The Tennessee River chain in general, and Pickwick Lake in particular, have been very good to the Mossy Oak Fishing team. Last year perennial Classic qualifier Bill Lowen earned his first Elite Series win at Pickwick, and this year fellow team member Brandon Lester achieved that same feat.
When Lowen won last March, the tournament was delayed multiple times and then competition proceeded under flood conditions. This time around, the water levels were more restrained and typical, but the playing field was no less challenging. Pickwick’s many ledges attracted hordes of Elite Series anglers and locals alike – not to mention the virtual armada of pleasure boats creating tsunami-sized waves – and the extreme heat made it a true test of the best.
Lester sprinted out to an early lead on the morning of Day One, and then relinquished it slightly by the time of the weigh-in. He regained it on Day Two and never again had anyone in front of him. In a tournament where the afternoon bite was essential, he figured out how to catch fish in the morning. In a tournament where anglers played musical chairs on key spots, he had his honey holes to himself. In a tournament where only three other anglers managed to top 20 pounds more than once, he did it all four days.
He combined lures including a Scrounger, a crankbait and a big worm to catch fish after fish after fish while others struggled to land just five. The result was a masterful win by nearly 6 pounds over his closest competitor.
Combined with his Bassmaster Open win in Florida earlier this year, the 2022 season is showing what in-the-know fishing fans have surmised for a long time – Brandon Lester is not only one of the sport’s nicest guys, but also one of its fiercest competitors…and the best may still be yet to come.
Mossy Oak Fishing Lake Breakdown
Host: Counce, Tennessee
Launch Site: Pickwick Landing State Park
Lake Description: Pickwick is one of the many famed Tennessee River impoundments created and operated by the Tennessee Valley Authority. Although the tournament launched out of Tennessee, the fishery spans not only that state, but Alabama and Mississippi as well. It stretches over 43,000 acres. In June, current created by hydroelectric generation is often the key to the best bite.
Bass Species Present: Pickwick has all three major species – largemouths, smallmouths and spotted bass, but it was the first two that played the primary role in this tournament’s outcome.
Forage Species: In addition to crawfish and bluegills, Pickwick has an incredibly prolific shad population, both threadfin and gizzard. Several anglers openly stated that the larger bass were feeding on the sizeable gizzard shad. That’s why larger lures like flutter spoons and oversized crankbaits played such a large role in the outcome.
Weather: Can you say HOT? It was blazing hot throughout the tournament and that required not only some strategy – as just about every party boat in a 200 mile radius decided to hit the water – but also in terms of staying hydrated and wearing the right Mossy Oak clothing.
How to Fish Pickwick in June
While one or two of the top ten anglers committed to shallow water, most of them were offshore, fishing river humps and ledges. They aren’t necessarily the 15 to 30 foot ledges that are most popular on some other TVA reservoirs and other lakes throughout the South. In fact, many of the top finishers focused on areas less than 10 feet deep. Still, they were off the bank. The lures most frequently cited for top catches included big worms, flutter spoons and crankbaits.
Top Mossy Oak Performers
In addition to Brandon Lester’s dominating performance, four of the other six members of the Mossy Oak Fishing team made the top 47 cut to Day Three, and Brandon Palaniuk likewise made the cut to Day Four (he finished 7th overall). In order, the team’s finishes were as follows:
- 1st Brandon Lester
- 7th Brandon Palaniuk
- 30th Brandon Cobb
- 42nd Drew Benton
- 47th Greg Hackney
Palaniuk’s Day Four appearance was a surprise to just about everyone, not because anyone doubted his fishing skill, but rather because his wife Tiffanie was due to give birth to their first daughter prior to the tournament and he’d vowed to be there. Somehow, the baby held off and BP kept on going. That enabled him to hold on to the top spot in the hotly-contested Angler of the Year race.
Indeed, it looks like a Mossy Oak “club meeting” at the top of the AOY standings, with Palaniuk in 1st, the hard-charging Lester in 4th, and Drew Benton in 5th.
Brandon Cobb (11th), Gerald Swindle (15th) and Greg Hackney are also well within the Bassmaster Classic cut.
Bill Lowen (41st) is one spot out of the cut, but could get in through a double-qualifier, or, more likely, through some second-half heroics.
Brandon Lester has been known as one of the hardest-working, most consistent pros on tour for many years. He was the 2018 Bassmaster Eastern Open points champ, and has qualified for seven of the last eight Bassmaster Classics, turning in two top-ten performances.
With this win, he not only gained additional credibility and respect, but also passed the million dollar mark in BASS winnings. The question, it seems, is how many more will he win before he decides to call it quits? At just 34 years old, he has a lot of runway left on his career.
“This is unreal,” he told Bassmaster. “That Open win, I was super proud of it. It’s a stacked field in the Opens. But an Elite Series win is next level. I guess it’s between an Opens win and a Classic win. That’s the only thing that can top it. These are the greatest bass fishermen in the world. I believe that. If they’re not, they won’t last long.”
What They’ve Been Wearing
During the impending heat of the summer, we’ve had a run on the coolest and most comfortable options in the Mossy Oak lineup. Those include our Flex Fishing Shorts, our Long Sleeve Fishing Tech Shirts (long sleeves to protect you from a nasty bun), and even our cooling boxer briefs. If you’re outfitted properly, pace yourself, and drink plenty of water, you too can stay out there until the bite gets as hot as the midday temperatures.