Ever wonder how a top BASS pro would fare on your home lake — that obscure body of water down the road where you and your buddies fish for bass? That's the premise behind Bassmaster's reality series, "A Day on the Lake." Here, we put the biggest names in competitive bass fishing on a small "mystery" lake and give them seven hours to unlock its secrets while we log everything they do to find and catch bass.
This month Peter Thliveros takes the stage. The veteran 47-year-old Jacksonville, Fla., pro, better known as Peter T., has qualified for 11 Classics. Here's what happened on July 17, 2006, when Thliveros tackled Lake G, an 1,100-acre impoundment. What follows should provide you with some fresh approaches for catching quality bass in the so-called dog days of summer.
› 6:15 a.m. Thliveros meets me at Lake G's deserted launch ramp. It's 74 degrees, with a high in the upper 90s forecast. He's towing a Ranger 520VS equipped with a 225-hp Mercury OptiMax Pro XS outboard and Minn Kota trolling motor. Thliveros pulls the cover, removes several American Rodsmiths rods paired with Okuma reels from storage and hooks up two Lowrance graphs. "Rats!" he grumbles when he discovers the console graph is not getting power. He fiddles with the connectors. Still no power. THWOCK! He slaps the unit with his hand and it lights up. "Graphs are like Coke machines," he laughs. "Sometimes you gotta get physical with 'em!"
› 6:30 a.m. We launch the Ranger. What's his game plan on an unfamiliar lake? "I take into account the season, then usually I pick an area that looks like it's representative of the whole lake, a place like a big cove or tributary arm, and just start fishing it. This time of year I'd expect to find bass relating to main lake structures like points, humps and ledges with a fast dropoff into deep water. I'll use my lures and my electronics to determine what depth the fish are using, where the baitfish are located, that sort of thing. I expect the bass in this lake to be in 10 to 20 feet of water."
› 6:35 a.m. Thliveros is in no great hurry to get started. He idles out from the boat ramp, shuts off the Merc and begins rigging up an assortment of lures: crankbaits, plastic worms big and small and a topwater or two.
› 6:50 a.m. "OK, I finally got my stuff together, so let's go fishing!" Thliveros says. He makes a quick run to the lake's dam and begins working parallel to the structure with a Don Iovino Splash-It surface popper in the Tennessee shad pattern. The water here is 87.9 degrees and slightly murky.
› 6:55 a.m. Still working the popper down the dam. A duck walks along the top of the structure, eyeballing us: "I wonder if that's the one in the AFLAC commercials!"
› 6:58 a.m. He tries a plum colored 10-inch Zoom worm on the dam: "Big worms are a good bet in summer; they're highly visible in deep water." He's Texas rigged the worm with a pegged 3/8-ounce Tru-Tungsten sinker and a 4/0 Eagle Claw offset worm hook.
› 7:01 a.m. Back to the Splash-It. A small bass boils under it, but doesn't hook up.
› 7:05 a.m. "There's a ledge out here that drops fast from 9 to 20 feet," Thliveros says. He tries the big worm on the drop, but can't score a strike.
› 7:07 a.m. He tries a green pumpkin Zoom Trick Worm on a Carolina rig with a 3-foot leader, working it slowly down the ledge: "I like to use a Carolina rig on a new body of water to get a feel for the lake's bottom features and the amount and type of cover in it." A school of tiny bass erupts on the surface next to the boat. I ask Thliveros about his recent successes on the pro tour: "I've won $340,000 so far this year (2006), $250,000 from my first-place finish at the Bassmaster Memorial event in Texas." He declines my request for a loan.
› 7:14 a.m. Everything grinds to a halt as Thliveros untangles a substantial "professional overrun" from his reel.
› 7:16 a.m. Back to pulling the Carolina rig down the ledge. He cleans some shrimp grass off the hook of the Trick Worm.
