2011 ABA Championship, Lake Murray or Bust!

12 pounder caught in ABA tournament

After being lucky enough to win 3 and place 2nd in a forth of 7 American Bass Anglers (ABA) tournaments, I was headed into the 2 day championship with a pretty good points lead. This Championship event is worth double points and a slip up costs you two points per place versus the single point system. ABA sets it up this way so that when the district championship rolls around everyone has a fair shot at taking the Angler of the Year (AOY) title.

We had some of the worst conditions for the Red River, it was on the rise (but not high enough to get into a couple secret spots), muddier than Laurie’s coffee in the morning (three scoops of creamer) and the current was about 20 mph according to my GPS. However, this may seem bad, it’s really nothing unusual for the Red River.

The tournament was set up so we could fish in Pools 3-4 the first day and pools 4-5 the second day. I didn’t have time to prefish much but I know the river well and felt very confident that I would do well.

Day one proved to be a very tough grind for me. I didn’t boat my first fish until 10 AM. It was a solid keeper from a grass line that dropped off quickly. Thinking I finally found something I milked it for all it was worth not to get another bite. From there I started mixing it up. The shad were in full spawn mode but the muddy water made it difficult for the bass to key in on them. Catching two more fish punching vegetation and another on a rock current break, I only managed 4 fish for the day. Which was a common number with most anglers all in the same weight class. After day one no one had a significant lead and the tournament was still anyone’s game.

Day two turned into a hunt and peck for me to just find a bass. At 1 PM I still didn’t have a keeper in the boat. At this point I let my mind slip and started counting points and wondering who was on fish and if they had enough to take the AOY from me.

Letting other anglers get in your head is a guarantee that you’re going to get beat. You must stay focused on your fishing. About 2 PM I was able to shake everything and convince myself that it wasn’t over. I have caught a winning stringer in as little as 15 minutes. This can happen morning, noon, or at the buzzer. We all just like it when it happens early.

I headed to an area I have tremendous confidence in, I know the shad are there and I know the bass are there. Now it’s just a matter of figuring out how and where exactly they are colliding. I found a place with some rocks, shad will spawn on rocks. There was current swinging across them, bass will use the current to position and wait for the shad. The current was also carrying vegetation against the rocks giving the bass ambush points.

First cast across the vegetation on the rocks and I hook a solid 3 pounder. She jumps twice pulls hard twice and I finally have her under control, or so I thought. She wraps around a lilly pad stem and twists free!!! My first fish of the day, it’s a solid keeper and I blow it!!! If you know me, you know I’m not wearing a hat anymore…

I have 20 minutes left in this tournament. I work the spinnerbait across the rocks and vegetation catching two more and losing two more. I go to circle back and punch the vegetation and realize I’m out of time.

Had I had my game face on and was prepared and had my head in the game, I could have pulled this tournament out in the last thirty minutes. It didn’t pan out this time but the opportunity was there. Always keep your head straight and focused, never worry about the other anglers. Every tournament you enter is yours to WIN!

I did manage ninth place for the two day event, fishing was tough for everyone. I also maintained enough points in the tournament to win the AOY title by a large margin. So it’s off to South Carolina and to fish the AOY Championship tournament for a new boat, also fish the National Championship for a new boat. Two shots at a new boat, odds are in my favor!!!

Get the Net it’s a Hawg
Mike Cork
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