Drew Cook had Big Mo (momentum) on his side as he began the 2020 Elite Series season. “I was coming off my first Elite season [in 2019] feeling superconfident,” he said. “I’d led Angler of the Year point standings through much of the season, won Rookie of the Year and qualified for the Classic. My fiancée [Jennifer McClenny] and I had a big wedding coming up. I knew 2020 was going to be awesome.” Then the coronavirus pandemic hit and Big Mo came to a screeching halt. “The B.A.S.S. tournament schedule was postponed; we couldn’t have that big wedding due to social distancing; and we couldn’t even move into the new house we’d closed on.” What a bummer! Cook and McClenny opted to marry in a small ceremony in May, and by June, Elite Series competition had resumed with an event at Alabama’s Lake Eufaula, where Cook placed fifth. “Thankfully, things are turning around. I had a good tournament at Eufaula, we’re happily married and we finally moved into our house. I’ll be heading to New York shortly for three Elite tournaments. And I’m ready to whack some bass right friggin’ now on this little lake, so let’s get this dang boat in the water!” If you’re wondering where all those shallow bass went now that summer is here, hop aboard as Cook takes on Lake T!
6:19 a.m. We arrive at Lake T’s deserted boat ramp. It’s 62 degrees, clear and calm. Fingers of fog creep across the water as Cook prepares his stash of Dobyns rods equipped with Shimano reels for the upcoming challenge. “Being late June, most of the bass have probably spawned and are reorienting to deep summer patterns. I’ll primarily key on points once the sun gets high, but I’ll start off shallow with a topwater.”
7 HOURS LEFT 6:35 a.m. We launch the Skeeter. Lake T is 82 degrees and stained. Cook immediately drops his trolling motor and begins casting a silver Spro Essential Pop surface lure to the shaded shoreline. “Topwater can score a big fish early in the day in June, and this bait walks, pops and chugs. “ 6:47 a.m. Cook switches to a shad colored Spro Essential squarebill crankbait. “Spro won’t be officially releasing this bait until midsummer; I fished this sample at Eufaula and caught a bunch of bass on it. It’s pretty chewed up!” 6:54 a.m. Cook makes a quick run to Lake T’s dam and retrieves a 3/8-ounce Nichols Lures buzzbait with a Big Bite Baits Real Deal Shad trailer around riprap. 7:03 a.m. Cook grinds the squarebill across the riprap and catches a nonkeeper largemouth; its belly is bloated with baitfish. “Dude, this fish is only 11 inches long but looks like it weighs 8 pounds!” 7:08 a.m. Cook flips a 1/2-ounce green pumpkin/orange/chartreuse Nichols Lures DB finesse jig with a tilapia color Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog trailer at the riprap.
Photo: Don Wirth
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7:13 a.m. Cook’s electronics reveal a big cloud of shad suspended off the dam. He retrieves a Tennessee shad Spro McStick 110 jerkbait past the baitfish. 7:21 a.m. Cook vacates the dam and progresses uplake while chunking the buzzbait and squarebill to a channel bank. A water moccasin slithers past his boat. “Yikes, that’s a cottonmouth! Do I get hazard pay for doing this article?” 7:23 a.m. Cook flips the jig beneath overhanging bushes. “I’m seeing some empty bream beds up shallow. Postspawn bass will often remain shallow to prey on spawning bluegill, but once the bream scatter, the bass tend to move out deeper.” 7:26 a.m. Cook enters a shaded cove and tries the jig, squarebill and buzzbait around shallow stumps and laydowns. He spots what appears to be an empty bass bed. “I love bed fishing, but I’ve probably missed the spawn by six weeks.” 7:30 a.m. Cook pitches a Texas-rigged Fighting Frog in hematoma color to a big submerged tree.
6 HOURS LEFT 7:35 a.m. A school of shad surfaces in the cove; Cook walks the Essential Pop through the baitfish. “I have yet to see a bass busting shad on top.” 7:38 a.m. Cook dredges a Spro RkCrawler crankbait in ayu color through the shad.
7:46 a.m. Cook has run uplake to a long rock point at the entrance to a tributary. He tries a Spro Fat Papa 70 crankbait in homemade shad color on the structure.
Photo: Don Wirth
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7:48 a.m. Cook’s cranking rod loads up as a good fish slams the crankbait. He swings aboard his first keeper of the day, 2 pounds, 14 ounces.
Photo: Don Wirth
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7:48 a.m. He swings aboard his first keeper of the day, 2 pounds, 14 ounces.
