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Table Rock Elite Series

Chris Koester (Non-Boater) – Day 3
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today was the longest and most frustrating day of the entire week for me. Going into the final day in 2nd place, I was really keyed up to go for the win. I was a little let down at first when I got paired with Randy Howell. He is a great guy, but he was struggling in the tournament, and only caught four keepers the first two days total.

As it turned out, I still had a legitimate opportunity to do very well, and I just didn't capitalize on it. Howell was around a ton of fish, but it was just very difficult to get them to bite. The quality was definitely swimming below us for me to win the tournament with the three right bites – he had weighed a near-5-pounder the previous day, and today had a smallmouth over 3 pounds.

It was tough fishing – despite marking literally hundreds of fish below us, we could only occasionally get a keeper bite on a jigging spoon. They would not eat a dropshot, jig, grub, or anything else. It seems the key was just moving around until the boat got over a school that was actively chasing shad – you could catch a couple quick, but then the school would spook and break up, or move where we couldn't relocate them. Randy got two nice smallies first thing in the morning when we pulled up onto such a school, but I could only manage one short spot. He got a little lucky and later snagged another keeper in the belly, but that was after a long stretch with no fish.

We ran to another area, and ended up on top of another active school – that's when he caught his big smallie and another short spot, and then that school was done.

With an hour left in the day, he had four decent fish before I finally managed a spot that just measured. We then ran back onto the spot where we started. The wind was howling at this point, and boat traffic was terrible, we were rolling in 4-foot waves. We were just about to leave for the weigh-in when we graphed a huge school of obviously very active fish. We dropped our spoons down and Randy quickly caught a spot that was barely short, then I caught a big one around 3 pounds. We were literally down to the final seconds before we had to leave and we were really pushing our luck. It was a wild scene – out of time, huge waves rolling over the transom as we tried to stay on top of the school, and dropping our spoons down just knowing they were going to get eaten.

On my last drop I hooked a big fish – it was pulling very hard, even more than the 3-pounder. I was pretty jacked up, I had visions of another tournament win dancing in my head. I got the fish halfway up to the boat and it just pulled off. I could have died. I pulled my bait up to find scales impaled on two of the three hooks. Big keeper bass scales. I had snagged one and it had pulled off – not an uncommon scenario with a jigging spoon, but heartbreaking nonetheless. We then embarked on Mr. Toad's Wild Ride back to the weigh-in, and we barely made it.

The lost fish cost me – I ended up weighing my 2 fish for 4-14, and finished in 4th place. As it turned out, the winner caught enough that I couldn't have won without a 5-pounder, and I doubt the lost fish was that big. However, I would have easily moved up to 2nd with just one more skinny keeper. It was a letdown – no matter how I try to look at it, 4th place just gives me a hollow feeling.

Randy Howell was awesome to fish with. I probably wouldn't have caught a thing except for him letting me fish on top of the schools we were marking, and for pushing our luck in the final minutes on the school we located. Without that last 3-pounder, I would have taken a huge fall in the standings.

This is the last major tour event of the season for me. Since my tourney participation has been on partial hiatus this year due to a job change and a move, I'm really excited to get back in the saddle and share my co-angler experiences with you guys next year in my Big Sticks reports and The Complete Co-Angler columns next season. Thanks for following along.

Chris Koester (Non-Boater) – Day 2
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today went pretty well. Although my partner, Kevin Langill, only caught one fish on the first day, he bounced back today and we managed to figure them out a little bit better. We were fishing pretty deep, and relying very heavily on his Lowrance electronics to find and stay on our fish. I caught 3 very solid keepers today, including one around 3 pounds, all on a dropshot. I was fishing with a new worm today that I've never used before, but Langill put me on it - a chartreuse-pumpkin Mann's Draggin' Worm. It's got a great action when nose-hooked on a dropshot, and the fish ate it up.

Of the three keepers I landed, I saw two of them on the graph before I caught them. How did anyone ever fish for bass before the advent of advanced sonar imaging? The fish weighed even a bit more than I thought they would – they were all solid spotted bass with bellies on them, and they added up to 7-07, giving me 11-07 over 2 days. That total was good for 2nd place, with one guy about a pound and a half ahead of me.

