By Todd Ceisner
When Jacob Powroznik closes his eyes he can still see Fish Fishburne leaping up onto the top of his outboard to fight a fish during his Georgia Top 100 win at Lake Seminole in 1995. Powroznik said watching that sequence on television was what got him hooked on fishing shallow, more specifically sight-fishing.
"I sat there watching with my dad and I said, 'I want to learn how to do that,'" he said. "Not long after, my dad and I fished a tournament Lake Gaston and the fish were spawning. I found two 6-pounders on the bed and we got there and I ended up catching both of them and I fell in love with it after that. I must've been 10 years old, but I felt like King Ding-a-Ling. We had a pond at home and it just went from there."
Powroznik had his eyes wide open last week at the Toledo Bend Bassmaster Elite Series as he took advantage of the drawn-out spring that had fish still moving into their spawning areas during the event. An early-morning jerkbait pattern around a shad spawn got him through the first 2 days, but when it mattered most on the weekend, Sunday especially his eyes were his most important tool as he spied spawners in pockets around the southern end of the lake.
While he caught fish several other ways throughout the event, his decision to make sight-fishing part of his game plan ultimately carried him to his first Elite Series win at a venue he'd never competed at before.
"It helped that the good Lord blessed me with a great pair of eyes and sometimes I can see things that maybe 95 percent of other people can't," he said. "I've been with some of the best sight-fishermen in the world and seen some they haven't been able to see.
"If it'll sit there, I'll catch it. The thing about sight-fishing is you have to know when to flip it there and when to leave it alone. I've done it a long time and I enjoy it. If I go into a tournament and they're on beds, I'm going to do well. It's just one of my strengths."
He caught massive bags each of the first 2 days to take the lead at the halfway point before stumbling on day 3 with less than 12 pounds. His two best fish on the final day came off the bed and anchored his 19-11 bag, which was more than enough to overcome a 2 1/2-pound deficit.
"Everything just fell into place with the weather and the wind calming down," he said. "I had that little hiccup on day 3, but I made up for it (Sunday)."
His 79-12 total was nearly 2 1/2 pounds more than runner-up Chad Morgenthaler.
Here's how he did it.
Powroznik said his practice period was "pretty good," but it was difficult for most everyone to get a feel for how the lake would fish later in the week because the wind was unforgiving all through the 2 1/2 days of practice.
It didn't take Powroznik long to discover that fish were scattered from the bank out to the grass lines, but it was Tuesday when he put most of his eggs in the sight-fishing basket.
"I knew on Tuesday that's what I was going to do," he said. "I never made a cast all day. I had one bite off a bed and it was a 5-pounder that I went back and caught on day 2 of the event. I looked all day from 30 minutes after daylight to almost dark."
On Wednesday, he stumbled on a morning shad spawn and was able to generate a high volume of bites on a jerkbait (he had removed the hooks) and a spinnerbait made by a friend of his in Virginia.
"Once I found a couple of those places, I put it on the trailer around 10 a.m.," he said. "I just got sick of the wind so I went in and got my stuff ready."
As practice wound down, the forecast for the tournament days showed little in the way of wind and a couple cooler nights. That had Powroznik licking his chops because he knew the bedding fish would probably stay put and more were likely on their way.
"Those cooler night hurt the shad deal, but it kept the bass up there and still coming," he said. "I could tell new waves of fish have moved in on day 2."
> Day 1: 5, 24-14
> Day 2: 5, 23-06
> Day 3: 5, 11-13
> Day 4: 5, 19-11
> Total = 20, 79-12
Powroznik had most of his weight before 11 a.m. each of the first 2 days as he had field days with the jerkbait and finished his limits sight-fishing.
He was one of 13 anglers with 20-plus pounds on day 1 and his 24-14 had him in 3rd right off the bat. He followed that up with 23-06 on day 2, again feasting on the schooling fish that were keying on shad and finishing off his bag with bedding fish.
As the tournament wore one, he was confident more fish would continue to move onto beds.
"I'd go back into the same pockets and even though I'd been through it, I'd 100 yards and find a new one had moved up," he said. "It wasn't a dying pattern because more fish kept coming."
The early-morning jerkbait bite, however, started to fizzle on day 3. He also wasn't able to lure any big ones off their nests and his 11-13 stringer dropped him to 2nd, about 2 1/2 pounds behind Dean Rojas entering the final day.
He caught one on the jerkbait early on Sunday and then moved around to some areas with deeper grass that he flipped with a jig.
"The jerkbait thing I knew was like beating a dead horse," he said. "I knew it was going away, but when you catch two 7s and a 5 doing it, it's hard not to at least try it. Plus, it was so close to the ramp."
Powroznik's key sight-fishing bait was the Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg in green-pumpkin (top) and redbug.
He caught two on the jig, added another on a wacky-rigged worm, but five of his keepers came off beds, including the 7-13 brute that started his afternoon rally and the 5-pounder that sealed the win on his final flip of the day.
As the final day wore on and he didn't have a big fish in the boat, he said his mind started to wander.
"I wasn't giving up, but I started to think I was letting it slip through my finger," he said. "So I sat down for a minute and got my wits and ate a Snickers. I went another 20 minutes and found that big one. (Catching her) was a real high. After I caught that, I was fired up."
Winning Gear Notes
> Sight-fishing gear: 8' heavy-action Abu Garcia Villain casting rod and 7'11" heavy-action Abu Garcia Veritas casting rod, Abu Garcia Revo MGX casting reel (7.1:1 gear ratio), 20- and 25-pound Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon line, 1/2-oz. Elite Tungsten flipping weight, 4/0 Mustad Denny Brauer Grip Pin Max Flippin Hook, Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg (green-pumpkin and redbug).
> The spinnerbait he threw during practice was made by Mr. Sooperbass Tackle Company based in Church Road, Va.
The Bottom Line
> Main factor in his success "Making the right decisions and knowing when to bag it on the shad spawn and decide to go sight-fighting. Some guys stayed out and jerked around for a lot longer, but once I sensed it was time to move in, I said, 'Heck with it I'm going to go sight-fishing.' In the end, it turned out to be the right move."
> Performance edge "My PowerPoles. If not for them, I wouldn't have been able to catch what I caught during the tournament. Also, my Amphibia sunglasses were key for me. They're the best glasses I've ever put on."
> Powroznik immediately headed to Lake Fork, Texas, after his victory to get ready for this week's Toyota Texas Bass Classic.
> The Saturday prior to the start of practice at Toledo Bend, Powroznik and partner Wayne Vaughan won the Fishers of Men Team Series national championship at Lake Chickamauga, racking up 63.05 pounds over 3 days. The win netted the duo a prize package valued at more than $80,000. The Elite Series will be visiting Chickamauga in June for its inaugural BASSFest.
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