Photo: Don Wirth
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7:48 a.m. “My Lowrance LiveSight unit showed a shad school suspended way off this point with bass nearby, 10 feet down over 18 feet of water. The ‘live view’ technology that all the major electronics manufacturers now offer has been a huge game changer in tournament fishing.” 7:52 a.m. Cook slow rolls a 7-inch Big Bite Baits Suicide Shad swimbait through the deep suspended bass. “Sometimes they’ll just peck at this big swimbait, then I’ll immediately switch to a smaller swimbait or crankbait and catch the fish.” 7:58 a.m. Cook drags a Texas-rigged Big Bite Baits 10-inch ribbontail worm (1099 color) across the point. 8:04 a.m. He bags his second keeper, 1 pound even, on the worm. “It hit it, dropped it, then hit it again. Typical worm bite in high-pressure conditions.” 8:05 a.m. Cook catches keeper No. 3, 1 pound, 2 ounces, on the worm. 8:11 a.m. Cook tags two short fish in succession on the Fat Papa. “I think I’ve found their nursery!”
8:18 a.m. Cook has located another big bait school off the point; he hits it with the worm and Fat Papa. 8:28 a.m. The crankbait bite off the point has slowed and Cook is now trying the jerkbait.
5 HOURS LEFT 8:35 a.m. Cook has moved deeper into the tributary arm and is now targeting baitfish suspended around an offshore hump rising from 21 to 10 feet with the Fat Papa and worm. There’s a light breeze blowing out of the east. 8:47 a.m. Cook is graphing some huge balls of shad around the hump. He hops the jig around the structure without success.
8:54 a.m. Cook abandons the hump and moves to the bank, where he flips the jig around a boathouse. 9:01 a.m. He tries the squarebill around a seawall. 9:04 a.m. Cook switches to a green pumpkin Big Bite Baits Trick Stick finesse worm rigged wacky style, twitching it around a dock. 9:09 a.m. He runs the buzzbait around a shallow pocket but hauls water. “We’re out of here; I need to get back offshore.” 9:22 a.m. Cook has made a long run uplake, where he’s spent several minutes idling around open water while eyeballing his electronics. He’s now 50 yards off the end of a mud point. He makes an extra-long cast with the Fat Papa to open water. “I’m going to fish my way up to the point, targeting baitfish schools as I go.” 9:25 a.m. Cook switches Fat Papa colors to citrus shad “because the water looks dirtier up here.” 9:32 a.m. A big fish slams the Fat Papa at boatside but gets off. “Crap! That was a 4-pounder!”
Photo: Don Wirth
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9:33 a.m. On his next cast with the Fat Papa, Cook bags his fourth keeper, 1-2.
4 HOURS LEFT 9:35 a.m. Cook hangs the crankbait in a submerged brushpile. He lowers a lure retriever into the snaggy shrubbery; it also gets hung up and its cord breaks when he tries to jerk it free. “Well, that’s just great! I lost the whole works!” He ties on another citrus shad Fat Papa and resumes cranking. 9:42 a.m. Cook catches his fifth keeper, 2-6, off the point on the Fat Papa. “Good, now hopefully I can cull those ‘pounders’ I caught earlier.” 9:48 a.m. The breeze has died and it’s getting hot as Cook retrieves the big swimbait across the end of the point. 10 a.m. Back to cranking the Fat Papa. What’s Cook’s take on the day so far? “These high-pressure conditions have made the bite pretty slow. I had no luck up shallow, but I’ve found two small concentrations of fish relating to shad schools off two different points. I’m going to stay with this point pattern awhile in hopes that more fish will bunch up as the sun gets progressively higher.” 10:03 a.m. Cook catches his sixth keeper, 1-12, on the RkCrawler; it culls his 1-pounder. 10:04 a.m. He bags his seventh keeper, 2-6, off the mud point on the RkCrawler; it culls his first 1-2. 10:12 a.m. Cook switches to the 10-inch worm, can’t get bit, then reverts to the RkCrawler. 10:20 a.m. Cook has moved considerably closer to the point and is cranking the RkCrawler. “There’s a lot of baitfish activity near the surface, but I’m still not seeing any bass chasing them.” 10:24 a.m. He bags a 1-1 keeper (No. 8) off the point on the worm; it’s no help. 10:27 a.m. Another bass hits Cook’s worm; this one pulls free. “That felt like a good fish.”
3 HOURS LEFT 10:35 a.m. Cook hops the jig across the mud point. 10:37 a.m. The RkCrawler scores a short fish off the point. 10:42 a.m. Cook walks the Essential Pop through a pack of surfacing shad and braces himself for the strike that never happens. “You’d think they’d bust that topwater plug, but they aren’t interested.” 10:49 a.m. Cook moves to a steep channel bank with several laydown trees extending from shore and cranks the squarebill.
