It’s crazy how close you can be to unlocking the winning secrets! I really wanted to catch them on a jerk bait in 6 to 12 foot of water and that’s what I did the majority of the first day of practice. I was in a lot of the areas that many of the guys in the top ten ended up fishing. Unfortunately that first day I don’t believe the females were up there yet. I think they were out in a little bit deeper water were some other guys still caught them. I only managed short fish and a handful of smaller keepers that first day. Looking back, I should’ve tried that a little bit more the last day of practice as the water was warming, and the females were starting to move up.

Fast forward to my last couple days of practice. I started to find very nice males on beds as well as some big females up super shallow. You had to get all the way back in places that were protected where the water was in the mid 60s. This is what I committed my tournament to thinking more were going to move this way. Again there happened to be a two day cold front which started the morning of the first day of the tournament.

Chad Pipkens with a big Lake Fork bass
Chad Pipkens with a big Lake Fork bass

Good news for me, just like at Toledo the first day of the cold front affect the shallow fish. I had almost 24 pounds by 10 AM on day one! Things were rolling, and I was feeling good! I fish the rest of the day looking for new fish and not messing with the other areas where I had got bit assuming I could fish those the next day. What I should’ve done at this point was go back and throw the jerk bait in areas where the fish were coming into. This would’ve gave me something to do on Day 2 as well. It also gave me a shot to catch one of the giants, which is what I needed that first day.

Moving onto Day 2, I knew it was gonna be a slow start as soon as I started. The water went from mid 60s and practice to 58 or 59 the first day of the tournament and then 54 or 55 the second day of the tournament. Most all of the shallow fish I had found were gone that day. I knew this the first hour, but I still wasted a couple more hours checking other areas. I should have went back to the one area I had that was in that mid-depth 4 to 5 feet with some scattered grass where I could’ve just went and fished. Then I would’ve likely caught a few fish, and then could’ve went shallow again in the afternoon.

Though I waited to go to my mid area, I did get there around noon. For whatever reason it was not my time. A couple of our guys were around there and a couple of local boats as well. I saw everyone catch at least 2 to 3 fish. A couple nice ones in the 4 to 5 pound range. I managed to get four bites, and three of them knocked slack in my worm, but stole the bait when I went to set the hook! I had another one miss a chatterbait, and then I hung one big one, and it got stuck on some little tree branch! It was very frustrating!

After a couple hours or close to it with no success, I decided to head back to the bank and look for spawners as the water was back up to 61. I immediately got a 4 lbs. 10 oz. that I saw roaming around a couple hours earlier. I worked hard and looked for a fish and caught another one. That was 3 lbs. 10 oz. with 20 minutes ago. With just 10 minutes left I lost a two pounder at the Boat, which would’ve been my fifth. I also found a six pounder with about five minutes left that I did not have enough time to catch!

My take away from here – I need to listen to my inner voice! Both events I knew that the shallow was done for that morning and the area I was at. I needed to go do something different for three or four hours and then come back to what I was doing as the fish moved up. It’s hard to do this and go against what you’ve done but you need to listen to yourself and make it happen! Only weighing in four fish on the final day, I fell from the 30s to 78 place. Time to get better and make it happen!