Observing the diet of Lake Tuscaloosa bass gave Cole Garrett the edge he needed to secure the Central Division berth to the 2003 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch, to be held in his home state of Louisiana.
"Whenever I caught a fish, it had a crawfish coming out of its gullet," revealed Garrett. This valuable information prompted the Calvin, La., angler to try an array of crawfish-imitating lures, which produced a limit of bass each of the three competition days of the 2003 CITGO BASS Federation Championship. His catch of 15 bass weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces topped the Central Division field and earned Garrett a third place finish overall.
During the practice days, Garrett had trouble developing a solid pattern, but he was catching fish on a jig-and-craw. "I figured I could get a limit, because I was catching 10 to 12 keepers a day," said Garrett.
Keying on the north end of the lake, Garrett found postspawn largemouth holding on the main lake points at the mouths of coves. The points featured multilayered grasslines, with the first row of weeds growing at surface level and the back row standing about 1 to 2 feet above the water level. Garrett found most of his fish hanging around the back grassline, where the water was less than 3 feet deep.
The first two days, Garrett relied on a jig-and-craw or a craw worm to take his fish from the weeds. He caught some bass by swimming an amber ½-ounce jig and watermelon Zoom Super Chunk Junior with a 7 ½-foot All Star Classic flipping rod and Shimano Curado reel filled with 50-pound Power Pro braided line. However, most of his fish were taken on a Texas rigged Gene Larew 4-inch black-and-red flake Salt Craw (5/16- or ¼-ounce sinker and Gamakatsu 3/0 Super Line hook) that he pitched into the weeds with a craw worm on All Star 7 ½ - or 6-foot titanium rods and Shimano Curado reels spooled with 10- or 12-pound P-Line. Garrett caught a 7-4 limit the first day to set the pace in the Central Division and followed up the next round with a 6-13 limit to increase his division lead by more than 5 pounds and move into fifth place overall.
Failing to catch any fish early the first two days, Garrett decided to try a buzzbait since his roommate, New Jersey angler Ron Schneider, was catching fish in the morning on a buzzer. So Garrett tied on a white 3/8-ounce Boogerman buzzbait matched with a 6-foot medium-heavy All Star rod, Shimano Curado reel and 50-pound Power Pro braided line. The buzzbait produced some keepers throughout the day, but Garrett also lost a couple of bass on the lure.
Another lure change accounted for most of Garrett's limit on the final day. To ensure better hookups, Garrett decided to switch from the craw worm to a more compact tube bait (4-inch black neon Rite Bite tube) that he Texas rigged with a 3/8-ounce sinker and Eagle Claw 4/0 HP hook. He flipped the tube with a 7 ½-foot Castaway extra-heavy action rod and Shimano Curado reel filled with 50-pound Power Pro braided line.
The Louisiana competitor ran farther up the river to muddier water, where he noticed the flipping pattern was stronger than in the areas he had fished the first two days. The switch paid off as Garrett finished the day with an 8-5 limit to clinch the Central Division and earn a trip home to the 2003 Classic in New Orleans.