Three anglers carried impressive weights to the scales last week at the Tennessee Triumph. That's no easy task given the pressure Old Hickory Lake receives from Nashville and local tournaments. Here's how they did it.
(55 pounds, 10 ounces)
"I caught all of my keeper bass, with the exception of two, on a green pumpkin, 5-inch Berkley Power Hawg," said the elated winner. "They were all in the backs of feeder creeks in shallow water, less than a foot deep in most places.
"The bream were on the beds and the bass were thick as flies around them. The bigger keepers were holding to isolated pieces of cover. It really didn't matter what — wood, rock, weeds, almost anything as long as it was by itself."
Although most of his bass bit the same lure in the same types of spots, they responded to different techniques. Some hit on the fall; others bit when the bait was swimming back towards the boat; and some preferred their dinner sitting motionless on the bottom.
"I guess I had a pattern of sorts, but really it was trying to do a lot of different things with the Power Hawg until they bit it. I can't remember the bass doing that before. The lesson for all of us is that when we know the bass are there, we should keep trying different things until they're in the livewell."
On Sunday morning — first thing — he caught two good keepers on a chartreuse 1/2-ounce Lunker Lure buzzbait. "I usually don't switch lures when I have something going, but Sunday morning was perfect for a buzzbait. It was dark, overcast and there was a little ripple on the water. I couldn't resist," confessed the Crestwood, Ky., professional.
Wirth fished his plastic on a 7-foot, 6-inch medium-heavy flipping stick, an Abu Garcia Revo STX reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) and 20-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line. He rigged his Hawgs with a 4/0 Mustad Mega-Bite Wide Bend Worm Hook and a 1/4- or 3/8-ounce lead worm weight, depending upon the wind.
He used the same reel and line combo for his buzzbait but downsized to a 7-foot medium-heavy flipping stick for better casting accuracy.
(50 pounds, 5 ounces)
"I fished three places way back in the main creeks that feed the lake," said the North Bend, Ohio, native. "I went as far back as I could and then worked my way out to where there was a slight channel. My fish were on wood near the channel break. I don't know how deep the water was, but I was churning mud the whole four days.
"I got most of my bites by flipping a black with red flake 10-inch Berkley Power Worm and, when the water muddied up a little bit I switched to a green pumpkin, 5-inch Berkley Power Hawg because it gave me more water displacement.
"My bait selection was important, but the real lesson here is that too many anglers downsize on highly pressured water. They all throw little finesse baits. That's all the bass ever see. If you try something different — in this case that meant upsizing — you'll do a lot better, especially with quality bass."
Lowen flipped his plastics with a 7-foot, 6-inch All Pro APX Flipping Stick, an Abu Garcia Revo Premier Casting Reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) and 17-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line. He armed his baits with a 3/0 Gamakatsu Round Bend Worm Hook and weighted them with a 1/4-ounce River2Sea tungsten sinker.
Howell didn't buy into Lowen's big bait theory. He went small on Thursday and Friday and doesn't regret it in the least.
"My pattern changed as the tournament went along," said the Springville, Ala., 7-time Classic qualifier. "The first two days I rigged a 1/8-ounce Lunker Lure Football Shak-ee Head with a watermelon/red Yamamoto Pro Senko as my primary lure.
"Almost all my fish were caught in 4-10 feet of water off wood — logs, trees and brush — at a couple of community holes near an area they call the 109 Bridge."
Saturday saw different conditions, however. "The lake was covered with local tournaments, and I couldn't get back to my main spots so I just went fishing. I developed a shallow, shoreline pattern in the grass swimming a Vertical Lures 3/8-ounce Cayuga Craw Jig X.
Howell fished his Shak-ee Head on spinning tackle — a Quantum 7-foot, medium action Tour Edition PT rod, a Quantum Energy PTi reel and 8-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line. His jig was handled with a Quantum Tour Edition PT 6-foot, 10-inch heavy action rod, a Quantum Burner Tour Edition PT casting reel (7:1 gear ratio) and 50-pound-test Spiderwire Stealth line.
"The line was critical the last two days. This was heavy grass. You had to set the hook instantly and get them coming to the boat immediately. That stuff has no stretch and is tough as can be. That's what made the difference for me Saturday and Sunday."