› 7:25 a.m. "This ship is departing," Thliveros announces as he stashes the Minn Kota and cranks his outboard. He runs a third of the way uplake.
› 7:28 a.m. Thliveros stops at a main lake point on Lake G's western shore and drags the Carolina rig across the structure. The boat is sitting in 12 feet and he's throwing into 3: "There are bass suspended all around this thing on the graph!"
› 7:30 a.m. Thliveros drags the Trick Worm around the point with a painstakingly slow retrieve.
› 7:33 a.m. Thliveros sets the hook and his rod bows under the weight of a good fish. He works it carefully toward the boat and lip-lands his first keeper of the day, a chunky 3-pound, 8-ounce largemouth: "The worm landed on top of the point in about 10 feet of water, I moved it once and the fish ate it. I'm gonna work this point over thoroughly 'cause it's been my experience that if you catch one good fish off main lake structure in midsummer, there's liable to be several more there."
› 7:36 a.m. "This point is real narrow, and deep on both sides," Thliveros remarks as he continues probing it with the Carolina rig. "I'm not feeling any cover down there, however — it's just slick mud."
› 7:48 a.m. Thliveros is one of the most patient pros I've fished with. He's still dragging the point with an extremely slow retrieve.
› 7:55 a.m. "There are some good fish holding between 12 and 15 feet around this point," Thliveros says, pointing to his graph. He reels in the Carolina rig and tries a chartreuse/brown back Zoom Z3 crankbait: "This lure gets down to around 10 feet." He's fishing it on a 5:1 reel "to slow down my retrieve and let the lure get down to its maximum depth."
› 8:00 a.m. It's already getting hot out as Thliveros cranks the point.
› 8:06 a.m. He reverts to the Carolina rigged Trick Worm.
› 8:09 a.m. Thliveros bags his second keeper of the day, 2 pounds, 7 ounces, off the point. "I moved a little closer in to the bank that time and the fish hit it on the side of the point. The water in this lake looks like it might have come up recently from a big rainstorm; often this will push bluegill shallow and the bass will follow. You need to fish all around a big piece of structure like this to determine first, how it lies, and second, where the fish are holding on it. Usually they aren't scattered all over the structure, but rather bunched up on one or two key places."
› 8:11 a.m. He casts the Trick Worm back to the spot where he bagged his last bass, but can't interest another fish in it. "As anglers we like to think we're pretty efficient at catching all the fish off a piece of structure, but we're just kidding ourselves — there could be 30 bass down there!"
› 8:15 a.m. Thliveros moves back out deeper on the point and a bass "knocks the snot" out of his Trick Worm, but doesn't hook up.
› 8:21 a.m. Back to the Zoom crankbait on the point. "They're hitting the worm pretty aggressively, so maybe they'll hit this," he says hopefully.
› 8:25 a.m. No takers on the crankbait, so it's back to the Carolina rig. A bass grabs the Trick Worm close to the boat as Thliveros is reeling in for another cast, but drops it.
› 8:30 a.m. Thliveros pauses to hook up a BSX Biosonix electronic device, said to activate gamefish by transmitting the sounds of live baitfish into the water: "I was using it when I won that $250,000 tournament, so you could say I'm a believer!"
› 8:37 a.m. Thliveros abandons the point and makes a slow run uplake. He spots a main lake hump on his graph, circles back around and drops a marker buoy on top of it: "It rises from 28 feet of water to about 11 feet on top and appears to have some brush or stumps on it." He backs off and tries the Carolina rigged Trick Worm on the structure.
› 8:50 a.m. After fishing 360 degrees around the hump with the Trick Worm, Thliveros swings back his rod and sticks his third keeper of the day, 2 pounds, 11 ounces. "One side of the hump falls off almost vertically, and that's where this fish was holding. I felt the sinker tumble over the drop and gave it some slack line to keep the worm close to the structure instead of swinging out toward the boat pendulum-fashion. The fish hit right at the bottom of the drop."