I drew Randy Howell for the final day. Unfortunately, Howell has one of the weaker tournament resumes going into the cut – he only caught four keepers over 2 days, but managed to squeak into the cut on the strength of a nearly 5-pound largemouth today. By his own admission, he's really got nothing going, and it's pretty likely we'll struggle tomorrow. While I've had the advantage of decent draws the first two days of the tournament, if I'm going to have a top finish, I'm really going to have to earn it tomorrow. I'm sure going to try.

Chris Koester (Non-Boater) – Day 1
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Today went fairly well – I didn't manage a limit, but I put every fish that bit in the boat. Unfortunately only two of them beat the critical 15-inch mark. I probably caught 10-15 short fish, 5 or 6 of which were over 14 inches. Frustrating, but I guess that happened to a lot of folks today. Terry Scroggins managed to get five of them to keep, but no more. He probably caught twice as many short fish as I did. These spotted bass are so fat that some of the 14-inchers probably weigh well over 2 1/2 pounds. It hurts your feelings to throw them back.

Scroggins put on a little bit of a deep structure fishing clinic today. I consider myself a decent deep water finesse fisherman, so I didn't expect to learn much about it from a grass-flipping Florida boy. He's pretty dialed in to what the fish are doing right now. I don't think he can do much about the size, he's just got to catch a whole bunch and sort through them.

I'm tied for 10th place with my friend Gary Haraguchi. One of the most famous and accomplished walleye tournament fishermen of all time, Keith Kavajecz, is in 1st place on the co-angler side. I wonder if anyone told him that live nightcrawlers and leeches are not allowed in bass tournaments?

I'm fishing with Kevin Langill tomorrow. Unfortunately he struggled today and only caught one keeper. However, it sounds like we'll be doing the same thing I did all day today. I've got plenty of confidence in the technique, so I'm just going to keep my bait wet and see what happens.

My goal is to go into day 3 at least within a couple of pounds of 3rd place. I want to be able to fish on the last day knowing that I have a legitimate shot at a top 3 finish. I didn't come here to get my entry fee back.

Chris Koester (Non-Boater) – Practice
Sunday, September 17, 2006

Per my modus operandi, I dragged the old Ranger along to pre-fish for this event. I got off to a quick start on Monday – I caught a 2 1/2- and 4 1/2--pound largemouth in the first 90 minutes of fishing. I thought this was pretty darned good. I had no idea just how right I would be.

I went the rest of the day without another keeper. Over the course of the next 2 days I caught exactly two more keepers, and I had to measure both of those to be sure. Quite a few short fish came to the boat: that 15-inch limit is a killer.

Dock talk has most everyone struggling. When you see top-notch Florida-strain bass fishermen staring at their graphs with a spinning rod in hand, out over 40-100 feet of water, you know trouble is brewing. I think this tournament will be the toughest Elite Series event of the entire year, bar none.

I really only established one halfway consistent deal from practice, and maybe two other things I can do if I get desperate. Fortunately my most consistent baits and presentation are in my wheelhouse – one of my real confidence techniques.

I think any co-angler who weighs three limits of any size will have a shot to win this thing. I think 16 to 17 pounds over 3 days might be enough. May as well be me, right?

Speaking of Florida fishermen, I'm fishing with Terry "Big Show" Scroggins tomorrow. Sounds like we're just going to try to jump a few dams and see if we can't just get down to Toho and flip some mats.

Jarrett Edwards – Day 2
Friday, September 15, 2006

Today started off well – I landed a 3-pounder quickly on the Senko. I was fortunate to catch two other small keepers to at least keep me in the hunt today. They caught them much better today, with a lot more limits caught. I’m upset with my performance over this entire event – to miss $10,000 by just a few ounces really hurts. That’s the second or third tournament like that this season.

Oh well, what’s done is done and this is the last big tournament of the season for me. It has been a tough year on me overall, but I did learn a lot and, of course, I’m thankful to have my health. Regardless, life is great. I have the best wife and family possible with wonderful sponsors behind me 100%...what more can a guy ask for?

Speaking of sponsors I would like to thank my sponsors: Triton boats, Mercury Marine, Lowrance, St Croix rods, Power Pro line, Yamamoto Custom Baits, Luhr Jensen, KeelShield and MinnKota. These manufacturers have stood by through thick and thin and I’m extremely fortunate to work for them.

For now, Rebecca and I will work the sponsor expo this weekend, then we finally get to go home this next week. We have been back home to Page, Ariz. a total of 9 days since the Classic in February I have many more bass-tank promotions and magazine articles to catch up on, plus some special personal fishing time on Lake Powell. I can’t wait.

