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FLW preview: Old Hickory looking tough

FLW preview: Old Hickory looking tough
The sun rises, but fails to burn off the morning fog at Old Hickory Lake as anxious EverStart anglers wait around for the start of the 2003 championship.

FLW anglers hoping to pad their point totals when the tour makes its third stop of the season at Old Hickory Lake March 10 are likely going to find it a tough fishing tournament. The 22,500-acre impoundment near Nashville not only sees its fair share of fishing pressure, but competitors will be facing a prohibitive 14-inch minimum size limit as well as some wintry fishing conditions.

The FLW Tour last visited Old Hickory in May 2002. That week, water temperatures in the 50- to 60-degree range meant anglers were able to hook into a number of good-sized bass in the shallows along with the boatloads of short fish they caught.

This year, however, the tournament is being held two months earlier in the season. Subsequent water temperatures that are 10 or 15 degrees cooler might give the prespawning bass a case of lockjaw.

"With the water in the mid-40s, the fish probably haven't moved up a lot yet," pro Rob Kilby of Hot Springs, Ark., said. "They're in a prespawn pattern, but it's really more of a winter pattern right now."

"It's going to be rough," pro Wesley Strader of Spring City, Tenn., said. "The water's just too cold for the good ones to bite."

Consequently, Kilby thinks a deeper-water fishing pattern might prevail this week. He said jigs or Carolina rigs worked at depth away from the bank might be the best approach.

Pro Clark Wendlandt of Cedar Park, Texas, who led the opening round of the EverStart Series Championship during a tough week at Old Hickory last November, said he would probably rely on jigs this week, as well, but added that he would also throw crankbaits and spinnerbaits to try and reel in the scattered bass.

"On this lake, if you get a few keeper bites and start gaining some confidence, you've got to stay with it," he said. "There are not going to be 10 different ways to catch them here because there's not a lot going on. It's not that dynamic a fishery."

Old Hickory's close proximity to Nashville means it sees a lot of recreational use, including heavy fishing pressure. "There's more pressure on Old Hickory than at just about any other fishery in the country," Kilby said. "Just about every carport on the lake has a boat in it. It seems like all these fish have got PhDs; they've seen just about everything."

Still, the pros said that some good fish can - and will - be caught at Old Hickory. Heavy spring rains in the area have kept the Corps of Engineers busy moving water through the Cumberland River system. Water levels have been higher in practice, but anglers expect it to return to normal levels once the tournament starts.

"They're probably going to be pulling water pretty heavily," said Kilby, who caught an eye-popping 23-pound stringer the first day of competition at the FLW Old Hickory event in 2002. "That should make the fish bite, I would think, if they get bunched up. It's kind of like the scenario we saw two years ago. The only matter of concern is what all this water is going to do to (the lake). It should be fine as long as it's not muddy from one end to the other."

That in mind, both Kilby and Wendlandt said that it will take about 10 pounds of bass per day on the pro side to feel comfortable about making the cut.

Lake facts and history

Authorized by the River and Harbor Act of 1946, Old Hickory Lake was constructed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers as part of a comprehensive development plan for the Cumberland River Basin. Finally completed in June of 1954, Old Hickory Lake extends approximately 97 miles upstream to Cordell Hull Lock and Dam near Carthage, Tenn. Rising 445 feet above sea level, Old Hickory Lake boasts 22,500 acres of surface water as well as 440 miles of shoreline. The main landmark on the scenic waterway is the Old Hickory Dam, which is located at the 216.2-mile mark on the Cumberland River, approximately 25 miles upriver from Nashville.

Approximately 80 percent of the lake is the winding Cumberland River channel and its adjacent flats. The lower end of the lake has a handful of creeks that add body to the lake.

Bass cover in the lake is also similar to other Tennessee impoundments. Old Hickory contains some milfoil and shallow shoreline grass. Along with vegetation, boat docks, riprap, seawalls and shallow logs on flats constitute a majority of the shallow-water cover.

Offshore, the lake has a plenitude of deep-water breaks, humps and channels.

The water color is "TVA green," and it fluctuates on a daily basis. Four to 10 inches of fluctuation in a day's time is not uncommon.

Known for its vast recreational opportunities, Old Hickory Lake boasts healthy populations of crappies, saugers, catfish and bluegills as well as black, white, striped, smallmouth and largemouth bass.

Catch the action

Anglers from 30 states, Japan and Australia will take off each morning at 7 o'clock from the Bull Creek Ramp in Gallatin, Tenn., except for Friday, when takeoff is at 8 a.m. Wednesday and Thursday's weigh-ins will also be held at Bull Creek beginning at 3 p.m., and Friday and Saturday's weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1112 Nashville Pike in Gallatin beginning at 5 p.m. and 3 p.m., respectively.

Coverage of the Old Hickory Lake tournament will be broadcast on the Outdoor Life Network on the "FLW Outdoors" television program. A tournament preview show featuring bass-fishing legend Hank Parker will air March 28 at 1 p.m. Eastern time and April 1 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Fishing fans can watch the tournament weigh-in with hosts Carlton Wing, Taylor Carr and Charlie Evans April 4 at 1 p.m. and April 8 at 5 p.m. Eastern time. Tournament veteran Larry Nixon will host a tournament wrap-up show April 11 at 1 p.m. Eastern time, and that show will re-air April 15 at 5 p.m. Eastern time.

You can also catch all the weigh-in action at FLWOutdoors.com with FLW Live. The first weigh-in will be broadcast Wednesday, March 10, at 3 p.m. Central time and will continue throughout all four days' weigh-ins.

Previous FLW Old Hickory winner

2002 - Basil Bacon, Springfield, Mo.

FLW Outdoors editors Gary Mortenson and Rob Newell contributed to this report.

Links:

Pundits' Picks
Destination: Old Hickory Lake
Pre-tournament press release
FLW Live

Tags: jeff-schroeder  pre-tournament  2004-03-10-old-hickory-lake 

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