6:29 a.m. We arrive at Lake L’s launch area. It’s 75 degrees and clear with a light south breeze. Shryock pulls several Abu Garcia baitcasting and spinning outfits from storage and arranges them on his boat’s front deck. “It’s going to be a scorcher today,” he says as he loads water bottles into his onboard cooler. “Got to stay hydrated!”
7 HOURS LEFT 6:45 a.m. The Phoenix hits the water. Shryock checks the lake temp: 85 degrees. “In midsummer, bass can be either deep or dirt shallow. My preference is shallow fishing, so I’ll make a scouting run to see what type of shallow cover this lake has to offer. Hopefully, I’ll find submerged grass; it provides oxygen, shelter and multiple prey species for bass. I’ll definitely pound skinny water early before making any offshore moves.” 6:50 a.m. Shryock makes an exploratory run uplake while both eyeballing his electronics for offshore structure and scanning the shoreline for signs of wood or weed cover. 7:01 a.m. Shryock stops at a long point and drags the structure with a green pumpkin Berkley Lug Worm on a drop-shot rig. “I graphed some fish on this point, but I can’t tell yet if they’re bass.” 7:05 a.m. He switches to a watermelon/red 5-inch Berkley Fatty Bottom Hopper finesse worm on a 1/8-ounce shaky head. “This worm is supersoft with a flat belly and powerful scent.”
Captions: Don Wirth
Photo: Don Wirth
1 / 8
7:10 a.m. Shryock runs uplake to a series of shoreline pockets with lily pads. On his first cast with a green and white Berkley frog, a good bass pulls the lure under; he slams his rod back and misses the fish. 7:11 a.m. Shryock immediately pitches the shaky head worm at the bass, but it’s long gone. “Wow, that strike totally caught me off guard! I should know better than to take my eyes off my frog.” 7:13 a.m. He switches to a shad colored Berkley Choppo, a noisy surface bait with a rotating thumper tail, around the pads. 7:18 a.m. Shryock is fishing his way uplake, keying on pad patches and alternating between the shaky head and the frog. “Pads are awesome bass cover, but you’ve got to figure out where the fish are holding in them. Sometimes they’re at the edge where the pad field meets open water; sometimes they’re on isolated pad clumps; sometimes they’re where two sizes of pads grow close together. They tend to be on really specific patterns in this stuff.” 7:25 a.m. Shryock has had a couple of small bass nip at his frog. “I’ll stay with the frog in the pads until the sun gets a little higher, but no longer. Getting dialed in to a precise pad pattern can take a whole practice day in a tournament, and I don’t have that much time today.” 7:31 a.m. Shryock drops his Power-Poles and flips pads with a black and blue Berkley Bunker Hawg creature on a 4/0 flippin’ hook with a pegged 1/4-ounce sinker. 7:34 a.m. Back to the frog. “Given my time constraint, I’m using the frog as a search bait, retrieving it fairly quickly. I’m just looking for a blowup to get some feedback from the fish.”
6 HOURS LEFT 7:45 a.m. Shryock idles into a nearby cove to fish more pads with the frog and creature. “Some of these pads look brownish-yellow, like they normally do in late fall. Also, I haven’t seen any milfoil or hydrilla so far. I wonder if this lake hasn’t been sprayed to kill aquatic vegetation. That’s never good for the bass.” 7:53 a.m. Shryock retrieves the Choppo parallel to the edge of a big pad field. “I’d like to see an 8-pounder plaster that thing!” 7:57 a.m. Shryock dramatically switches gears by tying on a copper shad Berkley Dredger 20.5 crankbait. “I’m not feeling any love from those pads, so I’ll try fishing offshore.” He idles to a long, main-lake point and grinds the diving plug across the structure. 8:02 a.m. He casts a green pumpkin 3/8-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait with a matching Berkley shad trailer around the end of the point. “There are stumps all over this point, but I’m not seeing any bait or bass on my electronics.” 8:08 a.m. Shryock makes a blistering run to the extreme upper end of the lake, where muddy water is entering the system via a culvert. He casts the shaky head worm to a ditch in front of the culvert and bags a small bass. 8:17 a.m. Shryock tries the frog and the creature in a nearby patch of shallow, emergent grass. Neither produces a strike.
