Although we’re fishing the Tennessee River at the 2019 Classic, Fort Loudoun and Tellico lakes aren’t like the Tennessee River in Alabama where I live. Fort Loudoun is more of a mountain lake with numbers of rocks and no grass. There’s an extreme amount of current coming through these two lakes due to TVA having to dump water from the lakes. The water color is extremely dirty compared to what it usually is. For instance, Tellico is generally a clear-water lake where you can catch smallmouths fishing a jerkbait or a swimbait. However, the water is so dirty right now during the Classic that that bass bite isn’t even available. Fort Loudoun normally has some color in it, but right now, it has a whole lot of color.
Since we began practice last Friday, March 8, the water has risen 2-1/2 feet. So, we’re seeing changes in water conditions with the depth and the color of the water and the speed of the current. When the 2019 Bassmaster Classic begins on March 15, we’ll be fishing typical river conditions, which means changing water color and the speed of the flow every day. We’ve had cloudy days during Classic week, interrupted by rain. All the competitors at the Classic will have to be very aware of the changing conditions hour by hour. I feel the bass bite will change every day from one location to another.
For me to win, I’ve got to do what I do best – fish by the seat of my pants. I don’t think I can take a plan and work that plan every day or each hour of the day during this Classic. I’ve got to stay tuned in to all the fishing conditions. I must plan to fish where and how those conditions tell me where the bass must be.
People call me a junk fisherman because I’ll have five or six rods on my casting deck – perhaps a big flipping stick rigged with 25-pound-test line and a 5/8-ounce jig and a 3/8-ounce ball shaky head jig on 10-pound-test line on another rod. I also may have two crankbaits on two different rods and a jerkbait on my last rod. When I move into a region to fish, and I see the kind of structure, water depth and water conditions where one of those lures should be the best, I’ll pick up the rod with that lure, cast it four or five times at a target and then put the rod back down on the deck. What I like is having six to eight rod, reel, line and lure selections available and then be wise on where I use each rod, reel, line and lure based on the targets I see, the depth of water that lure will cover, and where I think the bass are holding. Although many people consider junk fishing as having 10-20 rods on your casting deck ready to go, I call that confused bass fishing. Junk fishing for me is having six to seven rods on my casting deck rigged differently and knowing when and where to throw each lure during the 8-9 hours I have to fish.
Since this year’s Classic will be defined by changing fishing conditions, I think I have an advantage in my fishing. This Classic is one of the few early-spring tournaments where I’ve felt I have an advantage in my bass fishing because of the style of fishing the winner must use, the changing conditions each day and the fact that we’ll have to switch styles of fishing constantly to keep up with the changing conditions.
My game plan is to fish in 3- to 7-foot-deep water with much of my fishing on the shoreline. However, I won’t be casting to the shoreline but will be casting to small obstacles, small points, little stick-ups and isolated rocks off the bank. I won’t be flying down the bank either. With water temperatures in the 50-degree range, these bass will want a slow presentation. I’ll keep moving to be productive, but I’m not going to overfish an area.
Right now, I have a couple of key regions where I feel good about my opportunities to catch bass. During practice, I burned about 83 gallons of gas, looking at both Fort Loudoun and Tellico. I’ve identified about seven or eight areas I feel I have to remain in and work those places thoroughly. I don’t plan to spend a lot of time running up and down the lake.
I caught two smallmouths in practice – one a 4-pounder and the other a 5-pounder. Due to that 18-inch limit on smallmouths, I think the winning weight will be 45 to 46-1/2 pounds. Being able to control my mindset and the variables I can and not worrying about anything else will be the keys to my winning.
For more coverage of the Mossy Oak Fishing Team at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic, read:
- VIDEO | Gerald Swindle’s 2019 Bassmaster Classic Strategy
- VIDEO | Jordan Lee’s 2019 Bassmaster Classic Strategy
- Kevin VanDam Reflects On Past Bassmaster Classic Wins and Is Hoping For Number 5
- Brandon Palaniuk’s Approach For the 2019 Bassmaster Classic
- Can Jordan Lee Win 3 Consecutive Bassmaster Classics?
- Ott DeFoe Explains How He’ll Fish the 2019 Bassmaster Classic
- 2019 Bassmaster Classic Practice with Jordan Lee
- Brandon Palaniuk | The Bass and the Fishermen Are Confused at the 2019 Bassmaster Classic
- Kevin VanDam: 28 and 4 in Fishing the Bassmaster Classic
- Who Has the Best Odds to Win the 2019 Bassmaster Classic?
- 2019 Bassmaster Classic Favorite, Ott DeFoe, Is Optimistic
- What's the Significance of a 2019 Bassmaster Classic Win?