BASS tournaments take place on huge bodies of water over several days of competition. But did you ever wonder how a BASS pro would fare on your home lake — that little body of water down the road where you and your buddies fish for bass? That's the premise behind Bassmaster's "Day On The Lake With A Pro" series. Here, we put the top names in competitive bass fishing on small lakes they've never seen before, then give them seven hours to figure out a viable pattern, logging everything they do to locate and catch bass.
This month, Shaw Grigsby is in the hot seat. The veteran Gainesville, Fla., pro and TV show host has won eight BASS events and qualified for nine Classics. He is among the top sight fishermen on the pro circuit. Here's what happened April 15, 2002, when we put Grigsby on 250-acre Lake R in Tennessee.
» 6:45 a.m. I meet Grigsby at his motel. The air temperature is 64 degrees. "It's supposed to be hot and sunny today, and I'm hoping we'll find some bass on the beds," he remarks.
» 7:05 a.m. Breakfast under the Golden Arches.
» 7:15 a.m. We drive a short distance to Lake R, a 250-acre lake created by joining and flooding three adjacent phosphate wash ponds. Its primary features include an earthen dam lined with riprap, plenty of standing timber, expansive flats and a number of dredged-out pockets. The lake is 18 feet at its deepest point and, like many mining pit lakes nationwide, it's a jungle of flooded bushes, weeds and logs. There is a residential development along one shore. Boats can be operated at idle speed only.
» 7:30 a.m. Grigsby launches his Triton and checks the water temperature: 64 degrees. "They should definitely be spawning," he says with a thumbs-up. "The weather forecast said today was the first day the sun has shone in a week, which ought to move bass onto their beds. They need sunshine to incubate their eggs." The water at the ramp has an intense algae bloom: "This could eliminate the possibility of sight fishing if it's this murky everywhere on the lake."
» 7:35 a.m. Grigsby begins arranging his tackle and tying on lures for the day's fishing. He uses Quantum Tour Edition rods with Quantum Energy PT reels spooled with Stren line. Lures in his spawn time arsenal include a French Quarter spinnerbait, 3X lizard, Diamond Shad lipless crankbait, Premier Elite jig, Flippin' Tube and Pro Glow buzzbait, all by Strike King; and a floating worm, brand unknown.
» 7:40 a.m. Grigsby flips a chameleon-green jig with a green silicone chunk trailer around flooded bushes in a small pocket near the ramp. "In high, murky water, bass move as shallow as they can get to spawn," he says.
7:46 a.m. He switches to the French Quarter spinnerbait, chartreuse-and-white with gold blades, pitching it beneath a tangle of overhanging branches with considerable expertise. The unique lure has four small blades similar to those on a Mepps spinner, and a titanium wire shaft. "I really like it in heavy trash 'cause the small blades don't grab weeds readily, and that makes it easy to guide the lure around submerged objects with the rod," Grigsby points out.
» 7:50 a.m. A good bass swirls on the spinnerbait; Grigsby sets the hook and steers it through a maze of flooded bushes into the boat. It weighs 3 pounds, 10 ounces on digital scales. "She absolutely annihilated that spinnerbait!" he says excitedly. "Definitely a bedding fish. See? Eggs are running out of her."
» 7:54 a.m. He switches to a green lizard; it's rigged on a 1/4-ounce Mega-Weight, unpegged. "The male's back in here somewhere," he says, using underhand pitches to deliver the lure deep into the cut. I ask Grigsby about the ideal water temperature range for spawning. "I look for 60 degrees as the plateau point; once it reaches that mark, they'll usually move up shallow and spawn. They look for hard bottom areas with good sunlight penetration, which means they'll spawn considerably deeper in clear lakes than in murky lakes. They may move shallow when the water hits the 50s — I've caught bedding fish in 52 degree water. The low to upper 60s is a dependable range to find bass on beds just about anywhere."
» 8 a.m. Reverting to the spinnerbait, Grigsby is jolted by a huge boil as he runs the lure past flooded brush. "I saw the fish; it was at least 7 pounds," he gasps. Again and again he presents the lure near the brushpile — without success. "Spawners generally won't move far; keep casting if you raise a big fish."
» 8:06 a.m. He tries the green jig in the nether-reaches of the pocket, without success. He then raises the trolling motor shaft a few inches so he can work even deeper into the cover.
» 8:13 a.m. Back to the spinnerbait. Grigsby checks the trailer hook and replaces it with a sharper one.
» 8:15 a.m. He works around to the mouth of the pocket and says, "Bet I whack one on this little grass point." Three casts with the French Quarter prove him wrong.
» 8:23 a.m. Heading uplake at a moderately fast clip, Grigsby casts the spinnerbait for aggressive bass. Flooded timber stretches skyward behind us. Will bass spawn on wood? "Bass are highly adaptable creatures and will do what's necessary to spawn. In soft bottom lakes, they'll spawn on laydown logs, stumps and the junctures of branches of standing timber."
