Lunker Lessons: Keith Poche on Wheeler Lake

This one was a little different, for me anyway. I found a 20- to 30-acre pond off the main lake with deep water and a ton of structure and cover in practice. It was hard to get into but looked real good. I figured it would produce a couple of bigger fish so I left it alone until the tournament started.

On Thursday I worked my way back into it and discovered a small, shallow bay — about an acre overall with no more than 2 feet of water anywhere — that I hadn’t seen before. It was super-clear; a spring in the area kept it cool (79-80 degrees); and it was mostly covered in thick milfoil. I say mostly because there were bare holes scattered around that looked like the perfect ambush points for bigger fish.

There were dozens of giant residential bass in the 4- to 7-pound range and hundreds of gizzard shad swimming around those holes in the grass. They were everywhere. I knew I had found the mother lode. The problem was I couldn’t get the better bass to bite. I threw just about everything in my boat but all I could catch were little ones.

On Friday I had the same experience. It was frustrating to say the least. Still, I knew there were good fish in there so I returned on Saturday. After hundreds of casts and lots of trial and error I finally found a bait and retrieve that was successful.

I Texas rigged a weightless NetBait, 5-inch Salt Lick (a Senko style plastic stickbait) in green pumpkin and, after making long casts, worked it so that it darted back and forth real fast. Then I’d kill it just before it left the bare spot. They absolutely slammed it. I don’t know why they liked that bait and retrieve combination so much but they sure did.

My rod was a G. Loomis 7-foot, 6-inch model (medium-heavy action). I used an Abu Garcia Revo STX (7.1:1 gear ratio) spooled with 12-pound-test Seaguar fluorocarbon line. This tackle combination was heavy enough to handle big fish but light enough to make long casts with a weightless lure and deal with the clear, shallow water.

There are a couple of things I learned from this experience. First, it’s important to look for secluded water even when you’re fishing an Elite event. There’s usually someplace the other guys didn’t find that you can fish. Sometimes that’ll make a big difference.

The second thing is that you can make fish bite if you work at it. I was about as frustrated as you can get working those fish Thursday and Friday. But, I stayed with it and finally found something that worked. If you know the fish are there stay with them and change lures and tactics. Don’t quit just because your favorite bait isn’t working.

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