Heading in the right direction

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Alan McGuckin

It sure feels good to be heading in the right direction. A Top-10 finish is always a positive thing, but I’m especially pleased with my eighth place last week at Lake Hartwell because I had a tough start to the season.

This was only my second time on Hartwell, and it was a very different scenario than what I found during last year’s Bassmaster Classic. The previous time I was on this lake, it was a deeper bite and that was not an option for last week’s Elite event.

This was a bed-fishing tournament for me and a key move on Day 2 opened the door of opportunity. I had fished the lower to mid-lake area on the first day, but I realized that it wasn’t happening as quickly as it should. There were a lot of smaller fish on beds, and the better ones I had found in practice were gone.

I caught a limit, but I knew my weight wasn’t going to cut it. So I scrapped that plan and made a significant change by running up the river where I thought the water would be warmer.

My suspicion was correct, and the river water was 64 degrees. During practice, I found 58-59 on the main lake and that got up to 60 by the start of the tournament. So, 4 degrees warmer made a big difference in the fish’s progress.

I found my bed fish in 1-3 feet of water, mostly on the flat banks. Sandy areas were best, but even in areas with some silt on the bottom, the fish would fan out clear spots as long as it was hard sand underneath. The one thing I found that they did not like was a red clay bank — I never found bedding fish on these areas.

Looking back over this event, I can point to a particular fish that made a big difference for me. I had found a 5-pounder on Day 2, but I couldn’t get her to bite. I went back to this fish the next day and found her in a more aggressive mood.

I worked on this bed fish for an hour and at 1:30, I got her to bite a finesse worm on a dropshot. This fish sealed the deal for me and allowed me to make it to the final day. 

I caught a couple more on the dropshot, but the vast majority of my fish came on a Riot Baits Little Fuzzy Beaver. I Texas rigged this bait on a 3/0 extra wide gap hook and used it to target bed fish.

I’m not sure how I’ll catch them this week on Winyah Bay, but I know one thing — coming off a Top 10 at Hartwell has me pumped to earn another strong finish. Fishing back-to-back tournaments can be challenging and, after making the final round on Hartwell, I’m tired — there’s not doubt about it.

But we get a break after this one, so I’ll rest them. For now, I’ll focus on getting plenty of sleep, so I’m ready to go each day. The key is staying in it mentally. You can’t let your focus slip.

I don’t think I’ll have any trouble with that because it’s a lot easier coming off a good event. You get the adrenaline flow, the confidence, the momentum — all that is very real.