I was really excited to see Douglas Lake on the Southern Opens schedule for this year. Douglas is a lake that my brother and I have fished heavily over the past few years since I got out of college. In my opinion, it is the best offshore lake in east Tennessee. I moved to the lake a year ago in part to hone my offshore fishing skills.
During practice for the Opens, my brother Jordan and I work together to find more areas. He has won two big events on Douglas in the last couple of years and really knows the lake well. We share waypoints and info so we can both do the best we can in these events.
With no off-limits and Douglas being relatively small, we both figured that the offshore schools would get pounded with crankbaits and we would have to finesse fish in order to do well. Our plan was to finesse fish behind guys and catch the less aggressive fish.
We found several big schools offshore using our Lowrance SideScan, but just about everyone else also found these. The mapping cards like Navionics are so good on this lake that it really eliminates some of the local advantage. Some of the spots we used to have all to ourselves now stick out and become really obvious to anyone with good mapping. We also found a few “off-the-wall” spots that did not look that great on a map, but still had big schools of bass on them. These would prove to be key to save my tournament.
Going into the event, we were both pretty confident with what we found and how we were doing with the finesse techniques. A drop shot, wacky-rig and other finesse presentations were working great for us.
I had a really late boat draw the first day and all of my main “obvious” spots were taken. I knew this was a possibility due to the field size, but made the decision to run right to my “off the wall” spot. I wanted to try to save this area for later in the event, but I had to use it right away.
I started with the finesse stuff, but couldn’t get a bite. I saw the fish on my Lowrance units, but they wouldn’t bite. I decided to make a few drops with a big flutter spoon before I left and I ignited the school! I caught a big largemouth over four pounds and then a smallmouth that was almost six pounds. Four of my five keepers came from the spoon and that spot and I ended the day in 5th place with 19 lbs., 2 oz.
I tried several areas on the second day, but really struggled finding fish and had to scramble late in the day. I fished the big schools offshore and tried to fish behind others who were cranking and use my finesse techniques.
At around 1:00, I had maybe five pounds and I knew I had to do something. My brother had found a spot way up the river that had a nice school of fish on it. It was an area that was fairly shallow and hard to find. He told me that they weren’t giants but if I needed it to go and fish it. I left to go there at around 1:00 and when I arrived it was one after another. I filled out my limit and culled several times with a shallow crankbait before I had to head back in. Jordan’s area really saved my event as I weighed in 13 lbs., which was just enough to sneak into the Top 12.
After that second day, I figured out that the crankbait bite was much stronger than I had anticipated. We had really written off these big cranks due to the pressure the lake was getting, but I decided to give it a try on the final day and go for the win.
With only 12 boats on the lake, I was able to fish just about any spot I wanted but the schools had been beaten up so bad from the previous two days that it was a real challenge. I kept the deep crankbait in my hand for a good majority of the day and was able to put together a decent limit. At the very end of the day, I was fishing close to the ramp and caught my second biggest bass of the day on a drop shot. There is nothing better than catching one at the last minute.
Many of the top guys struggled on the final day and I think the pressure from all the fishing finally got to the fish. I moved up to 7th place for the event.
The deep crankbait bite turned out to be the winning pattern, and I am kicking myself for writing it off before the event even got started. I’m confident I would have finished higher if I would have given deep cranks more of a chance earlier in the event. It was still a blast fishing right here at home, making it to the final day and working together with my brother. I can’t wait for the day when he qualifies for the Elite Series so we can work together at all of the events.