“Grind” is one of those words that sounds like what it means. As a verb, “grind” means to reduce something to small particles, like when you grrrrinnnd black pepper onto your scrambled eggs. As a noun, “grind” means hard, dull, repetitive work — labor that’s focused and precise yet robotic. “The daily grind,” while slow, methodical and boring, usually manages to get the job done. “There are days when bass fishing is a grind,” Elite Series pro Caleb Sumrall knows. “You hit the water with high expectations, but the bite just isn’t happening. You try a bunch of different lures and patterns but nothing’s working. The clock is ticking away, and you’ve got to get something going. What then? What I do is put my trolling motor down and just start fishing. Cast, repeat. Cast, repeat. I keep moving, covering as much water as I possibly can, trusting that sooner or later, a good fish will load on.” Which is exactly the way Sumrall approached his tough November outing on Lake M — by putting his nose to the grindstone and getting the job done.
6:10 a.m. It’s 38 degrees and foggy when Sumrall and I arrive at Lake M. The forecast calls for clear skies and a high of 65 with an approaching cold front. Sumrall pulls several Kistler rods from storage. We both don cold-weather gear and prepare to launch.
7 HOURS LEFT 6:30 a.m. We launch the Bass Cat. Lake M is fog shrouded, 56 degrees and stained. What pattern does Sumrall anticipate will be operative today? “November can mean everything from topwater to football jigs. Ideally, the bass will be chasing shad in the creeks and pockets, so I’ll start out shallow, throwing baitfish mimics like spinnerbaits, swimbaits and small crankbaits in light-colored or flash patterns. I’ll also try a buzzbait before the fog burns off.” 6:42 a.m. Sumrall has idled around a main-lake point into a tributary arm with numerous docks. He drops the Minn Kota and makes his first casts of the day to a seawall with a white 1/2-ounce Kajun Boss tandem willowleaf spinnerbait. 6:48 a.m. Sumrall switches to a white homemade 3/8-ounce buzzbait rigged with a matching generic soft-plastic toad instead of a skirt. “Topwaters aren’t just for hot weather! I’ve caught some whales on buzzbaits during the fall/winter transition. If it’s a fall day when the water temp will be rising, not falling, I’ll usually try topwater.” 6:50 a.m. Sumrall bags a short fish off the seawall on the spinnerbait. 6:53 a.m. Sumrall is moving along Lake M’s shoreline very quickly while rotating between the spinnerbait and buzzbait. “I’m all about covering as much water as possible on an unfamiliar lake.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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7 a.m. Sumrall bangs the spinnerbait off a dock piling. “That nonkeeper I caught slammed the spinnerbait, which is a good sign. You get a lot of fish just nipping at the blades on sunny, calm days.” 7:04 a.m. Sumrall adds a white Missile Baits Twin Turbo trailer to his spinnerbait “to give it a little more action in this stained water and to ‘slow the roll’ a bit.” 7:07 a.m. The fog is dissipating as Sumrall moves directly across the creek arm to try the spinnerbait on a sunlit bank. The water is one degree warmer here. “The sun warms up stained water quickly if the wind isn’t blowing. They should be on shallow cover here.” 7:13 a.m. Sumrall chunks the spinnerbait to a cypress tree. “I never pass up a cypress tree on the lakes back home in Louisiana. Bass love ’em.” Apparently not so much on Lake M, however! 7:15 a.m. Sumrall tries a shad colored Spro Little John MD crankbait on the sunny shoreline. 7:18 a.m. He hangs the spinnerbait in a submerged limb and retrieves it. 7:20 a.m. Back to the crankbait on a secondary point. 7:24 a.m. Sumrall is still moving quickly along the bank, rotating lures. “This time of year, I’d rather spend my day actually fishing than running around looking for places to fish, if you know what I mean.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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7:26 a.m. Sumrall bags his first keeper bass of the day, a 2-pound, 2-ounce largemouth, near the back of a dock on the spinnerbait. “That fish was really shallow.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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6 HOURS LEFT 7:30 a.m. Sumrall upsizes crankbaits to a shad colored Spro Fat Papa. “This plug is a squarebill; the MD has a rounded bill. It’s got a chunkier profile and deflects beautifully off hard cover.” He roots it across a rock point. 7:36 a.m. Sumrall rounds the point and continues cranking his way uplake with the Fat Papa. His graphite Kistler cranking rod has an 18-inch fiberglass tip section. “The soft tip section lets bass inhale the lure so you get fewer short strikes.” 7:42 a.m. Sumrall runs uplake to hit another concentration of docks; the water is slightly clearer here. He probes a boathouse with a 1/2-ounce black and blue Missile Mini Flip jig with a green pumpkin Missile D Bomb trailer. 7:48 a.m. Sumrall tries a white 3/8-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait bladed jig with a matching Missile Shockwave trailer around docks. 7:53 a.m. He combs a submerged tree with the Big Papa but hauls water. “I can’t believe there wasn’t one there!” 7:55 a.m. Sumrall flips the jig to the tree and gets a tap, but the fish drops it. 8:06 a.m. Sumrall continues uplake while chunking a citrus shad Spro Little John flat-sided crankbait to shoreline cover.
