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Living the Dream: Clarks Hill, Part 4

Living the Dream: Clarks Hill, Part 4
TBF Living The Dream winner Dave Andrews shows off his catch at Lake Okeechobee.

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Editor's note: This is the fourth piece in a series of journal entries from Dave Andrews, winner of the 2007 TBF National Championship, detailing his fourth stop on the 2008 FLW Series Eastern schedule. Clarks Hill Lake marked the final event of his "Living the Dream" season. Entries were published at FLWOutdoors.com throughout the course of the season. As winner of the Living the Dream package, offered by FLW Outdoors through The Bass Federation, Andrews had his entry fees paid to test his club skills on the pro tour with the use of a fully wrapped boat and tow package. Andrews will chronicle his adventure in pro bass fishing, having most recently competed on Georgia's Clarks Hill Lake. Segments of his journal will be posted approximately weekly. (Read Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3)(Read his Lake Champlain journal; this links to the final entry, which provides links at the top for each preceding part)
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Walmart FLW Series BP Eastern Division
Stop No. 4: Clarks Hill Lake
Oct. 22-25, 2008

Competition: Day two
Oct. 23

Thursday morning dawned cool and breezy. Our morning routine was well established by now. Shower, dress in extra warm clothes, uncover the boat and load the tackle we had worked on the evening before. Then we'd head out ahead of the Augusta morning rush of commuters toward Clarks Hill Reservoir.

I had drawn a local from South Carolina, Ronnie Peeler, but the plan was to meet him at the launch at Wildwood Park, so Scott and I dropped the boat in again at Spring Creek and drove over in the darkness to do the partner swap. Once I had located Ronnie and helped him load his tackle into my boat, there was nothing to do but wait for the 8 a.m. takeoff. I was boat No. 79 and due in at 4 p.m.

I had only two rods strapped to the front deck of the Ranger when they called our number, and I took off for the short ride out toward the mouth of Keg Creek. Both rods had spinnerbaits tied to the business end of my 14-pound Gamma copolymer line. I chose the larger ¾-ounce bait and went to work while a never-ending string of boats zipped past me, heading up the Savannah River. I decided to start on the grassy point where I had boated three good fish the previous day and then work my way back toward the nondescript coves that were across the little bay I was fishing. Like the day before, nobody really bothered me in this area; an occasional boat would pull in and fish a point and then zoom away a few moments later.

The morning air was chilly, and the northerly breeze was strong. Waves crashed along the exposed points just outside the small bay I was fishing, and the summer-like feel of the previous week was gone. I had hoped that the change in weather would cause the bass to feed. Typically back in New England, a sunny, breezy, chilly autumn day would trigger the bass to move shallow and eat a spinnerbait. I was hoping the Georgia largemouth bass would act the same way. I fished fast, covering water along the little points and pockets, hoping to get a couple of reaction bites before the sun got too high.

The first hour of the day went by without a strike, but once I had crossed over to the boring little pockets, I threw out toward the middle of one and a nice bass busted the spinnerbait right near the boat. It jumped twice, staying hooked, and I swung it into the boat before my partner even had a chance to get the net out. It was a solid fish, about 2 pounds, and kept me thinking that the windy conditions would mean an all-day blade bite. I worked through the rest of the pockets and then moved out to fish Dave Andrews: The fishing was cold and tough on day two of the FLW Series event on Clarks Hill Lake.some of the exposed, windblown rocky points. Another hour or two ticked off the clock, and neither Ronnie nor I had had another strike.

I bumped into my buddy Von, who was fishing nearby, and he was fishless. I hadn't seen another fish caught all day around me, and by 11 a.m. I figured the passing fronts and stiff northeast breeze had shut the shallow bite down. I hadn't yet seen a baitfish move along the bank and, for the first day since I arrived, hadn't seen the active, schooling bass chasing bait over deep water. I still had nearly five hours to fish and refused to panic. As I had done the previous day, I put the spinnerbait down and picked up my spinning rod and shaky-head worm. I fished the same points and deep weedlines that had produced the day before, but never had a tap Thursday.

