UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - James River

So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance?

So You’re Telling Me There’s a Chance?
Luke Dunkin

(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.)


100th place.

One. Zero. Zero.

Sixty-five long places from the Forrest Wood Cup cut.

That’s where I found myself sitting in the Walmart FLW Tour standings after Pickwick Lake, the one tournament where I thought I could hit a home run off these guys. Instead of smashing the juicy fastball that FLW threw me in the schedule, I chased an 0-2 changeup right into the dirt. Embarrassing? Yes. Total letdown? You have no idea. Season ender? NOT EVEN CLOSE. 

I was down and out for a few days, but immediately I started looking toward Kentucky Lake and Lake Champlain. With only two events to go in my rookie year, I needed a change.

Now, I’ll start by saying I’m not a swing-for-the-fences fisherman. I’m a grinder. I normally try to put together a plan to get a paycheck and see where the week takes me. Consistency makes checks and qualifies you for the Cup year in and year out. That’s the approach I take at every event. It just hasn’t worked out that way so far this year. So, when I found myself a long way from where I wanted to be in the standings I decided to roll the dice and change up my approach.

I arrived at Kentucky Lake last week with a plan to get away. Get away from playing bumper boats on the many famous ledges. Get away from my bad finish at Pickwick. Get away from 100th place. That plan led me 75 to 80 miles upstream from Kentucky Dam to New Johnsonville, Tenn. I spent two of my three practice days down in that area.

Now, let me remind you that equals a 150- to 160-mile round-trip on a lake that has so many variables at play. The miles of water in between can turn into monstrous swells with a bad wind. The hundreds of HUGE recreational boats ripping up and down the main channel can do the same, making it a nightmare of a trip. There’s also the fuel factor. Getting down there and back on a tank of fuel is impossible.

With all of that in the back of my mind as I practiced down south, I kept finding more fish and fewer of my competitors. I found a few offshore fish on the ledges down there, but I also found a few quality fish up shallow. No, that’s not a typo. There are always fish shallow that can’t be seen by idling and staring at electronics. You have to fish to find them, and, man, let me tell you, when I found them they were eating the hook off of a jig – MY FAVORITE.

I ended practice thinking I could have a really good event if everything came together. So, I gassed up the Ranger, strapped everything down and prepared to go big on the first day of competition.

On day one it took me a little more than an hour to run to my first stop, and the trip required less gas than I had planned on using. That was a huge relief. The biggest thing missing was the current. The Tennessee Valley Authority was only turning on the juice in the afternoons. I would be running back to Kentucky Dam when the flow reached most of my honey holes.

I grinded out a limit for about 15 pounds or so on one of my ledges. It was a far cry from what I thought I could catch, but it was a start. I then went shallow and flipped up a solid 5-pounder to cull before making the 75-mile trip back. That kicker made the ride back a little easier and gave me confidence that I could still catch some meat on the bank.

On day two, I made my 75-mile commute only to find a local sitting on my best offshore spot. I asked politely if I could fish, and he had zero intentions of letting me. I then got to watch him boat a 7-pound largemouth. Ouch. He finally left after an hour or so. I caught two keepers, and my co-angler caught four pretty quickly. Then the action came to a screeching halt.

So what did I do? I went to the bank and had a blast. I flipped up almost 17 pounds again, which was just enough weight to slide me into my first top-20 cut on Tour.

What an unreal feeling. My plan worked when I needed it most. I can’t explain to you what it felt like making a top-20 cut in my rookie year with Tennessee River legends, former AOY winners, the G.O.A.T. himself (Andy Morgan) and former Cup champs. Certainly, it will always be a week I’ll remember. I landed in 19th place with that crew, but I couldn’t have been more proud of how it worked out.

Bass fishing is all about numbers – pounds and ounces, standings and finishes. In my case this past week, 450 miles and 44 pounds of bass moved me 31 places away from 100th. Now this week I drive 1,100 miles to Champlain and try to put together a plan to get me away from 69th place in the standings and closer to 35th place, which is the Cup cutoff.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

 

Tags: flw-tour  kentucky-lake  luke-dunkin  blog 

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