By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Summertime tournaments on the Tennessee River are most often won from offshore locations and last week's Lake Chickamauga FLW Pro Circuit Super Tournament was no exception. Winner Jacob Wheeler fished some shallow grass early in the event, but spent the latter portion plying much deeper water.
Of the other top-5 finishers, only finesse expert Cody Meyer stayed away from the shallow grass entirely. Following are some of the details of their programs.
2nd: Cole Floyd
> Day 1: 5, 17-12
> Day 2: 5, 26-02
> Day 3: 5, 18-05
> Day 4: 5, 19-12
> Total = 20, 81-15
Rookie Cole Floyd had fished a couple of warm-weather events at Chickamauga before and came into this event determined to find something away from the offshore "community holes" that would attract many in the 204 angler field (150 Pro Circuit regulars plus 54 Bass Pro Tour competitors).
"I knew it was going to be a cluster on the deep stuff, so I decided to target shallower areas," he said. "Practice was really good and I was kind of scared that maybe it was too good. I had some confidence, but I really wasn't sure what I had (in terms of quality fish) because I didn't want to cast to them with people around.
"I had four key areas and maybe 15 to 20 places total. I caught most of the fish anywhere from 8 to 12 feet deep, just on shallow bars where they dropped off. Going in looking for places that wouldn't get a lot of pressure was the real key for me. Those fish were a lot easier to catch."
After a mediocre day 1, he surged into contention with a monstrous day-2 stringer that was the second-biggest of the tournament. It was topped by a 9 1/4-pound bruiser.
A Texas-rigged worm was the key player in his bait arsenal. He also caught weigh-in fish on a crankbait and two different types of jigs.
> Worm gear: 7'4" heavy-action Lew's LFS rod, Lew's HyperMag casting reel (8:1 ratio), unnamed 17-pound fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce tungsten weight, 3/0 round-bend worm hook, 6" Strike King Rage Cut-R worm (green-pumpkin).
> His crankbait was a Strike King 6XD (apple shad).
> He caught a few fish on a 3/4-ounce Strike King Comeback jig (brown/purple) with a Strike King Menace trailer (moon juice) and a few on a 5/8-ounce hair jig.
Jason Reyes' 27-04 haul on day 2 was the heaviest bag of the event.
3rd: Jason Reyes
> Day 1: 5, 22-10
> Day 2: 5, 27-04
> Day 3: 5, 17-11
> Day 4: 5, 9-03
> Total = 20, 76-12
Jason Reyes spent all four competition days in Dallas Bay fishing a small handful of 200-yard stretches that had a mixture of grass and bare spots. His fish came from water that was 2 to 3 feet deep and all were enticed by a Senko.
He held the lead after a massive haul on day 2, but things slowed down after that as he wore out those locales. The two-hour-plus fog delay on day 4 didn't help him as he'd been doing early morning damage on bass feeding on bluegill in the pepper grass.
"When you go to Chick there's always one guy who really figures out the ledge thing and that's what happened, but it was a good tournament for me," he said. "I would've liked to have caught a little better bag (on day 4) and finished 2nd.
"The first day I started out deep and kind of got crossed up and went back and forth a couple times, but I was sold (on the shallow grass) after I had almost 50 pounds in two days. There were too many good ones in there to leave and go out running the ledges. It was a matter of getting dialed in to how I needed to present the Senko. Any cast could be a 6- or 7-pounder, just like on the ledges.
He stayed as far away from the openings in the grass as possible and made long casts to them.
"I had to soak it pretty good, then all of a sudden one would swim off with it. It might be a faint bite, but I'd see the line jump."
> Senko gear: 7'3" medium-heavy G. Loomis GLX rod, Shimano Metanium casting reel (7.3:1 ratio), 15-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon line, 5/0 Gamakatsu worm hook, 5" Yamamoto Senko (watermelon red) with 3/64-ounce nail weight inserted into nose.
Cody Meyer spent the tournament bouncing from one offshore "community hole" to the next.
