7 HOURS LEFT
We launch the Phoenix. Clouse checks the lake temp: 82 degrees. “The water has some color, but it’s not muddy. It looks decent for both cranking and bottom-bumping baits.”
Clouse runs to Lake K’s dam and makes his first casts of the day to riprap with a black River2Sea Whopper Plopper topwater plug.
Clouse switches to a black/red flake Zoom Ultravibe Speed Worm, Texas-rigged with a 3/16-ounce sinker. “This is one of my go-to lures; I retrieve it like a swimbait.” He swims the worm parallel to the rocks.
Clouse Texas rigs a green pumpkin/blue Strike King Rage Craw creature with a quarter-ounce sinker. He pitches it to an overflow near the dam and bags his first keeper largemouth of the day, 1 pound, 3 ounces. “That overflow is in 20 feet of water. My electronics show several fish suspending around it.”
He rigs a green pumpkin/blue flake Zoom Trick Worm on a 3/16-ounce shaky head and pitches it to the overflow.
Clouse rigs another green pumpkin/blue Rage Craw on an 11/16-ounce swing-head jig and flips it to the overflow.
Clouse moves to a steep shoreline with scattered laydowns and tries the Speed Worm.
Clouse motors a half-mile uplake to a long point, where he drags the swing-head Rage Craw.
A bass taps the craw but drops it.
Clouse roots a chartreuse and blue Strike King 6XD crankbait across the point.
6 HOURS LEFT
7:30 a.m. Clouse catches a small yellow bass on the 6XD.
7:36 a.m. He hops a green pumpkin/blue Rage Craw rigged weedless on a 1/2-ounce screw-lock jighead across the point.
7:41 a.m. Clouse moves to some nearby docks and probes them with the Texas-rigged craw.
7:49 a.m. Clouse idles around offshore and locates a brushy hump that rises from 20 to 8 feet. “This looks promising, but right now I’m not seeing many fish on it.”
7:56 a.m. He rigs a redbug Zoom Magnum Trick Worm on the swing-head jig and drags it across the hump. A good fish grabs it but shakes free.
8:01 a.m. Clouse pulls the Rage Craw off the Texas rig and replaces it with another redbug Magnum Trick Worm. “I always go through this process of ‘dialing in’ my soft plastics in tournaments. It requires patience, but you need to keep trying different combinations of lures and rigging methods until you determine what they want.”
8:10 a.m. Clouse makes several more sinker and head adjustments on his various rods. “I rigged one rod with a lighter [1/4-ounce] swing head to get through brush easier, and another rod with a 3/4-ounce screw-lock head to stay pinned to the bottom better.“
8:14 a.m. Clouse bags his second keeper, 2 pounds, 14 ounces, off the hump on the Magnum Trick Worm rigged on a 3/4-ounce swing-head jig.
8:25 a.m. Clouse tries a chartreuse/blue Strike King 3XD crankbait on the hump. “This plug dives to 10 feet.”
5 HOURS LEFT
8:30 a.m. Still cranking the hump. Clouse’s electronics show bass scattered loosely around the structure. “Hopefully they’ll bunch up tighter as the sun gets higher.”
8:38 a.m. Clouse bags a tiny bass on the 3XD.
8:44 a.m. Clouse backs off the hump and tries a deeper-running 5XD, same color as the 3XD.
8:52 a.m. Back to the Magnum Trick Worm on the screw-lock head. A bass pecks the worm; Clouse swings and misses. “They’re not very aggressive!”
8:59 a.m. Clouse abandons the hump and drags the Magnum Trick Worm across a nearby point.
9:05 a.m. Clouse cranks the point with the 5XD. The plug is running off to the right, so he scrapes a small amount of plastic from the left side of its lip with scissors. He tests the lure; it’s running true now. “Pretty slick, huh?”
9:09 a.m. Clouse flips a black and blue Texas-rigged Rage Craw to a series of docks.
9:13 a.m. He tries a black and yellow Spro frog and the Rage Craw around a boathouse.
9:23 a.m. Clouse blasts uplake to a long, slow-tapering point and cranks it with the 5XD.
4 HOURS LEFT
9:30 a.m. He switches to the Magnum Trick Worm on the point and catches keeper No. 3, 1 pound even. “That fish was on a little patch of rock on top of the point. There’s usually some little sweet spot on offshore structure that fish will gravitate to.”
9:33 a.m. Clouse bumps the 5XD across the rock patch.
9:39 a.m. Clouse rigs a junebug Zoom Trick Worm on a Carolina rig and drags it across the point.
9:45 a.m. Clouse bags his fourth keeper, 1 pound, 2 ounces, on the Carolina-rigged worm.
9:56 a.m. Clouse has patiently dragged the end of the point with the Carolina rig without success.