Just after noon, I watched as Luke Clausen pulled in to fish a small pocket nearby. He caught a small keeper, but did not cull. I took it as another sign that the already-tough fishing had gotten worse. I made a decision to run to the riprap of the Little River Highway Bridge. The plan was to slow down and fish the shaky head on light line. I was hoping just to add a couple of small keepers. I figured the weights would drop today, and I'd probably need just another 3 or 4 pounds to hold my position. It was brutally windy when I pulled up to the bridge. The side of the bridge exposed to the 20- to 25-mph north winds was not fishable, but I noticed that the wind had caused a strong current to flow directly under the bridge. This was the only current I had seen anywhere on the lake.

I positioned the boat so that I could cast into the wind under the bridge and drag the worm slowly along the rocks and then down into 25 feet of water. I fished this way for 45 minutes without getting a hit. I then moved down the stretch of riprap, again dragging the worm slowly through the rocks. I'm sure that this area had already been fished by others, but was really surprised that I couldn't catch a fish, considering how productive my practice was in this area. I stuck it out for another hour, but couldn't connect.

I zipped off toward Grays Creek to check some of the pockets where Scott and I had blasted them on the first practice day. The back of the creek was devoid of tournament boats, but the wind had muddied up the water, and the shallow grass beds just felt lifeless. A gut feeling told me to abort this area, so not long after pulling in, I told Ronnie to prepare for the long run back toward Wildwood Park. I had one last desperation play.

The 30-minute run back toward the weigh-in was pounding, but not unmanageable. I had roughly an hour's fishing time left and wanted to spend it in the area where I had finished up the previous day. The little stretch of gravel and chunk rock where my partner and I had pulled out five keepers was where I set down. I figured the back of this creek would be protected from the north winds, and indeed it was. The water clarity was good, and a nearby line of trees blocked the wind so that we could fish our light-tackle spinning equipment without the wind blowing our line away.

I worked the shaky-head worm and also a drop-shot Netters worm along the gravel bank for the balance of my tournament day, but couldn't draw a single strike. With only a few minutes remaining, I finally saw a fish break the surface nearby, so I put my foot on the trolling motor and made a long cast toward the spot. My drop-shot fell into 30 feet of water, and when I lifted up on the rod, I felt a slight weight. I swung sideways and watched the rod load up. A few moments later, I swung a small bass Boats lined up along the shoreline for the day-two weigh-in at Clarks Hill.onto the deck of the Ranger. I got my measuring board out and flipped the fish over a few times before deciding that it just wasn't going to measure, perhaps 1/8 of an inch short.

That was it for me; I checked in with a few minutes to spare and immediately felt the immense disappointment that, at some point, all tournament anglers feel at check-in. While waiting to weigh my lone bass, it occurred to me that, for the first day since I got to Georgia, I never removed any of my morning clothes. I still had five or six layers of clothing and my rain pants on. Indeed, it was chilly, barely reaching 60 degrees, and with the blustery north winds making it feel much cooler. It was a different kind of day for sure.

Weights indeed dropped off from day one, but it wasn't much of a consolation for me, as I wasn't able to save my day by adding a few small keepers. The talent at this level of competition doesn't allow for mistakes or tough days. The big guns find a way to scratch out a small limit or get one big bite and survive even the toughest fishing days. There were plenty of 6- to 7-pound bags hitting the scales, and my one keeper weighed just over 2 pounds and would drop me back into the middle of the pack, about 3 pounds out of the money.

There were only a handful of double-digit limits weighed in Thursday, and David Fritts dropped off to "just" a 13-pound bag, but continued to distance himself from the rest of the field. For me, I was really disappointed. This was the last event of my Living the Dream year, and I really wanted to finish up strong. I didn't second-guess myself, and I'm not really sure what I could have done differently. Yet still, the pain of a long, tough day on the water was clearly evident. I didn't talk much with Scott on the way back to Augusta. We worked on tackle again that night and packed up as much of our equipment as we could, for we would be pulling out of the hotel for the last time on Friday morning.

I had to shake off the bad day, as I certainly wasn't out of paycheck contention. The weather forecasters predicted rain and strong winds on the third competition day. We hadn't seen rain since the first practice day. That was the best fishing day we had at Clarks Hill, and I was hopeful for a repeat performance. Getting ready for Friday, I tied on a buzzbait and my Yozuri popper after hearing the forecast and, thoroughly exhausted, crashed at 10 o'clock.

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Editor's note: Stay tuned for Part 5, in which Andrews will write about his final day of competition at the FLW Series tourney on Clarks Hill Lake, also the final day of his Living the Dream season.
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Tags: dave-andrews  article 

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