Photo: Don Wirth
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8:20 a.m. Shryock bags his first keeper bass of the day, a 1-pound, 1-ounce largemouth, from the ditch on the shaky head worm. “As hot as it’s been, even the slightest inflow of fresh, oxygenated water can attract bass.” 8:24 a.m. The light breeze that had been blowing has stopped, and it’s getting hot. Shryock’s shaky head dredges up a wad of old fishing line. 8:35 a.m. Shryock runs back downlake to fish laydowns on a channel bank with the shaky head worm. “This lure comes through wood cover surprisingly well, and it’s something bass probably haven’t seen before.”
5 HOURS LEFT 8:45 a.m. A short trek farther downlake brings Shryock to a shoreline pocket studded with submerged timber, where he catches a short fish on the shaky head worm. 8:54 a.m. Shryock runs across the lake to a channel bank. He skips the shaky head worm beneath a dock and bags another nonkeeper. 8:58 a.m. Shryock makes another cast with the shaky head and suffers a “professional overrun” in his baitcasting reel. He partially clears the tangle, only to discover a big knot in his line. “That’s what happens when you respool with fresh fluorocarbon three weeks ago and don’t use the reel until today.” 9:04 a.m. Shryock finally picks apart the knot and is back in action, hitting docks.
9:10 a.m. He casts the shaky head worm to a seawall. “I like structures close to deep water in summer. It’s 20 feet deep a cast from this wall.” 9:20 a.m. Shryock switches Dredger crankbait models to a shallower-running 10.5 and retrieves it parallel to the seawall. 9:26 a.m. He probes a brushpile he graphed in 10 feet of water with the shaky head worm.
Photo: Don Wirth
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9:32 a.m. Shryock runs downlake to a residential cove. “There are lots of docks here, and hopefully some submerged brushpiles near them. Bass should be under the docks now that the sun is getting higher.” He casts the shaky head worm to the dock closest to the cove’s mouth. His line tightens, he sets the hook, and a good fish bolts for open water. Shryock races to the boat’s console, works the fish closer and grabs his second keeper, a beautiful 3-pound, 6-ounce largemouth. “The fish hit right off the end of that dock.” 9:41 a.m. Shryock is moving slowly from dock to dock while casting the shaky head worm. “I’m liking that the water here is deeper and clearer than uplake.”
4 HOURS LEFT 9:45 a.m. Shryock’s boat has moved directly over a sunken brushpile. He marks its waypoint on his electronics. “I’ll mark ’em first, then go back and fish ’em.” 9:49 a.m. A bass taps the shaky head worm; Shryock swings and misses. 9:50 a.m. Another tap, swing and miss. Shryock’s worm is getting chewed up by short fish, so he rigs a fresh one. 10:02 a.m. Dark clouds loom in the distance as Shryock moves across the cove to hit more docks. “As hot as it is, some rain would feel great.” 10:05 a.m. Shryock marks a big fish on a 12-foot brushpile. He backs off and casts to the gnarly cover, but the shaky head hangs up in a limb. After much jigging and jerking, he frees the lure. “I hate when that happens! I’ll have to let that brushpile rest awhile before I hit it again.” What’s his take on the day so far? “Even though those pads failed to produce, I haven’t had to move offshore to catch some fish so far. My gut tells me the clearer, deeper lower end is going to set up better today than the murkier upper end. I’m going to keep focusing on docks and any shallow wood or grass I can find, especially close to deep water.” 10:08 a.m. Shryock rigs another baitcasting rod with a green pumpkin/red Berkley Magnum Fatty Bottom Hopper, a 7-inch version of the lure that caught his first two keepers. “There are obviously some big fish in this lake and I want to give ’em a full meal deal.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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10:14 a.m. Shryock locates a small brushpile in front of a dock. He casts the Magnum shaky head worm to the cover and catches keeper No. 3, 1 pound, 3 ounces. “So much for the bigger worm catching bigger bass, but I’ll take it.” 10:30 a.m. After hitting a couple more brushpiles without success, Shryock has moved to a point at the cove’s mouth that’s covered with thick, emergent grass. He switches Bunker Hawg colors to green pumpkin/red, pitches the creature into the vegetation, hops it out into open water, and a big fish follows it out of the grass. “Whoa, that was a 4-pounder!” He makes several more flips into the vegetation, then rigs a second, identical Bunker Hawg with a pegged 1-ounce sinker. “I’ll use the heavier weight to punch straight down into the grass.” 10:34 a.m. Shryock is pumped about locating the thick, emergent grass. “This weed patch sets up perfectly for summer fishing; it’s shallow, but real close to deep water. As we saw, it holds big fish, so I need to locate some more of it.” 10:41 a.m. Shryock vacates the grass point, vowing to return. He does a 180 and casts the Magnum shaky head worm to the brushpile where he graphed up a lunker.
