Lunker Lessons: Lake Dardanelle

Tim Horton proved once again that he can fish a small area with big results, that his reputation as one of the best spot anglers on the Bassmaster Elite Series trail is well-deserved.

"I found a small shell bed in about 3 feet of water at the entrance to a spawning flat during practice," says the Muscle Shoals, Ala., pro. "I had a bite — but didn't set the hook — from one bass that looked to be a good 7 pounds so I moved off the area and saved it for the tournament.

"On Friday she nailed a Booyah 1/2-ounce Football Jig — black and brown — with a Yum Craw Papi plastic trailer as I dragged it across the shells. I'm sure it was the same fish I saw in practice. There aren't many bass that big in Lake Dardanelle.

"Actually, that's not as unusual as you might think. Over the years I've caught several bass in tournaments that I located in practice. I know that because they had distinguishing physical characteristics that I was able to identify."

That's not the only fish Horton took off that spot, however. He returned to his shell bed time after time on Friday taking a good keeper on nearly every trip.

"Every time I returned to the spot I caught another one. That just goes to show you that a good spot will produce over and over if you don't fish it to death or beat it up real bad. By the end of the day I boated four good bass from that same tiny shell bed — a 7 1/2-pounder, a 4-pounder and two 3-pounders.

"I think the first lesson to learn from my experience at the Toyota Trucks Diamond Drive on Lake Dardanelle is that practice isn't the tournament. As much as I'd liked to have caught her in practice, it was more important to catch her during the tournament. It's hard, but you have to wait until it counts.

"And the second lesson is to go easy on a good spot. Don't beat it up or fish it to death too early. Some of them will produce heavy bags if you'll just let them."

Tackle: A 7-foot, All Star rod (medium heavy) with a Pflueger Patriarch reel (7.1:1 gear ratio) and 17-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Signature Series Fluorocarbon Line.