4th: Cody Meyer
> Day 1: 5, 16-14
> Day 2: 5, 21-04
> Day 3: 5, 18-15
> Day 4: 5, 15-12
> Total = 20, 72-13
Cody Meyer spent the derby fishing the most well-known offshore haunts, resigned to the fact that he'd be sharing them with a lot of other competitors.
"I'd run down the lake and when I came to any hole that wasn't occupied, I'd stop," he said. "On the first day I was boat No. 41 (to leave the launch) and there were guys on the first seven spots I wanted to fish. On day 2 I was boat No. 164 and my first spot was open.
"It wasn't anything fancy – I'd just get in with the crowd and throw light line and get as many bites as I could and occasionally catch a decent one. I never had a secret spot, but I caught fish everywhere and just kind of squeaked it out. One thing that was surprising this time was there was a ton of little ones in those schools. I was catching a minimum of 20 keepers a day and one time I caught fish on 20 casts in a row, but they were all just 2-pounders, and then finally toward the end of all that I caught like a 3."
A dropshot rig was his most productive offering and a bucktail jig played a secondary role.
> Dropshot gear: 7'4" Daiwa Tatula Elite rod, Daiwa Tatula LT 2500 spinning reel, 10-pound Daiwa J-Braid x8 (main line), 6- or 8-pound Daiwa J-Fluoro leader, 2/0 Owner Cover Shot hook, 1/4-ounce Strike King Tour Grade tungsten weight, Strike King Fat Baby Finesse worm (green-pumpkin/sapphire).
> Jig gear: 7'6" medium-heavy Daiwa Tatula Elite Searchbait rod, Daiwa Tatula Elite casting reel (8:1 ratio), 14-pound Daiwa J-Fluoro line, 1/2-ounce Owner Bucktail Shad jig (white).
Alex Davis rode a two-pronged attack to a 5th-place finish.
5th: Alex Davis
> Day 1: 5, 14-04
> Day 2: 5, 20-13
> Day 3: 5, 19-10
> Day 4: 5, 18-01
> Total = 20, 72-12
Alex Davis guides two lakes down the Tennessee River Chain at Guntersville, but calls Chickamauga his favorite fishery in the country due to its potential for giant bites. His approach for this event was a mixture of grass and deep-water stuff.
"I had a two-stage attack," he said. "On day 1 it was cloudy and rainy and the ledge places I had to myself, the fish were completely gone. If I hadn't gone and fished the grass, I would've zeroed.
"The second day I caught a 6 1/2-pounder, a 4 and a 3 out of the grass and then I caught a big one out deep at the end of the day, but then then the third day the grass thing didn't work at all and I caught everything out deep (the rest of the way). Without the grass I wouldn't have made the first cut, but I wouldn't have made the top 5 without fishing deep."
He admitted to getting extremely frustrated during practice due to all the boats exploring the ledges.
"You'd idle a school and a boat would almost T-bone you from directly behind. There were 10 boats side by side in some place and that kind of thing's just not in my DNA.
He threw a bladed jig in the grass and a swimbait and a big spinnerbait offshore.
> Bladed jig gear: 7'2" medium-heavy Shimano Zodias glass composite rod, Shimano Metanium casting reel (6.3:1 ratio), 15-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon line, 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait Jackhammer with homemade skirt (gizzard shad), 3 1/2" Castaic Baits Jerky J swimbait trailer (TN River shad).
> Swimbait gear: 7'7" heavy-action Shimano Expride rod, Shimano Curado 200 casting reel (6.3:1 gear ratio), 15-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon, 1-ounce homemade jighead, 6" Scottsboro Tackle swimbait (natural light).
> Spinnerbait gear: Same rod and reel, 20-pound P-Line Tactical fluorocarbon, 2-ounce Jackall Megalodon spinnerbait with homemade skirt (blue glimmer) and size 15 willow-leaf blade.
> The Megalodon spinnerbait is currently marketed only in Japan.