Bassmaster Eastern Open #2 – Lake Chickamauga
Stop #2 of the Bassmaster Eastern Opens was the tournament on the schedule I was most excited for. I had fished it once before in the Southern Opens as co-angler. One thing to remember about fishing a lake on the Tennessee River system, is that the size minimum for largemouth is 15 inches, 12inches for spots, and 18 inches for smallmouth. The 15″ minimum can present a problem when trying to come up with 5 fish over 15″.
During practice my thought was to give 1 full day to fishing offshore looking for a ledge bite. In years past, for the conditions that we were presented. The ledge bite was where most big bags had come from. After a full day of trying to conform to the local pattern, I decided that I needed to find something more in my comfort zone. I wend to grinding banks, bluff walls and docks. My first fish was an 18″ largemouth on a chatterbait. Things were looking promising as I found a pattern for 15″ – 18″ fish being staged towards the outer edges of the pockets and creeks. My most productive approach was fishing lay-downs and structure in about 3-4 ft of water with a wacky rigged Senko. It was becoming clear I needed to figure out how to get a bigger bite. Most of practice the flow was fishing pretty steady through the lake so I moved to some main lake bluff walls. First wall I pulled up to I caught a fish bouncing a crankbait off the rocks. Pulled up to another wall and caught my best fish of Practice, a 6 pounder! Went to another wall and my practice partner jumped one off about 5 pounds. I figured I found my big bite pattern.
Tournament Day 1
I pulled up on first spot on day one, I was able to catch a few fish on a crankbait quick but the problem was that they were all between 14 – 15 inches. I then went through several other spots catching small fish or not getting a bite in most areas. I knew they were going to stop the flow of the river but did not know that it would drop the water level about 1.5ft overnight. Most of the cover I had been fishing was mostly out of the water and the fish had moved. I didn’t figure that out till a walking bridge I was fishing had about a foot to 2 foot less water under it. It was late in the day but I made an adjustment and started fishing the deepest docks I could find just outside of pockets. Just before weigh in I was able to find 1 keeper 15″ bass.
Tournament Day 2
After learning about the water situation day 1, I decided to scrap my game plan and go looking for deeper water. I threw crankbaits down the bank to catch a bunch of smaller fish. I finally decided to slow down and fish a shaky head with a trick worm on deeper rock walls. I was only able to boat 2 spotted bass on day 2 for a finish of 205th place with with a combined total of 4lbs 5oz for the tournament.
This was by far the most humbling tournament experience I have had. Going in, I thought for sure that I was on the pattern to have about 18lbs a day. One overlooked factor changed everything. If I would have looked a little harder in practice for some consistent deeper water, I think it would have changed my outcome to be able to salvage 10-12lbs a day. Looking forward to the next open at the James River in Richmond, VA!