My Cherokee challenges


James Overstreet

When the new season’s schedule is announced, we want to do well at all of them. But I think we all put stars by a few where you think your strengths will allow you to be really competitive.

Cherokee Lake was one of the ones that I marked. I love fishing the prespawn, and even though a lot of people think I grew up flipping, I also grew up fishing those highland reservoirs.

The thing about this event was that it presented the type of fishing I like, both in terms of season and geography. So, I’ll take a 14th place, but I’m not overly satisfied with it because this was one of those events where I thought if I could find something in practice that I’d be really competitive.

I didn’t do badly, but I think the mistake I made in practice was spending too much time looking deep. I weighed a few fish that I caught offshore, but I wish I would’ve spent more time looking shallow in practice.

What happened was I didn’t find the right deal out deep. When the tournament began, I’d start out deep, but then I’d go to the bank. I pretty much finished 14th mostly by doing that. Looking back, I feel like if I had spent more time looking shallow and found a couple of little isolated spots I could’ve done a little better.

Out deep, most guys were fishing vertically. You’d get over top of them, see them on the graph and drop to them. I caught a few doing that, but I caught most of them casting. I’d get out on those flats in the early morning when those smallmouth were feeding and throw a little YUM Money Minnow to catch a few of those aggressive fish that were still up feeding from the night before.

Now, one of the things that limited me was the weather. I had every intention of fishing this way the first day, but we had a lot of wind. It was really cold, and it was really hard to fish that way. You can fish in the wind when you’re 10-15 feet deep, but when you’re casting in 30-40 feet deep, it’s kind of hard to feel the bite in those conditions.

I was forced to abandon my plan pretty early because they just weren’t eating the bait that good. I don’t know if it was the front that came through, or if I was losing them because I couldn’t feel the bite in that wind.

Regardless, I had to do something else because it just wasn’t working out. After that, I just went to the bank and put three rods on my deck. I had a Bandit 300 crankbait in spring craw, a green pumpkin Booyah Finance Jig with a black/blue YUM Craw Papi and a blue chrome/orange belly Smithwick Perfect 10 Rogue.

I absolutely believe I was around the fish to win, but there’s such a fine line in this sport between doing good and winning. When you’re running down the lake, it can be that one decision to stop or not stop on a spot, or it could be your boat number.

For example, I found a little area where I felt good about my chances of catching some fish. I caught one big one in practice and I was going to start there, but I got boat number 99 the first morning.

That spot was way up the Holston River past all my other areas. I didn’t want to run all the way up there and maybe have someone sitting there. I would have passed all my other stuff and wasted a bunch of time.

So I decided to start closer to takeoff and work my way up. When I got there around 11:30, I caught a 4-pounder and lost a couple of really nice fish. Come to find out, that’s where Cliff Crochet caught 19 pounds, 7 ounces to lead day one.

Overall, I think it was a good tournament. I’m disappointed that I didn’t do as well as I thought I could, but I’ll carry the positive momentum into the next event on Lake Okeechobee.