» 8:30 a.m. He pauses to retie his spinnerbait. "This brush has thorns that'll eat up your line," he cautions.
» 8:32 a.m. Grigsby flips the jig around the base of a metal catwalk, a rusting artifact of the lake's former life as a phosphate mine. He lets the lure sink, then gently shakes it in place with the rod tip. "Shaking is an excellent presentation for bedding fish," he says. "It provokes 'em to strike."
» 8:33 a.m. Back to the spinnerbait, Grigsby flutters the quad blades across the end of a flooded log.
» 8:34 a.m. Grigsby accidentally kicks a rod into the lake and quickly snatches it with his spinnerbait. "I gotta put some of these sticks away," he says, as he stores several rods. He withdraws a spinning rod rigged with a white tube bait from the storage locker.
» 8:40 a.m. He fan casts a shiner-pattern Diamond Shad around the mouth of the cut. "Often, the big females hang out at the entrances to these spawning areas, waiting for conditions to get just right," he notes.
» 8:44 a.m. He's casting the Diamond Shad on a shallow ridge in open water. A bass thumps the crankbait, he sets the hook, and the lure flies through the air, its hooks impaling his shirt. "Fore!" he yells.
» 8:45 a.m. Still cranking the shallow ridge. The wind is blowing 15 mph out of the south, and the air is heating up rapidly. Do bass try to get out of the wind to spawn? "Perfect spawning conditions are calm, clear water, but bedding bass will put up with wind. Later in the season, many bass will spawn out in the main lake, which is more subject to wind than nooks and crannies along the shoreline. Wind bothers the fisherman more than it does the fish; it can mess up a good sight fishing pattern by roiling up the water."
» 8:47 a.m. He changes to a chartreuse Diamond Shad and burns it around some standing timber, commenting, "This lake has got some awesome cover!"
» 8:50 a.m. Grigsby makes a couple of casts around some laydown logs on top of the shallow ridge, again with the French Quarter, then tries pitching the green jig to the cover. "Lakes that have such an abundance of good-looking cover can be surprisingly tough to fish," Grigsby notes. "All these great-looking targets can distract you from the reality that the bass aren't everywhere; they're usually on a specific type of cover at a specific depth."
» 9 a.m. A 2-pound bass hits the spinnerbait at the base of a standing tree, then pulls off at the boat. Grigsby shakes his head in disbelief: "I've never had a bass hit a spinnerbait that light!"
» 9:07 a.m. He's reached a large pocket, almost a small lake unto itself, on the eastern shore. He tries the floating worm and spinnerbait, without success.
» 9:09 a.m. Grigsby pauses to impale two short nail weights in the tail of a floating worm. "This'll get it down a little deeper, and when you twitch it, it's got a really cool action — it'll almost go backward." He sets the weighted worm aside and pitches the lizard around flooded bushes.
» 9:11 a.m. With the trolling motor on high, Grigsby chainsaws his way through a riot of brush, logs and lily pad stems so he can press deeper into the pocket. A pair of geese honk in protest, then take off. He carefully peruses the area for beds, but sees none.
» 9:13 a.m. He reaches up and grabs a tree branch, then tucks it behind his leg so it'll hold him in place as he pitches the lizard. "When you're real far back into these potential spawning places, you want to avoid hitting your trolling motor and alerting the fish to your presence," he explains.
» 9:22 a.m. Alternating between the spinnerbait and the jig, Grigsby works a shallow timberline.
» 9:25 a.m. The upper end has several small islands surrounded by flooded trees and brush. The water is slightly clearer here. "These little islands are good spawning places 'cause they knock the wind down and offer some concealment," Grigsby notes. He fishes the spinnerbait near two of them, then tries the floating worm.
» 9:29 a.m. Grigsby works his way into a large pocket on the lake's south end. There's some coontail moss in the water, "a great sign; bass spawn around coontail 'cause the fry can hide in it and escape predation."
» 9:37 a.m. He replaces the green 1/2-ounce jig with a 3/8-ounce black-and-blue jig with a matching trailer, pitches it around some bushes, then reverts to the French Quarter. A bass pecks it as it swims past a clump of coontail. "That's four bites I've had on the spinnerbait, and only one fish in the boat," he muses. "The fishing is slow, but at least a few bass have reacted to this lure. I'll probably spend more time fishing it as the day goes on, and use the jig or lizard in cover I can't penetrate with the spinnerbait."
» 9:50 a.m. Grigsby has patiently worked a large flat in the upper end with both the jig and spinnerbait — without success. "C'mon bass, let's get with the program!" he urges.
