Strolling around Nickajack, Part 1

You learn something new every time you launch your boat in this business. This time I might have learned something that’ll add a really useful technique to my fishing. It started with mechanical troubles.

I launched on Wednesday morning with high hopes. Chickamauga had been good to me when I visited her before the cutoff and again during the official practice. I believed I had something going. But then it happened…mechanical problems.

They were so bad that I didn’t get to fish much more than 2 hours that first day. On Thursday I had more mechanical troubles. My catch was dismal. It looked like this would be a tournament with a low finish, no check and complete disappointment.

Things change in a hurry, though.

I didn’t prefish Nickajack Lake. I know some guys did. I’ll not criticize them for doing that but I couldn’t do it. I might not catch as many fish as some of the guys and I might not fish as many Saturdays and Sundays as some of the guys but I will not, under any circumstances, take a negative attitude.

I’m a positive thinker. Prefishing the Second Chance lake is, in my mind, a defeatist attitude. I can’t do that even if it might have been the savvy thing to do.

So, on Thursday evening after I got finished with the service crew — I appreciate your help, guys — and made the hour drive to my motel, I managed to spend a few minutes with Google Earth and some other Internet maps. What I saw didn’t exactly make me smile.

It looked like I had a 40-mile run to the nearest offshore reef. That’s where they were catching them on Chickamauga. It seemed reasonable that they’d be in the same places on a sister lake.

I launched on Friday and started up the lake. But, as I was going along, I saw some stuff that looked good. I stopped and fished a few creeks and docks. By 11 a.m., I had three small keepers in the livewell.

As I exited one of the creeks, I realized that the first reef I’d found the night before was right in front of me. I thought about things and decided that I might as well go for it. You’ll never win, or make a cut, unless you put yourself in a position to do so. Three small keepers won’t get the job done, and neither will five.

At this point, we need a little background. I have a box full of big, super deep diving crankbaits but I’ve never really fished them. My usual thing is to make a half-dozen casts with one, get discouraged, and cut it off in favor of something else.

I swore this time would be different, and it was. I went strolling.

On the first three or four casts, I hooked and lost a good fish each time. On one level, I was discouraged. They got off. On another level, however, I was encouraged. At least I was on fish that would send me back to Chickamauga on Saturday morning. All I had to do was figure out how to get them to the boat.

Next Wednesday, I’ll tell you about my big catch.

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