› 8:55 a.m. He hangs the worm in some brush and retrieves it.
› 8:56 a.m. A bass pecks at the worm; Thliveros swings and misses.
› 9:04 a.m. Thliveros opts to try a big citrus-pattern Norman DD22 crankbait on the hump: "In this heat, these big crankbaits will kill you!"
› 9:10 a.m. The pro cranks up his fourth keeper largemouth, 3 pounds, 13 ounces: "That fish was suspended a ways off the hump, around 10 feet deep in 16 feet of water. Summer bass will drift on and off places like this throughout the day, often suspending at the same depth they were using when they were on the structure. A bottom contact bait like a worm is best when they're relating tightly to structure, but a deep crankbait works better when they're suspending in open water away from structure like this fish was."
› 9:22 a.m. He tries the big Texas rigged worm on the hump.
› 9:28 a.m. The worm hangs in some deep brush; he shakes it free.
› 9:30 a.m. Thliveros is slow crawling the worm on the bottom adjacent to the hump. He detects a strike, lowers his rod and slams home the steel. His fifth keeper weighs 3 pounds, 9 ounces: "I bet that Biosonix triggered the strike!"
› 9:31 a.m. So far the day has gone well for Thliveros, with five bass totaling 16 pounds. What's his plan for his remaining four hours? "In midsummer, you don't have a ton of options in a lake like this. There's not a whole lot of cover in it, and main lake structures seem to be holding most of the fish. I'm gonna keep on doing what I've been doing, fish real slow and try to catch a couple of big bass to bump up my total weight."
› 9:49 a.m. Thliveros journeys a half-mile uplake and tries the big Zoom worm on a long point that rises from 18 to 5 feet.
› 10:06 a.m. He casts to the side of the point. A bass grabs the worm on the way down and strips it off the hook.
› 10:08 a.m. Thliveros pulls in closer to shore and tries the Z3 crankbait on the point.
› 10:17 a.m. Thliveros backlashes his reel and quips, "I'm just checkin' to see if I've got enough line on the reel to make a long cast with this crankbait!" Yeah, right!
› 10:20 a.m. He cranks up a wad of grass from the top of the point. As he cleans it off his crankbait, he exclaims, "Phew, this grass is stinky!"
› 10:22 a.m. Thliveros hangs the Z3 in a stump and retrieves it.
› 10:25 a.m. Back to the big worm on the point: "Too much grass here to crank."
› 10:28 a.m. A bluegill pecks at his line near the surface.
› 10:45 a.m. Still hauling water with the 10-inch worm: "This point looks awesome, but it pretty much sucks as far as holding fish is concerned."
›10:47 a.m. Something small nips at his worm: "Must be that bluegill again!"
› 10:55 a.m. The air temp has topped 90 degrees, there's no breeze and we're both dripping with sweat. Thliveros abandons the point and suggests, "Let's take a ride and cool off." Works for me!
› 11:09 a.m. Thliveros has cruised the upper end of the lake, watching his graph for fast dropping points and ledges. He opts to try the Carolina rigged Trick Worm on a main lake point: "There's a bunch of bait hanging off the end of this thing."
› 11:17 a.m. He ties on a shad colored Rapala DT16 crankbait and grinds it around the point. Two jet skis drone past us.
› 11:25 a.m. Thliveros switches to the Z3, but can't pull a strike on the point.
› 11:28 a.m. Thliveros moves a hundred yards to another point and drags the Carolina rig. The water here is 89.5 degrees.
› 11:40 a.m. With a little less than two hours remaining, Thliveros makes a quick run back to the hump where he caught his last three keepers: "Let's see if we can't put some tonnage in the boat!"
› 11:45 a.m. Thliveros cranks up a 2-pound bass from the open water adjacent to the hump on the DD22; his sixth keeper won't help his weight total.
› 11:51 a.m. Back to the 10-inch worm. The air temp is approaching 100 degrees with zero wind.
