When I first saw the 2012 Bassmaster Elite Series schedule last fall, I was shocked to see that we were going to Douglas Lake. I was really excited that I would be able to compete on a lake that I have fished for over 10 years. I knew that if I didn’t let the added pressure of being a local get to me, I could do really well at Douglas.
I wouldn’t really consider myself a Douglas Lake local like Ott DeFoe or David Walker, but I have had plenty of experience on the lake. I probably average three trips a year for the past 10 years. My home lake is Norris Lake, which is one hour northwest of Douglas. Most of my trips to Douglas over the past few years were shallow fishing trips, so I am still learning how to catch those really deep bass.
Going into the event, I knew that it was going to be won deep, but I knew it wasn’t going to be easy. Practice was actually kind of tough for me, as I had a hard time catching the bass that I marked on my Lowrance in the depth range of 25 to 40 feet. I tried swimbaits, spoons, drop shotting, and every deep technique I could think of; none of them worked. I had a few shallower spots in the 15- to 25-foot range that I could catch them by cranking and Carolina rigging; however, I knew that the deeper fish would be much bigger.
During the first several days of the tournament, I relied on the shallower spots to account for most of my weight; but I would experiment with the deeper fish several hours each day trying to figure out a way to catch them. With an hour to go on the Day Three, I thought about trying a technique that I have never done before – long lining. I heard that somebody did well using the technique last year in the Bassmaster Open on Douglas, so I figured that I would give it a try. I had no clue how deep these crankbaits would go and was shocked when I started doing it. I thought that I would only be able to get a couple extra feet out of my deep diving cranks, but I was wrong.
The fish that I targeted at the end of the Day Three were in 27 to 30 feet of water, and I got down to them really easy. I ended up culling twice in the last hour. That got me clued in, and I was really excited that I finally had a way to catch all those fish that I had been seeing on my electronics. It wasn’t until that night that I learned that the leaders had been doing the technique the entire week. I did it all of Day Four, and I caught fish all day long. It was really a lot of fun running new water and catching fish on a new technique. I am never afraid to experiment and try new things during tournaments, and it paid off this week.
It was unbelievable to have the opportunity to compete here at home in my rookie season. Some of my friends watched me on the water which was really cool. Having my friends and family at the weigh-in was very special. It was incredible to make my first Top 10 in front of my mom and dad who have been so supportive over the years. Thanks to everybody who came out and cheered me on! I really appreciate it!
Remember to chase your dreams!