Defeating the Tenkiller randomness

There is no question that the lingering days of summer make for some difficult fishing across the South.

In this case, Oklahoma certainly fits into that region — it’s hot.

With the first day in the books of the 2019 Cherokee Casino Tahlequah Bassmaster Elite at Lake Tenkiller, the general consensus is the fishing is tough.

If you’ve looked through the Day 1 leaderboard, you know that’s a gross understatement. It’s very tough.

But what makes the bite seem even more unproductive is the lake’s slot limit for largemouth and smallmouth bass: Bass of either species measuring 13 to 16 inches must be immediately released. So it appears as if weights are way down based on what one might expect from an Oklahoma fishery this time of year.

Of coruse, that means the 75 Bassmaster Elite Series pros are catching consistent numbers of bass, especially fish inside the slot that don’t get to make the trip to the Bassmaster scales at the end of the day.

But the bite is very random, and Alabama pro Kelley Jaye said it can be extremely challenging if you let it get in your head.

“You can fish a stretch of bank, catch 15 shorts, then bump into a 3-pounder and never get another bite along that same section,” he said. “It’s almost like they are constantly moving. And that means I’ve got to keep my boat moving forward and my bait in the water.”

Jaye weighed five bass for a Day-1 total of 12 pounds, 3 ounces, which is good enough to have him in eighth place.

He said that this time of year, the bass tend to migrate back into the creeks following the baitfish, and right now, they are near the creek mouths and at the most halfway back to the rear of the creeks. (And everywhere in between.)

“The baitfish really determine where the feeding bass will be,” he explained. “I know that sounds obvious, but on a lake like Tenkiller that is dominated by very rocky structure, the bass don’t really key in on specific locations — they’re very scattered.

“You could find a good spot, catch a single bass on it, return later and get nothing only to come back to the same place near the end of the day and load your boat,” he said. “They are very random, and that makes it challenging. That literally played out for me today. I fished one spot earlier, came back to the same spot at the end of the day and caught two overs. It was hot, sunny and I don’t know why they bit when they did. In my mind, they should have been there eating during the first hour of the day. I’m thankful they bit.”