» 10 a.m. Entering another cut in the upper end, Grigsby approaches an old mining road elevated above the water. The middle of the road has been bulldozed flat and is flooded; it emerges on the opposite side of the cove. On his first cast with the spinnerbait, he hooks a big bass. He drops to his knees, plays it carefully and lips it; his second keeper of the day weighs 4 pounds even. "That fish was perfectly positioned on the end of the road," he notes. "The road is elevated so it provides a windbreak; the bottom is hard; there's coontail moss here — this is an awesome spawning spot! That fish just demolished the spinnerbait; the larger females are hitting aggressively, but the males are just nipping at it. Instead of working methodically like I've been doing, I could put the trolling motor on high and comb these little cuts with the spinnerbait, looking for a limit of females. But it's a little early yet; I want to fish this cove thoroughly before trying a run-and-gun approach."
» 10:05 a.m. Grigsby moves around the end of the roadbed and catches another good bass on the spinnerbait. His third keeper weighs 3 pounds, 10 ounces. "I'm lovin' this roadbed! This pocket is full of good fish!"
» 10:15 a.m. Grigsby alternates between the spinnerbait and lizard on the side of the roadbed. No more takers.
» 10:24 a.m. He pauses to evaluate his rapidly developing pattern. "The water in the upper end is 66 degrees, with 18-inch visibility, scattered coontail clumps and pad stems, all of which are ideal for bedding. Yet every fish I've caught so far has been spawning right next to a hard bank, not out in the open."
» 10:28 a.m. Working past the roadbed with the spinnerbait, Grigsby hooks a quality fish next to a small island. He works it nearly to the boat, and it shakes off. "Three- to 4-pounder," he says.
» 10:30 a.m. The air is hot and still in the cut. "I'm gonna fish my way around this cove to the opposite end of the road with the spinnerbait," Grigsby announces.
» 10:40 a.m. Grigsby chucks the French Quarter across a large flat loaded with coontail. "I've fished an entire tournament in a grass flat this size, but I can't get a single strike from this one," he observes. Some scattered clouds have rolled in.
» 10:42 a.m. His spinnerbait bumps the tail of a 2-pound bass sunning near the bank.
» 10:45 a.m. Grigsby casts the spinnerbait to the juncture of the opposite end of the roadbed and the bank. A lunker bass immediately slams it. He fights the fish to the boat, drops down to lip it, but it slips from his grasp. "I had my thumb pushed against its mouth, trying to get it to open up so I could lip it," Grigsby pants, "and it shook off! That fish was 6 pounds, easy!" How does he deal with losing a lunker like this in a tournament? "It's just part of the game. You can't dwell on it; just let it go and keep fishing."
» 10:46 a.m. On his next cast, another bass hits his spinnerbait against the roadbed. Grigsby boats this one; his fourth keeper weighs 2-14.
» 10:48 a.m. Grigsby slow rolls the spinnerbait parallel to the roadbed; a big bass blasts it right at the boat, but comes unbuttoned. "Five-pounder!" he exclaims, examining the trailer hook. "Hit right where the coontail meets the edge of the road."
» 10:50 a.m. Grigsby's fifth keeper slams the spinnerbait on the end of the roadbed: it tips the scales at 2-13. "Rather than fish this spot again right now, I'm gonna let it rest and come back later to try for a big fish," he decides. "I've lost two hawg bass here, and I know there are others; it's a picture-book bedding area. In the meantime, I'll scout out more coontail moss pockets with a hard-edge bank."
» 10:58 a.m. We're on a big flat with flooded willow bushes on the south end of the lake. "Bass love willows for spawning," Grigsby notes, scanning the area for signs of beds. He sees none.
» 11:05 a.m. Grigsby's trolling motor is kicking up mud. "Pretty dang shallow," he says under his breath. He's sticking with the French Quarter.
» 11:15 a.m. A 1-pound bass smacks the spinnerbait under a willow bush.
» 11:24 a.m. Grigsby moves into another pocket with flooded trees and bushes. There's some coontail and duckweed along the bank. He tags a squealer bass on the spinnerbait.
» 11:27 a.m. It's hot — at least 85 degrees. Grigsby pitches a white tube bait on top of some pond scum and skates it across the top. "Bass will bed in this stuff; look for open holes made by the male to let sunlight in."
» 11:40 a.m. We're back on the main lake. "I'd love to have time to fish all this standing timber, but I don't think the big bass are out here right now," he says, putting the MotorGuide in high gear. "They're tucked back into protected areas, which is what I'm going to look for."
» 11:55 a.m. He encounters a wider pocket; this one has lily pad stems and some coontail in the middle. "They just don't seem to be in these open flats," he says after making several fruitless casts with the spinnerbait.
» Noon: Moving to the rear of the pocket, Grigsby spots a bass bed. He pitches the tube onto the nest, shakes it, but no fish appears.
