APPLING, Ga. – Everyone thought Clarks Hill would surprise people this week. It didn’t disappoint, in more ways than one.
Talking to dozens of pros after Day 1 of Toyota Stop 2 Presented by Lowrance meant getting dozens of contrasting perspectives on what all is happening at the second event of the Tackle Warehouse Invitationals. Is the water rising or falling? Yes. Is the water warming or cooling? Yes. Is it better to fish deep or shallow? Yes. Anglers are truly that confused and all over the map about what they think is happening on the fishery.
It seems the only things anyone can agree on are that the fish do want to move up and spawn in short order and that Dakota Ebare is fishing at a different level than everyone else in this event. Continuing his torrid streak over the last year, Ebare sacked up 23 pounds, 13 ounces to take the lead by more than 5 pounds over Travis Harriman. To put that in perspective, Miles Howe sits 5 pounds back of Harriman and he’s in 35th place.
Needless to say, Ebare is on to something.
“I was expecting to have a good day and catch some fish, but today was a blessing,” Ebare said. “It was definitely a little better than I expected. I got a couple really big bites.”
While many pros have relegated themselves to either fishing deep or shallow, or fishing specific areas of the lake, Ebare bucked that trend. He’s fishing both deep and shallow, admitting he caught fish in 30 feet of water and in a foot thanks to “keeping an open mind.”
Of course, he’s tight-lipped on the specifics, but he’s definitely excited about what he has figured out and continues to refine, as he says he caught more than 30 fish today.
And as for the conditions, while they seemed to mess with many pros’ heads, they didn’t phase Ebare.
“(The conditions are) different than practice, but that’s what I expected,” Ebare said. “I just fished the conditions. I mean look at it. It’s warm and the trees are blooming. The fish are coming up, but they’re not all coming up at once. So, I’m targeting both ranges.”
Ebare may be keeping all options open, but Harriman is not.
“With this warm weather, I figured they’d move up shallow,” Harriman said. “So, I committed to it and just kept my nose to the grindstone all day.”
Fishing up above the 378 Bridge – an area that let many pros down today – Harriman didn’t get many bites, but two of them were the big females most shallow anglers were seeking. And a big key to those fish, according to Harriman, was a specific bait.
“I don’t want to say what it is, but once I figured it out, they ones that bit were choking it,” Harriman said.
“The water in my area came up 3 inches, but it dropped the water temperature 5 degrees.”
“The water actually dropped in my area.”
“The water temperatures were 6 degrees warmer than in practice.”
There were no shortage of opinions on why such a hot bite in practice fizzled for so many today. Which one is right? It all seems to depend on the area an angler is fishing.
Pro after pro lamented fish getting smaller or simply not biting for long stretches today, with many pointing fingers at the conditions. And there’s definitely truth to the conditions changing on the fly.
Meanwhile, Keith Carson is a prime example of a pro who noticed the conditions and adapted accordingly.
“When I got in my area, the water temperature was 58.3 and I knew that was too cold for fishing shallow,” Carson said. “But as the day got warmer, the water temperatures kept going up, and around 11 a.m. I started seeing the fish coming in.”
If that trend continues, Carson is truly excited, as the well-known sight-fishing expert feels he could be looking at fish on beds by the end of the tournament.
1. Dakota Ebare – 23 – 13 (5)
2. Travis Harriman – 18 – 11 (5)
3. Drew Boggs – 18 – 9 (5)
4. Keith Carson – 18 – 1 (5)
5. Scotty Villines – 17 – 6 (5)
6. Sean Anderson – 17 – 3 (5)
7. Martin Villa – 17 – 1 (5)
8. Jacob Wheeler – 17 – 0 (5)
9. Cole Breeden – 16 – 15 (5)
10. Tristan McCormick – 16 – 11 (5)