By Miles Burghoff
Special to BassFan
Practice is arguably the most crucial part of tournament fishing. Without having an effective practice period, the odds of walking away with a “W” or a strong showing, are greatly diminished.
Now, having an “effective” practice doesn’t necessarily mean that an angler, or a team, catches a bunch of fish – ultimately isolating a winning pattern before the event begins. Sometimes the most effective practices are the ones in which anglers catch nothing, or next to nothing, but there was one thing that popped out at you as special.
That one special thing could be a certain area that failed to produce, but looks oh, so good. It could be a certain type of cover that just has to be holding the mother load. Or maybe it’s that one lure that remained in your tackle box the whole time that just kept on screaming “I’d be perfect for this.”
For the University of Louisiana-Monroe team of Trapper Munn and Dustin Perkins, following an official practice day that only saw one fish finding its way into the boat, that one special thing was in the form of a backwater on the Ouachita River that didn’t produce during practice, but left their instincts buzzing.
When the scales closed for last weekend’s College B.A.S.S. Central Regional, ULM’s 19-06 total over 2 days was enough to capture the victory.
For the College B.A.S.S. series, teams are allowed to practice for 4 days leading up to the first competition day. Obviously, this practice schedule can pose issues for college students, so many of the teams had to skip a couple days of either school or practice.
In the case of ULM, it meant skipping all but the final practice day. Munn was the only member of the team to be able to get out during the practice day immediately prior to the event.
Munn found the high water conditions on the river were perfect for exploring backwaters that normally are inaccessible.
Despite a seemingly perfect scenario, Munn was only able to coax one fish out of the backwater ponds. However, he was intrigued by an area known as Little Moon, which looked too good to eliminate.
> Day 1: 3, 8-03
> Day 2: 5, 11-03
> Total = 8, 19-06
ULM started the event in the backwater where Munn had found his solitary keeper the day before.
“We fished our first backwater until about 10:30 with no luck,” said Munn. “We ended up moving around a bit, trying different backwaters, and then at 12:30 we ended up making it to (Little Moon).”
“On my first cast in there I ended up catching a keeper, and then 15 minutes later I caught one around 4 pounds,” said Perkins.
They continued to get bites in the area, pitching Reaction Innovations Sweet Beavers to the bases of cypress trees.
“We would pitch to the bases of the trees, lift it up once, and they would nail it,” said Munn.
Despite a relatively active bite in the backwater, the team was only able to scratch out one other keeper, although they did report losing several. The tough conditions for the field ensured that their 8-03 bag was sufficient enough to keep them in the hunt.
On day 2, they cut out all the unproductive water they fished the day before and went straight to Little Moon.
“We found that the bite was best in the morning,” said Perkins. “We were still catching them around the cypress trees pitching Sweet Beavers, but we also caught some on wacky-rigged Senkos and on spinnerbaits.”
They reported that they caught about eight keepers on the day, and even were able to cull once. The team ended the day with 11-03, which was a mere 12 ounces ahead of the runner-up finishers from Louisiana Tech University.
“It is just unbelievable, this win means a lot to both of us because now we get to fish in the national championship against the best college anglers in the country and get a shot at fishing the Bassmaster Classic,” said Munn.
“Yeah, I don’t think this has really sunk in yet,” said Perkins. I just recently started college fishing, and it is just great to have success already.”
Along with ULM, the other Top 15 teams also advance to the National Championship.
Winning Gear Notes
> Pitching gear : 7’ extra-heavy unnamed casting rods, Lews Speed Spool casting reels (6.4:1 ratio), 17-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, 3/8-ounce unnamed tungsten bullet weight, 4/0 Lazer Trokar TK-110 hook, Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver (penetration).
The Bottom Line
Main factor in their success – “Being able to make adjustments on the fly and go with our gut was the key,” said Perkins. Added Munn: “Knowing the river and knowing where we could go with the high water."
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