Back on track at Beaver Lake

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

After a decent tournament at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas a couple of weeks ago I was eager to get back on the water last week at Beaver Lake for stop #4 on the FLW Tour.

Last year at Beaver I had a good tournament and caught good numbers of fish each day en route to a 43rd place finish.  I fished the clear water end of the lake, up near the dam and was comfortable throwing a jerkbait and a variety of finesse soft plastics.

We were fishing Beaver the same week that we were there last year so I expected the conditions to be very similar, if not a little behind because of the cold winter we’ve had.  I was excited at this prospect because if anything, the cool water temperatures should help keep the fish “out” and the jerkbait bite strong.

This big smallmouth ate the jerkbait in practice.

This big smallmouth ate the jerkbait in practice.

On my first day of practice I visited many of the locations that I fished last year during this event and was quite disappointed.  In fact, I did not catch a bass that first day until 4:30 in the afternoon!  Once I left the area that I fished last year I found a few stretches that were holding some decent spotted bass.
On the morning of day two of practice (we get 3 days to practice for these events), I fished relatively close to the boat ramp area and ended up catching several big largemouths in the 3 and 4 pound range on a Jackall MC/60 MR crankbait in the Crawfish pattern.  This bait is a favorite because it casts really well, rarely snags and always runs perfect.  It’s in the same profile of the famous Wiggle Wart that many anglers love throwing on these Ozark lakes.  Anyway, it’s a great crankbait.  After catching these nice largemouths I spent the next six hours trying to duplicate what I did and try to put a pattern together but never really found anything else.  That’s the tough part about Beaver Lake, you almost just have to fish and figure things out on the fly each day.

Here is a big largemouth from practice, caught on the crankbait.  I have my life jacket on because it was literally just a quick stop and I caught the fish on my first cast.

Here is a big largemouth from practice, caught on the crankbait. I have my life jacket on because it was literally just a quick stop and I caught the fish on my first cast.

Once the tournament started my plan of attack was to basically throw the crankbait and a suspending jerkbait – a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 in the Ghost Minnow color.  With these baits I could cover a fair amount of ground and hunt down active, biting fish.  Though I didn’t end up throwing it a lot in the tournament and I probably should have more, especially on the second day when the wind died, I had a Jackall 5.8” Flick Shake Worm rigged on a 3/16 oz shakey head jig.  Not that many anglers use the Flick Shake on a shaky head, but it’s a great worm to use on it.

The wind blew hard the first day and it really helped the jerkbait bite.  My limit weighing 10-14 landed me in 47th place, only a pound and a half out of the top 20, yet only a pound and a half out of the money so there was some pressure to catch a decent limit again.  These events pay $10,000 down to 60th place, so my number one goal was ending up in the top 60 and making some money.

A nice spotted bass from my day 1 limit

A nice spotted bass from my day 1 limit

Without much wind on day two, the bite was a lot tougher.  I was fortunate to catch a limit early in the morning on the jerkbait but then I think I went about four hours without catching a fish.  I did pick up the Flick Shake a couple of times but I really felt like I just had to keep burning water and find a big bite.  I was one good fish away from cashing a big check.  As well, I was getting just enough follows and “nips” on the jerkbait to keep me interested.  As time ran out, I had to get my limit in to the scales.  After a couple of late day “culls” for ounces, my limit totaled 7-13.  Not what I was hoping for.

A nice smallmouth, which was part of my day one limit.  Behind the stage GoPro photo.

A nice smallmouth, which was part of my day 1 limit. Behind the stage GoPro photo.

I headed back to the room to get my things packed up.  As the weigh-in neared its finish I watched the results intently.  It was quite nerve-racking watching myself slip down the leaderboard 55-56-57-58.  When all was said and done, I ended up in 59th spot and earned a $10,000 check!

Next up for me is the Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament over on Lake Michigan in mid-May.  Until then I get some down time at home in Ontario’s Sunset Country Region, which I’m looking forward to very much!  We’re still ice fishing this week but hopefully by next week the snow will melt off enough that we can do some shed hunting.  I’ll keep ya’ll posted!

A popular activity of the anglers at night - playing Cornhole (aka Bean Bags).  Here are super pros Jacob Wheeler and Dave Lefebre.  Lefebre is very intense with this game...and the best at it.  Wheeler and I did beat him and Blake Nick the last game we played though, so I guess that makes us the Champs until next time.

A popular activity of the anglers at night – playing Cornhole (aka Bean Bags). Here are super pros Jacob Wheeler and Dave Lefebre.  Lefebre is very intense with this game…and the best at it. Wheeler and I did beat him and Blake Nick the last game we played though, so I guess that makes us the Champs until next time.

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).

Turning things around at Big Sam

Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

Heading into the third event of the FLW Tour season at Sam Rayburn Reservoir in Texas I was excited to turn my season around.  After a couple of tough events at Lake Okeechobee and Lake Hartwell, I was eager to get back out there.

