2012 Bassmaster Central Open #1
Lake Lewisville, Lewisville, TX
As I prepared for the first tournament of the Bassmaster Central Opens season on Lake Lewisville, I was expecting the worst. In the 15 years that I’ve lived in Texas, I’d never even considered fishing the lake prior to this tournament. Everything I had heard about the lake was bad. The locals even have their own special names for the place, like “LoservilIe” and “Sewerville.” The less clever simply refer to it as “the big old mud hole.” Needless to say, it’s not where I would have chosen to start my Bassmaster Open career.
To make things even more interesting, it started raining about two weeks before the tournament. And it kept raining. Then it rained some more. This was good news for an area that seems to be in a perpetual state of drought, but I knew it was going to muck things up even worse than usual at Lewisville.
Within a few days, the lake level rose by about four feet (it was seven feet below normal pool when the rain started). Then came another bout of rain and the lake came up even further, to just one foot below normal pool. This really is a good thing. All of Texas needs the rain and it’s great to see any lake get back to its normal level. But just a week before the opening tournament? The timing was horrible. The already dirty lake was made even dirtier. The entire body of water looked like chocolate milk, from the mouths all the way down to the dam.
After the rain came the wind and the cold fronts. By tournament time, temps were peaking between 40 and 50 degrees and dipping all the way down to the 20s. These conditions are not conducive to good bass fishing or positive attitudes. I was certain the Florida strain bass in Lake Lewisville were reacting to current conditions even worse than I was.
Pre-Practice Day One
I headed to Lewisville to get an early start and was on the water for two days before official practice began. Despite the conditions, I was thrilled to be preparing for my first ever Bassmaster Open. What I found in those first couple days raised my spirits even further and gave me hope that this tournament might turn out better than I originally thought.
Within two hours of fishing the lake for the very first time, I had hooked two nice largemouth bass – a 6-pounder and a 4-pounder. At that point, I thought “Holy cow! I’m onto something!”
I caught both of these fish in areas that had rocks and flooded bean sticks in about four feet of water. I felt like the rocks were pretty critical because they seemed to be holding some heat. Not a lot of heat – just enough to raise water temperature by about one degree. Unfortunately, there weren’t a lot of areas with all the criteria I was looking for (rocks, bean sticks, 4-ft. deep, one degree warmer than surrounding water), but I was determined to find as many such spots as I could!
I probed each potential new spot with a ½-ounce Strike King Pure Poison Swim Jig (Green Pumpkin) that I was casting about with a Dobyns Rods model SS 735C. By the end of the day, I had marked three promising areas on my Humminbird and was pumped to see what I could locate the next day.
Once I got off the water, I linked up with fellow angler and great friend Josh Douglas and we headed to my buddy Carlos’ house, were we’d be staying for the week. Thanks again, Carlos and Denise!
Pre-Practice Day Two
I awoke to a cold, windy morning and an ice-covered boat. It was almost enough to send me back to bed. But sleeping in wasn’t going to get me to the Bassmaster Classic and I knew it. I told myself that the road to the Classic is paved with days like these – the days that separate the guys who “want it” from the guys who “won’t stop until they get it.” So I bundled up and decided I’d be the latter. I wasn’t going to let a little cold weather stand between me and earning my way into the biggest show in bass fishing.
The first order of business was to bend the hooks on my lures and check in on the areas I found the day before. I wanted to know if the fish were still there, but I didn’t want to stick anymore until they counted.
Within just five casts, I had my answer. What I estimate to be about 3-pound bass picked up the bait and held on long enough that I could easily have pinned him if it had been a tournament day. After a similar result at my second sweet spot, I was convinced my fish were still home and decided to fire up the Humminbird and do some graphing in search of deep fish I could target the next day.
All in all, it was a solid day of practice and I felt pretty confident going into official practice.
The night before the start of official practice, yet another cold front blew into the area. The following morning, the winds were up and temperature was down as I headed straight for deep water to find the fish that weren’t quite ready to move up. My Navionics HotMaps helped my pick out some likely deep water points and drop offs that I just couldn’t have found any other way. And as I motored over them, the Humminbird units confirmed that the fish were indeed stacked up on the first drop off, staging, waiting for the right conditions to move up and spawn.
But, as any angler will tell you, finding them and catching them are two different things. And these fish had lockjaw! The only way to get a bite seemed to be to hit them right on the nose with the bait. I was able to watch the bass on the graph as they followed the bait off the bottom, but they just wouldn’t eat it! It was fun and frustrating all at the same time.
Nonetheless, I had found some fish and had a game plan. I was as confident as I could be even though the idea of “zeroing” for the tournament seemed like a very real possibility.
Tournament Day 1
I was boat 58 of 178 as the tournament officially got underway. I felt like I had a good chance to get to my first spot with such a low starting number and so many other competitors beating the bank.
As it turned out, that first area would be good – but not for me. We weren’t on that spot 10 minutes before my co-angler hooked into a 5-lb 10-ounce largemouth that proved to be the only fish to go into my livewell during the entire tournament.
I’m always glad to see my co-anglers do well, but I have to admit it – that fish really hurt. All the more because the distinct markings on the head and tail had me convinced it was the very same fish I had caught just a few days earlier.
Just the same, I continued to fish hard, hoping to grind out any bite I could. With the tough conditions and the large field of competitors, I knew that just one fish could make all the difference. And in the end, it did. My co-angler wound up leading the day with that one fish.
Tournament Day 2
On day two I was boat 121, which gave me plenty of time to sit there in the cold and think about a tough day of fishing ahead! As we headed into the 30 mph winds to run to my first spot, my co-angler and I were pretty happy to be riding in a Skeeter! My ZX225 tamed the rough water beautifully and provided a relatively smooth, dry ride all the way to my first spot.
As we pulled up on the area where we’d start the day (same spot as the day before), I couldn’t help but get a little excited by what I saw – Blue Herrings prowling the banks and bass flipping in the shallows! Today might just be a better day!
But it just wasn’t’ to be. About 5,000 casts later, I hadn’t felt so much as a nibble. The fish were in the area and they were even moving around. But they just would not bite. Even so, I decided to hunker down and stick with the area rather than brave the high winds and cold temperatures to go to a place where the fishing wasn’t likely to be any better.
We finished the day by hitting some areas close to the weigh in, but still didn’t turn up anything at all. In the end, I blanked. But so did 60-percent of the field, including some pretty big-name pro anglers.
I may not have proved that I can hang with the big boys just yet, but I feel pretty good about having practiced hard and fished hard for every minute of the tournament. It would have been a lot easier to pack it in and stay in bed. But like I said before, nobody sleeps in on their way to the Classic. And getting to the Bassmaster Classic is what this is all about for me.
Next stop along the way is “The Rock.” I’ll see you there in April!
On A Personal Note
I want to thank my buddy Josh Douglas. Josh is a Biovex pro, a fellow angler, and a good friend. It was great to finally get to hang out, tell stories and laugh. It sure made a hard tournament a whole lot easier to take!
Also, Carlos and Denise – you guys rock! The way you welcomed Josh and me into your home was just above and beyond. It was awesome to get off the water knowing there was a hot, home-cooked meal waiting for us. The red beans and rice will be remembered for a long time to come!
Of course, I also need to thank my family for all the support. I know it’s hard when I’m gone. To my wife, I’m truly am thankful for your support.
Finally, thanks once again to my sponsors for supporting me in my dream of becoming an Elite Series Pro.