DOUGLAS LAKE, Tenn. — Limits of 2- and 3-pounders won't be hard to come by this week at Douglas Lake, but finding enough kickers to weigh 19 pounds a day will be key. To win, anglers will fish big baits deep and vertically. Knowing that should help you pick a winning Fantasy Fishing roster.
Fishing Douglas last week with Pure Poison Jigs owner Mike Cole, his pro-staffer Travis McFalls (a friend of Ott DeFoe's), and guides David Berry and Joe Cummings, I got a good look at the reservoir and the patterns most likely to win.
A BassGold.com historical pattern report indicates crankbaits are the best lures on Douglas in late spring, contributing to 28.95 percent of top five tournament finishes. The report analyzed 16 tournaments held on Douglas in April, May or June.
Secondary points, called "hog backs" here, are abundant. Locals crank them with Luhr-Jensen Hot Lips and Mann's DD20s and DD30s. Berry said Dandrige bait shop Bucks-N-Bass will likely sell out of its selection of crankbaits custom-painted by locals specifically for Douglas' green-tinged water.
Expect KVD, Brandon Palaniuk, Paul Elias, Jason Quinn and Mark Menendez to finish high if this pattern proves dominant. The locals agreed crankbaits will figure into the winning pattern, but think the vertical presentations described below will produce bigger fish.
Dragging a football head jig over deep offshore structure gets you bit here. The lake bottom is silt and clay, so bass congregate on rockpiles, shale vein, and old roadbeds and house foundations. This is where big, hungry, postspawn females can be found.
BassGold.com data back that up. Anglers targeting rock placed in the top five in 33.33 percent of tournaments in our date range. Additionally, "Main Lake Offshore Structure" accounted for 40.63 percent of top five finishes in the same data set.
Cole said many anglers will likely drag his Smashmouth Footballhead Jigs, which got popular after they helped build several big bags in last year's Southern Open here. Also popular is Pure Poison's Warhead Jig, which was featured in the September 2011 edition of Bassmaster Magazine.
BassGold.com data indicate jig-and-pigs produce better than football heads here. That's in part because some winners have only said they used "a jig" to win, and also partly because some of the data came from tournaments held when the lake was high enough to flood shoreline brush and wood. At this writing, Douglas is too low to suggest flipping shallow cover will be productive enough to win.
Note that Derek Remitz is a stud with a football-head and is fishing much better early this season than in recent years (ninth on Bull Shoals, and made the top 50 cut on the St. Johns River and Okeechobee).
Local sticks catch big 'uns on 8- and 10-inch plastic worms rigged on heavy shaky heads and football heads. McFalls said this pattern was on the down-low until last year's Open exposed it. Red or green/red worms produce best here in eight to 15 feet of water.
Dragging big Carolina rigged lizards over deep structure also can be productive. BassGold.com data indicates "Lizards/Creature" baits accounted for 15.78 percent of top five finishes.
I like Jeff Kriet with a Squirrel Tail Worm, but don't rule out Jason Williamson dragging football heads in the afternoon after throwing topwaters early. I usually like Aaron Martens when there's a drop shot bite, but his slump continues, so steer clear for now.
Locals fish 5- and 6-inch swimbaits and 3- and 4-inch swim jigs on super-heavy jigheads in 18 to 40 feet, casting them from deeper water to breaklines and slow rolling them over rock, rubble and pea gravel. They also fish them in a non-traditional way, a technique Berry demonstrated for me last week.
When he finds bottom hugging bass with his Lowrance, Berry vertically jigs his swimbaits and swim jigs on top of them, like you'd fish a jigging spoon. For both, shad colors with chartreuse-dyed tails are effective. Jigging spoons are productive at times, too.
Whenever there's a swimbait bite, you always have to consider Byron Velvick and Steve Kennedy, but don't overlook Fred Roumbanis. Not only is "Boom Boom" good with a swimbait, he's killer with a frog as well. So what? Well, Douglas' bass don't see many frogs, which could produce a few big fish when twitched across the tops of the numerous floating debris mats that gather in the backs of cuts and pockets here.
Locals Ott DeFoe, David Walker and Brandon Card will know how and where to get on that deep swimbait bite – not to mention all of the above patterns as well. Walker hails from Sevierville, 20 minutes from Douglas. DeFoe lives near Knoxville, 30 minutes away. And Card, the Elite Series rookie, grew up an hour away, in Caryville.
Each also has momentum. Consider their Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings: Walker, third; Card, 11th; DeFoe, 16th.
Based on my scouting trips on Douglas, I'll lock my roster the night before the tournament with five anglers from the list below.
Chapman is fishing too confidently and well (two top fives and a sixth place this year) to overlook. Having already punched his ticket to the 2013 Bassmaster Classic by winning an Open in February, he's been free to take what he's described as "conservative risks" this year, and they've paid off.
Expect Chapman to do one of two things: make a long run past all the well-known community holes to work a pattern or water no one else is on; or to have the patience to camp out on a big-fish-producing spot, waiting for it to turn on – often the nerve-wracking ticket to win here.
A guy who needs Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year points is more likely to leave one of those good deep-structure spots and head shallow for a limit if big bites come late in the day. Chapman can afford to wait 'em out. He finished 26th in the mid-May 2001 Megabucks here, ahead of Walker (41st), KVD (65th) and Kriet (82nd).
Rojas placed second in the 2001 event, behind winner Rick Clunn, mostly fishing a drop shot rig. He's also the frog master, which as mentioned above, could account for some big fish here.