By Steve Graf
Not all tournaments are tough and not all tournaments are as hot as a fish fryer. BUT THIS ONE WAS! This event was held on Sam Rayburn in August which is the toughest month for bass fishing. As you have read in one my previous articles on July 16th of this year “Why I hate Summers…Now” this tournament reminded me of why I hate summertime fishing period. Temperatures reached the upper 90’s all three days but we got a little reprieve on Thursday’s pre-fishing with an occasional thunderstorm rolling across Sam Rayburn.
This event was a grind in all phases of summertime fishing, as the bite was super tough. Normally, summer events are won in the first two hours of the day, but we were under a full moon so that gave us a good mid-day bite. For me, I thought I had a great starting spot based on my practice the day before, as I had found a good group of bass that were schooling (feeding) at daylight. It was an area just off the main lake with a great supply of baitfish. But this, as it turned out, was not the case. My schooling fish disappeared or decided not to show themselves as I and my co-angler OJ (not the OJ your thinking) left this area after hour one with zero fish in the live well.
This is why you scout(pre-fish)! So, I had to switch to plan B and do something different. My next stop would be the 147 bridge which always has fish on it, but the bridge seems to be more of a timing thing. If you’re there at the right time, you can fill your live well pretty quick with good keepers. One thing that makes the 147-bridge productive, is if the Corp of Engineers is pulling water at the dam. This creates current around the lake and under the bridge which makes the baitfish more active, making the bass bite so much better. As we pulled up to the bridge, schooling bass showed themselves and I was able to catch my first two keepers of the day on a top water bait called a Yellow Magic. Schooling fish a lot of times are smaller in size and are not always keeper fish, but every once in a while, you can get lucky and catch a few good ones.
By now it’s close to 10 o’clock but I’m not in panic mode just yet, as I’ve got two descent fish in the boat and my co-angler caught a keeper fish as well, which would eventually keep him from zeroing. So, I pulled up the trolling motor and headed to an area where I had found some good keeper bass on cypress trees. It was a stretch of cypress trees that seemed to have a bass on every one of them the day before. With only two bass in the boat, I immediately started catching solid keeper fish (2 pounders) and got my limit of five in the boat by 11 o’clock. I actually culled one of my smaller fish as well. So now I’m ready to make a move and head for deeper water where I felt I had better fish in twenty feet of water.
This was an area I was a little excited about because I had shaken off what I felt was three or four really good fish in practice the day before. One thing I’ve learned from a good friend of mine who is one of the best anglers I know, is that when scouting for a tournament, it’s a good idea to not hook fish two days before a tournament. So rather than use a hook on the big 10-inch worm I was throwing, I used what is known as a screw lock. This way you can fish the worm, but you don’t have to worry about hooking the fish. The bass still bite the worm, therefore revealing their location, allowing you to come back and catch them on tournament day. So, after a few casts, I set the hook on a 3.7-pound bass which got me a little excited. Ten minutes later I catch another 3 plus pound bass, but this would be the last fish I would catch off this spot, as the bite shut down.
So, with twelve pounds of fish in the live well, I still needed bigger fish in order to get a check. So, I decided to go back to the area where I started that morning because I felt the fish were there, but maybe they would bite better in the afternoon, which is not uncommon when you’re fishing under a full moon. The prime-time bite for this day based off the Isolunar chart, was from 11:00 AM till 2:00 PM. This chart has proven itself to be very accurate over my years of fishing. Now this does not guarantee you’ll catch fish at this time, but I try and make sure I’m in a good area during the prime feeding period. As I returned to this area, I noticed the baitfish were a little more active. So, I started fishing cypress trees located on a small point. On about the fourth tree, I pitched my V&M Baby Swamp Hog and my line slowly started moving off the tree. I knew it was a really good fish as I set the hook on a 4.96-pound bass that now gave me over sixteen pounds, which landed me in 2nd place for this event.
This turned out to be a great event for me, as things came together pretty much the way it played out in practice. Again, this is why you scout, because you never know how things will play out on tournament day. Oh, and don’t forget about the screw lock tip; this is a great way to scout and locate fish without hooking them. Till next time, good luck, good fishing and don’t forget to set the hook!