» 12:05 p.m. Grigsby is working back out of the pocket. "C'mon, bass, wake up!" he urges as he chucks the spinnerbait.
» 12:17 p.m. With about two hours remaining, Grigsby cranks the Merc and idles along the outer perimeter of the lake, looking for other likely spawning areas.
» 12:25 p.m. Grigsby idles downlake to a shoreline with several houses. He drops the trolling motor and fan casts the spinnerbait around flooded willows.
» 12:35 p.m. A small bass hits the spinnerbait and shakes off at the boat. "That was a bad dude — he made a wake behind it!" Grigsby laughs.
» 12:42 p.m. He moves into a shallow flat in front of a cabin under construction. A carpenter pauses from his work to tell us about the big bass he's seen there recently. Grigsby scans the area for beds, but can't see any.
» 12:45 p.m. He tries the floating worm in the shallows.
» 12:50 p.m. Grigsby's trolling motor is stuck on the bottom. He fan casts the spinnerbait. "There's a bass," he points, as a 2-pounder swims past the boat.
» 12:53 p.m. While casting the spinnerbait onto a flooded lawn in front of a log house, he hooks a 1-pound bass. "You can catch some huge fish off people's lawns in high water," Grigsby says. "I've caught 'em around flooded swing sets, barbecue grills and lawn ornaments."
» 1:02 p.m. "We better get back to the upper end," Grigsby says, checking his watch. "But I want to make a few casts on this riprap along the dam first."
» 1:05 p.m. Casting to the chunk rock, Grigsby catches a 2-pound, 4-ounce bass on the French Quarter.
» 1:07 p.m. A 1 ½-pound bass hits the spinnerbait.
» 1:15 p.m. Another riprap bass bites the French Quarter. This one weighs 2-14, culling the 2-13 caught earlier. "That's some help, but not much," Grigsby says.
» 1:17 p.m. Yet another bass hits the spinnerbait on the dam; this fish is incredibly short for its weight: "He's 2 pounds, 2 ounces, and only 13 inches long!" Grigsby exclaims.
» 1:25 p.m. "Let's do it," Grigsby says, cranking the Merc and idling back to the upper end.
» 1:35 p.m. Back in the roadbed cut, Grigsby slow rolls the spinnerbait where he caught his biggest bass.
» 1:45 p.m. He tries the black-and-blue jig around some flooded willow islands.
» 1:52 p.m. Grigsby moves to the opposite side of the roadbed where he lost the 6- and 5-pounders. He tries the green lizard around the coontail.
» 1:55 p.m. He pitches the lizard into a coontail bed and rears back hard. A fish leaps clear of the water, and he swings it aboard. This bass weighs 3-11, and culls one of Grigsby's 2-14s. "I dropped the lizard into a little clean spot between the road and the grass, and he ate it!"
» 2 p.m. A bass knocks the lizard near the road, but spits it out.
» 2:01 p.m. Grigsby tries the floating worm and tube where the bass hit. Nothing.
» 2:05 p.m. Grigsby detects a light pop on the lizard, swings and misses.
» 2:09 p.m. He works very slowly down the side of the roadbed with the lizard.
» 2:15 p.m. "I hate to leave this spot, but I've gotta go," Grigsby says. He cranks the Merc and idles back to the boat ramp.
» 2:30 p.m. Grigsby's day on Lake R is over. His five biggest bass weigh 17 pounds, 13 ounces.
The day in perspective
"I figured the bass would be shallow and either getting ready to spawn or actually bedding when I first read the water temperature," Grigsby told Bassmaster. "This proved to be the case. Catching two good fish alongside that roadbed in that weedy pocket keyed me in to looking for hard-edged places with coontail. I spent time fishing flooded trash in shallow pockets, but it didn't pay off. The key was the juxtaposition of a hard bank with scattered coontail in a protected pocket. The pocket with the roadbed is unquestionably the premier spawning area in the lake, which is why it attracted the biggest fish. During spawning season, remember to look for 60 degree-plus water temperatures and shallow areas protected from heavy winds, with good solar penetration and a hard bottom."
Where and when Grigsby caught his five biggest
3 pounds, 10 ounces: shallow pocket near launch ramp, chartreuse/white 1/4-ounce Strike King French Quarter spinnerbait, 7:50 a.m.
4 pounds: weedy pocket adjacent to roadbed in upper end, same lure, 10 a.m.
3 pounds, 10 ounces: same lure, same place, 10:05 a.m.
2 pounds, 14 ounces: same lure, riprap along earthen dam, 1:15 p.m.
3 pounds, 11 ounces: green Strike King 3X lizard, same place as Nos. 2 & 3, 1:55 p.m.
Total weight: 17 pounds, 13 ounces