Just got back from competing in the National Guard FLW College Fishing Central Regional Championship on Lake Monroe, Indiana. My partner Mike McCarthy Jr. and I took 2nd place winning 25,000 dollars and a trip to the College Fishing National Championship where we will compete on Kentucky Lake for a chance to qualify for the Forrest Wood Cup and win 100,000 dollars.
We had made a couple of trips to Lake Monroe prior to the off limits period. We had a pretty good idea of the areas and patterns that we were going to fish. On our practice day we spent a great deal of time trying to get a buzzbait pattern going which did result in me catching my largest spotted bass to date a 4lber on the OMEGA Alpha Shad but we didn’t have much else to show for it. The buzzbait is one of my favorite baits to fish this time of the year and a lot of times the gizzard shad will start to relate to rocky points and throwing a buzzbait around these areas can be a great tournament pattern for big fish. It just wasn’t working though on Lake Monroe. We covered a lot of water on the mainlake with spinnerbaits and crankbaits. We fished a bunch of creeks and pockets that we didn’t get to see on our trip to the lake over the summer but we never fished the areas that we knew had fish in them. When you only have one practice day before a tournament it can be beneficial to fish everything you don’t think holds fish and with lures that you wouldn’t normally think would work. That way you won’t second guess your game plan for tournament day and it’s not like you have enough time to fish it all.
On day one we had an early boat number so we decided to make a long run down to the dam. We had found fish in this creek in the summertime and the shad were already in there so we knew it was going to hold some fish. It wasn’t too far along in the morning that I put the first keeper in the boat on a shallow running square bill crankbait that I had banged off a laydown. We had thrown a buzzbait around a little without much luck and when I caught the fish on the crank we both noted that it was about half way back in the creek. We decided to fish the creek on out to the main lake without any more fish and then we made a run to the next creek and started about half way back. Mike quickly caught keeper number two on a crankbait also off a laydown that he had bumped with the crankbait. We felt that we were on a pattern and this point so we started fishing any wood that we could find on the way back to the ramp running shallow running crankbaits into the wood to get reaction strikes. We made a trip back into creek filled with stumps and started on a stump filled secondary point that had a nice drop out in front and I was able to box up my second keeper on the crank. We had three nice keepers in the boat but time was starting to run out. We just kept on hitting any wood that we knew about and Mike was able to flip up a nice 4lb kicker to end the day. Our four keepers on day 1 put us in a tie for 4th place with 7lbs 13oz.
Boat numbers reversed on the second day and we decided to make a short run over to the stump filled creek where I had caught my second keeper on day 1. It was about an hour into the day that I caught a 4lber on a square bill crank that was up in about a foot of water. We fished the creek out without any more fish to show for it and then decided to make the trip to the spot where Mike had caught the best fish the day before. I was able to put keeper number two in the boat on the square bill crank. We both caught a couple of shorts and liked the amount of bites we were getting in the area so we continued to fish the rocks with isolated laydowns. Mike cranked up another keeper that was about 2lbs and then he caught his second keeper. Things were just coming together and we knew it was going to be a good day. We came to another laydown on the wind blown bank and I threw the square bill up into it and caught my third keeper that went about 3 pounds on the crank. I had my limit and now all we needed to do was get Mike his last keeper. It didn’t take him long though and he caught another solid tournament fish to give us the only full limit of the tournament and the heaviest bag of the tournament that weighed 14lbs 2oz which propelled us from 4th place into 1st place on day two.
It was great to have more than a 1lb lead on Indiana University going into the final day. After all it is there home lake. They had been catching their fish late in the day but nobody really knew how the 1 o’clock weigh in was going to change up the game. We started on the spot where we had limited out the day before and it was just a lot slower. I made an adjustment and switched cranks and put a nice keeper in the boat. Time was running out though and we didn’t know if running around the lake would even be worth it so we decided to grind it out. We ended up weighing just the one fish to give us a three day total of 23lbs 14oz. Indiana University was able to catch 3 nice ones on the short day that gave them the win. They had been cranking deep trees all week and it finally paid off on the last day and they were able to win their second consecutive Regional Championship. Sometimes it just isn’t meant to be I guess but one thing is for sure I can’t wait to fish the National Championship on Kentucky Lake and we will be ready to rock! The whole week I used a 6’9” AiRRUS Ultra XL rod to throw my crankbaits. I threw the Lucky Craft 1.5 on 15lb mono for added abrasion resistance and so that it would come through the wood cover a lot easier. A light rod like the Ultra XL makes throwing cranks all day long a breeze. This year I have won 32,000 dollars in College Fishing alone using AiRRUS Rods. They will improve your fishing!