› 11:58 a.m. Thliveros detects some weight on the end of his line and slams back his rod. A big bass surges for deeper water. Thliveros plays it expertly and lips his seventh fish of the day, a 5-pound, 3-ounce largemouth.
"There's a little break dropping from 12 to 15 feet off the hump. I saw a lot of bait and a couple of good bass there on the depthfinder when I pulled into this spot a few minutes ago, backed off and caught this one."
› 12:04 p.m. Thliveros makes a long cast past the hump with the big worm, then when he goes to lift it out of the water, a lunker bass follows it nearly to the surface: "Did you see that? Another 5-pounder!"
› 12:07 p.m. "Check it out," Thliveros says, pointing to the hooks on his graph. "Three big fish in 15 feet of water!" He breaks out a baitcasting outfit with a 1/4-ounce Tru-Tungsten drop shot sinker on the end of the line and impales a green pumpkin Trick Worm on a No. 1 Eagle Claw hook positioned 12 inches above the sinker. He's using 8-pound fluorocarbon line on the reel. "I fish a drop shot much like I do a Carolina rig, by slow dragging it," he explains.
› 12:10 p.m. He hangs the worm in some deep brush and retrieves it.
› 12:22 p.m. Some clouds are beginning to build up; the humidity is stifling. Thliveros tries cranking the DD22 around the hump.
› 12:30 p.m. With one hour remaining in his fishing day, Thliveros is slowly dragging the drop shot worm around the hump.
› 12:37 p.m. Thliveros catches his eighth keeper, a 3-8 largemouth, on the drop shot worm. "That fish was on some brush near the top of the hump."
› 12:45 p.m. Thliveros' boat has drifted directly above that group of bass he graphed earlier; he's working them over with the drop shot worm. No takers.
› 12:53 p.m. He makes a high-speed run to the lower end of the lake.
› 1:02 p.m. Thliveros probes a rockpile with the drop shot rig. The water here is 90.9 degrees. A lone cloud momentarily blots out the sun, providing a few seconds of relief from the scorching heat.
› 1:16 p.m. A fish tugs at the Trick Worm, but doesn't eat it.
› 1:22 p.m. Thliveros runs to a nearby boat dock and drop shots it. No takers.
› 1:30 p.m. Back to the ramp. Considering the 90 degree water and near-100 degree air temperature, Thliveros has had a good day on Lake G — he's boated eight keeper bass, the five biggest of which weigh an impressive 19 pounds, 9 ounces.
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE
"This little lake offers a good amount of open water structure, although there wasn't a lot of cover on it," Thliveros told Bassmaster. "I fished several points during the day, but only caught fish off one of them. If I had gone back to the other points, some bass may have moved up on them — this is what bass do in summer, move on and off of structure. That little main lake hump proved to be my best spot; this is a classic midsummer structure, and it probably doesn't get fished much by local anglers since it's practically out in the middle of the lake. If I were to come back here tomorrow, I'd spend some time hunting up some deeper structures — I noticed a couple of ridges on my graph that were in the 20- to 25-foot range. Frankly, I'm glad I don't have to fish here tomorrow — it's supposed to be even hotter than it was today!"
Where and When Peter Thliveros Caught His Five Biggest Bass
1. 3 pounds, 8 ounces; main lake point; green pumpkin Zoom Trick Worm on Carolina rig; 7:33 a.m.
2. 3 pounds, 13 ounces; main lake hump; citrus Norman DD22 crankbait; 9:10 a.m.
3. 3 pounds, 9 ounces; same spot as No. 2; Texas rigged 10-inch plum Zoom worm; 9:30 a.m.
4. 5 pounds, 3 ounces; same spot and lure as No. 2; 11:58 a.m.
5. 3 pounds, 8 ounces; same spot as No. 2; Zoom Trick Worm on drop shot rig; 12:37 p.m.
TOTAL: 19 POUNDS, 9 OUNCES