October 8, 2011 by David A. Brown
KIMBERLING CITY, Mo. - It wasn't fancy, but it was efficient - a pure example of substance over style and function over form. That's a fair summation of Robbie Dodson's win at the EverStart Series Central Division tournament on Table Rock Lake.
Don't worry, we're not selling the Harrison, Ark., pro short. He was quick to admit that this White River impoundment had him scratching his head for three days.
"I've fished Table Rock probably 30-something years, and I have never seen it like it is right now," Dodson said. "You cannot go back to a place and in any way pattern a fish."
Much of the confusion and frustration that Dodson and his fellow competitors experienced can be traced back to the simple fact that Table Rock was in a profound and prolonged state of transition. The calendar said the first day of fall occurred in late September, but unseasonably warm weather has been impeding the traditional changes that the fish want to undertake. The general result was a lake full of scattered fish.
Now, normally, it's tough to define a victory by one statistic. However, in a tournament that saw anglers struggling to find some form of consistency, Dodson's winning performance came down to this stat - he was the only angler to bag five-bass limits all three days. In the first round, he sacked up 15 pounds and took the early lead. He added 12-2 a day later and maintained his lead. Today, his five fish weighed 10-4 and pushed his winning total to 37-6, good enough for first place and $24,133 plus a Ranger boat, motor and trailer.
On day one, Dodson ran up one of the Lake's creek arms and caught fish on a Luck "E" Strike spinnerbait and a Luck "E" Strike square-bill crankbait. Lacking any solid patterns, he ended up working through about 100 spots to find his keepers.
The next day, Dodson decided to lay off the creek fish and stay closer to the takeoff site. Again, anything close to a discernible pattern eluded him, and it took some 150 spots to produce a limit.
"I fished back down in the lake, and I couldn't catch (a bass)," Dodson said. "Finally, I caught one fish pretty shallow on a boat dock, and I ended up catching six keepers that day on a 5/16-ounce jig with a Baby Guido Bug on the back. I just fished really hard and got those six keepers."
Day three found Dodson returning to the creek habitat, where he caught a keeper early on a spinnerbait. He'd go without a bite until about 10 a.m., at which time he pushed farther into the creek and found three local boats sitting on the site of his day-one fish.
"I started in behind them and fished, fished, fished and finally caught one keeper on the square-bill crankbait," Dodson said. "I said, `This isn't going to work,' so I came back down and started flipping a spoon and a jig on boat docks and got a limit."
Murphy remains at second
Tom Murphy of Richland, Mo., made a strong run at the top spot, but ended up in second place with 34-2 and a check for $8,274. Despite coming up short, he said that a high finish was particularly special in this venue.
"This lake is really near and dear to my heart," he said. "I won my first bass boat here in 1993, and right after that I was put on the Ranger pro staff. I'm very fond of this lake. It fished tough, but I still love it."
Murphy said he targeted fish in deep water - up to 60 feet - and caught his fish on shaky heads with Zoom forktail worms, a War Eagle spoon and a Dixie Jet spoon.
"White was my primary spoon color, but when the fish were schooling and they'd come to the surface, I could throw the silver one out there and just let it free-fall down through the fish and catch them every time," Murphy said.
Several areas of boat docks were off limits, per U.S. Army Corps of Engineers regulations, but Murphy was discerning with those that were open for fishing. On each slip he fished, he found a patient and thorough approach most rewarding.
"I had to find the deeper slips on the shaded side," he said. "I'd let this spoon go all the way down to 45, 55 and 65 feet. If they wouldn't hit it on the way down, as soon as it hit the bottom and I popped it up, they'd nail it."
Bohannan blasts into third
Greg Bohannan of Roger, Ark., was Captain Comeback at Table Rock. On day one, he found only two keepers for 5 pounds, 10 ounces and landed in 26th place. A day later, the Kellogg's Pop-Tarts pro came charging back with 11-13 and earned a final-round berth in ninth place. On day three, Bohannan put the exclamation point on his statement by sacking up 13-9 - the day's heaviest catch - and jumping up to third place with a total of 31 pounds worth $6,895.
"I really shot myself in the foot the first day," he said. "But after having trouble the first day, I decided I'm going to fish my strength, so I put a crankbait in my hand. I love throwing a hand-painted Fall Creek Wiggle Wart."
A motor problem handicapped Bohannan today, but he made the most of what he could do and obviously fared well.
"I had a spark plug go bad in my engine, and I couldn't run very fast, so I just chased the wind today. Wherever the wind was, that's where I fished. It didn't matter if it was a bluff or a flat point; I just burned up the trolling motor today. I had that Minn Kota on 70 to 80 percent all day and just covered a lot of water."
Bohannan fished his crankbait on a 7-foot medium-action rod with a 6.3:1 Abu-Garcia reel carrying 10-pound 100-percent Berkley fluorocarbon.
Williams winds up in fourth
Lance Williams of Billings, Mo., took fifth place on day one with 11-2, slipped to 10th on day two with a weight of 6-5 and today bounced back with the day's second biggest sack - a limit that weighed 12-10 - and finished fourth with 30-1. He earned $6,206.
Williams caught his day-one fish on a Strike King 5XD in main-lake pockets with gravel and chunk rock. Day two saw that deal dry up for him, and he found only three keepers.
"Today, I went back to main-lake (spots) and caught one on a spinnerbait early," Williams said. "I knew if I had any chance today, I needed to catch one big fish, so I went up to one of my summer spots and caught my biggest fish on a Jewel football jig."
Williams then switched to a Strike King 6XD and bagged three more keepers to finish out his limit.
Jones finishes fifth
Fate dealt a potentially devastating blow to Matthew Jones of Spokane, Mo., on his way to the final day's takeoff. A routine traffic stop turned into a paperwork nightmare that ended up robbing him of nearly three hours on the water. The mental and emotional toll was unavoidable, but Jones kept his cool, went to work and salvaged the day with a respectable showing of three fish for 6-2 and a fifth-place total of 24-8 worth $5,516.
"I was a little depressed, but I made one cast with a Luck `E' Strike BDS3 crankbait (Tennessee-shad color) and caught two keepers - one on the front hook and one on the back hook," he said. "So that got me going, and I finally caught one more keeper on a spinnerbait."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series Table Rock Lake event:
6th: Earl K. Garrison IV of Bull Shoals, Ark., 24-1
7th: Scott Nelson of Lake Ozark, Mo., 23-12
8th: Zach King of Clarksville, Ark., 22-7
9th: Chris Hughes of Springfield, Mo., 22-7
10th: Randall Hutson of Washburn, Mo., 21-3