ones quick then headed back north.

I started throwing a topwater around some reeds and shortly thereafter, an eight pounder blasts it, but missed it.  I kept twitching it, but nothing.  So, I pitched a senko and deadsticked it there with the same effect.  I only had a few minutes left so I threw topwater again around and it boiled with no success.  I started out day one behind the eight ball, but as it is well known in Florida, a huge bag can turn everything around.

Day two, I figured I had two options.  I could start off flipping again or I could try some schooling areas I knew of.  I decided on the latter and went to check a few schooling areas that I’d caught them in the past.  They weren’t at any of them so I went and did what I finished the first day doing, throwing topwater on the north end.  I stuck it out and threw it all day and ended up with a much better showing of nineteen pounds.  It’s funny because I knew it in practice, but I rolled the dice on catching the big bags flipping which never panned out.  I even told Adrian and Connell who both ended up making the cut.

The past couple weeks have been filled with pulling tree stands out of the woods and getting ready to buy our new house.  I had a painter over at my current house getting it ready to put on the market so we could get that ball rolling.  I made an offer on a place Alicia and I really liked in Tennessee already, but ended up getting outbid.  It’s ok though because it left us more time to go in person and check out more together.  We’d like to move by June when there isn’t much going on during the season so our deadline is getting closer.  I’m looking forward to having everything done and being able to move in with my soon to be wife.