Scouting Elite stops before off limits

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Bassmaster Marshal

Now that the tournament season is over I plan to scout some of the lakes I’ll be fishing on the Bassmaster Elite Series next year before they become off limits. I won’t have time to pre-fish all of them, but I believe I can work in trips to Lanier, Hartwell and to the Tennessee River where the Classic will be.

Because I’ll be scouting these lakes months ahead of time, I’ll be doing far more looking than fishing. It’s hard to resist fishing a little bit, but the last thing you want to do is get stuck on a pattern or place that won’t be productive months later when the tournament starts.

I’m a shallow water guy. I don’t care how cold or hot it is, there’s always a population of fish that lives shallow. Maybe not as many of them, but there are always fish in shallow water. I think some of the biggest bass stay shallow.

By shallow, I’m not necessarily talking about right up on the bank. To me, anything less than 8 feet is shallow, and that can be on points.

I will definitely look offshore, too. That is where the majority of the fish are and the bite is more consistent out deep.

I’ll be doing a lot of riding around to get a feel for how the lakes set up. Some of them will be drawn down for the winter, so I’ll be able to see features like stumps, brush and rocks that will be under the water during the tournament.

I like to take pictures of promising places. The pictures make it easier to visualize what’s under the water when I come back.

Lake Lanier (Feb. 14-17)

Spotted bass will play big at Lanier because they are so much more numerous than the largemouth. There are some really big spots at Lanier, and you don’t have to be fishing a drop shot in 40 feet of water to catch them.

I’ll be looking for docks and points close to the main lake or a creek channel. Those are places where the bass can slide up and get a belly full and slide back out. I believe a 6th Sense Provoke Jerkbait will catch them from docks and points. That bait comes in a short and along bill model and there will be places for both.

Jigs should also play there in February. I’ll probably be fishing a casting jig around the docks and a football jig on the points. A shaky head is a really good bait in winter and early spring. I’ll tempt Lanier’s spots with a 1/4-ounce TruSouth Custom Lures shaky head jig with a straight tail 6-inch worm.

Tennessee River March 15-17 (Bassmaster Classic)

There will probably be fish in transition from their winter to prespawn patterns on the Tennessee River in mid March. I’ll focus my attention in practice up shallow where the bass will be coming to that time of year.

The bass will be gathered outside of spawning areas on rocky and pea gravel banks and points. There are typically cold mornings and days that time of year and the rocks hold the sun’s heat. The heat attracts the bass.

The creeks will be a good place to start looking for them during the official practice days before the Classic, but a lot of people overlook main-lake rocky points that lead into spawning pockets. I believe moving style baits will work there. That includes square bills, crankbaits that dive 6 to 8 feet deep, Chatterbaits and spinnerbaits. 

Lake Hartwell (April 4-7)

The Hartwell tournament will definitely be a late prespawn-spawning deal. In pre-practice I’ll be looking for shallow boat docks and shallow pockets that have the right ingredients for spawning. That could be a sandy bottom, rocks and laydowns in the backs of pockets.

There could be sight fishing for spawning bass during the tournament, but fishing a wacky worm around docks should do very well. And there’s likely to be a chatterbait and spinnerbait bite going in the backs of creeks, too.

It’s hard to overcome the urge to fish when you’re scouting months ahead of time. I will fish for a couple of hours between riding around and scouting. But I can’t let myself get caught up in how I’m catching fish in pre-practice and think it’s going to work when the tournament comes around.