3 HOURS LEFT 10:45 a.m. Shryock crashes the 10.5 Dredger into the brushpile and dredges up a small limb. “That big bass won’t stay there as long as I keep tearing up its house!” 10:50 a.m. Shryock locates more emergent grass a quarter-mile uplake and attacks it with the two Bunker Hawgs. “There’s a 6-foot ditch running out in front of this grass — another ideal summer setup.” 10:51 a.m. A small bass strips the punch rig Bunker Hawg off its hook. Shryock replaces it with a fresh creature. 10:54 a.m. Shryock flips the punch rig into the grass and immediately gets a tap; he leans back on the fish, but it comes unbuttoned. “Dang, that felt like a good one.” 10:56 a.m. He catches a squealer on the punch rig. “That fish was in an inch of water!” He ties on a fresh hook. “The points of these flipping hooks get dull quickly after you catch a few fish on them.” 11:03 a.m. Shryock runs out of grass as he moves down the bank but encounters several docks, most of which lack deep water nearby. 11:13 a.m. He catches a short fish off a dock on the light-sinker creature. 11:28 a.m. Shryock moves to a main-lake point, pitches the light-sinker creature to a sunken log and catches his fourth keeper, 1 pound, 2 ounces. “You’ve got to admit, I’m putting together a pretty impressive mini-bag!”
2 HOURS LEFT 11:45 a.m. Shryock flips the punch bait to a shoreline laydown, gets a tap and misses the fish. 11:53 a.m. He rockets downlake to flip scattered laydowns on a sandy bank. 12:01 p.m. Shryock catches a 10-inch bass off a stickup on the shaky head.
Photo: Don Wirth
5 / 8
12:21 p.m. A good bass inhales the 1/4-ounce punch bait in a laydown. Shryock sticks the fish and swings aboard his fifth keeper, 3 pounds, 1 ounce. 12:32 p.m. The heat and humidity are oppressive as Shryock punches a small patch of emergent grass. 12:38 p.m. He catches a shorty from a marina slip on the shaky head.
1 HOUR LEFT 12:45 p.m. Shryock rockets back uplake and cranks the 10.5 Dredger around the ditch where he caught his first keeper. The plug comes back with a ball of discarded monofilament. “At least I’m cleaning trash out of the lake!” 12:57 p.m. He chunks the drop-shot rig into the ditch and catches a mini-bass.
1:03 p.m. Shryock flips the Magnum shaky head worm into a laydown and catches his sixth keeper, 1 pound even. It’s no help to his total. 1:17 p.m. Shryock runs back to the point where he caught his fourth keeper and cranks the 10.5.
Photo: Don Wirth
6 / 8
1:21 p.m. He revisits the grass point where he saw the 4-pounder and punches the vegetation. 1:26 p.m. Shryock flips the shaky head to a lone stickup. 1:33 p.m. He spends his remaining minutes hitting a sunken brushpile with the Magnum shaky head worm but hauls water. 1:45 p.m. Time’s up. Given the oppressive heat, it’s been a grind on Lake L, but Shryock has managed to catch six keeper bass; his five biggest weigh 9 pounds, 13 ounces.
Photo: Don Wirth
7 / 8
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE
“My deal today was flipping shallow cover close to deep water,” Shryock told Bassmaster. “I’m not saying that’s the best possible pattern, but it’s the one I felt most comfortable exploiting in my brief time on the water. If I were to fish here tomorrow, I’d spend more time fishing deeper structure, because I’m sure many bass are offshore now. And, I wouldn’t waste nearly as much time frogging those pads.”
WHERE AND WHEN HUNTER SHRYOCK CAUGHT HIS FIVE BIGGEST BASS
1 pound, 1 ounce; watermelon/red 5-inch Berkley Fatty Bottom Hopper finesse worm on 1/8-ounce shaky head; submerged ditch; 8:20 a.m.
3 pounds, 6 ounces; same lure as No. 1; dock; 9:32 a.m.
1 pound, 3 ounces; 7-inch green pumpkin/red Berkley Magnum Fatty Bottom Hopper finesse worm on 1/4-ounce shaky head; submerged brushpile; 10:14 a.m.
1 pound, 2 ounces; green pumpkin/red Berkley Bunker Hawg creature on 4/0 hook with 1/4-ounce sinker; submerged log on point; 11:28 a.m.
3 pounds, 1 ounce; same lure as No. 4; submerged tree; 12:21 p.m.
TOTAL: 9 pounds, 13 ounces