Josh Guess got most of it right when he previewed the second Southern Open on Wheeler Lake last week. He predicted easy and quick shallow water limits. That was certainly the case. And he predicted those easy limits wouldn't get an angler much of anything. They didn't.
Unfortunately, however, he underestimated the importance of those shallow water patterns and what some anglers could do with them.
"This was an interesting tournament for me. I learned a lot," he said after the final weigh-in. "I had most of it pretty close to right, except that I didn't realize how big the shallow water fish would turn out to be. The ones I was catching in practice were small keepers. I thought that pattern would hold throughout the tournament and that no one could win with those fish. Obviously, I was wrong about that.
"I really kicked myself in the butt after I thought about it for awhile. I'm from Florida. What was I doing out in that deep water when I could have been fishing to my strength in shallow water? That's a lesson learned the hard way — one I won't forget for some time.
"If I'd remembered it earlier — or if my last fish on Friday had been a 7 pound bass instead of a 7 pound drum — I'd have made the cut instead of missing it by seven places.
"I'm excited, though. I caught my first smallmouth bass ever off a bluff wall on a jig. It weighed 2 pounds. I can't believe how hard it bit and how hard it fought. I can't wait to go somewhere else and chase them again. A guy could learn to like catching them."
Guess' weight predictions were solid, if not perfect. He missed the Top 30 cut weight by 4 ounces and the big fish weight by another 4 ounces. That's darn good. He did, however, overestimate the winning weight by almost 11 pounds. That's a sizeable mistake.
"I thought there would be really big fish caught offshore, and that they would push the winning weight up. I was wrong about that. They weren't as heavy as I thought they'd be. That's another lesson learned. Just because there's a lot of deep water in a lake doesn't mean the big fish are in it.
"And, I learned something else this week, too — the importance of using J.J.'s Magic. When I dipped the head of my plastic in it, I hooked my fish. When I dipped the tail in it, they tore my bait off the hook. That told me something about how good that stuff really is, and how it should be used to improve my catch."
Notwithstanding his claim that 94th place finisher Tim Horton was the angler to watch, Guess' predictions were credible. He earned a grade of B-.