Lewis Smith Lake FLW Tour Recap

Pro-Staff Contributor: Jeff Gustafson

Gussy with a nice spotted bass caught on a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 jerkbait in practice.

Gussy with a nice spotted bass caught on a Jackall Squad Minnow 115 jerkbait in practice.

The second FLW Tour event of the season took place this past weekend at Alabama’s Lewis Smith Lake. 175 pro anglers participated in this event and in the end it was California angler Brent Ehrler who took home the $125,000 first place prize.  I had a great experience at this event and ended up with a 71st place finish. Though I would have liked to have finished higher, I was happy that I ended up squeaking into the money (the top 79 places were paid). At some of these events, when you have to improvise your game plan in the moment, salvaging a decent finish can be considered a success. That’s how I feel about this one.

Practice

During practice I got on a pretty good bite–catching my fish on suspending jerkbaits like the Jackall Squad Minnow 115 and the Jackall DD Squirrel 79. The water temperatures were 47-50 degrees, which just screamed “jerkbait” to me. During the practice period the weather was conducive to fishing jerkbaits because it was overcast and there was some wind. I also looked shallow for largemouths and deeper for schools of spotted bass and though I did catch some of each I felt like the jerkbait program was my best strategy for a strong finish.

The Tournament

When the event started, the weather changed–it became really bright and the wind died. However, I managed to catch a decent limit the first day that landed me in the 80th spot. I caught all my fish on the jerkbaits but I only caught six keeper fish all day. I knew something wasn’t right, because during practice I was getting 12-15 fish per day. On day two, when things got off to a slow start, I started thinking about what I could do differently to trigger some fish to bite. I moved my boat out to deeper water and kept my eyes on my Humminbird depth finder, watching for fish. Surprisingly I marked several fish immediately. After trying several baits I ended up getting some bites on ice fishing jigs that are popular during the winter months with anglers in the north. For the rest of the day I was able to use a Northland Puppet Minnow and Rapala Jigging Shad Rap to catch my fish. I only brought a few baits down with me so I was a little bit limited on color options. I fished these baits vertically under the front of my boat the rest of the day and watched them on my depth finder the entire time. I was able to mark the fish, watch my lure and watch how fish interacted with the lure as I fished it. Over the course of the day I probably had over 100 spotted bass chase my lure that did not bite. I really wish I would have gotten onto this bite in practice so that I could have fine-tuned the color that the fish wanted and found more spots that were holding fish.

In the end, I was really happy that I figured out a way to put some fish in the boat on a tougher day two. There were a lot of good anglers that were not able to put a limit in the boat that day.

I get a few weeks off now before the next FLW Tour event at Beaver Lake, Arkansas. In the meantime I’m going to be headed home to take in a couple of weeks of ice fishing up in Ontario’s Sunset Country. Late March is the best time of the year to catch the biggest walleyes, lake trout and pike so I’m looking forward to pulling some giant fish through the ice!

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 Walmart 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).

Gussy with a big striper that fell for a jerkbait during practice.  "These things fight so hard!"

Gussy with a big striper that fell for a jerkbait during practice. “These things fight so hard!”

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