FLORENCE, Ala. — Kevin Short revisited the site of his victory on Pickwick in 2010, but it didn't produce nearly as well for him this time around. His 14-pound stringer left him outside the cut mark after Day One and a long way from defending his Alabama Charge title.
"If the water falls a little more, it could get ugly and it could get ugly quick," Short said. "Right now they are hard to pinpoint because there is so much water. There is so much water, you literally can't get to them."
With heavy rains over the weekend, water is being pushed through the Tennessee River, keeping the levels high on Pickwick. If the TVA decides to drop the water, as Short hopes, it could set up a similar situation to last year when the fish were in positions to his liking.
"I spent part of the day in there and I noticed the water falling a little," Short said. "That's what set it up last year and it could happen again. If the water doesn't fall, I could maybe catch another 13 to 14 pounds and maybe cash a check."
While the well ran dry for Short, tournament leader Denny Brauer and a handful of other contenders found success at least partially in the same slough. Brauer bagged 23-10 and rookie Nate Wellman also caught a 20-pound stringer, while spending part of their day there.
Zell Rowland finished the day in 17th place with 18-9 and saw Brauer quite a few times throughout the day. He's prepared to push deeper into the flooded brush, but hopes the falling water continues to pull fat pre-spawn bass to where he's fishing.
"Where we are, you are just as subject to catching 13 to 14 pounds as you are to break 20," Rowland said. "I'm going to start where I was and then try to push up a little more. The water was already pretty high when we started practice — they could have moved even further back in there."
Rowland caught more weight than he expected, but he noticed that the bites were tougher than in practice. Overnight low temperatures in the upper 30s cooled the water down a few degrees and made the bass slightly more finicky.
"They bit real funny today and I'm sure that was because of the cold nights," Rowland said. "I think the water temperature dropped 3 or 4 degrees. With the warm afternoon we had, it should get better tomorrow. The areas I'm fishing are key little stretches in slack water and that's important when they are flushing the water through the lake."
Andy Montgomery pulled 16-10 ounces out of the slough, but he had to work for every one of his bites. He started off fishing for smallmouth, but had to scrap that plan after they didn't fire and ran to the slough to fish for largemouth.
From there it was a grind, with Montgomery only boating five or six keepers, none before 10:30 a.m. His last cull came at 3:30, when he was able to throw back a 12-incher, likely saving him from a much worse finish.
"A couple I caught were spawning — they had bloody tails," Montgomery said. "A few were pre-spawn still and they were as fat as can be. It was really a struggle though. I fished through that area three times and didn't get a bite the third time."
Montgomery said he will start on his smallmouth again Thursday and if necessary, go back up later and try to flip up a few more quality largemouth. With the dwindling number of fish he caught from the slough, he hopes that the smallmouth are biting better so he doesn't have to rely so heavily on the fish he caught Wednesday.