I cringed when I read “Douglas Lake set to stun” by David Hunter Jones on the Bassmaster Opens web page. He reported that Elite Series pro Ott Defoe believes most anglers will catch a limit every day at the Douglas Lake Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open.
With a statement like that, the Douglas tournament is surely jinxed.
I don’t doubt Defoe’s honesty or sincerity. He’s a local hot stick, and he will be competing in the tournament.
However, whenever I draw a tournament partner that guarantees easy limits of bass, it’s the kiss of death. Defoe’s bubbly prediction strikes me as a curse.
I called Mark Mauldin to get a different perspective. Maybe it would exorcise Defoe’s hex.
Mauldin was my Day One partner last January at the Lake Tohopekaliga Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open. He lives only 20 minutes from Douglas and caught his first bass there when he was 9 years old.
“I remember watching that 13-inch largemouth smash a spinnerbait like it was yesterday,” Mauldin says.
Now 40, Mauldin has fished Douglas many times over the years, including a number of tournaments. He will also be competing at Douglas.
I was dismayed when Mauldin also predicted widespread limit catches. I sensed a dark cloud forming over my head.
Mauldin has been practice fishing at Douglas and says the lake’s abundant shoreline willows and bushes are full of water — and bass. This cover should yield many limits during the tournament.
Then again, Mauldin believes it will be hard to catch three consecutive 15-pound limits from the flooded cover. He predicts it will take 18 to 20 pounds a day to win.
“The biggest bass at Douglas always come from deep water, even in the spring,” Mauldin says.
He fished a team tournament at Douglas last April, when eastern Tennessee bass are supposed to be shallow. While Mauldin was catching spawners in the backs of quiet pockets, the winners boated a five-bass limit that weighed nearly 29 pounds. They were cranking deep points. All their bass were post-spawn fish.
“When the bass first move out on the points in the spring, it’s like fishing Lake Falcon,” Mauldin says. “Douglas produces lots of 6- and 7-pound largemouths.”
Mauldin enjoyed one of those glory days just two weeks ago when he cranked up five bass that weighed over 26 pounds. Weights like that aren’t normal for east Tennessee lakes.
According to Mauldin, Douglas doesn’t subscribe to what’s normal. For one thing, it has few ledges, such as you find at, say, Kentucky Lake. The bass at Douglas relate mainly to points. And, they are sometimes caught at depths of 40 feet or more.
The bass also stubbornly cling to community holes. This bodes well for the many local anglers who have entered the Douglas event.
The best Douglas Lake offshore crankbait fisherman Mauldin knows doesn’t compete in tournaments. Every year this angler searches for new deep-water honey holes at Douglas, armed with his LCG, GPS maps and deep diving crankbaits.
His efforts have been futile. The only places that yield big catches for him are community holes, and the same places produce year after year.
It’s likely that these well-known sweet spots will attract crowds of fishermen during the tournament. That could spread the deep bass among several livewells and reduce the weight needed to win here.
Should that happen, the abundant flooded cover just might produce the winning bass.
Mauldin will have rods rigged with deep-diving crankbaits, a football jig, Carolina rig and maybe a spoon for deep bass. He also plans to hedge his bets and have rods rigged for the flooded cover.
“The deep bite has gotten tougher lately,” Mauldin says.
When Douglas’ post-spawn bass first move out to the points, the fishing is hot, Mauldin explains. After they’ve been pounded awhile, the bass scatter and move deeper or suspend.
They eventually regroup, and the point fishing picks up again. Will it pick up in time for the Douglas Lake Open?
The first day’s weigh-in should provide the answer. If bags of more than 20 pounds come to the scales, you can assume the deep bite is on.
Since I’m fishing Douglas as a nonboater, I’ll need baits and tackle that will dredge up deep bass and extract them from the flooded cover.
Mauldin gave me a tip that could pay off should I draw a boater that’s fishing a point and catching keeper size bass.
“Turn around and cast into the middle of the lake,” he says. “Lots of big bass are caught that way at Douglas.”
You may have noticed that I have a new blog photo. That’s because Phoenix Boats has generously provided a boat so I can fish the Northern Opens as a boater. To get my take on Phoenix Boats, visit my Facebook page, http://www.facebook.com/note.php?created&¬e_id=1834725945873.