Talk about a lesson learned. I competed in our makeup tournament for the FLW Toyota Series the first weekend of November. That was an epic educational experience. Not only did some of the biggest names in bass fishing show up, but I now know a lot more about fishing a true river system.
First thing you do when you get home from fishing Lake Seminole out of Bainbridge, Ga., is to wash your boat. The muddy waters of the Flint River that run into Lake Seminole will leave a clay residue on your boat that needs some attention, immediately. While I did not fare very well in the tournament, I learned more about fishing a river in one week than I thought possible.
We faced perfect conditions upon arrival and caught numerous quality bass right out of the gate. Very shortly, we saw that deteriorate as locks closed and water was slowed down or shut off. Another river continued to flow, bringing the water level up about two feet in two days. Then a cold front came in and knocked the temp into the low 40s in the morning.
We faced about every possible adjustment you could imagine in a week’s time. And it showed in my results. Not knowing what the bass do in these situations rendered me pretty bad off in a tournament full of professionals. The likes of Lane, Poche, Thileveros, Mitchell, Clausson, Fitzgerald, the McMillan brothers and a few others had planned to fish this quite some time ago.
Needless to say, the field was pretty well stacked for this event. I knew I’d be up against superior competitors. But the changing conditions had me baffled. What do the fish do when these types of conditions move in? To make matters worse, I left myself in a place early on day two that I basically could not fish for almost the entire day.
On day one, I had been fishing a spot on the Flint River very close to our launch site. I had numerous hits there in practice and shook off all but one bass. I thought I would be in good shape in that spot. I managed one fish right out of the gate, and then didn’t boat another the rest of the time I stayed there.
The bass would hit the worm readily, but by the time I cranked the slack up from the river current to set the hook, the fish had already spit the bait. That was a tad frustrating, so I moved on — only to encounter the same phenomenon everywhere I went. Get bit, bass gone before the hookset.
On day two, the nightmare started early. Fished my early spot in the river, no keepers. I ran to my next spot and set the boat down short of the area to fish. I sped up my idle a tad to move forward and the boat was shaking like a wet dog on a cold day. I picked up the motor to find that I had sheared off half of one of the blades on my stainless-steel prop.
Mind you, by the time I got to this spot I had run 20 minutes at 60 miles an hour. Now I had to idle back at 6 mph. You can imagine how long that took me. I did manage to get about an hour of fishing time, but all in waters I did not like and that did not produce.
Fortunately, my boys at Hoppy’s Marine have my back. They’ll send the prop off to see if it has any chance of being repaired. I have already come to the conclusion that even if it can be repaired, I need a spare prop. When Matt finds out what can be done (or not done) with my prop, we’ll talk about my next move.
That little setback cost me a lot of time, and cost my co-angler a shot at getting a check. I think I felt worse about that than I did for myself. I had changed my game plan based on my poor performance the previous day. Unfortunately, we didn’t get the chance to see if we could make anything happen or not.
I had to hand it to my co-angler — that kid was a real trooper. He took it in stride and fished as hard as he could. I made sure he got the better spots because I truly felt bad for putting us in this position. The best hypothesis I can come up with is that when I sat the boat down, I did it right on a stump or rock. The Flint River has flooded timber and rocks everywhere. They are marked pretty well, but a local told me that not every spot is reliable. I guess I found one, even though I was in a marked channel.
The good news is that I have a prop on the boat to use for my tournament this weekend, compliments of Hoppy’s Marine. Those guys are the best. They take care of me when I am out making a mess of things. I owe a lot to them for their support.
The best lesson I got was to look at fishing inside of Lake Seminole much more than I did. There are areas that hold bass no matter the conditions, and the boys showed me that. Stick to simple patterns, cover a lot of water, and don’t get stuck in a spot that can change overnight. I did that and it cost me dearly — not just on the leaderboard, but in my pocketbook as well.
Greg Bartz is a tournament bass fisherman based in Lakeland. Greg fishes lakes throughout Florida’s Heartland and enjoys RV travel around the Southeast with his wife and tournament partner, Missy. Contact him at Greg.Bartz@SummitHoldings.com.