Weather shortened the last day of the Alabama Charge. Nevertheless, the two top finishers held their patterns together and brought the two heaviest sacks to the scales — 23 pounds, 5 ounces and 18 pounds, 3 ounces, respectively.
Here's how they tell the story.
(1st place — 75 pounds, 1 ounce)
Sunday was one of those days you dream about as a tournament angler. Everything went right. I was fishing a big creek with shallow water and cypress trees in the back of it. I found the area in practice Tuesday.
The water was high. I flipped a jig into the grass and cypress knees and caught a ton of fish back there. The bite was so hot it was stupid. But, when I got back there on tournament day, they'd dropped the water at least a foot. There was nothing to flip.
I dug down in my boat and grabbed my little crankbait (the WEC E1 from Peeper's Baits). That produced a small limit pretty fast. As I searched around for bigger bass, I found two clumps of cypress trees sitting in about 2 1/2 feet of water, with maybe a 6- or 7-foot drop between them. They were largely unaffected by the falling water.
One clump had about 35 or 40 trees in it, the other maybe 40 or 50. There were fry everywhere, but the bite was on the green trees. Forget the dead ones; they were worthless. I have no idea why, but I've seen that before. You might want to keep it in mind.
The first two days the key was to bounce the bait off the wood in groups of two or three trees standing close together. Fish after fish grabbed it just as it careened away from the knees. On Saturday and Sunday, however, they were holding alongside single trees with big, bell bottoms. You still had to bounce it off the tree, though.
In fact, on Sunday my two biggest bass actually took the bait off the knee when it was hung. The first one just came up and jerked it off the bark. She weighed 6 pounds, 12 ounces.
The second one bit while I had the line wrapped around my hand trying to work the bait loose. I actually set the hook with my hand and then hand-lined her back to the boat — from 20 feet away. That one weighed more than 4 pounds.
Like I said, a day you dream about.
I fished with a 6 foot, 6 inch St. Croix Premier Crankbait Rod and an Ardent XS1000 reel (6.3:1 gear ratio) spooled with either 17- or 15-pound-test Vicious Fluorocarbon Line.
The shorter rod was critical. It allowed me to use an underhanded roll cast to get my bait back where it needed to be. I downsized my line later in the tournament to get more wiggle from my bait. My bait was colored chartreuse classic when the sun was out. I switched to chartreuse/black when the clouds moved in.
(2nd place — 70 pounds, 4 ounces)
I fished the main river where there was a lot of current. My area ranged from 5 to 10 feet deep with a lot of underwater current breaks — rock, snags, humps, whatever. The fish were tucked in behind the breaks.
A lot of the guys were catching tons of bass. I wasn't. I was picking them off one at a time. I'd find a spot, take a fish from it and then come back in an hour or two and do the same thing again. That worked for me all four days.
The key was to drag a 1/2-ounce V&M football jig — green pumpkin — with a plastic trailer as slow as possible over, through and behind the current breaks. It was a matter of having the patience to stick it out. If you pulled it up off the bottom, the current would wash it away.
I tossed my jig with a 7 foot, 3 inch CastAway Grass Master Braid Heavy XP rod and an Abu Garcia Revo reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 15-pound-test Hi-Seas Fluorocarbon line.
My line gets a lot of the credit for my performance. Hi-Seas makes a tough, abrasion-resistant product. I needed that in all the heavy stuff I was fishing. I never broke off or lost a fish that mattered all four days.
(Big bass — 7 pounds)
My giant was caught on an undercut bank. There really wasn't anything special about it other than it was the only place in the creek for her to get out of the current. She bit about 45 minutes after I started fishing on the first day. What a start!
She ate a 5/16-ounce, green pumpkin D&L jig — Baby Advantage — thrown on an All Pro APX Series Heavy Tip Flipping Stick and a Revo Premier reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 15-pound-test Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line.
The key was to flip the jig under the bank and let the current carry it along naturally. The bass would just suck it in and swim off. Really, I'd call it basic river fishing.