The long drought period that has plagued Decatur Lake is proving to be both a blessing and a curse to Edwin Evers this morning. He has decided to fish the extreme northern end of the lake, and it’s muddy going. I saw his prop blowing mud 30 feet into the air as he tried to get through an extremely shallow channel – or what used to be a channel before the lake level dropped. He’s fighting his way back in, and it looks like he’ll make it.
I’ve had to pull my bass boat up on the bank and hop in with a couple of spectators who were trailing Evers in a flat-bottom boat. With their shallower draft, they can go where my boat can’t. I can’t thank them enough for giving me a ride. The water is deep enough to float a duck. We’ve passed three blinds on our way back, and every one of them has had hunters in them. I’m sure they’re wondering what in the heck we’re doing out here.
So, the curse is that it’s so hard for Evers to get to his spots. The blessing is that it’s been so long since anybody else could reach the area. He’ll basically be fishing “new” fish. They haven’t been touched in weeks, maybe months.
I looked at the place on Google Earth last night and photos show several clean water ponds. Evers might load the boat, or this might turn out to be a whole lot of nothing.
Ott DeFoe has yet to register a bite on Lake Decatur. In typical DeFoe fashion, he's tossing small crankbaits, spinnerbaits and pitching a small black-and-blue jig to laydowns. As I write this, DeFoe hooked into a solid keeper. This wasn't the kind of fish you "ski" to the boat; he was playing it alongside his boat when it popped off. "No!" DeFoe hollered, as he slumped to the deck, crouching and holding his head. I sure hope that one doesn't come back and bite him later.
It seems we've been here before. At last year's All-Star event on the Alabama River, Gerald Swindle established what he called "the poop-pipe pattern" - fishing near a wastewater treatment outlet pipe and catching several bass from it.
Swindle has now worked his way to the other side of Reas Bridge, opposite Isaac Walton Park. And what sits on the bank above him? A wastewater treatment facility, of course.
However, the pattern hasn't produced for him so far, and the wind is starting to pick up. This is one time we are thankful for wind; it's a breath of fresh air, so to speak.
Did you know that three of the four anglers on the water today at All-Star Week were in the semifinals last year, too? Edwin Evers, Ott DeFoe and Gerald Swindle were three of the four semifinalists in 2011, and they’re back this year. The fourth semifinalist was Casey Ashley — replaced by Aaron Martens this year.
The stage is set for a rematch if Evers can defeat Swindle and DeFoe surpasses Martens. Last year it was DeFoe who eliminated Swindle; this year it’s Evers assignment.
Of course, eliminating Swindle and Martens will be more than just tough. They are, respectively, the best “junk” fisherman and the best natural angler in the Elite Series. They won’t go down without a fight. This should be very interesting.
It doesn't take long to get anywhere on Lake Decatur, which has only 3,000 surface acres. Gerald Swindle ran up the lake from the Nelson Park launch site and stopped to fish the bridge pilings near Isaac Walton Park. He had a line in the water 10 minutes after takeoff.
With the wind expected to be up to 20 miles per hour from the northwest by 10 a.m., and blow even harder the rest of the day, these early hours may be more crucial than they usually are in a day of tournament fishing.
Swindle has a few fans standing on the bank in the park. They're within casting distance of him at times as he works his way around the bridge pilings.
I've followed Evers to the extreme northern end of Lake Decatur. We are idling now, and it appears as if we have another mile or so of idling to go.
There are a couple of spectators sticking with us. In talking with Evers, that's the last thing he wants. He has to go over an extremely shallow bar, which could keep us out. But the area behind it, according to Evers, can be hurt by a lot of boat traffic. It will be interesting to see him get there. And we hope we can get there with him.
I should also mention: There's nothing like driving a boat and blogging at the same time. Don't try it at home.
I'm sitting in the water watching the early morning festivities. There are four boats snugged together with four anglers bundled up and itching to go. On the bank are hundreds of spectators lining the banks and trying to get as close to these guys as possible. Out here on the lake are dozens of boats waiting to follow; almost all of them were here the previous two days. The fishing in Illinois may not have been so hot. But the fans are on another level.
According to my trusty iPhone app, we're about to be hit by a thunderstorm in three minutes, so Steve Bowman and I are battening down the hatches and preparing to race to the launch ramp. We're still in sight of Brent Chapman, who has returned to his deep structure spot in hopes of jigging up another keeper or two. It's a pretty sight, with sunlight illuminating his chartreuse wrapped Triton and a dark storm cloud just on the other side of him. I don't know what the sound of thunder does for bass fishing, but if it makes 'em bite, we're about to see some action.
After missing a big bass a while ago, Chapman spent the next several minutes raking the shoreline with a white swimbait, then a crankbait. "I think he hooked the only fish on that bank," suggested Bowman. Apparently he was right. We'll have to wait until weigh-in to see whether Chapman protects his No. 4 position. We're heading in, hopefully ahead of this storm.
It seems the popular opinion among the anglers is that Lake Shelbyville may not break into the Top 100 Best Bass Lakes anytime soon. Terry Scroggins was throwing a small crankbait among some timber when the following brief - but honest- conversation took place.
Observer: " Hey, Terry: what do ya think about ol' Shelbyville?"
That's it in a nutshell. Granted, Edwin Evers is feeling OK with the day, but Scroggins' livewells are conspicuously empty.
In the same creek we found Todd Faircloth, who has a single keeper.
To make matters worse for Scroggins, it looked like a musky just had his crankbait for lunch.
Brent Chapman seems to be one of the most even-tempered pros in the Bassmaster Elite Series. But you wouldn't know that by the way he just exploded after missing a keeper just now. Chapman had the fish half-way back to the boat when it came unbuttoned. He immediately began slamming his lure into the water and otherwise having a fit. I don't blame him. He knows how important every bite is in an event like this. It was a rare display of emotion for Chapman, and it was over in 30 seconds. He doesn't know he's in fourth place right now, a position that would earn him a berth in tomorrow's Evan Williams Bourbon Championship semi-finals on Decatur Lake. But he believes he is within striking distance.
Chapman has abandoned his deep structure spot near the dam and has moved a quarter-mile up the lake to a shallow sloping bank. The fish hit a shad colored crankbait. Chapman just confirmed that the fish was a "solid 3-pounder, maybe 4." What a heartbreaker.