As always, it has been a pleasure writing for In my opinion is the leading news source for professional angling and we feel lucky to be a small part of it. I want to thank you, the reader, for following the Big Stick reports this season. I have had the opportunity to meet several of you at promotional events across the country – when you see us, stop by and say hello.

Until next season, stay safe and healthy and enjoy life, because it’s over before you know it.

Jarrett Edwards – Day 1
Thursday, September 14, 2006

Today was a tough day for me. It started with a 1 1/2-hour fog delay. At 8:30 the sun broke through the fog and it was time to go.

My deep spotted bass had left there hideouts and I went nearly fishless today. At 2:00 I was running low on confidence, so I picked up my wacky-rigged Senko and found the first dock nearby.

I was lucky enough to see a 3-pounder sunning itself, so I slowly skipped the bait underneath the dock and she ate it! It was awesome to see that ,as well as a huge relief to have a keeper in the boat. I must have fished 10 more docks after that with no more bites. Go figure.

Tomorrow I will be in the first flight and due in at 3:00, so my fishing time will be cut by more than an hour. I plan to fish docks tomorrow with the Senko and hope for the best. I figure 6 pounds tomorrow will send me home with another check. It's scary fishing out there – I believe about 20 pros blanked today.

I feel very fortunate to have caught the one I did. Tomorrow is another day though, and I look forward to the challenge.

John Murray – Practice
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Things have changed a lot since I've been here. It's gotten cooler and we had a good rainstorm (Tuesday), and I caught a good cloudy-day limit. When it's sunny, it seems to be just a lot of short fish.

Every day I've caught a keeper smallmouth, but I'm catching mostly spotted bass. I'm pretty much just dropshotting and catching them deep. It's tough going through all the numbers you need to go through to get the keepers. Fishing isn't bad, it's just that most of them are short.

I need to weigh one bass to make the Classic. If I can get that one keeper in the boat, my confidence will go up.

Jarrett Edwards – Practice
Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Wow, what a busy 3 weeks since the Potomac event. That tournament was a disappointment, finishing in the 80s despite being in the money on the first day. Oh well, that seems to sum up my year for me.

This is by far the toughest tournament season I have fished in quite a while. This year has been full of missed opportunities on the water. I currently sit in 91st place out of 103 anglers…ouch.

Looking back at the standings, I can’t believe that I have finished this horribly – talk about embarrassing. The Bassmaster Elite Series rules state that I must finish in the Top 70 anglers to requalify for next season. If I finish outside the Top 70, then I have to go to the Bassmaster Wild-Card tournament in Florida – problem is that early in the spring, when I was fishing well, I booked an important cancer (PET/CT) scan unknowingly over the competition dates. Looks like I wont be fishing the Wild-Card after all.

My only hope of getting back in will be if BASS can’t fill the field due to the $55,000 fees. If I do not make it, I will concentrate on a TV show that my sponsors want. This will also give me a lot more time to concentrate on my tank promotions, appearances, outdoor writing and outdoor writer’s conference. Either way, I’m a happy guy.

Over the past few weeks Rebecca and I stopped off at Triton Boats, KeelShield, Mercury and St. Croix Rods. We put some serious miles on the truck. It was amazing seeing how the props and engines were made at Mercury. Their facility is huge, with well over 2,000 employees. It would take several days to see every nook and cranny in that place.

Practice here at Table Rock seems to be hit or miss. Catching bass isn’t a problem, but the 15-inch minimum size limit will be. I have only had three keeper bites the last few days -– one largemouth and two big spotted bass. In most spotted bass lakes the spots get really long and skinny. Here at Table Rock they are short and fat. I have released several 2 1/2-pound spots that are only 14 1/2 inches long. It's heartbreaking when you don’t have anything in the box, but are constantly throwing back 2-pounders.

Most spotted bass are feeding in the 30- to 40-foot zone around the trees. It’s tough to land them once they bite because they love to get wrapped up in the deep brush. Dropshotted Yamamoto Kut Tails in the smoke pattern have been the deal for me. I’m using the new St. Croix Legend dropshot rod and 6-pound fluorocarbon line with a 1/4-ounce tungsten weight.

I’m relying on my Lowrance X-26hd unit to find off shore humps and channels, which seems to be the deal to getting quality bites. Only 1 more day left till the tournament. I’m nervous here -– it’s too easy to blank.

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