October 11, 2008 by David A. Brown
OSAGE BEACH, Mo. - You know that deal about the early bird? Well, he would have done pretty well in the final round of Stren Series Central Division action on Lake of the Ozarks.
Unlike the first three days of competition in which the afternoon bite excelled, day four saw the better stuff coming early. In truth, the morning bite wasn't all that great either - except for tournament winner Dion Hibdon's 15-pound, 3-ounce stringer. (More on that in a moment.)
The real problem was that weekend boat traffic pretty much killed the afternoon action, and most competitors were giving thanks for whatever they scratched out before noonish. In fairness, local club tournaments and pleasure cruisers - even those in the big go-fast-for-no-apparent-reason boats - have equal rights to the waterways. Nevertheless, there's no escaping the impact on Stren anglers.
The biggest impact was the dock fishing scene - the week's dominant pattern, which had been getting better as the day's heat grew.
As Stover, Mo., pro explained, "When you're fishing for (bass) suspended under those boat docks, and those boat docks start bobbing up and down in the waves, that screws them up real quick."
A family trip to Spain prior to the tournament kept Hibdon from practicing, but his father, Guido (fourth place), shared some key information about how bass were relating to the docks. At the morning launch, Dion said he and his father had decided who would fish where to avoid fishing behind one another.
"If it wasn't for Dad, I wouldn't have known what to do this week," Dion said. "Ninety percent of this is because of him."
The key to the whole deal, Dion explained, was knowing precisely which spots held the bigger fish. It's not just docks, it's particular docks - moreover, it's particular sections of particular docks.
"It had to be a dock that was real close to a point, and if it was a point that had current flowing around it, that was even better," Dion said. "The fish got off the secondary (structure) early in the week, and they started relating to that current-oriented stuff real quick. So I started keying on main lake docks.
"(The dams) stopped pulling current a few days ago, but I think the fish still related to current-oriented docks. There was virtually no current (today), but the fish were still out there for the same reason."
It's all about knowing where to look and hunting them down."
Getting those early bites, Dion said, proved unquestionably essential to his victory: "I hadn't caught a fish before about 10 o'clock any day of this tournament, and yesterday Dad caught two big ones right off the get-go. That clued me in to what kind of dock I needed to fish early this morning.
"I caught what I weighed in by about 9:30 this morning and the afternoon deal (failed) today, so I'm glad he clued me in yesterday on how to catch them in the morning. If I had weighed in what I caught after 10 o'clock today, I would have had maybe 8 or 9 pounds today."
Dion Hibdon, who tallied a total of 55 pounds, 3 ounces, won by a margin of 6 pounds, 6 ounces. Fishing as far as 50 miles upriver, he caught all his fish this week on a 7/16-ounce blue-black Lucky Strike jig with a blue tinsel skirt and a Guido Bug trailer.
Using a short, limber rod named the "Hibdon Hammer," Dion skipped jigs under docks. Spooling up with Berkley's 100% Fluorocarbon line gave him the confidence to reach far into the structures without worrying about breaking off any fish.
Dion Hibdon won $25,000 plus a Ranger boat and trailer package for his victory.
Endicott ends with second
Although he surely would have preferred first, Wes Endicott was the event's most consistent competitor. On day one, the Joplin, Mo., pro grabbed the second-place spot and held that position through the final weigh-in.
Endicott found his limit on day four and added 7 pounds, 11 ounces to his effort and ended with 48 pounds, 13 ounces. He caught his fish by swimming a 1/2-ounce black-blue jig with a Zoom Speed Craw in black sapphire or sapphire blue.
"I was fishing it fast, but keeping it about 6 or 8 inches below the surface, and these fish were just hammering it. Like Dion said earlier, it's about identifying the right kind of boat docks. Current was definitely a factor, and shade. If you could find a dock where the shade was on the current side, you could almost guarantee (a bite)."
Endicott earned $7,462 for his finish.
Bull improves to third
Zack Bull of Lakeland, Tenn., also stuck with the jig-and-dock scenario. He had been throwing a black jig earlier in the event, but a white model produced better in the final round. Bull caught a limit weighing 8 pounds, 15 ounces for a third-place total of 48-12 worth $6,716 plus a $5,000 Ranger boat bonus.
"I was just covering a lot of water," Bull said. "I lost my trolling motor batteries today at 1:30 because I was running it all day."
Location was also a key factor for Bull, who said, "It seemed that three-quarters of the way back into the creeks was best, so that's what I concentrated on. I didn't fish in the back - I'd go back there and check it, but I wouldn't fish there."
The smaller creeks, not the major arms, are where Bull found his better action. Shad schools were plentiful in these spots, so he stuck to where the food source was thick.
Elder Hibdon finishes fourth
Considering the credit given by his son, it's no surprise to hear that Guido Hibdon of Sunrise Beach, Mo., also fished black-and-blue jig around docks with current. He and Dion tied the jigs they used the night before the final round.
Guido started his climb in 34th place on day one, but he improved to 16th on day two. He reached the top 10 with a fifth-place finish on day three. His 10 pounds and 10 ounces on day four gave him a 48-9 total worth $5,970.
Fox spins into fifth
Travis Fox of Springdale, Ark., caught a limit weighing 10 pounds, 6 ounces and finished fifth with 46-14 worth $5,224. He fished a 1/4-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait with a white skirt. A weighted shaft enabled him to cast farther and with more accuracy. Fox said he fished aggressively and risked losing lures to reach into the sweet spots.
"I threw at anything I could - whether there was a pontoon boat, a cable - there's about 11 of these in the lake right now," Fox said. "My whole thing was getting the bait where other people couldn't reach.
"With a heavy weight on a compact spinnerbait, you can really flip it up under those docks and get it where you need to get it."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the Stren Series event at Lake of the Ozarks:
6th: Jeremy T. Lawler of Sarcoxie, Mo., 46-11
7th: Mark Goines of Shady Point, Okla., 45-5
8th: Jerry Weisinger of Wyandotte, Okla., 43-10
9th: Michael Wooley of Collierville, Tenn., 43-4
10th: Eddy May of Valley Center, Kan., 42-4