FLW Tour Championship - Logan Martin Lake
Chris Koester (co-angler) – Day 3
Friday, August 13, 2004
Mark (Rose) and I ran a few different spots early this morning. He was trying to pick up some quick crankbait or topwater fish, but that plan didn't work out too well for him. He didn't catch any fish at all doing that. While he was running us down the bank fishing a seawall with a buzzbait, I threw a jighead worm behind him -- still the Net Bait Key Lime worm -- and managed a nice 2-pound spot to start the day. But it got ugly from there.
Mark started running his primary pattern, which consisted of fishing a spinnerbait on the outside edge of shallow (18 inches or less) shoreline grass. That left me with little else to do but flip the grass. The water was stained, and flipping was fine with me, as several nice sacks came from grass like that the day before. However, the sun was blazing and the water was falling, and that pattern was going away in a big way. After flipping what seemed like miles of shoreline grass I had not had a single bite.
Fortunately we finally abandoned that pattern and went to some Carolina-rig spots and some docks. Mark finished out his limit and I got three more fish in the box, including a decent 2 1/2-pound largemouth. I needed that fifth fish in the worst way, and I had it on twice on a jighead worm, but both fish managed to come off. Both were keepers, at least 1 1/4 pounds.
I ended up with four keepers for 6-07 total, and finished in 11th place. You don't get a chance to fish for big money and a championship title very often, so it's always disappointing to watch somebody else get the big win. But I got a nice trophy and a $3,000 check out of the deal, which makes it a bit easier to swallow.
In retrospect, I was pretty much out of the running to win the tourney, as the winner caught over 30 keepers and culled up over 13 pounds. I had no chance at that kind of weight today. But landing either of those keepers I lost would have been the difference between where I finished
and 4th place, a difference of $6,000. Oops.
All in all, I'm fairly pleased with how I performed under those conditions. Fishing was tough on the co-anglers today – some great fishermen did pretty poorly. Other than those two keepers, I think I fished about as well as I could have.
I have to be pretty happy overall. I came in my first year on the FLW Tour, battled back from a zero at Atchafalaya to make the championship, and came in 11th place out of the best 48 co-anglers on the Tour this year. That's a pretty good feeling, and I really feel like I can do even better next season.
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Chris Koester (co-angler) – Day 2
Thursday, August 12, 2004
I made it! I weighed in a 6-07 limit today (after an 8 ounce dead fish penalty), and made the cut in 21st place. Marcel Veenstra was a great partner. He had us fishing structure all day, which is exactly what I am comfortable with on this lake, and was exactly the opportunity I needed to catch a good sack.
I caught my first keeper in the first 3 minutes of the day on a Spro Prime 25 crankbait, a small largemouth. If you don't have any of these baits, you owe it to yourself to get some. It is an awesome bait with a very erratic action. You can fish it just like a crankbait, but you can also stop and twitch it at any time and it will dart and dive just like a jerkbait. It's one of my very favorite "secret" baits.
My second fish was a nice spot, about 2 3/4 pounds, caught on a Carolina rig with a NetBait finesse worm in key lime. This has been a very hot bait for me in this tournament, I haven't ever used it before this week, but I am really sold on it.
I caught small keepers all day on that Carolina rig, a jighead rigged with the same worm, and a dropshot rigged with a Kinami Flash. Marcel and I both had problems with dying fish today, and we weren't sure why. We think it likely had to do with catching fish that were coming out of very deep water, as much as 50-60 feet. The prospect of missing the cut due to dead fish penalties was very scary, but it worked out in the end. I managed to catch about 10 keepers today, but all were small, and I was culling about 1 ounce at a time this afternoon.
I'm paired up with Mark Rose tomorrow. I'm really not excited about what we're going to be doing. I talked to his co-angler partner from today, who suggested that I may be in a bit of trouble in the back deck fish-catching department tomorrow. That's not great to hear, but it's a variable that is out of my control, so I'm not going to worry about it. I'm going to put my head down and fish hard. It will be the co-angler who stays focused, gets some key quality bites and doesn't lose any fish that will come in with the win tomorrow.
Wish me luck.
Chris Koester (co-angler) – Day 1
Wednesday, August 11, 2004
Clark and I started the day fishing fast, running some shallow stuff to try to pick up active fish in the low light of morning. Not a sniff. Once we had sufficiently beaten that pattern into the ground, we headed for plan B. Docks, docks and more docks.
Clark is a dock flipping/pitching/skipping virtuoso. I am not. I'm really a pretty lousy dock fisherman at best, and my lack of skill is magnified dramatically when fishing from the back deck. However, there was no other option. It was adapt or zero.
