April 1, 2014 by Dave Lefebre
Editor's note: After a good practice on Sam Rayburn, Kellogg's Frosted Flakes pro Dave Lefebre had mixed results in the tournament and finished 61st, just one spot out of the "big money." The writer's opinions and observations expressed here are his own, and do not necessarily reflect or represent the views, policies or positions of FLW.
It's a feeling similar to being punched in the gut. Missing a $10,000 check by an ounce is an experience I don't ever want to have again. I could be mistaken, but I'm pretty sure this is the first time in my 12 1/2 years on tour that I've finished one place out of the "big money." I've been the last one in a time or two before, though, so I guess I can't really complain.
First of all, congrats to Bryan Thrift on his very impressive win, which I predicted after day two, by the way. Sam Rayburn, Walmart FLW Tour stop No. 3, is an awesome lake with a bunch of big fish and so much bass fishing history it's sick. We stayed at Jackson Hill Park & Marina again because Terry and Connie, the owners, always treat us like kings, and the food is out of this world. It's convenient too, being located right by the 147 bridge just across the lake from our official takeoff area.
The fishing was great for Alton Lackie, my practice partner, and I all through official practice and up until the second day of the tournament. After a couple of 20- to 24-pound practice days, and hearing the locals complaining about the lake being "off," we wondered what it must be like when it's "on," lol. In practice I mainly covered a ton of water with a vibrating jig and a Yamamoto Swimming Senko, but my Kellogg's teammate Jim Tutt kept bringing big fish over to me to take pictures of, so naturally I had to ask what he was catching them on, right?
Jim will tell you that I turned him on to a certain bait the last time we were here, so remembering that, he threw a couple of baits in my boat after I took a quick picture of his 8-pounder. It was a big swimbait of some kind, and I went on to catch a couple 5-pounders on it that day and my first five fish in the morning of day one. Jim happened to be close by when I was catching them, and I yelled "Thanks, Jim!" every time I caught one on his bait.
As I covered water in practice, I found several bedding fish. All things considered, I probably would have been better off not even looking at all. I found one big 8- or 9-pound fish with a 4-pound male on a bed, and I had eight other fish in the 3-pound range that I was certain nobody would find. I drew boat No. 141 on the first morning, so I chose not to start on my big one and instead hit a point with the big swimbait, which worked out well. I had five fish for about 11 pounds pretty quick. Then I went to the big one, and she and her boyfriend were both gone. I went to four of the other 3-pounders and caught them all, saving four more good ones for day two. It seemed I would cruise into the top-20 cut easily.
On day two I tried to fish around with the vibrating jig early in hopes of getting a big bite before heading to the "sight-fish." That didn't work out, but I kept at it until around 11. Even with no fish in the boat by then, I still wasn't worried at all because my check-in time was 3:15 on day two. I headed to the pocket where three of my bed-fish were, and, to make a long story short, I hooked two of them and lost them both. My co-angler caught the other one, a 3 1/2-pounder. I then went to the fourth fish in a pocket around the corner, and with a camera boat filming, I managed to get that one into the boat. It was another 3 1/2-pounder and my first fish in the live-well.
By then it was after 1, and I was beginning to get that sick feeling. I started covering water with the Swimming Senko, which is usually a guarantee, but every other fish I hooked came unbuttoned for some unknown reason. I wound up with just four fish ... terrible!
Obviously, nobody ever wants to have a bad tournament, but bombing at Sam Rayburn was like giving away an easy one. I've made 11 consecutive Forrest Wood Cups, and I'm in serious jeopardy now of not carrying on the streak this year. I think I now need three top-15 finishes going into the second half of the season; not easy for sure, but I have to be confident. I could sure use another win soon.
Our next event is on Beaver Lake, a place where I've had trouble in the past, but more recently I've been doing quite a bit better there. I think we're going to hit it at a perfect time this year. Since the weather has been so cold this spring in Arkansas, it should be a prespawn derby, which is what I'm hoping for.
It's hard to believe that the 2014 FLW Tour season is half over already. It feels like we just got started. I've got a week off now, and my family is back home. I'm staying in Texas a couple more days to help out with a wounded veterans fishing trip and then will venture up to Table Rock or maybe Bull Shoals to try to get a feel for what the fish in the Ozarks lakes are doing, before meeting back up with Lackie at Beaver Lake. I wish I had time to go home, I really miss Anne and the kids, but it's just too far and there's not enough time.
I'll talk to you all again after the next one.