One strong storm can easily turn a prime river into a raging nightmare. Weighing my options, I placed all faith in a stretch of river that had yielded my previous personal best spotted bass. If the storm hit, however, I would be fishing frothy chocolate milk. This tourney was anything but certain.
I drove to Gadsden, AL Friday night for the captains meeting at Back40 Brewery, and sampled some exceptional brews. I strongly recommend the Fencepost Ale. After Drew laid down the rules, we hurried to a remote camping spot and strung up hammocks for the night. With my mind amped up over the tourney and the 43°F air temps, I couldn't sleep a wink. I ended up crawling to my car and dozing in the front seat for a couple hours before launch. Thoughts of five-pounders and a swimbait bite had my mind running at full tilt.
The cold morning started predictably slowly, and by 10:00am I didn't even have a respectable limit. Four hours after launch, I rolled a chartreuse-white spinnerbait over a submerged laydown, and the big bass award-winning fish pounced it. The 20.5” fat and battle-scarred river spot pulled the Boga down to the 4.5lb mark. I was exhilarated! This was one of my top-five biggest spotted bass, and it came on tourney day.
The day was a mental grind, producing some lunkers but with only sporadic action and few fish holding in predictable locations. Two of my three-fish limit came from places I had never fished, with lulls of thirty minutes to an hour between catches. My pattern was straight junk fishing, using a rotation of spinnerbait, chatterbait-swimbait combo, and Bull Shad. Higher water levels also had the fish scattered and out of their predicable locations. Hookups came in skinny water, deep pools, bluff walls, tight to banks, submerged wood, and current seams. Basically, I had to fish everything in sight with multiple presentations to find those small pockets of bass.
At 1:00pm I had a decent limit of 54", but I needed one more kicker to feel good about it. About thirty minutes above the takeout, my cast kissed a bluff wall and a giant, 19" 5lb spotted football crushed my swimbait. I had just dumped two keepers on the swimbait, so my heart was in my throat the entire fight. I quickly got her close to the boat and extended the net as far as I could stretch. Its reach was just a few inches shy - and she gave one last, agonizing head shake before flipping over into the net. A huge wave of emotion flooded my senses. The kicker upgraded my limit to 57.75" and I knew I had a strong chance at winning. The five-pounder was also my new personal best by weight. I couldn’t believe it. I just caught two of my all-time personal bests during a high stakes tournament!
I weighed in a little early and had by far the biggest limit, but true champions like Roky Ly, Lance Coley, and Tim Perkins had yet to weigh in. Never, ever think about winning until the top guns check in. Fortunately, I had the top bag and took first place by a five-inch margin, the big fish award, and claimed a brand new Jackson Kayak “Coosa” as my prize. Not only was it a huge victory, but I managed to bag two of my biggest ever spotted bass on tourney day.