With each year, the anticipation builds as spring coming to fruition. Unlike previous seasons, however, the weather has experienced more changes than one can count on two hands. Record highs in February followed by rainy, cold weather in March were but a few of the crazy conditions facing the east coast this winter. If the pre-season taught me anything, it’s to not focus on the successes of yesterday, but be open to these ever-changing variables of pre-spawn.
The first day of practice got off to a rough start. 10-15 mph wind prediction was more like 20+. Skies were overcast, the water was stained and the bite was tough. After struggling the morning away, running from spot to spot just to get blown off the location, we decided to do what any educated angler would do, get back in coves sheltered from the wind. At 11:30, we finally got our first clue, a 3-pound bite fishing jigs on rock banks. Like clockwork, we began to put fish in the boat. By 2pm, we had accumulated 13 pounds for 5 fish. Talk about not giving up! A boost in confidence with a few lessons learned along the way.
My partner Jesse and I had hoped to build on what was a successful first practice, but the lake had other plans. The wind was blowing hard again, but the true difference was the Core of Engineers had drained the lake enough to eliminate the successful structure of the first day of practice. We ran around quite a bit, hooked a few fish, but unfortunately didn’t find anything that would set us on a pattern. As they say, back to the drawing board.
With our hearts set on a good opening event, we hit the water bright and early in search of a winning pattern. With changing weather in the forecast for the weekend, we threw a variety of baits in an attempt at plans A, B and C. With fish on the move, we knew we were going to need to run and gun. In an attempt to leave fish for tournament day, we caught no more than one fish per spot, and shook off as many as possible. By the end of the practice day, we were confident with catching a limit, and then would go on the search for upgrades.
When tournament day rolled around, Jesse and I were eager to hit the water and get out the first tourey jitters. Getting to the ramp early, we were one of the first boats in the water, making for a less stressful takeoff.
In the 50th boat position, we took off for our first spot in search of five of the right ones. Unfortunately, fellow competitors were on our first spot and so we began on a bank we had never fished. We quickly got bit, and boated our first keeper, a small fish just touching the 14in minimum requirement. After boating another non-keeper or two, we made our first run towards the back of a creek we had caught keepers on the official practice day. With temps in the early 30’s, we made sure to bundle up, leaving just enough exposed as to not limit our vision.
Pulling up to the creek arm, there was another boat we had not seen in practice fishing the secondary point. Luckily we had found fish in the small creek and put the trolling motor down just inside. Although we failed to get bit on the first bank stretch, we had confidence the fish were most likely residents and had not left. Jesse pitched his Texas rig and dragged the creature bait along wood covered bottom. A bump, and then a hookset sent the bait flying back towards the boat; a swing, and a miss. After a second missed opportunity, frustration had set in, but hope was not lost. Working as a team means being the motivational speaker and a confidence builder. Pitching into the same stretch, I set the hook and boated our second keeper at over 15 inches. The small fish were prevalent, males eagerly making the perfect bed for the ladies. After realizing the larger females had not yet moved up due to the cold weather, we worked our way out, fan casting along the bank and working out into the 10ft depth beside the boat.
We found a group of fish suspended off the bank, and with a Rapala Shadrap in hand, I was able to boat two more keepers. With plenty time left in the day, we decided to make a move. The bite slowed, however, and we failed to boat another keeper. A small fish on a drop shot and numerous brake-offs had left us with only four fish on the day, a disappointment from which we are still longing to recover.
When it was all said and done, we weighed in a total of 7.24 pounds on the day, a weight that left us in 42th out of 77 boats. Congratulations to newcomers of the VA Elite 70, Cody Pike and Scott Banton, winners of the event with a 5-bass total of 19.95 pounds. Cody has been killing it the last few years on the FLW BFL Series and the B.A.S.S. Opens and deserves all the respect in the world.
As Jesse and I look forward to the next event next weekend on Lake Anna, the hope is that conditions will stabilize and send the big females to the spawning beds. Even though Lake Anna has not been good to me over the past few years, I have all the confidence in the world that we will be able to grow on our lackluster start. Wish us luck, and thank you for staying up to date on our journey.
Follow all the action on our social media channels, @JesseEwingFishing and @AllenLuckFishing. Thank you to my 2018 sponsors: Culprit Lures, Beast Coast Fishing, Reelsnot and 13Fishing. A big thank you to my grandparents for attending every event that they can, and love of my fiancé and family. Till next time, grow from your failures and never stop grinding!