UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Santee Cooper

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Scouting Cumberland with Bohannan

Scouting Cumberland with Bohannan

Back in 2006, Greg Bohannan quit his job as a manager at Tyson Foods to take a crack at fishing full-time. That May, in the FLW Series Eastern Division event on Lake Cumberland, the Arkansas angler finished 35th and cut his first $10,000 check without a safety net. Now, Bohannan is a veteran of the sport and looking for another solid finish on the winding Kentucky reservoir. After throwing up a 155th-place finish to start the season at Okeechobee, he’s on the comeback trail, having made the cut at the Harris Chain and earned another $10,000 at Lanier.

On a cold and drippy morning, I hopped in the boat to see how he approaches Cumberland on day two of practice for the FLW Tour event presented by General Tire.

 

Temperatures in the 30s and rain do not lend themselves to fishing comfort. Instead of getting rolling at the crack of dawn, Bohannan elects to wait until about 7:30 a.m. ET for the rain to pass. Though it’s still cold, this Monday is actually supposed to shape up into a pretty nice day.

After uncovering his boat and topping off his Evinrude G2 with more oil, Bohannan says it’s time to drop in. He plans to fish down closer to the dam but has chosen to launch at Conley Bottom, which is a popular marina located roughly mid-lake.

 

Bohannan takes it fairly easy as he runs down the lake. Because Cumberland is a few feet over full pool, there are a lot of “floaters” in the water in certain sections. Floating logs and trash are especially hard to spot and prevalent early in the day, and discretion is definitely the better part of valor in this case. Bohannan dinged his prop on one on the first day of practice, and though the service trailer isn’t too far away, lower unit damage is not what you want in practice.

 

Finally, after about a 30-minute run in 35-degree air, he stops on a bluff near the mouth of one of the big creeks down the lake. I ask him why he decided to launch so far from his first spot.

“I’m staying right there by it,” Bohannan says of Conley Bottom. “And I looked at the map last night, and I wasn’t quite sure how to get to one of the ramps down here. But about halfway through that run I was wishing we’d met down here somewhere instead.”

Regardless of the chilly run, it’s time to fish. He pulls out a handful of rods and starts slinging a spinnerbait down the bank.

 

After fishing for just a few minutes, Bohannan gets a bite but doesn’t hook up. He’s fishing without a trailer hook, so he simply files it away for future reference. Soon he comes across a dying alewife on the surface, which begins a discussion about forage. I also ask Bohannan about the differences between Cumberland and the Ozark lakes that he’s so familiar with. 

“This lake looks just like the Ozarks, but it doesn’t fish like it,” says Bohannan. “This lake has so much timber from the drawdown, and the Ozarks have a lot less. There they key on rock a lot more. There are tons of banks on this lake that you’d be able to catch a limit off with a crankbait in the Ozarks, and you’ll catch one or two here.”

Because of the alewives, the bass suspend quite a bit at Cumberland as well, but that’s not the direction Bohannan is looking with the high water this week.

“The rule of thumb from growing up on clear-water lakes is that when you get stained water it’s going to be won shallow.”

 

After getting another bite on his spinnerbait, Bohannan slides into a pocket and picks up a flipping stick for the trash pile in the back. In addition to timber and “sawdust” – floating leaf detritus – floating in the backs of flooded pockets, Cumberland has a lot of bottles and refuse in it, which is pretty disappointing for such a scenic lake. Bohannan seems to think the trash piles will produce, but it’s still cloudy and cold, and the fish don’t seem to want to be there yet.

As he fishes back out of the small pocket, Bohannan notes a few suspended fish on his graph, which prompts him to tie up a deep-diving jerkbait to try at his next spot.

 

Bohannan runs a little farther into the creek and sets down on another steep bank where he begins fishing toward a pocket.

“I haven’t had one jerkbait bite since I got here,” he says. “Nothing on that or a [Skirmish Baits] A10. But you look at the water temperature (which is in the low 50s) and that’s what should work.”

At the mouth of the pocket, a feisty smallmouth pops his jerkbait and comes aboard. Now he’s caught a jerkbait fish.

 

Another fish smashes Bohannan’s jerkbait as he works back into the pocket. That’s the only one he catches despite fishing some really good-looking stuff with the jerkbait and flipping baits. The fish appear to be reluctant today.

Cumberland has a ton of pretty lovely run-ins and waterfalls, but the ones in the lower end of the lake are starting to dry up. It hasn’t rained much since practice started, and the inflow of water is minimal now.

Though it’s about 9 o’clock and still pretty cold, signs of spring are visible. Some of the trees are beginning to flower or green up, and some pretty purple flowers are blooming on the slopes.

 

The pile of Lew’s rods and reels on Bohannan’s deck grows some more when he adds a shallow jerkbait to the mix. The number of rods is not unmanageable by any means, but it does showcase a pretty good variety. Bohannan is ready for everything from finesse to spinnerbaits at the moment.

 

After hopping another couple of pockets and points with just one bite, Bohannan digs out some Pringles and a turkey sandwich and runs a little farther back into the creek.

 

He stops on a prominent point and slings a swimbait off the tip, eventually changing to a jerkbait to work down the side. The jerkbait produces a “maybe” bite that feels a little like a tree, but proves impossible to replicate.

After a few more casts, Bohannan makes another move. He’s hopping points now.

 

After running through a few points and the associated edges, things are beginning to look dim. The only biter was a tiny smallmouth, and he didn’t have any friends. On the plus side, the day is definitely starting to warm up.

 

The next stop is a flat point with some rock, which Bohannan probes with a Carolina rig. We see Carl Jocumsen speed past, which is of note only because Cumberland is vast, and he’s one of only a handful of other anglers we’ve seen this morning.

After no bites, despite a few fish spotted on the graph, Bohannan decides it’s time for another move.

 

“I can’t believe I can’t get a bite doing this,” says Bohannan as he flips into a trash mat in a pocket. “It’s sunny now, and it seems right, but I haven’t gotten a bite doing this all of practice.”

Moving on from the pocket, Bohannan tries a wake bait and then spinnerbaits a bluff with no results. So far, day two of practice has been a lot slower than day one.

 

Bohannan guns his boat up on pad to continue to the back of the creek. Along the way, we hit a point where the water color changes suddenly. Instead of a nice green stain, the water is brown, almost muddy.

He rolls up to a bluff and pulls out his blade. With the sun shining and some more color in the water, there are plenty of spotted bass biting, but they aren’t big at all. Nonetheless, it’s a nice change to finally see some numbers.

 

After another stop on a nearby bluff for a few more spotted bass, Bohannan decides to fish some treetops. Tons of trees grew up when Cumberland was drawn down over a period of several years for dam repairs. The lake has since refilled, and in the backs of the flatter areas the young trees almost make a flooded forest. Bohannan says he caught a few big ones in treetops last year on Cumberland, but these trees don’t prove productive in limited testing.

After a few more minutes in the trees, Bohannan wants to try another creek, but with it going on noon he decides to drop me off before rolling on to parts unknown.

 

Bohannan gives me the breakdown on his practice thus far as he idles back into a nearby marina to drop me off.

“I looks like you can get a bunch of good bites in some creeks and not much in others,” he says, alluding to a productive day one. “I expected you could go into most any creek and catch them decent, but based on this morning that isn’t the case. I mean, I would have a hard time going back to where we fished today in the tournament.”

With that, I clamber out of the boat, and Bohannan heads back out. He’s got miles more of Cumberland to look at and about a day and a half left to do it.

 

Tags: jody-white  pre-tournament  2018-04-12-lake-cumberland 

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