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FLW Tour Recap: Lake Chickamauga
(Editor’s note: Veteran bass pro Dave Lefebre has agreed to take time to share his insights into each FLW Tour event of the 2013 season. After every event, Lefebre will give his thoughts on tournament strategy, winning techniques and other behind-the-scenes stories/information that is compelling to our readers. The following blog represents his sixth installment of the season. Lefebre ultimately finished the Lake Chickamauga event in 77th place with a two-day total of 23 pounds.)
Well, I completed the 2013 FLW Tour season this past week on Lake Chickamauga in Dayton, Tenn., with a disastrous 77th-place train wreck. Everything about the week was absolutely perfect except the fishing part. The family and I stayed at Blue Water RV Resort, which was one of the nicest campgrounds we’ve ever visited. About a dozen other competitors stayed there as well, which made it an enjoyable 10 days. The expo and weigh-ins were packed with die-hard fishing fans and the people and volunteers in the Dayton area did an unparalleled job throughout the event. I have a feeling the FLW Tour will revisit Dayton, Tenn., again. It is a prime place to host an event of this magnitude for sure and I can’t say enough about the people there.
The fishing was pretty good too, but I spent my entire practice looking for off-the-wall types of places in the areas of the lake that are not real popular or highly recommended by the local fishermen. I just dislike fishing in crowds and really thought I’d be able to find something a little offbeat with three full days of practice. I focused mostly on the mid-lake area near the river split and bridge, but spent a little time up at the Watts Bar Dam and also on the other end of the lake near Chester Frost and the power plant. Assuming the weight to get a top 50 would be substantially higher than it actually turned out to be, and also considering the time of year, I didn’t spend much time fishing shallow unfortunately. I did find some offshore places that I felt had some potential, but overall, I was definitely worried about this tournament after practice was over.
As it turned out, I had a little over 11 pounds per day, which I caught on a Storm Pro Paddle Tail swimbait, typically a big-fish bait, but not this time for some reason. I had some better quality fish on a Disco Shad-colored Rapala DT 16 in practice, but I’m not really sure what happened to that deal during the two days of the event either. I just couldn’t get anything going; it was frustrating, but even still, I did have enough good bites to finish around 40th place. My bad luck streak just won’t let go of me. I had three 4-pounders eat a frog in the morning of day one, but I only got one in the boat. Then on day two, I lost a 5-pound-plus smallmouth on my second cast of the morning upriver by the dam, which would have helped the cause tremendously as I weighed in a 13-inch spotted bass that day. Needless to say, I’m excited that the regular season is over and I’m ready for my fortune to change as we head to the Red River, La., for the Forrest Would Cup in August. The only other time I had a bad season like this I almost won the Cup, finishing second on Lake Murray, S.C.
Chickamauga is loaded with 3-, 4-, and 5-pound bass and guys caught them in a variety of different ways, even on beds … what? Big bags were caught shallow, deep and everywhere between. The best shallow baits were topwaters, like walking baits, poppers, buzzbaits, buzz frogs, and plastic frogs. Some guys were just fishing the bank while others fished shallow flats with grass on them. In the grass I know rattling baits like the Rapala Rippin’ Rap worked very well, as did various soft plastic Texas-rigged baits and ChatterBaits.
On the deep fish, I talked to a guy who caught an 8-pounder on a DT 20 and fished that bait exclusively to get top-20 check. A weighted swimbait, similar to the one I was throwing, put some big fish on the scales. But I think most of the success on ledges came on a heavy football jig or big worm. A few guys even finessed their way to the top 50 with dropshots and finesse worms, which kind of surprised me a little. Like I said, everything worked at Chickamauga, which is why I’m especially disappointed with my results – but it’s also the reason why I really like the fishery and hope we return sometime soon.
Congrats to hometown boys, Wesley Strader on his second-place showing and Andy Morgan on his first FLW Tour Angler of the Year trophy. It’s hard to finish that high on your home water and Andy is as good as it gets on the pro level. I’m proud to know both of these guys and call them friends.
Our next stop is the Forrest Wood Cup on the Red River in Shreveport, La. This event will be televised on NBC, which is huge for our sport. If you haven’t done so already, gather up friends and family and please make plans to attend. You’ll be glad you did. I hope to see you there!
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