Lake Gaston VA Elite 70 Classic: Changing Conditions Prove Tough

I stepped out the door of Room 208 of the Lake Gaston Inn into a scene from Arthur Doyle’s 1902, “The Hound of the Baskervilles”. The fog filled the air with less than ten feet of visibility, and I imagined Dr. Watson and Sherlock Holmes discussing an attempted murder at the hands of a supernatural hound sitting atop the Skeeter Bass Boat just out of visibility. Fiction aside, the cooling during the Fall transition makes for an eerie 4am wakeup call. I warm a premade biscuit of Bacon, Egg and Cheese, and collect my pre-laced rods from my A.R.E Rod Pods. It is Saturday morning, the first day of the VA Elite 70 Classic on Lake Gaston.


Virgil’s practice stud

After placing the boat in the water, I make sure to retie each lure and lubricate my line with some Reelsnot. As takeoff draws near, I begin to visualize our day on the water. Of course, our visions many times far exceed the reality of the situation. Day one began by losing a keeper bass that came up and spit the hook just out of the reach of the net. As the day wore on, I continued to boat fish, but unfortunately the 2’s, 3’s and 4 pound fish had been replaced by fish shy of length minimum; spot after spot, no different, the same outcome.


The wind failed to blow on the first day of the VA Elite Classic, conditions along with a transition from overcast to sunny that had turned the bite off for us anyway. Excuses aside, we varied locations between the main river and creeks, but could never get anything going.

To really put things into perspective, over twenty teams in the field were off the water over an hour prior to the weigh-in. The weather was hot and humid, the fish were finicky and many including Virgil Bagwell and I decided our best bet was to pack up and regroup for Day 2.
Each evening we dined at Carolina BBQ & Chicken, a buffet located just next door to the Inn where we stayed. Along with the great company of teammates Mark Tonai and Rob Brooks, we stocked up on some much needed energy for the day of fishing ahead.

img_8906By night, we sat in the boats and rigged tackle. We shared stories of life’s tribulations and conquests, regrets and advice, and of course, stories of tournaments past. The ability to slow down in this life is more seldom than not, but moments like these make an individual cherish every second. I am still filled with their motivation.


Day two the field experienced changing conditions. Sitting in the Skeeter boat prior to takeoff, a light rain had set in leaving much of the field optimistic. Taking off from Holly Grove Marina, we chose to fish close to takeoff, fishing grassy banks of the Main channel. Failing to get bites, we moved into a creek and began fishing riprap, sea walls and docks. Multiple bites resulted, but we failed to connect. On the last dock before a point, I connected on the first keeper of our tournament, a small fish that surely would need to be culled.


We fished various forms of structure as the minutes slowly turned to hours, and time quickly caught up to Virgil and me. With time continuing to pass us, we began to get bites, many of which were short fish. Virgil picked up a squarebill crankbait. As the lure bounced off the dock’s outside piling, a familiar bump of the line and a bow of the rod. Putting the fish in the boat, we were with two keepers, and time was running out.

One last effort, less than an hour remaining, we fished our final creek. Unfortunately, only small bites and a pickerel resulted. Not quite the way one would hope to end the season, and a nail on what has been the roughest season of finishes in my short career. Nevertheless, the off season will be a great opportunity to reassess my approach, as well as rejuvenate morale.


No season can officially end until I take the time to thank some very important companies and individuals who have invested in my passion:

At Kerr Lake w: Nana and Papa
First and foremost, my grandparents have been my greatest fans since the day I decided to give up college football and pick up a fishing rod. None of us realized how captivated I would become with this sport, but seeing their cheerful faces front and center at nearly every weigh-in has been a true blessing. Also, to Loren, with the support of you and Madison traveling would not be an option


In addition, I’d like to thank returning sponsor Culprit and Cowan-Gates. I can fish confidently with Culprit’s wide range of soft plastics, especially the Incredi-Craw that I have relied heavily on the past few years when points are on the line. Cowan-Gates has also been a great relationship, and make sure to check out my season’s best bass I was able to write about in June. It’s definitely a blog worth reviewing.

Although the season was not what I had expected, 2016 was a great year for growing my partnership base. I am blessed to have added SpoolTek Lures, Enigma Rods, Reelsnot Line Lubricant and Copy Cat Printing. I am looking forward to growing with you in 2017!


Last but not least, I am ending the fishing season by accepting a job offer with the American Sportfishing Association. To all those looking to turn a hobby into a career, I am here to tell you through hard work and persistence, dreams can become a reality. It wasn’t long ago that my Grandfather and I brainstormed this crazy idea to create a website and become a blogger. Without the knowledge of web design but a drive to share my passion, I immersed myself into the web realm. I guess you could say diving in has paid off. The road is long, the learning curve is steep, but like the season ahead, the skies the limit when your heart is in it. Set the Hook!


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