My practice was tremendous at Ross Barnett: I had a lot of big bites. I really thought I had a chance to win, but the night before the tournament started, the storms rolled in. It hailed a lot, and there was a lot of lightning—maybe that scared the fish off; I don’t know. I think on shallow lakes like that, it can happen during a storm.
I wish I could go over Ross Barnett and fish it again. That’s what I thought about tonight, driving home in my old, retired truck from a fun fishing trip to Lake Eufaula. The ride was about three hours—no big deal—but enough time to kind of sit back and think about Ross Barnett (again), which was a really fun lake to fish, even if I ended up finishing in 92nd place.
“The Rez” was cool. I had a feeling it would be, and it was. For the first three days, I killed it in practice by scouting out the main lake. It was really producing, and the way you can fish there…that’s what I really like. It’s fast. You can move around a lot. I like that style. That’s one of the reasons I felt really good about the tournament going into it, but sometimes the weather happens.
For guys fishing up river, that weather didn’t make much of a difference, but I didn’t have enough spots up there. Most of my good areas were in the main lake, where I was getting 30 or 40 bites a day from solid 3- or 4-pounders. After the lightning, they all disappeared.
A lot of guys still caught them good. I don’t know Dustin Connell that well, but he seems like a cool kid, and I think it’s good to see new stars coming up even though I and some of the other veteran guys seemed to struggle a little. That’s all part of the game, you know? I don’t feel like I did anything wrong this time, I just got a little unfortunate. Everybody goes through it. It’s been a while since I’ve gone through it, so that’s alright.
Back to the lightning…I guess the weather, really. Everyone saw the wicked wind that we were dealing with, and sometimes people ask me how to keep fishing in weather like that. You do what you have to do—you keep fishing. You throw on a bladed bait like a heavy spinnerbait or a bladed jig and try to find calm areas where that bait is going to be effective. In shallower lakes like Ross Barnett, the wind really kicks things up, and I think the fish have a hard time seeing and feeling most baits, so unless you know exactly where they are, it can be really hard to trigger a bite.
When you’re boating in big waves, it’s important to have a backup bilge pump. Most bass boats come with two pumps these days, but I’ve seen guys carry a spare in their truck just for days like that. A lot of times, those can plug into a cigarette lighter and function. It also helps to have a hydraulic jack plate. Mine is from T-H Marine, and when the water is kicking like that, I will drop the plate lower so that it has more grab and less blow out: that way, if I have to slow down quickly—like, let’s say when a big set of waves comes up—that jack plate grabs harder and you slow down fast.
You also want to have a double strap on your trolling motor, or even better, a lockdown. Otherwise, you could run for an hour and end up getting to a fishing spot with no way to move around. Believe me—that’s rough.
Speaking of rough, that’s how my season has gone so far. But in the Elite Series, winning is such a hard thing to do that just one win can turn a bad season into a great one.
There’s still plenty of time left for me to turn this one around. I don’t want to say I’m excited about Sam Rayburn, because every time I do that lately, it backfires, but I will say that I’m looking forward to it.
Like I said, it’s all part of the game.