Making a Top 12 is always a positive, but after a low finish on Grand Lake, to rebound with fourth place on Kentucky Lake got me back on track. It wasn’t easy, and those Tennessee River fish really made me work at it.
I pretty much realized the first day of the tournament that my bite was dwindling. But I rode it until the end, and I was fortunate that I got a couple of big bites that kept me around the top of the pack.
Even on the final day, I knew that what I was doing offered a pretty slim chance for me to win. Honestly, I really didn’t know of any other way that would give me an opportunity to win; so I just figured I’ll go flipping, and if I have the perfect day, it will work out.
Now, in practice, with the water being high, I thought the tournament could be won flipping. But once the water came down and stabilized, that made it a lot tougher.
The other thing is that I thought we’d have a lot more people fishing other techniques, but there were so many guys flipping that those fish got picked off. Also, I felt there weren’t a lot of new ones coming.
On top of this, where I missed the boat was the shad spawn. A lot of guys got on that early morning bite, but I had no idea about this until the last day of practice when I noticed some shad following my bait in. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to capitalize on this during the tournament, so I committed to flipping all four days.
There was some prespawn and postspawn action this week, but the fish I was fishing for were spawning. They were tucked way back in the bushes so far it was hard to reach them. You can’t get a spinnerbait back there, and it’s even hard to get a frog back there.
Flipping was really my only option, so I used a Texas-rigged YUM Christie Critter for those spawners. I could slip it in there and let it soak for a couple of seconds.
The water wasn’t clear enough for sight fishing, so I was just going down the bank and trying to imagine where a bed would be. That was usually the thickest bushes, but you also wanted a spot that allowed sunlight to penetrate.
Those fish would bed in spots where they can back into a thick bush and guard their spot, but still get plenty of sunlight on their eggs.
A lot of times, I caught a lot of fish by laying the bait over a limb where I could move the bait up and down in front of them. This tactic was best when the wind was blowing, but when the wind stopped, it became harder to do because the fish got really spooky. It was hard to reach them without touching the bush, and if you did that when the wind wasn’t breaking up the surface, they wouldn’t bite.
One thing that’s worth mentioning is that you really don’t want to fish this way without the right tackle. Several times, I had to pull fish up and over bushes and limbs, and I couldn’t have done that without my 7-foot, 3-inch Falcon Cara Pitching/Swimbait rod and my Lew’s Hypermag reel with 25-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon.
I like to flip with an 8.3:1 reel because it’s very important to be able to get my bait back faster between flips. The other reason is that this time of year, you may not feel the bite, as the fish just takes off swimming with your bait. When this happens, a faster reel allows me to take up a lot of slack and get a hook in the fish.