8:18 a.m. Sumrall hooks a submerged branch with the Little John and reels it in. “Tree pounder! Get it?” Yep. 8:23 a.m. A light breeze is blowing out of the northwest as Sumrall flips a laydown. 8:26 a.m. Sumrall moves to the point at the entrance to a short creek arm. Here he rotates among the jig, spinnerbait and Little John.
5 HOURS LEFT 8:30 a.m. Sumrall enters the creek and cranks the MD past a sunken tree. A good fish loads but shakes off at the boat. “Dang it, that was a 4-plus! It hit at the end of the tree and ran straight toward me, so I never got a decent hook set.” 8:42 a.m. Sumrall has cranked a long stretch of bank with the MD without success. He slow rolls the spinnerbait around shallow timber in the upper end of the creek. 8:49 a.m. He tries the MD and buzzbait around the timber but receives no love here. 8:58 a.m. Sumrall has moved back down the lake to fish the spinnerbait on a channel bank with scattered wood cover. “I’m more confident fishing stained water, and it’s noticeably murkier on this end of the lake.” 9:04 a.m. He hangs the Little John in a trotline and retrieves it. 9:07 a.m. Sumrall cranks a sunken brushpile and reels in another “tree pounder.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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9:13 a.m. Sumrall rigs a brown craw Little John on another cranking rod and dredges it across a nearby point. “I’d rather be throwing that spinnerbait, but sunny and calm aren’t great spinnerbait conditions.” 9:20 a.m. Sumrall enters a shallow, tree-studded cove and returns to the spinnerbait. He removes the lure’s trailer “so it’ll have less vibration and swim a little deeper.” 9:25 a.m. Sumrall retrieves the spinnerbait down a shaded log, gets a solid strike and swings aboard keeper No. 2, 3 pounds, 14 ounces. “What a chunk! She crushed it!”
4 HOURS LEFT 9:30 a.m. A bass swats at the spinnerbait but doesn’t connect. 9:37 a.m. Sumrall moves deeper into the cove with the spinnerbait. “This is the only lure that’s worked so far, so I’m sticking with it.” 9:45 a.m. Upon reaching the back of the cove, Sumrall slow rolls the spinnerbait across submerged stumps. No luck here. 9:52 a.m. Sumrall has vacated the cove and runs to Lake M’s dam, where he cranks riprap with the citrus shad Little John. 10 a.m. Having struck out on the dam, Sumrall moves into a nearby cove and tries the spinnerbait on a shaded bank. What’s his take on the day so far? “These high-pressure conditions are definitely making the bite tough, but I’m convinced that targeting docks and shallow wood with the spinnerbait, crankbait and jig is a solid approach, one capable of catching a really big fish. So I’ll probably spend the remainder of my time keeping my head down, covering lots of water and grinding away with those baits.” 10:08 a.m. Sumrall drops the jig down a steep channel bank. 10:14 a.m. He moves to another cove and repeats his presentations to scattered wood cover. 10:25 a.m. Sumrall blasts back to the shallow bank where he began his day and hits the seawall with the spinnerbait.
