DUSTIN CONNELL: My REDCREST pregame plan worked in 2021, let's run it back for Lake Norman - Major League Fishing

DUSTIN CONNELL: My REDCREST pregame plan worked in 2021, let’s run it back for Lake Norman

Mercury pro counting on practice Lake Martin to boost him at REDCREST 2023
Image for DUSTIN CONNELL: My REDCREST pregame plan worked in 2021, let’s run it back for Lake Norman
A lot of my success at REDCREST in 2021 was due to some practice at Lake Jordan. Photo by Garrick Dixon. Angler: Dustin Connell.
March 6, 2023 • Dustin Connell • Bass Pro Tour

When I won REDCREST at Lake Eufaula in 2021, I won it on a jerkbait in brush piles using forward-facing sonar. A primary reason I was able to take that pattern and run with it was because I had spent the week before using that exact same technique on my home waters at Lake Jordan. Once I realized the bass at Eufaula were set up the same way, it put me on the fast track to really dialing in the winning fish.

There’s no doubt that my fishing at Jordan the week before helped me tremendously at Eufaula.

With that in mind, a few weeks ago I began thinking of a lake that reminded me the most of Lake Norman in North Carolina; a lake I could fish a few days to help prepare myself for REDCREST. In my mind, Lake Martin in Alabama is as close as I could get to duplicating Norman. Martin and Norman set up similarly in that they’re both impoundments with deep, clear water at the lower ends and more stained water in upper ends. Both lakes have spotted bass and largemouths and, most importantly, they both have a lot of docks.

Doing my dock time

Lake Norman has a reputation as a dock-fishing mecca, so pregame for REDCREST included some dock practice.

Fishing docks at Martin was the primary draw for me for a pregame warm-up. We don’t have a lot of docks at home on the Coosa, so I needed to go somewhere to sharpen my dock game. I’m not saying that REDCREST will be won on docks or that I plan to commit to them, but I do believe the winner of REDCREST will weigh some fish off of docks.

I spent a lot of my time trying different lures around docks and even found some new ones that seem promising. I also wanted to dial in the best line size and types of jig trailers for skipping docks. I put myself through the paces of fishing all kinds of docks: floating docks, cable docks, pole docks. I wanted to try docks in different water depths and in different water colors. A lot of my time on Martin was spent fishing docks, so if I decide to go that route at REDCREST, I’ll at least be more efficient with it than I would be if I hadn’t thrown at a dock all year.

Defining water color

I also spent a lot of time looking at and fishing different water colors at Martin. Water color is so key this time of year and every region of the country has that certain water color that’s just right for fish to move up in.

Water color is not talked about much because it’s so hard to define verbally. It can be just a little too muddy in one arm, a little too clear in another section and then just one pocket over, it might have that perfect dinge to it that fish feel comfortable in. I know this sounds crazy, but sometimes you have to train your eyes to recognize the water color that’s perfect.

Of course, it all changes so much with rainfall, sunlight penetration, clouds and even pollen mixing in. But Martin had many varying degrees of water color and spending a few days there really helped me see the subtle differences in water color that can be critical.

Cleaning up the beams

REDCREST pregame of course included some quality time dialing in Lowrance ActiveTarget.

Yes, of course, I did spend some time dialing in my electronics and my Lowrance ActiveTarget on some offshore stuff as well. With just two days of practice at Norman, I had to hit the water running with everything working perfectly. There was no time to be fiddling around with this or that, wondering if it’s tuned up correctly. Right now, I know my stuff is right. If it becomes a forward-facing sonar tournament, I’ll be ready.

At this point, I honestly have no idea how I’m going to fish at Norman. I have nothing specific in mind that I’m foaming at the mouth to go try. I’m not committed to any one technique, area, depth or cover. But what I did do at Martin was tune some things up to put myself in a position to do anything I need to do quickly.

Hopefully, it will help me get a head start out of the gates on the competition in seeing something materializing and I can jump on it before they do. It worked before, why can’t it work again?