Clark banged keepers off the first two docks we fished, and we made the mistake of thinking it was looking pretty easy. In tournament fishing, whenever you get that feeling a red light should start flashing and a warning siren should start wailing, because you are about to get your butt
The rest of the day was tough: hot sun, tangled messes of docks, short fish, and bites that were few and far between. Clark missed or lost several nice fish and was getting frustrated. I didn't stick my first keeper until late morning – it seemed a color change was the key. I managed to scratch out two more keepers after that.
With about 10 minutes left to fish, I laid into a really nice spotted bass. She came up to the surface, showed me her chunky 3 1/2-pound body, and threw my hook back at me. Heartbreaker. I honestly had to spend the little remaining fishing time just pretending that it never happened, just so I could manage to keep fishing.
These Coosa River spots remind me of the ballistic smallies at Champlain that also nearly broke my heart. Almost everybody at the weigh-in had a story of at least one big fish that got off. I need to find a way to keep fish hooked tomorrow.
My friend and roommate Greg Gulledge spanked the entire tourney field with a limit of over 15 pounds, including a 6-05 hoss. That guy could catch bass out of a shower drain. I hope he goes pro next year so he can quit beating me for a while.
I'm paired with Marcel Veenstra tomorrow. He had a small limit today, and it sounds like the stuff we'll be doing will play much more to my strengths and pre-fishing experiences. I will be surprised and sorely disappointed if I can't get 5 pounds. If I can catch that kind of weight tomorrow I should make the Top 24 cut.
Chris Koester (co-angler) – 1 day prior
Tuesday, August 10, 2004
All of my roommates stayed in today and worked on tackle. I was the lone fool who ventured out into the rain. But I'm glad that I did, since I was able to fish under conditions that we haven't really seen this week, and that may be similar to what we'll face at takeoff tomorrow. I managed to pretty much eliminate any interest I might have had in throwing a spinnerbait, as I flogged a full mile of decent bank with it this morning without a sniff. I put it down and started throwing a shallow crank and caught keepers on back-to-back casts. Guess which one I will favor tomorrow?
I managed a limit again today in about 4 hours, but it was even smaller than yesterday, maybe 5 pounds total -- all little spotted bass. I really only have confidence in a couple of different presentations right now, but that may be a good thing as I've been able to eliminate a few baits that I'm normally tempted to throw. I hope to stay focused and stick with what has been working for me, but -- I'm paired with Clark Wendlandt tomorrow, and without divulging any details of what he'll be doing tomorrow, suffice to say it's stuff that I've been doing very little of in practice.
I wish I had another day to go out and get into the right groove, but as it is I will probably end up fishing some baits that I haven't even picked up while pre-fishing. That's a little scary, but I haven't exactly been setting the world on fire this week, so it may be a good thing.
The meal and meeting tonight were really cool. It feels like an honor to have qualified for this championship. Here's a hot tip: FLW Outdoors introduced the mayor of Plattsburgh, N.Y. as a guest of honor at the banquet tonight. The obvious murmurs circulated among the fishermen: will the 2006 FLW Tour Championship be at Lake Champlain? We can only hope.
I think that 4-5 pounds per day will make the cut on the co-angler side. I'll be thrilled with a limit of little knothead 12-inchers tomorrow. Any more than that will be a bonus.
I hope it's cloudy when we launch in the morning, and stays that way as long as possible. If there is bright sun it could be a pretty tough day from the back of the boat.
Chris Koester (co-angler) – 2 days prior
Monday, August 9, 2004
I've been here since last Friday. I towed my boat down to prefish by myself for this tournament. I'm staying in a house on the lake with Keith Pace, Greg Gulledge, David Gee and Ken Murphy – quite an ensemble of top-notch co-anglers.
I haven't established anything solid yet, just a few fish here and there from brushpiles and points. The pros are absolutely flogging the docks, but I haven't bothered to fish many since it's pretty unlikely to help me in the tournament, fishing as a co-angler. I've pretty much just focused on
generating some bites to gain some confidence in a few lures. I caught a limit yesterday, but it only would have weighed 7 pounds or so.
I've caught nearly all of my fish on soft-plastics so far, mostly finesse worms, rigged in all sorts of different ways. I had hoped to establish something a little different than that, since every co-angler in the field will have a finesse worm tied on, but it hasn't happened.
The fishing has been very slow overall for me, and even when I'm catching them they're all small keepers. I have found one spot that's pretty decent – you can count on catching several fish there every time – but again, no real size to them. If we happen to be near there during the tournament, I will mention it to my partner, but it's not a spot worth going out of your way for unless you really need limit fish.
A lot of guys are staying in tomorrow, but I'm going to go out at the crack of dawn. I won't be looking for new water. Instead, I'll just fish hard to get some bites so I can establish a little confidence in what I'm doing.