Photo: Don Wirth
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10:53 a.m. Cook flips the finesse jig to the end of a laydown on the channel bank. A bass taps it as it’s sinking, he hammers the fish and it instantly wraps his line around a branch. Cook maneuvers his boat closer, drops to his stomach and plunges his arm in the water in an attempt to unwrap the line from the snag. 10:59 a.m. “Gotcha!” Cook hollers as he finally wrestles aboard his prize, a spectacular 6-pound, 8-ounce largemouth! “She sucked in the jig as it was sinking, then immediately wrapped my line.” 11:04 a.m. Cook continues down the channel bank, alternating between the squarebill and jig. 11:16 a.m. Failing to score another strike on the channel bank, Cook runs to an offshore rockpile and idles around the structure. “That 6-8 was the kind of bite that can distract you from what you really need to be doing right now, which is fishing offshore. I fished that whole stretch of channel bank and didn’t get another tap. Interestingly, the laydown where that big fish was holding was the only wood in the water along that entire bank with green leaves on its branches.” 11:29 a.m. Cook has cranked the RkCrawler 360 degrees around the rockpile without a strike. He moves straight across the lake to a clay point with scattered brushpiles and tries the Fat Papa.
2 HOURS LEFT 11:35 a.m. Cook hangs the Fat Papa in submerged brush and retrieves it. 11:39 a.m. He drags the 10-inch worm around the point. 11:46 a.m. Cook makes a blistering run downlake to the rock point he fished earlier. He tries the worm and Fat Papa. 11:52 a.m. He moves closer to shore to crank the RkCrawler around an old boat ramp. “Bass love to hang around a gnarly old ramp like this — the more busted-up, the better. At least that’s what I read in Bassmaster.” 12:07 p.m. Cook moves farther down the bank and cranks the squarebill. 12:10 p.m. Cook cranks up a submerged limb. “Tree-pounder!” 12:22 p.m. Cook roars back uplake to the mud point he fished earlier. He drops his trolling motor 100 yards from the structure and begins fishing his way toward it with the Fat Papa. 12:24 p.m. Cook casts the 10-inch worm to a submerged brushpile. A fish bumps the crawler; he swings back his rod, and the bass spits it out. “That’s another good fish I’ve lost on the worm! They’re just not hanging onto it.” 12:28 p.m. Another tap, another swing, another miss with the worm. “Unbelievable!”
1 HOUR LEFT 12:35 p.m. Cook catches his 10th keeper, 2 pounds, 14 ounces; off the mud point on the Fat Papa. 12:49 p.m. Cook bags keeper No. 11, 2 pounds, 15 ounces, on the RkCrawler.
Photo: Don Wirth
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12:52 p.m. Cook’s cranking rod bows as a big fish slams his Fat Papa off the mud point. Keeper No. 12 weighs 4 pounds, 9 ounces. “There’s a little channel swing that intersects this point and that’s where my last two fish were sitting.” 1:12 p.m. Cook catches a 2-10, his 13th keeper, off the same spot on the Fat Papa. “This sucker sure is long and skinny! It probably weighed 5 pounds back in April.” 1:16 p.m. Cook drags the finesse jig across the point.
Photo: Don Wirth
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1:20 p.m. Cook catches his 14th keeper, 3 pounds, off the point on the jig. 1:28 p.m. With minutes remaining, Cook flings the 10-inch worm across the point. “Come on, big boy, it’s your last chance!” 1:35 p.m. Time’s up! Cook has had a great day on Lake T with 14 keepers; his five biggest weigh 19 pounds, 14 ounces.
THE DAY IN PERSPECTIVE “As I suspected, points proved to be the targets that held the most fish today,” Cook told Bassmaster. “Long, slow-tapering points with a lot of baitfish suspending around them far outproduced every other type of place I fished. I used a patient, wide-ranging approach when fishing these structures. Instead of pulling up right on top of the point, I’d start out a long distance from it and gradually work my way closer while targeting baitfish schools, scattered cover and channel swings I encountered along the way, primarily with crankbaits. That 6-8 was probably a fluke; my gut tells me I could have spent the rest of the day flipping laydowns and not come up with another good fish. If I were to fish here tomorrow, I’d spend way less time in shallow water and would check out a few more points using the same lures and long-ranging approach.”
WHERE AND WHEN DREW COOK CAUGHT HIS FIVE BIGGEST BASS
1. 2 pounds, 14 ounces; Spro Fat Papa 70 crankbait (homemade shad color); rock point; 7:48 a.m.
2. 6 pounds, 8 ounces; 1/2-ounce green pumpkin/chartreuse/orange Nichols Lures DB finesse jig with tilapia Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog trailer; laydown on channel bank; 10:59 a.m.
3. 2 pounds, 15 ounces; Spro RkCrawler crankbait (ayu color); mud point; 12:49 p.m.
4. 4 pounds, 9 ounces; Spro Fat Papa 70 crankbait (citrus shad color); same place as No. 3; 12:52 p.m.
5. 3 pounds; same lure as No. 2; same place as No. 3; 1:20 p.m.
TOTAL: 19 POUNDS, 14 OUNCES