I glanced at our BASSTrakk map a few minutes ago and saw that Aaron Martens was back near the launch ramp, so I walked over to check things out. Without even looking up, he said “Hi Ken … I saw your head.” (I’m bald!) He was throwing a shallow-running square bill around the rip-rap and getting the occasional timid bite. He says he wants to catch a couple more keepers on the crankbait (or some other reaction-type bait) before he picks up his flipping outfit and goes looking for a big bite.
Evers just boated a monster — walleye. This thing was holed up in a tree on the bank, and as Evers laid into it he was pulled forward. “Oh, this is as monster! Look at this fish we’ve got here, boys and girls!” he bellowed. “Oh, it’s a walleye!” This thing was a solid 6-pounder, roughly 30 inches long. Not long after that, he boated his first keeper, a 1 1/2-pounder. Then he caught two shorts and another keeper, all within five or six casts. This spot is hot, hot, hot and Evers is on a roll. He just now boated another short! This place is slap-full of fish, but it might be the least fishiest-looking place I’ve ever seen.
Aaron Martens pulled up his trolling motor at 9:30 a.m. in Bayview Cove and announced he was making a move.
"Long run?" some asked.
Martens just smiled and said, "Long run. You're kidding, right?"
Unless you're going where Edwin Evers is today, there are no long runs on Lake Decatur, which is 13 miles long.
Martens went right back to the Nelson Park Marina takeoff site and immediately caught a fish off a riprap jetty. It was close enough to measure, but went back in the lake.
By the way, it's 46 degrees in Decatur now, after getting down to 37 degrees last night. But the temperature is supposed to climb into the mid 60s today and there isn't a cloud in the sky.
Evers has changed pace just now. He was burning a lipless crankbait before and now he’s slowed down and is pitching jigs and soft plastics to the many trees and branches that litter the shoreline. There’s also no shortage of duck blinds in these part, or duck hunters — today’s the last day of teal season in this part of Illinois. He’s zig-zagging across the lake, though we’re in the river portion of it, where it’s 40 yards across at the most. The water is relatively clear compared to what Martens is fishing. Visibility is roughly a foot. He’s boated two shorts by now but has no keepers.
With four of the best bass fishermen in the world weighing a total of 11 bass from Lake Decatur yesterday, let's just say the reviews haven't been glowing. Gerald Swindle, who caught only a 1-pound, 12-ounce keeper, performed one of his all-time best monologues on the weigh-in stage Saturday, and that's quite a statement.
Some samples from Swindle:
- "The real good news is I don't have to fish out here again tomorrow"
- "The water looks like a pooper at Talladega (Raceway)."
- "My trolling motor shaft is more crooked than any politician I've ever seen."
- "I've caught one fish on (video) tape all week, and that tape blew out of the boat. So when this show comes out on TV, you won't even know I was in this tournament."
Most of these Toyota Trucks Bassmaster All-Star Week qualifiers thought Lake Decatur would provide better fishing than Lake Shelbyville, site of the tournament's first two days of competition. But that didn't prove to be the case. Shelbyville was tough; Decatur has been tougher.
This 3,072-acre lake, located on the Sangamon River, sits smack in the middle of town. It has an average depth of 8 feet and a maximum depth of 20, maybe. According to some local anglers we visited with Saturday, the lake has a major siltation problem and very little bass spawning habitat.
And the thunderstorm Friday night that ushered in a cold front didn't help the fishing. Water surface temperatures were consistently in the low 70s on Shelbyville; yesterday in Decatur 64 degrees was the norm. Edwin Evers, who is running way up the Sangamon River, mentioned that the water was 10 degrees cooler there than what he'd found in practice.
But at least Evers found some clearer water there. With my redneck Secchi disk set up yesterday, I lowered a jig in the water in Lake Decatur; it disappeared only 3.5 inches under the surface.
Martens caught a five-bass limit yesterday; Evers caught four keepers. Ott DeFoe and Swindle managed to boat a single keeper each. So it's fitting that Martens and Evers are battling for the Evan Williams Bourbon Championship today. They were practically miracle-workers yesterday.
Yesterday, Evers voiced concern about being able to get into his honey hole. He’s in now and has been fishing for roughly 15 minutes. Yesterday it took him 80 minutes to get in here, but with the north wind dying, the water must’ve stayed in the better. The area in question is a 50-yard stretch of mud, muck and cruddy detritus that is made to clog an outboard. He’s currently throwing a lipless crankbait along the shallow, narrow banks. He’s missed a few bites so far and has nothing in the box.
Aaron Martens just demonstrated why he's such an accomplished and highly-regarded bass fisherman. Martens backed out of the Bayview Cove bridge, after clearing it and not seeing anything on the other side to his liking. Then he started working the laid-down trees along the riprap bank in the cove.
There's one particularly big one, and Martens pitched some type of small jig/soft plastic into every nook of it. Then he set the hook on a 2 1/2-pounder that came aboard to much applause. There are 10 spectator boats in here and several people watching from the bridge.
In addition to having a solid keeper in the boat, it's just so much nicer out here on Lake Decatur than it was yesterday in that howling wind. Martens is all smiles right now.
It took Aaron Martens only five minutes after take-off from Nelson Park Marina to get a lure in the water. He's throwing a crankbait along the riprap and under the bridge at Bayview Cove.
After looking closely at the water level under the bridge, Martens has decided to go under it, which he has done successfully. I don't believe this water was accessible yesterday, or it may have been simply too choppy in here for anyone to try it. When we followed Gerald Swindle into this cove Saturday, he didn't stay long with the 20-mph northwest wind washing white caps into the riprap.
Now we are no longer in the no-wake zone, Evers will try to get back to where he fished yesterday up in the lake.
For the third time today, Gerald Swindle has come back to the culvert at Lake Shore Drive, and his bank-fishing young friend from earlier today is still here, but close to calling it a day as well.