Pro-staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson
The fifth stop of the season on the FLW Tour took place last week at Pickwick Lake, out of Florence, Alabama. After a week and a half at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin for the annual Sturgeon Bay Open Bass Tournament, then a week out in British Columbia with my wife to tape a couple of TV shows for my program, Fishing with Gussy, I showed up at Pickwick ready to wrap up a month on road. I was hoping for a good tournament before I could head home to Sunset Country for a little break before the last event the last week of June at Kentucky Lake.
GoPro: Over the course of the three practice days, my buddy Brian Partak and I put in some long days, fishing from dark to dark. Most of the guys fishing in these tournaments do that.
Pickwick Lake is part of the Tennessee River and is a well-known bass fishery, much like Chickamauga, Guntersville, Wheeler and Kentucky Lakes, also part of the same system. In my experience, fishing on these lakes is usually really good. They all have a lot of bait and good numbers of fish.
Heading into this tournament, the predictions were that it was going to be an offshore, ledge fishing tournament so my plan was to spend as much time graphing around with my Humminbirds as I could in hopes of finding a few schools of fish.
Over the course of the three-day practice period I was able to find a number of schools of fish but the problem was that most of them were on high-profile, obvious spots that many other anglers in the field found as well. I spent quite a bit of time looking for less obvious spots and did find a few that I thought had some potential, but the biggest schools I found were on the community spots.
Preparing to blast-off on Day One of the Pickwick Lake FLW Tour event. – FLW Outdoors
I drew boat number 165 the first day of the tournament, not exactly a great start number in a tournament where getting on one of the popular community spots early was a good bet for cashing a check.
My strategy was to just fish whatever was open out of all the spots that I had found. My first few spots produced a few smaller keepers (15” at Pickwick). At around 10am I pulled up to a point facing into the current that I caught a couple of decent fish on in practice. There was a shell bed on the point where it dropped from six to twelve feet of water. I was throwing a ¾ oz football head jig on most of the spots that I was fishing and it was great on this particular spot because I could feel the shell bed and that was where I was getting most of the fish to bite.
Fishing on day one of the tournament – Photo credit – FLW Outdoors
This stop changed my day quickly. I immediately started catching fish and put a decent limit together. About half way through catching around 25 fish off of this spot I set the hook on the biggest bass that I have ever caught. After an intense battle that included several jumps and a power run under the boat my co-angler Ralph Logan netted the 10 pound, 12 ounce monster.
10 Pounder – My big bass from day 1 – Photo credit – Joel Shangle (OutdoorsFIRST media)
I made a few small upgrades throughout the rest of the day and managed to put together the biggest five fish limit that I ever caught in FLW Tour competition. My 24-8 total landed me in first place after day one and ranks right up there in the fishing accomplishments that I have had to date.
Day two went okay but I lacked getting a big bite. My limit weighing 15-15 dropped me to 12th place but I managed to make the top 20 cut to fish day three, which was my goal heading into this event. With little pressure on day three I fished to try to catch a big limit and came up short, bringing in 12-02. I ended up with a 17th place finish, which is my best yet on the FLW Tour.
Waiting to blast-off on day three…the field was cut to the top 20 anglers heading out for the third day.
The ¾ oz football jig was probably my most productive bait last week at Pickwick but I also caught fish on deep diving crankbaits and swimbaits. I was using two crankbaits primarily, a Rapala DT 20 and a Jackall Muscle Deep 15. I was using the DT 20 on the deeper edges and Muscle Deep 15 in the 10-15 foot stuff.
I fished my football jig on a 7’3” G. Loomis NRX rod (NRX 873C), a Shimano Chronarch CI4 reel (7.6:1) and 12 lb Sunline Sniper FC line.
Pickwick is known for it’s big smallmouths and though I didn’t catch any during the tournament, I did catch a good one after the event.
The last event of the FLW Tour season takes place next week at Kentucky Lake, one of the best lakes in North America right now. The fishing should be really good so I’m looking forward to it! It will be more offshore, ledge fishing, which I’m comfortable with. Hopefully I can end the season on a good note!
Comfort Products who I fished with for a couple days following the tournament. We caught’em pretty good!
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).