First and foremost, I would like to congratulate Wesley Strader and Drew Benton on their recent wins. Wesley and Drew are two of the best fishermen to in the game today, and I certainly expect more wins from them in the future.
You hear a lot about “the zone,” and Wesley has definitely found that this summer with back-to-back wins on Kentucky Lake and Lake Norman. Norman was a fantastic event for me as well, as I was able to claim third place behind Wesley and big Jared Lintner from California.
Both Wesley and Jared are childhood heroes of mine, so it was still an awesome experience even though I fell a little short.
Lets dive into Lake Norman:
During practice, I learned pretty fast that the fish were in all three phases of the spawn. Typically, when this happens, you will see different sections of the lake in different phases. For example, they’ll be prespawn on the upper end, spawning in the middle and postspawn on the lower end.
But that was definitely not the case at Lake Norman.
I would go into one pocket and find spawning fish, and then the next pocket would only have postspawn fry guarders. It seemed like every creek was its own different lake. This was the perfect scenario for junk fishing — and that’s exactly what I did.
I caught fish flipping bushes, skipping docks, sight fishing, using squarebills, using shaky heads, jerkbaiting and throwing topwater. If it had been a test, the only correct answer would have been “All of the Above.”
I would start every morning fishing brushpiles that I found with my Garmin Panoptix unit to get a limit early and make it easier for me to fish new places.
I fished brand-new water every day and “fished the moment.” The whole “just going fishing” mentality sounds simple, but it can be extremely tough to harness, especially on game day.
It is super easy to get hung up on what was working in practice. This has always been a huge weakness of mine, but I realized it was something that I had to overcome as an angler. It felt great to trust my instincts and see it pay off.
I get asked quite often by younger anglers for advice on pursuing a career as a bass fisherman, and my most common answer is that nothing can replace time on the water. The only way to develop that instinct is to put the time in and get out of your comfort zone. Spend time on tough fisheries and high-pressured fisheries.
More often than not, tournaments are held on highly pressured lakes. Learning how to cope with those conditions will teach you how to adjust and think outside the box.
As for me, I’ll be spending most of my time on the Tennessee River the next few weeks just having fun. Summertime on the TVA lakes can be pretty magical, and I plan to take advantage of it to test some new lures from Salmo.
Before long, it’ll be time for the Central Open on the Red River — and time for me to continue working toward the Bassmaster Opens Championship and a possible berth on the Bassmaster Elite Series.
But until then, let’s just go fishing!