Practice update: West Point presents a new challenge for the pros - Major League Fishing

Practice update: West Point presents a new challenge for the pros

Image for Practice update: West Point presents a new challenge for the pros
West Point should provide a unique challenge for the pros this week. Anglers: Jack Daniel Williams, Drew Boggs.
February 28, 2024 • Jody White • Invitationals

LaGRANGE, Ga. – The Tackle Warehouse Invitationals season heads to the Georgia/Alabama border for Stop 2 Presented by Suzuki on West Point Lake, which promises to be one of the more interesting events of the year. The three-day tournament will blast off Friday. Though likely not the heaviest-hitting event of the season, West Point has plenty of fish (of several species), and this event will begin to settle things out for the rest of the Invitationals campaign.

With points on the line for Bass Pro Tour qualification and Fishing Clash Angler of the Year, we’ll be a third of the way through the season in the blink of an eye. So, this event will begin to shape those races, plus Polaris Rookie of the Year. That said, points aren’t the only storyline – the variability of the field in the Invitationals is always something to watch, and this field features folks like Jacob Wheeler, Mark Daniels Jr. and a group of locals who have piles of experience on the lake, unlike most of the traveling pros.

Lake preview

Williams sifting through the species  

One thing that became immediately apparent on social media once practice started was that West Point is slap-loaded with striped bass, hybrids and crappie. Though it boasts a solid bass population as well, the sheer number of non-bass critters swimming around seems to be making the forward-facing sonar game less productive than normal.

Jack Daniel Williams is prone to LiveScope, but he says that won’t be the whole game plan this week.

“There’s a lot of striper,” he said. “It’s got a few bass, but not as many as it does striper and crappie, for sure. I think you’re definitely going to have to mix other stuff in, old school and new school.”

Luckily for him, he’s good at picking out different species.

“When I’m home, all I do is crappie and striper fish,” Williams said. “I have a lot of experience looking at ‘em. This place has a lot of hybrids and a lot of 2- and 3-pound stripers — the smaller stripers are harder to tell.”

Despite the prevalence of non-bass, his practice hasn’t been terrible.

“It’s not been too bad, but not real good either,” he said. “I’ve tried not to catch them too much. I know it’s going to be a stressful tournament. I’m not seeing that many bass compared to other fish, so I don’t think it has a tremendous amount of bass. So, I’m not taking bites for granted.”

Largemouth have caught Wiggins’ fancy

Calling Smith Lake home, you might think that Jordan Wiggins would be loving a multi-species reservoir. Turns out, the bluffs and creeks of north Alabama are a much different task than the clay banks of the Chattahoochee.

“This place is muddy, golly day,” he said. “You can get bit in it, but it’s one here, one there. It’s been a tough practice for me. I can catch numbers, I just can’t catch the quality right now. The lake is 5 or 6 foot low; there ain’t hardly anything in the water. The laydowns, just the tips of them are in the water. There’s always something in the water to fish at Smith. This place, it’s different. It’s clay. I’m having trouble trying to run a pattern, because everything looks the same.”

Wiggins is seeing water in the upper 50s and low 60s, with mud everywhere, though the Chattahoochee is a little clearer up the lake. Having caught both Alabama/spotted bass and largemouth, Wiggins is looking to target largemouth on derby day.

“Unless I have to go catch some spots, I’m going to try to fish for largemouth the whole time,” he said. “I don’t think it’s got big enough spots in here to win with, or I haven’t seen them. I think you’re going to have to have a mixed bag. If you can get to the 10-pound range and catch you a couple kickers, that’s the goal.”

Boggs sees the pressure coming

One of the pros in the field who seems very well-suited to a tournament that could be won cranking or throwing a spinnerbait shallow, Drew Boggs has not seen the quality he wants yet.

“I didn’t research anything, I ain’t done nothing besides show up,” said the Tennessee pro. “The lake, I love the way it looks, but I’m not getting quality bites. I got probably 15 bites yesterday and 9 today, and the biggest fish I’ve seen is 2 ¾.

“I have a buddy, a local, Blake Tomlin, and we went over and had steak at his place last night,” he added. “He’s seen it be good here before, and he’s also seen it be very tough. He said sometimes you’ll see 10 or 11 pounds make the Top 10, and sometimes it takes 13 or 14 to make the Top 10.”

The smallest lake on the schedule, it definitely sounds as though there’s the potential for pros to cannibalize each other a bit.

“Yesterday, first stop, the first fish I caught was on a point, and so I started duplicating that,” said Boggs. “I was like ‘This is pretty cool, I’m close to takeoff, there’s nobody around,’ and I just hit every point. Within two hours, there were 30 boats around, and it seemed like by midday there were 50 boats. With 150 dudes that know what’s up, they’re going to hit all the obvious stuff.

“The lake is not really big, so when you have people on the bank, they’re all doing the same thing,” he added. “‘Scopin’ ain’t my game, but I’ve seen so many fish, so much bait and so many brushpiles, that I’ve spent several hours trying to do that. I guess they’re primarily stripe; I can’t get them to bite my stuff. So, I gave up on that and went back to the bank.”

Boggs did bring up one thing worth noting, which could end up being a key factor in the event. In addition to roaming fish and fish on the bank, there is a ton of brush in the lake.

“There’s a bushpile here on every point,” he said. “They spend more time sinking brush piles here than any lake I’ve seen except Eufaula. Every point, you’ve got the option of fishing the bank or stepping out one boat and fishing piles.”

Come Friday and the weekend, we’ll see if the brush or anything else is any good, and get to watch the pros break down a fascinating lake that hasn’t seen a big tournament in years on MLFNOW!.