I fished a tournament at Rayburn back in October of 2012 so I had a good idea of the layout of the lake and areas where I wanted to spend my time fishing.

One of my Big Bites from Practice

One of my Big Bites from Practice

My practice for this event went really good, maybe the best I’ve ever had for a Tour event.  The first day I caught several fish but no big ones.  The second day I fished a different area and by lunch time had caught a few big fish between four and six pounds.  By day’s end my best five would have weighed over 25 pounds so I was excited to get the tournament started.  The last day of practice I looked for more areas like the ones I had found the day before.  My best spots were near the backs of small pockets where there was healthy, green weed growing.  If I could find the green weeds (hydrilla mostly), the water would be slightly clearer and there would be a lot of bait (shad) around.  My last day was not nearly as successful but late in the day I found one small bay that was loaded with fish.  I caught a few, shook a few off and left, eager to get the tournament started.

Big bass that ate the Jackall TN70 rattlebait

Big bass that ate the Jackall TN70 rattlebait

I was finding my fish throwing two different baits and once you found them you could catch them on nearly anything you wanted, at least that’s how it was in practice.  Rayburn is known as a good “trap” lake, and these lipless style lures are great for covering water.  I was throwing a Jackall TN70 lipless jerkbait in the red Crawfish color.  If the grass got a little bit thicker or shallower I would switch things up to a Chatterbait, which would sneak through the grass a little better.  Once we found them we could use a variety of Texas-rigged soft plastics or soft jerkbaits to pluck a few more fish.  This was how practice went.   I was throwing the rattle bait on a G. Loomis 7’11” GLX (GLX957CBR) heavy action crankbait rod.  It had enough power to rip the rattlebait out of the grass if I hung up on it.  This would trigger strikes as well.  I was using 30 lb. Power Pro braid on a Shimano Chronarch CI4 baitcast reel. (CH150CI4HG).

The day before the tournament, a day off the water for all the tournament anglers, the wind started to blow heavily from the south.  I knew this was not good for me because my best spots were exposed to this wind.  I knew the water temperature would drop off and the water would get dirty.  I tried to find some other places during practice that the wind might not hit me as bad but I just didn’t find anything like the good spots that I had.

As I suspected the big wind hurt my key areas so I knew I was just going to have to grind it out in the places I found and hopefully I would be able to put some decent fish in the boat.  The first day was a struggle and I was only able to get four keepers in the boat.  My weight of 8-7 put me in 108th position out a field of 175 anglers.

On day two the wind finally laid down so I knew I had to figure out how to get a few good fish to bite in my areas.  I was still confident they were there I just had to get some bites!  About my fifth cast of the morning I hooked a big fish on my Jackall rattle bait.  After a strong battle my co-angler netted a 7-7 monster that was huge for me!  I felt like this fish was going to change my whole season around!  I had to grind it out the rest of the day and was able to get a limit together, weighing 13-7.  This weight moved me up to 69th place and into the money, so I cashed my first check of the year and felt like a new man!

Gussy with his 7-7 big bass on day two of the FLW Tour event at Sam Rayburn, Texas. (Courtesy of Julie Huber - FLW)

Gussy with his 7-7 big bass on day two of the FLW Tour event at Sam Rayburn, Texas. (Courtesy of Julie Huber – FLW)

 

We get a week off then it’s on to Beaver Lake, Arkansas next week for stop number four.  I had a good tournament last year at Beaver so I’m looking forward to it.  Of all the lakes on the schedule this year, Beaver probably fishes more like our lakes up north than any other.  Last year I caught all the fish I weighed on a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 jerkbait and I’m sure throwing a jerkbait will be a good pattern again this year with the cold weather that has lingered around in that part of the country.

They have A LOT of tournaments at Rayburn so they have some great infrastructure set up.  This is a tank at Umphrey Pavillion, where we had our weigh-in that is a holding tank for the fish that are then "flushed" through a big pipe down to the lake.  Pretty cool huh?

They have A LOT of tournaments at Rayburn so they have some great infrastructure set up. This is a tank at Umphrey Pavillion, where we had our weigh-in that is a holding tank for the fish that are then “flushed” through a big pipe down to the lake. Pretty cool huh?

After the event I fished with some sponsor folks from International Comfort Products for a couple of days and we caught some nice fish!  Jay Martinez with the big one of the day!

After the event I fished with some sponsor folks from International Comfort Products for a couple of days and we caught some nice fish! Jay Martinez with the big one of the day!

Jeff Gustafson is a professional angler living in Kenora, Ontario on the shores of Lake of the Woods. Outdoor writer, fishing promoter and host of “Fishing with Gussy.” You’ll see him fishing the FLW Tour representing krugerfarms.com and Lund boats among others. You can follow him on Twitter (@GussyOutdoors) and like him on Facebook (facebook.com/gussyoutdoors).