JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. — Yesterday at this time heavy rain marked the beginning of the Basspro.com Bassmaster Eastern Open at Cherokee Lake. Friday the weather was much different. Could that mean a changeup in the leaderboard and how fish are caught?
I think it will. The frontal boundary just passed over the area and with it, winds from the northeast at 10 mph with higher gusts. The cloud cover will remain over the lake for most of the day, until the back side of the front passes. Right now, it’s 50 degrees and the front will keep it chilly with the high 50s forecasted for the daytime high. So, in a nutshell, a steady north wind and chilly conditions, in contrast to the nearly 80 degree temp we had yesterday at weigh-in.
It’s already been reported about the brilliant move by Josh Stracner to target smallmouth. There are plenty of them in this lake, and as he said, they are healthy. On average about three-quarter pound heavier in weight than an average 15-inch largemouth. Will his all-bronzeback strategy hold up? I think it will, as smallmouth activity increases with windy, cloudy conditions like we’ll have today. They tend to roam more in the low light conditions, seeking baitfish and feeding.
What else stood out was Brandon Palaniuk in eighth place. Palaniuk is doing what he likes to do, which is eyeball his Humminbird Mega 360 Imaging while finessing a drop-shot rig over isolated offshore rock cover.
This is only a hunch but Palaniuk finished 12th here at a Bassmaster Elite Series event held here during February. Doing exactly what he is doing now was the name of the game in 2017. Could Palaniuk be fishing history, recalling some of his offshore waypoints from that derby?
“Today (Thursday) I had a difficult time with boat positioning and hitting the right angles that I needed,” he said.
“I actually like the conditions in the forecast tomorrow with sunshine, calmer winds,” he added.
That all adds up to focusing on the shady side of rocks used by the smallmouth as ambush points. Right now, that pattern is dark because of the cloudy conditions. Or, it might not matter at all.
Meanwhile, and up the Holston River, is Patrick Walters, currently in 11th place on the leaderboard. Walters is running and gunning, covering as much water as possible to fill a limit of largemouth.
“I’m having to go through 20 bites to get the five that I need to fill a limit,” he said.
What Walters and his peers fishing upriver today will get is runoff, and plenty of it, after the area received nearly 3 inches of rain. Two things could pan out. First, the red clay runoff could muddy up the run-ins that flow into the lake from the valleys and hollows. Next, the runoff will eventually push out the mud and bring an inflow of clearer water, which attracts baitfish and bass.
The TVA Lake Info app shows two or more generators will run today and Saturday at Cherokee Dam, although the lake elevation will remain steady. It will be interesting to see if more smallmouth are caught today, and fewer largemouth.