Fort Gibson Lake, Wagoner, OK
I arrived down in Wagoner, Oklahoma just in time to run smack into another visitor in Tropical Storm Isaac. Honestly I was hoping we were in track for lots and lots of rain as I knew most all of Oklahoma was in a severe drought and I was really hoping the water level was going to rise dramatically enough to throw things off a bit and throw a wrench in the plans of the local anglers who have been planting brush piles and things of that nature. As a die hard flipper, the thought of having thousands of miles worth of freshly new flooded timber gave me a war and fuzzy kinda feeling. Unfortunately to myself and the thirst of Oklahoma, Isaac produce about as much water as my ice does when it melts in my cooler and instead of high muddy water we were left with low water and 110 degree temps for the rest of the week and into the tournament.
Practice started slow for me but after about a day and a half I started to figure a few things out. There was a good bunch of quality sized fish that were living real shallow on the “right” kind of rocks or old abandoned foundations. Early in the morning I could get bit by throwing a Biovex Amp Wake (Bone)
and when the sun got high I was having success throwing the old Ft. Gibson standby a Gene Larew Biffle Bug (Sooner Run) on wouldn’t you know it…….a Gene Larew Biffle Hardhead. I’d also throw around a US Custom color Biovex Amp Shallow Crank
and Biovex Kolt Ridge Tail Swimbait (Sexy Shad)
Basically I could couple my Navionics Platinum South Chip with my Lowrance HDS 10 Gen-2 StructureScan and find both these shallow rocks and old foundations. I found a lot of this type of structure in deeper water but for the best of me I could not get bit in anything over about 7 – 8 feet with far more bites coming around 3 – 4 feet.
In practice I did manage to catch a limit each day following these techniques but catching lots of fish was out of the question. Though my size was definitely there, I never fished the same area twice. My thought on that was since I didn’t know the lake that well and I was unable to find a secondary pattern, fishing the same area twice was a loose loose anyways. One, I go there and catch another 4 to 5 pounder. Great, but now I burnt a quality fish. Two, I go there and don’t get bit, this sucks as now I don’t have as much confidence there but will fish it anyways cause I have nowhere else to go. My hope was that though my bite was drastically dwindling by the day, once the derby kicks off I’ll run every area I got bit in before and round out limits. If I could just get a limit, I’d have a real good bag. I knew going into day one that I’d either hero or zero.
Day one and I was off to the races quick being that I drew boat seven. I decided with that number that I was going to start near the take-off and try to pull one or two off of a community hole as I knew these areas would have dozens of boats on them all throughout the day. Sometimes this proves to be a bad call as I left with nothing to show for it and blew that early draw.
I raced around spots but never really got the bites as I knew could happen and finished the day with one fish for a mere 2.8 pounds. Knowing now that I needed to go big day 2, I decided it best to stick with that exact pattern knowing I needed that big bite. After waiting around for that last and final flight I got to work same as I did the day prior with the same result except I had two good ones on and dropped them both. One was easily over four pounds and mistakes that bad were sure to hurt me. Finally mid afternoon I put a skinny 15″ largemouth in the box and then to make matters worse, I also dropped the fourth bite of the day on a Biovex Stangun Spinnerbait that surfaced and threw the bait immediately.
Not the end result I was looking for. In hindsight, I wish I would have thrown the Biovex Kolt Ridge Tail more during the tournament. In practice, I could catch a lot of fish on it but never got many keeper bites. My gut tells me had I thrown it the majority of the day that I would have at least caught three a day if not limits and though I may not have caught grown ones, that kind of result would have surely been good enough for a check and cracking the top 50 in the AOY race.
I was disappointed to say the least. My main goal for my rookie season on the Opens was to finish in the top 50 in the AOY race. Those three dropped fish cost me that. On the bright side I competed well and honestly had a chance in every tournament but just didn’t fit the pieces together all at the same time. Something I definitely learned from and look very forward to doing next season. I’m willing to take my punches on the chin, but with more hard work I hope to soon be the one doing the punching…….or at least fist pumping all the way to the bank!
Up next I got the final Denny’s Super 30 on Lake Minnetonka as well as the NABC World Championship on the Mighty Mississippi River for 20 grand! Not to mention Bri and I’s move to Tennessee! Going to be a busy few weeks to say the least. Wish me luck!
Congratulations to competitor, friend and fellow Minnesotan Seth Feider for finishing 3rd against a stacked field!