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Everstart Championship Re-Cap

Posted by todd on October 31, 2011

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Everstart Championship, Kentucky Lake
November 2011

I've been looking forward to this event all year, knowing that the month of October and Kentucky Lake are both strengths of mine.  I was alot more relaxed going into this event, not having to learn where boat ramps, hotels, restaurants, etc. were located - in fact, it felt like I was going home.  This was the event that swayed me to fish the Everstarts in 2011, and I was ready to give my best effort to capitalize on the no-entry fee Championship. 

My practice period was about as expected with fish in transition to fall patterns.  It was difficult to find groups of fish, with many familiar places producing 1-2 bites at a time.  At some level, the key in many of these events is finding the right quality of fish that will put you in contention to win.  So as with any other event, I started with the mindset of finding the area with the most fish and the area with the most quality fish.  I practiced all over the lake and covered 60 miles of water in order to narrow down where to spend my time during the tournament.  We checked several patterns, from shallow to deep and water in between.  We were blessed with some beautiful 80-degree sunny days, and dad and I were able to have some fun just like we have in so many years past.  I was confident going into Day 1 that a 14-15# bag was in the works. 

I also try to do my homework before events to get a close estimate on how much weight it will take to make the cut and to eventually win.  I had figured this event would take 10-12# each of the first two days to make the Top 20, and an estimated weight of 13-14#/day to win the event.  Boy was I wrong....Interestingly enough, a new phenomenon had emerged just days before the Championship began - the Alabama Rig.  I didn't have one, but knew a few guys that were catching alot of weight in practice on it.  More on that to come....

EVERSTART CHAMPIONSHIP DAY 1

101_0739bAs is the case more times than not in fishing, Day 1 saw completely different conditions than our practice period and the ones who made the proper adjustments would be the ones that had a good first day.  We launched to 46 degrees and rain, teamed with a stiff 10-20 mph north wind.  If you've ever fished Kentucky Lake, you know what a north wind will do to the main lake - it's not fun. 

The newest craze in bass fishing made headlines just a week prior at the Guntersville FLW Tour event, and hundreds of anglers stood in line the night before our event began to get their hands on one.  Yes, I did too.  But I made the commitment to myself that I was going to fish my style until I had a limit in the boat, before I started experimenting with it.  Find out how that turned out in a minute....I had drawn Richard Peek, who was arguably the hottest co-angler on the tour in 2011.  He had won a couple of events and had several high finishes on an un-named bait.  I was about to get a lesson on the Alabama Rig up-close and personal.

101_0737aI ran about 10 miles down the lake to my first spot, a main lake point that is usually good for a quick keeper.  I pulled up and caught a short smallmouth on my first cast with a custom tube poured by Craig Jurgonski with River Rat Tackle LTD.  I hadn't caught a smallie in practice, so I figured the nasty weather may have them up and feeding.  I weeded through another couple of short fish and moved on out a little deeper on the point dragging a Wolfpak Tackle football jig to no avail.  As I'm working deeper, Richard begins throwing the Alabama rig towards the main river channel and a few casts later he hooks up....not with one fish, but two - both solid 2.5 pound largemouth.  I passed it off as a fluke, until he repeated and caught two more on the next cast.  He had me down 4 fish to none in 2 casts, that's how the Alabama Rig works.  I quickly turned the boat and picked up my newly tied Alabama rig and started casting.  The 2nd cast produced my first bite, but with no experience throwing the A-Rig, I pulled it away from the fish.  I made a few more casts and appeared to have spooked the school of fish.  Knowing that there was a group of fish there and how to set up on it now, I pulled up the trolling motor with intentions of coming back later. 

I made a quick move to a shallow area and started throwing my topwater.  Within a few casts, I had a 3 pound largemouth and a 2.5 pound smallmouth in the boat and my nerves had relaxed.  I fished around the area with no bites, and decided to move further down the lake to another shallow area that I had found in practice that had quite a few fish on it.  I pulled in to find 2 other boats fishing the area - one was Chad Prough who eventually made the Top 10 fishing this spot.  I made one pass through the area that the two boats left open and boated a 2.5 pound largemouth on a Red Dirt spinnerbait.  The wind was really starting to blow now, and I decided to make a move to a more protected area where I had found some deep fish. 

101_0733cAfter a quick run, I stopped and caught my 4th and 5th keeper on a crankbait and figured to be in safe with about 12 pounds.  In multi-day tournaments, my dad has always told me that you can't win it on the first day - but you can certainly lose it by not catching a solid bag.  I figured 12 pounds would put me in the Top 30 and another 12 pound day would make the Top 20.  So I relaxed and went to back to work.  As I turned the boat to work down the ledge, Richard fired his Alabama Rig out into the area and hooked up with a nice 3 pound fish.  At that point, I knew I had to learn the A-Rig and Richard put on a clinic from the back of the boat with it.  We worked on that one school of fish for the next 45 minutes, catching fish on almost every cast.  I was only able to cull twice, while Richard was able to cull up quite a bit and approaching 16 pounds.  At that point, I knew there was a huge school of fish that I could make the cut on and chose to leave the area saving some for Day 2. 

