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Your Guide to Tournament Fishing, by a First Year Tournament Angler
Part One
Jerry Corbett


The Oklahomabassfishing.com staff was on hand at the Jimmy Houston Outdoors Classic event held this past weekend to cover all the angles, and I was also participating in all the action, taking a shot at the fully rigged 520 Ranger bass boat and the 225 HP Mercury Optimax engine.

The pre-tournament meeting and dinner on Friday night provided anglers and family members the chance to chat and meet one another and show everyone what a good time can be had when you get a bunch of anglers sitting down telling stories, particularly prior to a big tournament. Carl Woods, the tournament director for the Jimmy Houston Outdoors events provided an outline of what to except and the rules to keep everyone within the laws of the land. As most everyone knows, Lake Tenkiller has a slot limit established, in which “smallmouth” and “largemouth” between 13” and 16” must be returned to the clear waters. The Kentucky bass is not considered with the slot limit rules. Of course a Kentucky bass, with the tooth patch on the middle of its tongue can prove to be a valuable fish when “overs (above the 16” slot limit)” aren’t readily available. Mr. Woods also explained that fish in the 11” to 13” range may be brought to the scales also, including the Kentucky’s. After everyone was squared away on the rules and had a full belly for the night, we were off to the house for some last minute preparations and finalizing our plans for the first of two big days.

The take-off area for the tournament was scheduled for Cherokee landing, but the weigh-in was a trailered weigh-in at the Jimmy Houston Outdoors Store in Cookson, just a few miles down the road. Individuals were told they could launch anywhere on the lake and then be sure to check-in in the morning and after your day of fishing check-back with the “check-in” boat before loading and heading to the weigh-in. With Cherokee landing and Elk Creek landing within shouting distance of each other, one of them seemed to be the logical explanation of a good starting point for the day. One of the many good things about the Jimmy Houston Tournament Trail, is the number of seasoned anglers involved with the Trail, most of the launching and loading is relatively painless. Either choice would have been relatively painless.

Day one: as the fresh morning air sweeps across the cool lake out of nowhere a five-pound bass nails my topwater and in the boat she comes. A great start to the day, then all the sudden a ringing sound starts coming from who knows where…then I awake to darkness as my alarm clock is blaring and the time of 3:00 am showing on the digital readout. Oh yeah, the pleasant dreams of a bass fisherman and then the sudden jerk into reality. Time to get it into gear and hit the road for those clear waters of Tenkiller.

After a quick stop at the Jimmy Houston Outdoor Store to snag a couple bags of ice and a free cup of coffee and a donut that the tournament staff and daylight donuts so kindly provide for the anglers, its off to the launch ramp. Upon arriving at the ramp and unhooking the boat, and a little bit surprised that a line hasn’t formed, we get our Cobra into the water. There’s nothing better than the nice smell of Mercury Optimax exhaust first thing in the morning. After motoring over to Cherokee landing we await our turn in the launch order. The launch order on day one was established by the place the team finished overall for the year in the tournament trial, and then on day two the order was reversed, from lowest finishers to the highest. As our number popped up on the digital readout and Mr. Woods calls our boat number we motor past him and our day has begun.

Our first stop of the day, without surprise, had a covey of boats fishing the same waters. Fishing a tournament trail the size of Jimmy Houston Outdoors will invariable place anglers in the same water on the same fish, the key is to have the right pattern established for the conditions that were present. As the sun started breaking over the hills our first fish of the day was online. It was a small bass but probably a keeper and with many other competitors around us we tried to quietly swing the fish into the boat when it comes unbuttoned. First learning experience of the day, just use the net. A little disappointment sets in, but the size of the bass and being the first rattle out of the box, our attitudes were still in good shape. After spending nearly three hours on our first hole and two small keepers in the boat we decided to make a change and try and find three more to put into the livewell, to at least fill out the days limit.

On the second stop of the day we had a good pattern established to catch lots of fish, the problem again being the size of the bass. But it didn’t take long after our stop to have a few more bass in the boat. It was obvious that our pattern was working while others in our area were struggling to find what was going to interest the bass, because of the look of disappointment on the face of our nearest competitor fishing the same water without a bite to show for his efforts. It’s a very difficult situation to be in when a boat in the same water that your in continues to throw bass into the boat right in front of you and you cannot find out what’s making the difference. It was an unusual circumstance to be in, from our perspective, because we’re normally the ones watching the other anglers in disgust. Eventually, like we normally do, the fellow competitors fire up their big motor and head on their way. The biggest problem with this area was again, the size of the fish. We decided to make a change and try and locate some better bass, but we were definitely in better shape than when we stopped. We had five fish in the livewell after culling the smallest one of the day, but we still needed some good fish to go along with those dinks.

We arrived at our next prospective bass haven a little bit after the twelve o’clock hour and began fishing. Within thirty minutes we had a nice Kentucky in the boat and a largemouth in the “just” over category. After spending another hour or so looking for a few more bites in this area, we came to the decision to move on and try our hand at a few more areas that we caught good fish out of during our prefishing. Besides at this point the Northwesterly wind had made it very difficult to continue our fishing in this particular area.

As we arrived at our next stop of the day and the wind really kicking up we knew that it was going to be tough the rest of the day. After having a nice group of fish show up on the locator and no takers we wanted to make one last stop on the way back.

At the last stop for the day, understanding that most of these fish have probably already seen many different presentations and lures we continued with what caught our fish in practice, hoping that we could get a couple more good bass into the boat. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be and we made a finally check of the time and decided we better get back and check-in and head towards the weigh-in site.

After a quick stop at the check boat, we motored back over to the Elk creek ramp and loaded up for our short drive to the weigh-in. At the weigh-in, the staff of the Jimmy Houston Outdoors team guided us into the large field behind the store, with plenty of room to maneuver, surprisingly, considering the number of teams entered in the event. We got parked and headed for a weigh bag. Back at the boat we fill the weigh bag and break out the measuring board to make some last minute check’s, just to be sure. After everything checked out we grab the bag full of fish, or should I say little fish, and headed to the scales. Our five fish came in at a whopping 6.36 lbs, which appeared to be pretty dismal at first glance, but after everything was said and done we were at least in the top quarter of the field. First place was a distant 13 lbs and some change and second and third place was in the 11 pound range, so we new we had our work cut out for us, and we were going to have to come up with a good plan for the second day if we wanted a shot at the new fishing rig.

Checkout part two to see what was in store for the final day of the championship!

Take it easy, and good fishing!
Jerry Corbett





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