West Point: Another learning experience

There’s a big difference between the West Point Lake we fished two years ago and the one we’re fishing today. It’s tough out there; really tough.

While 15 pounds may be leading after the Day One, nearly every man in the field still has a chance to make the Top 12. I caught 8 pounds, 3 ounces and was proud to have them. When weight like that puts you in 31st place, you know something isn’t quite right.

Let me be clear. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with the lake as much as we are the victims of bad timing. (That has been a theme with the Elite events so far this season.)

The southeast region got drenched with big rains the day before we arrived in LaGrange, Ga. Atlanta got hammered with rain, and all of that water washed down here. Also, the lake is up 2 feet higher than it was when we fished here two years ago, so the fish are more scattered. All of that and then, once the tournament started, the water began to fall. And that’s never a good thing when the fish are shallow.

The shad are spawning which should have helped the morning bite but the falling water has kept the bass from going to the bank where the shad spawn occurs. I checked a number of places Thursday and never saw any of the feeding frenzies I saw in practice.

In addition, the largemouth bass are in the throes of the postspawn period, and that makes for tougher fishing conditions.

I have never allowed the postspawn period to bother me because I’ve always fished around it. I’m either looking for late spawners or fishing those early spawners that have already moved out and started to feed.

But that’s been hard here because you can’t get enough largemouth bites to tell what the fish are doing.

Spotted bass, which are generally smaller, are far more prominent in West Point Lake. But the key to doing well in this tournament is to land at least one good largemouth a day.

I caught 30 bass on Thursday, but they were all spotted bass. I never had a largemouth bass bite. I had 15 rods on my deck and threw every lure and technique I knew and couldn’t get one to bite.

Wind is also a factor on West Point. While I love fishing the wind, it’s no friend here because it has muddied up the banks. Bass will bite in muddy water, but it becomes a negative on lakes that are clear and suddenly get muddy. I spent a lot of time trying to make them bite in that mud, but they wouldn’t.

My game plan now is to find that cleaner water near the mud and make a lot of casts. The man who can figure out the largemouth pattern will win, and that’s what I intend to do.

I know there are more quality fish here than what we showed the first day. I caught some big ones in practice and felt good about my chances.

Oddly enough, I had a horrible practice when we were here two years ago and went out and caught 24 pounds the second day.

I need another “second day” performance like that this year.

Pro fishing is a crazy game. I’ve been doing it a long time, yet I continue to learn. Sure, this tournament is challenging, but it’s also an opportunity to learn a little bit more about bass behavior under extreme conditions.

And that’s what I love about it.

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!