I ran around the rest of the day fishing different areas, but was never able to cull up my weight.  At 3:00, we came to weigh in soaking wet from the rain and put the fish on the scales.  My fish weighed 12-10 and landed me in 28th place.  The weights were a little higher than I expected, but I was confident that I could duplicate my weight on Day 2.  Richard weighed in a stout 15-10 and landed in the Top 5.  He went on to finish 2nd in the event, and he really helped me understand the new A-Rig.  He was the ideal co-angler, one that respected my water, stayed out of my way, and fished for the fish that I wasn't trying to catch.  He helped me throughout the day and we had a fun day.  For the co-angler's that are reading this, I have to tell you that I always try to find enough fish for both me and my co-angler's to have good days during the tournament.  This requires days of practice from daylight til dark, and hundreds of dollars in gas and expenses.  The best way to approach the day with a Pro is to show up prepared, offering plenty of gas money, and being respectful of their water and equipment.  There's no suprise that Richard is one of the best on the Tour as he exemplifies how a co-angler should perform, and I hope to draw him again one day. 

My family was in town for the event, so it was off to the house to settle down for some relaxation, dinner, and preparing for Day 2.

EVERSTART CHAMPIONSHIP DAY 2

Day 2 saw the tail end of a major front, lows in the 30's and high's in the 40's with another stiff north, northeast wind.  I had a few offshore ledges that I wanted to fish, but the wind probably wasn't going to allow it this day.  I was in the last flight, so I knew that some of the places I had fished the first day may be taken. 

101_0767DI started on another mainlake point and within 10 minutes had my first keeper on the Alabama-Rig, loaded with Castaic Jerky J 5" swimbaits.  That was just the start I was looking for.  A group of big stripers had moved in on the point and in my mind had probably chased the largemouth off.  So I moved to a shallow area where I had caught two fish the day before.  I fished through the area with no bites, and decided it was time to move down the lake and go to work on the school of fish I had left biting the day before.  To my surprise, no other boats were on the ledge and I was excited to fish it. 

I had slightly mis-underestimated the cut weight, and knew that on Day 2 I need to catch everything I could catch, thinking that a 13-14 pound bag would put me in the Top 20 and get me to Day 3.  I made two passes through the sweet spot without a bite, and immediately knew something had changed.  I moved over to the deeper part of the drop and the screen on my depthfinder lit up with bait fish.  I passed down the deeper side with the Alabama-Rig and before I knew it, my co-angler had put 4 small keepers in the boat on a crankbait.  So I made the adjustment, and ended catching a solid keeper and a 4 pound fish to bump my weight up to 8 pounds.  I knew I was two bites away, and had plenty of time to get it done.  We were able to get the fish up and feeding a couple of times over the course of two hours, but the quality fish that were there on Day 1 seemed to have gotten much smaller.  My co-angler had a small limit, and I was still stuck on 3 fish at noon.  I decided to leave the area, and move to some shallow spots in hopes of putting keeper number 4 in the boat.  But as happens sometimes in fishing, it simply didn't happen.  I ran back to the ledge and fished for another hour to no avail.  At 2PM, I knew I had a couple of hours to pull this thing together and scramble for a couple of bites.  I started running through every place I had caught fish in practice, and finally at 3PM, I boated my 4th keeper on the Red Dirt spinnerbait, pushing my weight to 10+ pounds.  One bite away! 

101_0770CI had worked my way far enough south that the next closest place I had where I thought I could catch one was 10 miles away either north or south.  As I ran out onto the mainlake, the north wind had really started to blow and I was forced to make a decision on whether to make a 10 mile run or stay put.  The waves got bigger as I approached the Paris Landing bridge at 3:20, and I was due in at 4:10.  I stopped under the bridge to collect my thoughts and let the livewells fill up with water while taking a few waves over the bow.  I knew that the run south would only leave me with 10-15 minutes to fish, and being in the last flight meant that there would be no boats following me back in case of a breakdown.  Unfortunately, I let that sway my decision and decided to make a quick run into a protected bay thinking that I could scrape up one more fish in the last 45 minutes.  I fished through the area twice fruitlessly, and eventually time was up. 