3 HOURS LEFT 10:30 a.m. Sumrall retrieves the ChatterBait inside a boathouse. A small bass nips the lure’s trailer.
10:38 a.m. Sumrall rigs a watermelon red Missile 48 finesse worm wacky style (small hook through its midsection), inserts a tiny nail weight in one end and casts it to shaded docks, using a sink/shake/twitch presentation. 10:44 a.m. He cranks the craw colored Little John down a gravel secondary point. 10:50 a.m. Back to dock fishing with the wacky worm and jig. “I caught my first keeper early off a dock. I read in Bassmaster that docks only get better as the sun gets higher, but I’m beginning to think that’s BS.” 10:53 a.m. Sumrall gets a half-hearted tap on the jig next to a pontoon boat. “You know the bite is tough when they won’t eat that little jig.” 11:01 a.m. Sumrall slides into a shallow canal leading to several docks and zeroes out with the spinnerbait and jig. 11:17 a.m. Sumrall rockets back uplake to pound a rock bank and an adjacent seawall with the Little John MD.
2 HOURS LEFT 11:30 a.m. He tries the craw crank on the seawall. 11:39 a.m. Sumrall slow rolls the spinnerbait around a shallow flat peppered with laydown wood. “I keep seeing that 9-pounder roll off a log to bust this thing!” 11:46 a.m. The flat has failed to yield a fish. “There’s an offshore hump I passed over this morning. Let’s go check it out.” 11:53 a.m. Sumrall idles around the hump he spotted earlier. “There are a few fish down there at 18 feet. I don’t know if they’re bass, but I’ll try to find out.” He rigs a watermelon dawn Roboworm above a drop-shot sinker, lowers it straight down and shakes it. 11:58 a.m. The mystery fish have scattered. Sumrall quickly locates a brushpile on the hump; he drags a Carolina-rigged watermelon Missile Craw Bomber through the gnarly cover.
Photo: Don Wirth
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12:04 p.m. Sumrall decides the water clarity here is “only borderline” for dragging, so he cranks the brushpile with a 3/4-ounce citrus shad Little John DD. 12:06 p.m. He hangs the DD in the brushpile and rips it free. “Now that I’ve spooked all the fish out of that cover, let’s get back to pounding shallow wood!”
Photo: Don Wirth
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12:17 p.m. Sumrall moves back to the cove where he caught his 3-14 and resumes spinnerbaiting laydowns.
1 HOUR LEFT 12:30 p.m. It’s beginning to cloud up as Sumrall continues grinding away at wood cover with the spinnerbait. “Cloudy and windy are my favorite spinnerbait conditions — the rougher, the better.”
Photo: Don Wirth
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12:35 p.m. Sumrall catches his third keeper, a beautifully marked 3-8 largemouth, off a laydown on the spinnerbait. “I’m not getting many bites, but the quality is certainly there. Hopefully, these cloudy conditions will get them moving.” 12:49 p.m. Having combed the entire cove with the spinnerbait, Sumrall runs uplake to hit another stretch of docks with the spinnerbait. “I don’t mind spinnerbaiting clear water as long as it’s choppy or cloudy.” 12:58 p.m. He cranks the citrus shad Little John around docks. No takers. 1:06 p.m. The sun pops out again as Sumrall continues cranking the uplake docks. “So much for conditions improving! With the sun out, that crankbait looks like a neon sign in this clear water.” 1:18 p.m. Sumrall pounds two more docks with his lure arsenal, but the fish aren’t cooperating.
Photo: Don Wirth
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1:30 p.m. Sumrall’s time is up. It’s been a tough day on Lake M, but he’s managed to boat three quality keepers with a combined weight of 9 pounds, 8 ounces.
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE “The bluebird conditions made it tough out there today, but I feel I did the right thing by keying on shallow wood cover, keeping on the move and covering as much water as possible,” Sumrall told Bassmaster. “That tandem willow spinnerbait proved to be my best lure choice; it’s an awesome shad mimic and a proven big-fish bait. If I were to fish here tomorrow under these same conditions, I’d continue pounding shallow wood with the spinnerbait, and I’d spend way less time in the clearer upper end of the lake.”
WHERE AND WHEN CALEB SUMRALL CAUGHT HIS KEEPER BASS
2 pounds, 2 ounces; white 1/2-ounce Kajun Boss spinnerbait with matching Missile Baits Twin Turbo trailer; dock; 7:26 a.m. 3 pounds, 14 ounces; same lure as No. 1 minus trailer; laydown; 9:25 a.m. 3 pounds, 8 ounces; same lure as No. 1 minus trailer; laydown; 12:35 p.m. TOTAL: 9 POUNDS, 8 OUNCES