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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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).