The recent Table Rock PAA Tournament Series deserves study for a number of reasons. One, big-time events typically take place there in the spring – not the fall – so historic patern information is fairly scarce. Two, the field itself represented a mix of top Bassmaster Elite Series and FLW Tour pros, along with a healthy dose
of locals, so the patterns varied to align with particular angler strengths.
Local Shane Long – a timber cutter with aspirations to fish the FLW Tour – won the event with a spoon. He worked his way back in creeks and pockets in search of shad, then targeted the "right" docks with the spoon.
He weighed a mix of species en route to his 15-fish, 42.34-pound total.
In the process, he edged runner-up Aaron Martens by more than 7 pounds (Martens dropshotted), as well as 3rd-place finisher Tommy Biffle (who flipped ultra-shallow) and fellow local Kelly Power (who spooned and jigged docks).
Here's a look at how Long won.
Long has fished Table Rock his whole life, although he only fished for bass there the past 15 years. Before that, he fished crappie and white bass with his dad and grandfather.
he practiced Sunday and Monday prior to the event, but not Tuesday – he picked up his new Yamaha motor and broke it in on a different lake that day.
He ran up the river Sunday morning with the aim to eliminate it, and he did – it wasn't happening. He pulled out that afternoon and trailered back Kimberling City, where he launched again and got on some decent fish.
"The fish were in transition," he noted. "The thermocline went away recently, so the fish could be anywhere they want to be – from the bank down to literally 80 feet of water."
He had his best action on deep docks in creeks from Cow Creek to the mouth of the James and decided to spend his tournament there.
> Day 1: 5, 12.50
> Day 2: 5, 16.78
> Day 3: 5, 13.06
> Total = 15, 42.34
Long went right to his dock attack on day 1. He said he caught eight or nine keepers (15-inch minimum) but lost a big one that would have pushed him up to about 15 1.2 to 16 pounds.
"It was one of those things – I lost her right at the trolling motor as I was reaching for the dipnet," he said. "She just pulled off."
The fish bit much better on day 2, perhaps because Long hit a post he didn't touch the day before. He said he caught 30 to 35 keepers. He moved into the lead with 1 day left to fish.
The morning of the final day was foggy. "I don't know if it was because of the fog, but instead of eating the spoon, the fish were just swatting at it. So they were hooked weird – on the top of the head or the side of the face. I lost probably the five or six keepers I hooked – they just pulled off. The problem was, I was worried that if I lost a fish it would take the school back down with it.
"But I stuck with it all day and caught six keepers."
About the areas he fished, he said: "I just had to move to find where the fish were that had moved back into the pockets. They were in transition and following shad back into the creeks, so I had to find where the shad were moving to. It's just like the patterns this time of year on other lakes.
"Most of the docks I knew from years past, and they had either a dropoff under there or a brushpile or standing tree. I was trying to fish the structure within the structure. I did catch one big fish the second day in 14 to 16 feet of water, but mostly my big fish were in the 45- to 55-foot range."
Winning Gear Notes
> Spoon gear: 7'4" medium-heavy Falcon crankbait rod, Shimano Curado casting reel, 20-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon, 7/8-ounce Luck "E" Strike 3J spoon (white).
> He tied directly to the spoon – no split-ring or clip – and fished it vertically. "It twists the fire out of your line when you do that," he noted. "I had to change line every day."
> Although nearly all his weigh-fish were caught on the spoon, he did catch a few fish on a Heddon Zara Spook and a Luck "E" Strike Razor worm (dropshot).
The Bottom Line
> Long's sponsored by Ranger, Yamaha, ANPAC insurance, Minn Kota, Humminbird, Falcon Rods and Luck "E" Strike.