After missing last years TOC because of TBF Northern Divisionals, I was anxious to get back and have a strong showing on the river. I was able to put in 3 pretty long days of practice Sat, Sun & Mon leading up to the tournament. I spent Saturday on 5a, Sunday on 6, and then back to 5A based on a stronger 1st day on that pool. I eliminated Pool 7 based on the distance, familiarity with pool and distance to travel versus reward.
Overall my practice was quite productive, I had a nice mix of main river, rocks, sand, banks, wood and slop, with an emphasis on backwater slop and pads. Being this was a no cull tournament, I tried to focus on where I thought I could get 2lb plus bites and try not to mess with just keepers. My top baits in practice were an Evolve Frog, BassTEK 1/2oz Jig in Okee Craw, Sweet Beavers and white swim jig paired with Evolve Darkstar swimmer as a trailer.
I skipped the final practice day on Tuesday to be home for my kids first day of school and returned for Wednesday evening meeting. I drew out boat 6 and convinced my partner to use my boat and lock up to 5A. As we got to the lock, it was obvious we would have company, as about 45 of the 65 boats in the tournament locked up first thing on Thursday as well. We ran to a wind dam and sand drop area towards the top of the pool. We both quickly started catching fish on topwaters and a swim jig, but the keepers were far and few between, even the keepers I caught, I quickly chucked back without a 2nd thought, as I was looking for a certain quality of fish. Although my partner did box one nice smallmouth and a 15″ largemouth on the first spot.
From there I moved to adjacent large area with duckweed and I did end up keeping a decent fat 15″ largemouth on my frog off a tree surrounded with duck weed. From there I ran to a pad area, where we both missed a few bites and soon after that I boxed a really nice fish on my BassTEK jig off a piece off wood. From there I hit a key little point with duckweed and deer tongue to put keeper #3 in the box off the frog. The next bank produced no keepers for me, but the 3rd keeper for my partner. After that we went to a larger slop area that I had, once we got there it happened pretty quickly, both of us filling our limits with 3lb plus fish on my frog and partner a jig.
We locked back early and weighed in at 1:45 even though our flight was not due until 3pm. My 4 fish ended up at just over 11lbs which put me in 7th place out of 135 after day 1.
My Day 2 partner was all game to take my boat and run my fish as well. With out 4th flight take-off, we made a single stop on pool 6 where I caught a nice 2.5lb fish on a Yellow Magic popper on my first cast. We worked the area awhile longer, but neither of us put a keeper in the boat. From there we locked up to 5A by ourselves in the lock and went directly to area where it went down on day 1. The action was pretty fast and furious, but the size lacked that of the previous afternoon. I caught bass after bass on my Nervous Walker Frog and flipping beavers, but I was careful to be selective and only fish 2.5lbs or larger went into the box.
At about 1:30 I boxed my 4th quality keeper on the Nervous walker and soon after my partner got his 3rd fish in the well. I told him I would hit a couple key points on the way back to the dam, where we could both get good fish, but my top concern was getting back to Pool 6. The very first point we hit, I stuck my big fish of the day which was 3.38lb smallie, there was no way I was throwing that fish back, so I was done fishing. The next point produced a chunky largemouth for my partner and to the lock we went.
My partner had a couple rip rap spots on 6 that we hit and it didn’t take him long to put another nice largemouth in the boat, so we were both done. We took our time getting to the levee and let the current flight check in before we checked in at 3:35 almost a full hour before we were due in. My best 4 went about 11.5lbs on day 2 which put me in 2nd when I weighed and ended up in 3rd when it was all done, just under a pound out of 1st place.
My club also finished 1st as a team as well, so that added to the hardware collected at this event and the chance to fish the BASS Nation Northern Divisional sometime next August on Patoka Lake in Indiana. Find full team and individual results here.
One of the biggest keys to my success this week was my frog setup, it kind of starts and ends with the Nervous Walker from Evolve, casts a mile, gets bit and the super soft body hooks up every time. The other part of the setup was my rod/reel/line setup. If you haven’t tried the Sunline FX2 Froggin Braid, it is ridiculous, spool that up on a high speed Curado and for me the Dobyns Champion 805 Flip/Punch rod is where it’s at when it comes to froggin’ big flats on the Mississippi River. With my setup I can reach fish on long casts with out spooking them and get them in without a problem.
My other key setup was flipping beavers on 1/2 – 1oz Tungsten sinkers, 4/0 VMC Flipping Hooks and 20lbs Fluoro. For this my Dobyns DX745 and Dobyns DX795 Flip are perfect and I am really falling in love with the New Chronarch Ci4, sweet flipping reel!