Wheeler's a heartbreaker

The Wheeler Lake tournament is over. It’s the last one of the season in the Elites, and I have to say I didn’t make a very good exit this year. Missing the Top 50 cut is not my idea of a strong performance. I’m especially frustrated with how it all happened.

My practice was OK but nothing spectacular. It was one of those deals where you’re on fish but you know they’re not big enough to win, or even place very high. You come in for registration on Wednesday afternoon knowing you’re going fishing Thursday morning.

That was bad enough but when I saw what the winners and the guys in the top 10 places were doing, and especially where they were fishing, I was heartbroken. During practice I fished basically every spot the top guys fished during the tournament. And when I say every spot I mean just that — every darn one of them.

But — and here’s the thing — I didn’t get the bites. I’m not exactly sure why I didn’t get any bites when they did but I have some ideas about how it happened.

1. I missed the sweet spot.

It’s easy to do if you aren’t careful. You see a shellbed on your electronics and maybe fish it with a crankbait or a jig. If your casts are 5-10 feet apart you can easily miss the best spot on a good spot. When you miss the best spot, you’ll miss the best bite.

2. I used the wrong lure or fished it the wrong way.

This is an equally easy thing to do. If your crankbait is running where it ought to be but it’s going too slow or too fast the fish won’t take it, especially if they’re as finicky as they were on Wheeler. Or, if you’re throwing a crankbait and they want a jig, you’re finished.

I know this was part of my problem. After I realized that the top guys were fishing the same spots I’d fished in practice I nosed around to see what they did different. I believe they cranked their bait really fast. I didn’t do that. Mine was moving at a medium speed. That was an important detail last week on Wheeler.

3. I fished the spots at the wrong time.

This one I did, for sure. I fished those spots during the middle of the day when there was no current. The guys who did better on them fished earlier and later when they were pulling water. That made all the difference in the world.

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