JEFFERSON COUNTY, Tenn. – The weather is gradually improving at U.S. Air Force Stage Two Presented by Power-Pole, but the bass bite at Douglas Lake hasn’t quite warmed up yet. Thankfully, the best of both groups will shift gears tomorrow, with the tournament moving to nearby Cherokee Lake for the Knockout Round, with weights starting at zero.
Texas pro Alton Jones was the only angler to break into the teens both days on Douglas in Group B – his 14-pound, 14-ounce tally on Tuesday bumped him into the top spot. With 28-12 over two days of fishing, Jones bested fellow Texan Todd Faircloth by over a pound and will lead his group into the Knockout Round.
Entering the day, Jones was sitting fifth in the group with 13-14. He improved that weight by a full pound Tuesday to leapfrog into the top spot. His two solid days were thanks to a solid starting spot that he relied on both days,
“I had a place I went to each morning and caught three keepers,” he said. “I was using a Berkley Stunna jerkbait and working them with my Garmin LiveScope. You had to be very specific with your casts and needed to make a particular cast to get them to react.”
In addition to the jerkbait, Jones utilized a ½-ounce green pumpkin football jig.
“Most of the fish came on the jerkbait, but I caught some key fish each day on the jig,” he said.
Jones has some experience on Cherokee, but decided to spend a small portion of his practice time exploring it. He thinks it’s going to provide a much different set of conditions than the previous four days on Douglas.
“Cherokee won’t fish similar at all,” Jones said. “Smallmouth are the dominant species, whereas largemouth are the predominant fish on Douglas. But, I still think it will take a mixed bag to win there. I don’t think the numbers are there to win solely on largemouth, but a kicker largemouth or two will be needed.”
Faircloth’s 14-7 on Group B’s first day put him in the lead, and he backed it up with another solid limit Tuesday weighing 12-12. While the outcome was what he wanted, his day didn’t start fast.
“The day started really slow for me,” Faircloth said. “During the second period, I made a move to a different area and started catching them pretty good. Pretty much everything I caught both days was on a Strike King KVD 300 Elite Jerkbait in sexy shad.”
Faircloth fished the jerkbait on a Lew’s Custom Lite reel, Lew’s Hyper Mag reel, and 10-pound Sunline Sniper fluorocarbon. Aside from the bait and gear, Faircloth credits his Lowrance ActiveTarget for his success.
“The fish weren’t very deep in the water column, 4 or 5 feet at the deepest,” he said. “I caught some over much deeper water, but the bass were high in the water column, and I could see them on ActiveTarget. It was instrumental, and I don’t know if I would have caught a fish without it. It also showed me how the fish reacted to different baits and what they didn’t want to eat.”
Looking ahead to Cherokee, Faircloth predicts similar fishing but better quality fish to be caught.
“I went over the last day of practice when it was raining and storming, so not the ideal conditions,” he said to qualify his predictions. “Based on what I saw, it should fish about the same, but historically, Cherokee fishes better with higher weights. I’d say we’ll see a lot more smallmouth caught, but I actually did better on the largemouth there that day.”
Big movers: Like Randy Howell yesterday, Bass Pro Tour rookie Mitch Crane had a slip-up today that caused him to drop out of contention. After finishing the first day in third with 14-5, he only mustered four bass for 6-2 and was the first man out of the cut.
Another angler making big moves (in the right direction) was Britt Myers. After catching two bass for 4-8 on Sunday, he had a day-best 17-0 today. That big catch jumped from 33rd to 16th and moved him on to the Knockout Round.
The bite on Cherokee: Many anglers opted to spend all three days of their practice period on Douglas because the fishing was so tough. Several anglers mentioned that they’d have to get through the Qualifying Round first so they decided against checking Cherokee out, but a few spent a portion of their time on the lake that’s a quick, half-hour drive away.
Several who spent time on Cherokee reported a much better bite. Bigger fish and many more smallmouth may appear during the final two fishing days. Expect many of the same techniques to play, but get ready for a change of pace if those insights are correct.
After four days on Douglas Lake, Stage Two continues on Cherokee Lake for the Knockout Round. The top half of both groups will meet and try to advance to the Championship Round. The action starts at 8:45 a.m. ET with MLFNOW! streaming live on MajorLeagueFishing.com and lines going in at 9 a.m. ET. The pros will fish for three periods until 5 p.m. ET.