2016 GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest presented by Choctaw Casino Resort
Bassfest kicks off the summer season for the Elite Series!
Playing in the mud
If you’ve been following Bassmaster LIVE, you know that the lake conditions we’re dealing with here at Lake Texoma in the GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest are flood-like.
It’s part of being a pro angler and fishing around the country. You have to be ready to deal with whatever Mother Nature deals you.
This week she dealt us a doozy with high muddy water that began dropping rapidly.
We’ve faced similar situations over the years. I remember a Bassmaster event earlier in my career on Buggs Island when the lake was extremely high. We also had to deal with it on the Mississippi River a couple of times.
You can’t let that get into your head. You simply have to keep up with the changing water levels and make daily adjustments, if not hourly.
Years ago, we didn’t have the Internet to check up-to-the-minute lake levels. All we could do was get the schedules of when dam operators planned to pull water. We had to fish by the seat of our pants.
And while we do have more timely information we can utilize, it’s just as important to adjust to what you see happening on the lake.
Here, for example, the lake was rapidly rising during practice and was every bit of 9 feet above summer pool. When competition began, it started dropping and likely will drop a foot a day.
Most anglers know that when the water is rising, bass move to the bank and when it is falling they pull out. But that isn’t always the case. I’ve learned over the years that fish will react differently from one lake to another.
For example, the bass in the Buggs Island event stayed in the bushes when the water was falling until their backs were out of the water!
And on Sam Rayburn during a spawning tournament, the minute the water dropped an inch the bass fled the bushes and schooled out in the lake along a grass line.
Bass’ natural reaction is to move into the flooded cover and creeks when the lake is coming up. But muddy water can change that, because I believe they don’t like that silted water in their gills.
So, if you can find clear water in muddy, flood conditions that can be key. It’s really important in river systems, where I’ve found fish will stack up in a clear corner when the rest of the lake is muddy.
Having said that, you have to factor in the body of water. If this were Table Rock where the water is always clear, the fish would be freaked out by the clarity. But at places like Oklahoma’s Lake Eufaula and here at Texoma, the fish are accustomed to dirty water and can tolerate it better.
So, the key in this event is to move and adjust with the ever-changing water conditions.
The fact the Top 12 after Friday will have Saturday off adds another element to the strategy. The guy who wins here will be the one who figures it out the quickest.
Me? Well, I had a terrible practice and was pleasantly surprised with my first day catch. I know to make adjustments every day and it’s challenging.
On the other hand, I love tournaments like this that make you pay attention to every detail and adjust on the fly. I learn something every day and am amazed at how much I’ve learned about bass habits this year.
It’s what I live for and why I love tournament fishing so much.
And like I say, “It’s all about the attitude!”
a look at BASSFest
It’s time to go back to work.
I’ve enjoyed a festive week, celebrating Memorial Day weekend with family and friends, attended my sons’ high school graduation, sat in on their college orientation and attended a half dozen graduation parties for family and friends.
I was very fortunate that our Elite schedule broke in time to give me the opportunity to see my twins, Jackson and Nicholas, graduate from high school, and now they’re prepping for college life at Grand Valley State in Grand Rapids, Mich.
But now it’s business as usual and time to focus on Lake Texoma, site of next week’s GEICO Bassmaster BASSfest.
The tournament should be interesting as Lake Texoma will offer a level playing field. No one should have an advantage because the lake has been flooded most of the spring. It’s a totally different lake from what we expected this time of year.
It’s more than 4 feet above summer pool with more rain expected. Under normal conditions we could expect the fish to be in deep summer patterns, but the high water will put a number of patterns in play. The fish could be anywhere, and next week’s practice will be critical.
It will be a challenging event which has been the case the entire 2016 Elite Series season. But when you put the best bass anglers in the world on any body of water, someone always figures out where to catch the quality fish.
I’ve only been to Texoma once and that was early in my career for a Bassmaster Invitational. I didn’t pre-fish before the cut-off, but the lake was 7 feet high at that time. I’ll just make the most of my three practice days and do my best to get dialed in.
The lake is best known for its striped bass fishing but it has a good population of largemouth and a few smallmouth and spotted bass. My hunch is that if a guy is to win, he’ll do it with largemouth.
BASSfest has become the second largest event of the year for touring pros (behind the Classic) and is extremely popular among the fans. It’s a festival atmosphere with weigh-ins conducted at the Choctaw Casino Resort in Durant.
The event includes a huge Expo that attracts more than 40 exhibitors who will be offering giveaways and fun activities for the entire family. There is no admission fee.
Everyone fishes Wednesday and Thursday and the field will be cut to 50 on Friday. No one fishes Saturday, a day when most of the Elite pros will be at the Expo conducting how-to seminars and signing autographs at their respective sponsor booths.
I’ll be there the entire time to meet the public at my sponsors’ booths.
On Sunday, the Top 12 leaders from Friday will compete in the finals.
There will be other fishing activities as well.
More than 40 college teams will compete on Lake Murray in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Wild Card presented by Bass Pro Shops Thursday, Friday and Saturday with the winner earning a berth in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship.
Also on Saturday the Bassmaster High School All American Fishing team will participate in a special tournament on Lake McGee. Each of the All-Americans will be paired with an Elite Series pro and weigh in at the Casino Resort.
As you can see, BASSfest offers a true festival atmosphere with lots of things for fans to see and do.
For Elite pros, it’s a critical tournament as the winner gets an automatic berth into next year’s Bassmaster Classic. It’s also a time to earn valuable Bassmaster Classic points as we head down the stretch with an eye on the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of Year Championship in September.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!
Greg Hackney - 66-2
1. 15-10, 2. 20-2, 3. 12-7
Brandon Card - 64-3
1. 16-0, 2. 10-8, 3. 16-9
Gerald Swindle - 60-6
1. 14-11, 2. 17-10, 3. 16-0
Chad Morgenthaler - 57-9
1. 19-6, 2. 11-2, 3. 13-0
Ott DeFoe - 56-11
1. 18-5, 2. 12-0, 3. 11-5
Casey Ashley - 56-8
1. 20-1, 2. 14-9, 3. 17-5
Rick Clunn - 56-3
1. 14-0, 2. 15-6, 3. 14-10
Dean Rojas - 56-2
1. 12-14, 2. 15-8, 3. 12-6
Jordan Lee - 54-10
1. 12-6, 2. 14-2, 3. 14-12
Randall Tharp - 54-2
1. 14-6, 2. 12-2, 3. 16-1
Keith Poche - 53-15
1. 16-0, 2. 12-15, 3. 12-7
Bradley Roy - 53-4
1. 9-15, 2. 18-12, 3. 13-8
Adrian Avena - 40-12
1. 14-9, 2. 11-15, 3. 14-4
Chris Zaldain - 40-11
1. 14-11, 2. 12-11, 3. 13-5
David Walker - 40-7
1. 16-8, 2. 11-0, 3. 12-15
Kevin VanDam - 37-13
1. 15-9, 2. 9-13, 3. 12-7
History & Notes;
Day 1: Casey Ashley - 6-15
Day 3: Randall Tharp - 7-6
Day 4: Brandon Card - 5-3