101_0775AWe made it back to weigh in with a minute to spare, and my fish hit the scales at 10-12.  Just over 2 pounds from making the top 20, and one fish short of a limit.  I'll be honest, I was pretty disappointed.  I had found enough fish in another area of the lake to give me the confidence to make the Top 10 and chose not to go to them on Day 2 and saving them for Day 3.  It turned out to be a critical error, along with not staying on the school of fish on Day 1 to try to cull up my weight.  Interestingly, I always seem to learn the most from the tournaments that I feel close to doing well in and make a few mistakes along the way.  This was one of those events.  I finished in 37th place out of over 170 boats, and took the night to let the season and the Championship sink in.  I had so many people pulling for me in this event, and I felt like I had let some of them down.  At the same time, it occurred to me that in my first full season on a Pro circuit I had finished in the Top 40 in 4 out of 5 events.  Without the guys at Red Dirt Baits, I wouldn't have even been able to fish the last two events.  I owe alot to them and am grateful for their willingness to step up to help me.  It was a solid year nonetheless, and there is alot to look forward to in 2012. 

Look for my Championship Re-Cap later this week, along with some exciting news coming soon about 2012!

EVERSTART CHAMPIONSHIP RECAP

ToddWeighin37th place at the no-entry-fee EverStart Championship at Kentucky Lake - not exactly what I had planned in mind, but a good ending to a very consistent season full of learning experiences.  Decision-making is paramount at this level, and only experience and confidence can help a person make better decisions on the water.  Overcoming adversity, and believing in yourself and the decisions you make - I learn more about that every event.  As always, I've kept a detailed journal from each event and take time to reflect on opportunities for improvement that I can take with me to my next tournament.  I've worked hard to become more well-rounded with different techniques and different seasonal patterns that have paid huge dividends, only missing the money in two weekend events all year and none since April.  Fishing is a series of highs and lows, and momentum can give an angler the confidence to try something he'd never considered possible before.  That's where I'm at mentally....

Next up for me - there are some major decisions to be made.  Qualifying for the 2012 FLW Tour through the EverStart Series, I have an opportunity to fish at the highest level of professional bass fishing with FLW Outdoors. How exciting!  I'm proud of that accomplishment alone, and many would love to have that opportunity next year.  Yet it's a major commitment - $24,000 in entry fees and a total including expenses to exceed $40,000 for the six Majors alone.  Without sponsorship and partnerships, it's a bad business move to go into without the right support - a move that I've seen many make and fail.  It's a family decision, and one that cannot be taken lightly without the right people supporting me.  There's a lot of planning on the agenda for the upcoming weeks, looking at 2012 schedules and calendars and making some important decisions.

BaitsIn an individual sport where selfishness sometimes gets the best of us, I've come to learn that this is about much more than me.  There are dozens of people that have stepped up to help me in many different ways this season, and I'm humbled and grateful for it.  I also owe a huge thank you to my sponsors in 2011 that have helped me in so many different ways - Wolfpak Tackle, Red Dirt Baits, Reaction Strike, Castaic, Eco Pro Tungsten, The Outdoorsman Sport Shop, and River Rat Tackle.  Before ever landing my first sponsor, I made a commitment to only represent companies that I believed in and people that I respected in the highest regard.  I'm proud to represent these companies that have a huge heart and make some great products that make my job on the water much easier.

Below is a recap of the gear from Kentucky Lake:

  • Tube Gear:
    7” Medium Fast spinning rod and reel
    10# Fluorocarbon line
    ¼ head with River Rat Tackle green pumpkin orange, dark pumpkinseed tubes
  • Spinnerbait Gear:
    6'10" Medium heavy rod, 7:1 reel
    15# Fluorocarbon line
    1/2 and 3/8 oz. Red Dirt Baits Tandem Series spinnerbaits - white, smokey shad, and chartruese sweet shad
  • Crankbait Gear:
    7' Medium rod, 6:1 reel
    10# Fluorocarbon Line
    Strike King Series 5, 6 Sexy Shad
    Reaction Strike XSD 80, Ayu and Ghost Minnow
  • Topwater Gear:
    6'10”  Medium rod, 7:1 reel
    15# Monofilament line
    Zara Spook sexy shad
  • Alabama Rig Gear:
    7'6”  Heavy rod, 6:1 reel
    65# Braid
    The Original Alabama Rig
    Castaic 5" Jerky J Swim Ayu and Strike King Shadalicious 4.5" Sexy Shad

You can find these baits on the shelves of The Outdoorsman Sport Shop in Greenwood, IN or online at www.reactionstrike.com, www.reddirtbaits.com, www.wolfpaktackle.com and www.ecoprotungsten.com.

ToddChildAs I've said before, to all of you following here and everyone that continues to find me around our local lakes, thank you for all of your encouragement.  You’ve all made this year an absolute blessing and I appreciate you.  Publicly journaling this season has been exciting, embarrassing, humbling, and encouraging all at the same time.  Hopefully someone has been able to take something from my journals, whether good or bad, and use my experiences to learn from.  Our God is awesome, and the creation and sport that we all have grown to cherish was given to us by Him.  How amazing is that!

There's a lot of work to be done to take the next step, and if God has this planned I trust Him to reveal the path where He needs me next.  Stay tuned for some announcements later this fall.  Until next time….God bless and bass wishes!