David Fritts figures he could've weighed in at least a 22-pound stringer on the final day of practice for the Lake Eufaula FLW Tour last week.
"It was one of those deals where you could almost call your shot," he said, adding he shook off numerous other good fish.
Then came the off day, which brought with it stable, hot weather.
"The water went from 70 to 78 and it went from cool to quite hot," he said. "There were just a lot of change in conditions."
By the time he started the tournament on Thursday, he realized the fish he was peppering just 2 days prior had checked out. He struggled most of the day, but managed a limit for 9-03, which had him in 84th place.
"I really expected to catch 20 pounds a day," he said. "That's sort of how practice was. I was catching in the mid-range depths from 6 to 8 feet with some in 10 feet. I really thought they wouldn't move, but amazingly, I think they started heading in.
"Toward the end of day 1, I was near the end of my rotation and I started catching them, but it was a terrible day. Nothing went right."
He started day 2 where he finished day 1 and caught a 6-pounder right away that paved the way for an 18-12 bag that earned him the 20th and final spot for day 3. He also benefited from some water being moved through the dam, which created just enough current to position the fish.
"I just reversed my game plan and it worked out," he added. "Most of the places they come to after they spawn, they were gone, but I'd found a couple places that still had fish. You had to cover a lot of water fast and if you made a few casts and didn't get bit, you might as well leave."
He slid up to 10th on day 3 with a 14-04 bag and eventually finished 9th, an overall jump of 75 spots, despite having three fish on day 4.
"The last day, I had an opportunity to have a decent bag, but I lost a 4-pounder and stuck another one that I never did see," he said. "I think I had an opportunity to get in the Top 5 if I'd caught both of those fish."
He said if he hadn't misjudged the fish that he caught during practice, he might've contended for his second Tour win at Eufaula.
"That blew me away," he said. "If the fish are in a ditch in 8 feet and you can throw in there and get three or four bites, there's no reason why should move that much, especially in one day. The reason I know is because Justin Lucas caught a bunch up on the bank not far from where that ditch led to.
"I know that lake real well because I've fished it for 30 years. I know where a lot of cover is anywhere from 3 to 20 feet and that helped me a lot. I just kept adjusting and doing things different. I was probably pretty fortunate to get to where I got. If they had moved water like they should've instead of leaving the lake 6 inches high, I might've had a better opportunity, but in order to win one of these, you have to have everything go right."
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