By Todd Ceisner
For some anglers, 3 days of practice isn't enough. For others, it's way too much. Jason Christie understands the importance of getting a feel for how a lake is setting up prior to the start of competition, but like others, he has fallen prey to the what-works-in-practice-will-work-in-the-tournament mindset.
Maybe his Beaver Lake FLW Tour experience will change that.
After a so-so day 1 netted him just five keeper bites and saw him mired in 67th place, he scrapped his plan to target smallmouths and moved into areas in and around the White River, where the water had more color to it and he stood a better chance of colliding with some chunky, pre-spawn largemouths.
His "Just Go Fishing" mentality paid off as he caught more than 51 pounds over the final 3 days to earn his second career FLW Tour win and moved into the Top 10 in the latest Angler of the Year standings.
"Whenever I can figure it out during the tournament, that's when I do best," he said. "If I figure it out during practice, I might as well just stay in the truck because you get locked into certain areas. If you figure it out during the tournament, you can take off and run with it. It's just different. Practice is very important, but I think some people put too much emphasis on it and catching a lot of fish. Every lake's different."
While he caught fish on a variety of baits all week, from a spinnerbait to a jig and also a crankbait, the vast majority of his weigh-in fish were caught in less than 10 feet of water on an umbrella rig.
He's now finished in the Top 50 in the five Beaver Lake FLW Tour events he's fished since 2008.
Here's how he did it.
From past experience, Christie had a pretty good idea of how Beaver was going to set up last week, but he had no inkling that the lake would kick out the weight it did.
The weather was blustery and cold through practice and a warm front was due to move in for the weekend with shifting winds. Trying to prepare for all of those scenarios on a lake where the fish can be quite finicky was a difficult proposition.
Coming out of practice, he opted to target smallmouth in the clear-water areas.
"I'm pretty much a looker and I use my electronics a lot," he said. "This time of year, a lot of times you're fishing what you can see. Beaver is a lake where if the wind is blowing on one side, that's where you need to be at. The water's clear and the fish are educated. You just want to have as much of an advantage as you can."
> Day 1: 5, 10-05
> Day 2: 5, 16-14
> Day 3: 5, 20-04
> Day 4: 5, 14-01
> Total = 20, 61-08
There's no telling how Christie's tournament would've ended up had he not abandoned his smallmouth game plan after a middling 10-05 on day 1 landed him in the low 60s on the leaderboard. It's safe to say his involvement would've been over after 2 days.
"I was thinking what can I do to get a $10 grand check and move up 20 places," he said when asked what was running through his mind after the opening day that saw above-average weights at the top of the standings.
On Friday, he did what makes him comfortable. He moved to shallow, stained water in the White River and located two solid schools of fish. With one cast, his tournament changed completely.
His first cast into one of the groupings near a rocky point just off the river channel resulted in a 6 1/2-pound largemouth that stood up as the biggest fish of the event.
"The 6-pounder changed my outlook," he said. "Once I caught it and found those two schools, then there was some potential. That fish right there was the key moment for me."
He finished day 2 with nearly 17 pounds and shot up the standings to 10th place.
"I still didn't have any confidence after the first 2 days because I didn't know what lived there, but on the third day when I pulled up there, I got to see what lived there," he said. "On Beaver Lake, you have to take every day as a practice day. It seems every time I do well here, I just go fishing and not get wrapped up in what worked a couple of days ago."
He continued to pick apart the schools on Saturday, pulling his baits through 4 to 8 feet near rocky banks. He seized control with a 20-04 bag that gave him a 2 1/2-pound lead over Brandon Coulter entering the final day.
Christie said the Lew's Super Duty made it easy to sling his umbrella rig around Beaver Lake.
Unable to tap into the two schools on the morning of day 4, he went looking for similar pre-spawn staging areas that featured a small channel swing. A mid-day spurt that netted him three quality keepers proved to be enough to seal the win.
Winning Gear Notes
> Umbrella rig gear: 7'6" heavy-action Falcon Rods Mike McClelland Series Cara Flippin' Stick, Lew's Super Duty casting reel (7.1:1 gear ratio), 20-pound Silver Thread fluorocarbon line, YUMbrella Flash Mob Jr. umbrella rig, 3/16-oz. YUM Money Heads, 4" YUM Money Minnow and Mud Minnow (baby bass/darker back pattern).
> He opted for baits with a darker back in the stained water and threw the Mud Minnow in areas where he's speed up his retrieve because it has a slightly bigger profile and a wider swim action than the Money Minnow.
> Throwing the rig on fluorocarbon gave him a better feel around structure, especially since he was fishing fairly shallow.
"I can feel a bite better with fluorocarbon than I can with braid," he said. "I started off throwing it with braid and I believe that if you're fishing deep and around structure, that's probably the way to do it. That way, if you get hung up you'll save your rig. I just feel better if I come in contact with a log or a rock, I just feel it better and can tell what it is with fluorocarbon. I can also feel bites better and don't miss as many. I wasn't fishing real deep and it casts better. At first, I thought it was all braid, but I've seen now that if I'm fishing it shallow, I'm going to fish it on fluorocarbon."
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success – "Just grinding. The first day, it would've been real easy to give up. I just kept fishing."
> Performance edge – "One of things that helped me a lot this event were my electronics. Beaver's a small lake and everybody's been here a lot and I was able to find a few places and those are key places whenever you can catch one of two big ones off of them. I was able to find them with my (Lowrance) StructureScan. On (Sunday), fishing out of the FLW boat, it didn't have a HydroWave. I do have one on my boat and I'm wondering if that's why those schools that fired on Saturday didn't fire (Sunday). I'd pull up there and turn it on and the shad would go crazy. On Sunday, I couldn't do that so I don't know if that's the case or not, but I think it helps a lot."
> Another tool that was valuable for Christie at Beaver was the new Lowrance Point-1 GPS antenna. It features a built-in compass that allows boaters to see which direction their boat is pointing at all times. He said that feature was crucial when trying to dial in the right cast with the umbrella rig.
"For a GPS system to get your position, you have to be moving and a lot of times when you're sitting, your (location) arrow will jump around or point sideways or backward," he said. "With the Point-1, it has a compass built into it so whenever you stop the arrow stays pointed directly where your boat is pointed.
"I could stop and I could turn my boat to get the extension line to cut the waypoint mark in half and I could make that cast and hit the target every time. It's a giant difference. Every angler who has Lowrance is going to want one of these things. I can pull up and I can put that head extension in the middle of the waypoint and make a cast and hit it every time. I'm talking about hitting a target the size of a basketball."
According to the Lowrance website, the Point-1 will be available this month.