UPCOMING EVENT: TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT - 2020 - Lake Erie

Starting Practice with McMillan

Starting Practice with McMillan

Hailing from Clewiston, Fla., Brandon “Big Mac” McMillan started his career as an Okeechobee stick. A threat to win at any time on the Big O, he partook in some of the most memorable Okeechobee duels of all time back around 2010, and came out on top with more than 100 pounds in the FLW Tour Open there in 2011. Even so, his career began in fits and starts – though his stats say he’s fished the Tour for five years, 2013 and these last two years are really his only full seasons. After finishing 27th in the Angler of the Year race in 2016, McMillan built on that for a 16th place finish in 2017 and has now made the Forrest Wood Cup in back-to-back years.

Competition on Lake Murray goes down August 11-13, but the pros get four days of practice before it’s time to battle it out. McMillan was kind enough to let us hop aboard to see how he attacks the start of practice.

 

McMillan starts things off at about 6:30 a.m., launching his boat at a house Jeff Sprague and Jason Reyes are staying at and then helping Sprague get his boat in the water. As Sprague heads out to make the most of the fast-retreating dawn, Big Mac pulls a few rods out and gets his bearings before putting the hammer down and streaking to a main lake point to start things off.

 

The first point McMillan hits has rip rap on the bank and some houses mixed in with the tall Carolina pines. It’s not one of the prototypical long, flat points that Murray and the other blueback herring lakes in the region are known for, but it looks like as good a place as any to start. He starts off throwing a walking bait, tossing in front of the boat some, but mostly toward the actual bank. After working along the point and the bank for a fruitless 50 yards or so, McMillan picks up and moves to a flatter point with some wind on it.

 

Getting to work with his topwater on stop No. 2, McMillan delves into his pre-practice a bit, which consisted of three days on the lake back in July, prior to ICAST.

“I had 17 to 18 [pounds] every day I was here,” says McMillan, not bragging, but matter-of-factly. “One day I was maybe pushing 19 [pounds], but I just had five bites that day.”

From the sounds of it, McMillan’s pre-practice was good, at least from a weight perspective, but left a little to be desired on the numbers and consistency front.

Finishing the point and a few docks along the bank, now mixing in a single swimbait a little, McMillan cranks up for possibly greener pastures.

 

After running a ways nice and slow to look for points of interest or possible schoolers, McMillan stops at the mouth of a shallow pocket and pulls out a buzzbait with a Zoom Horny Toad. The time has come for some Canterbury action. Trolling motor on perhaps 60 percent, he quickly rolls through the shallow pocket, skimming his buzzbait underneath the docks and tossing it tight to the patches of water willow that stud the bank. As good as it looks shallow, our foray doesn’t last long – with four days of practice, McMillan wants to get out of his comfort zone some, and that means a serious effort for the schooling bite.

 

Our next point actually has some activity on it – after a few casts, a group of bass come up busting just out of reach. A short while later, McMillan catches the first of the day, an absolute giant that smoked his topwater. After fishing the rest of the point with no success, he opts to do a little idling to poke around where the best group of fish first came up schooling. Sure enough, there’s a little brush underneath it.

 

All morning, McMillan has kept it simple on the tackle side of things. With just a few topwaters and schooling baits rigged on rods he had made with MHX blanks, it’s apparent that he doesn’t like to complicate things too much. That said, he might not have it all covered with just the basics – McMillan says he only owns two spinning rods.

 

Midway through the morning, McMillan shoots Scott Martin a text with a waypoint. They aren’t meeting up for some kind of Clewiston powwow, they’re meeting to do a camera handoff. After filming one of his myriad YouTube videos at McMillan’s house Martin forgot one of his cameras – he needs to this week to fully document the Cup, so they needed to meet up at some point in time. After a quick discussion about not catching fish, the pair separate, McMillan to work down the bank a little and Martin to roll to parts unknown.

 

After parting with Martin, McMillan rededicates himself to the schooling game, running a few more main-lake points with little success. Sometimes he fishes them with a topwater, sometimes he just stands and waits, sometimes he slings a Carolina rig, and sometimes he just sits at the helm and watches. It’s all fruitless – for some reason, the schooling bass aren’t digging Big Mac’s baits today. He’s even stymied by line twist when he tries to tie up a double Fluke rig for the first time ever.

 

As we fish points, FLW Video Production and Digital Brand Manager Chris Burgan and local guide Michael Murphy stop nearby and then crank on past. They’re out shooting for a pre-tournament patterns video, so McMillan figures he’s at least in something of the right area.

 

“This is why I just flip a jig all day,” says McMillan as he stows his trolling motor around 10:20 a.m. It’s time to head shallow.

Running to a nearby creek arm, McMillan sets down on a section with good exposure to the bigger section of the creek and pulls out a buzzbait. Almost immediately, we begin to see life, from minnows flitting through the grass, to bluegill beds and actual bass. Between the shade of the docks and the presence of southern naiad, McMillan loves it.

“You add in a few bream beds or whatnot, dude there’s going to be a bunch of fish caught up shallow this week.”

Slinging along, you can tell McMillan is more at home shallow. He’s more alert, his casts are precise and he’s comfortably whipping from dock to dock, eager for the next spot. It’s not very productive, but he appears to enjoy doing it.

 

Moving farther back into a creek, McMillan is chasing shade lines now as the southern sun begins to climb high. He’s not bothered by it, but he does say that the heat of the day has been his least productive time period.

“No matter how hot it gets it’s still about 10 or 15 degrees cooler than the back of my UPS truck,” says the part-time driver. “I’d much rather be hot than cold, this year was brutal on me.”

McMillan first started fishing more seriously back in 2008 when he had a lot of time off from his job delivering packages, but he might be on the verge of totally leaving his big brown truck behind. This year he had to hurry back to Florida for work after each tournament, next season he’s already planning on a lot more time off to dedicate to fishing.

Back in the creek, McMillan finally picks up another fish, but it’s still shy of the keeper mark. Nonetheless, any fish helps.

 

We wrap up around 11:30 a.m., as I head back to type, McMillan heads back out to hunt. It hasn’t been a very successful morning, but there are still three days of practice to go. Part of his plan is to use the extra practice time to take some gambles, so not catching them right off the bat hardly fazes him. What he finds in practice might help, but what will really count is getting 15 of the right bites into the boat on Friday, Saturday and Sunday. 

Tags: lake-murray  jody-white  pre-tournament  2017-08-11-forrest-wood-cup 

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