Photo by Josh Gassmann
By Joel Shangle - January 8, 2019
ARDMORE, Okla. – In the fast-action format of a typical Major League Fishing round, it’s almost always a case of quantity of quality. But as Phoenix pro Gary Clouse dabbed around Lake Murray near Ardmore, Okla., near the end of Period 1 of his Elimination Round at the 2019 Summit Select, it started to become clear that the day would not be a game of numbers.
Only eight fish had hit SCORETACKER™ in nearly 2 ½ hours of fishing – none for Clouse – and the Missouri pro surmised that it was time to ditch the finesse gear, pull out the heavy artillery and go for a big bite.
Out came a 7-foot-11 heavy St. Croix Legend Elite flipping stick and Lew’s Team Lite Speed Spool loaded with 50-pound braid, a 1/5-ounce punching weight, and a 4/0 heavy-duty hook with a black/blue Strike King Rage Bug.
“When guys aren’t lighting SCORETRACKER up, it tells you it’s just a tough day,” Clouse says. “I wasn’t very far behind, so I decided to go for a big bite. I put on a big weight and went punching – you usually can’t get away with that in an MLF round, but every once in awhile, you have to gamble that a big bite will make a big difference.”
It turned out to to be a smart gamble.
Midway through the second period, Clouse flipped his Rage Craw into a canopy of blown-down reeds and connected with the biggest fish of the day, a 5-pound, 14-ounce largemouth that wadded him up in the reeds and eventually caused his rod and reel to fall out of the boat as he landed the fish. That fish – the only fish Clouse landed all day – gave the Missouri pro fourth place and a spot in Sudden Death.
“Fishing all day for one big bite is normally not what I’d choose to do, but a couple of times, that one big bite has helped me advance,” Clouse says, referring to a big fish that helped propel him to Sudden Death at the 2018 Summit Select in Hot Springs, Ark. “Those tough days, you can afford to slow down and fish for big ones.”
Clouse’s punching rig: “rigged up all the time”
Even though Lake Murray wouldn’t remind anybody of punching fisheries like Lake Okeechobee or the California Delta, the heavy rig that Clouse caught his big fish on was perfect for the conditions. A strong wind had blown through southern Oklahoma before
“It was just like punching a canopy,” Clouse says. “I had that rod rigged from a tournament at Lake Okeechobee, but I keep that thing rigged up all the time, no matter where I go. I found out after the round that the locals all go to that area right by the launch to catch big ones, so I was in the right place to catch a big one. So even if I use that rig for just one punch during a tournament, it might be the right punch. It sure turned out to be the case this time.”
NOTES: Clouse has performed well in Summit Select Elimination Rounds: this was the third straight Summit Select that the Tennessee pro has advanced to Sudden Death.