Day 2 Cumberland Practice with Austin Felix - Major League Fishing

Day 2 Cumberland Practice with Austin Felix

Check out how this smallmouth specialist breaks down Tour stop No. 4
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April 4, 2017 • Kyle Wood • Archives

In just his second year on the FLW Tour, Austin Felix of Eden Prairie, Minn., is seemingly starting to find his groove as he has already cashed two checks and sits 30th in the Angler of the Year race. One could argue that the remainder of the schedule fits perfectly into his comfort zone as clear water and smallmouths makeup a decent chunk of the four final events, and if that’s the case he’ll have a good shot at making it to his second Forrest Wood Cup. Being that Lake Cumberland looks to be right up his alley, I decided the jump in the boat with the 2014 YETI College Fishing National Championship winner and see just how he dissects this massive highland reservoir.


I meet Felix at the takeoff ramp at General Burnside Island State Park around 7 a.m. After Felix tosses on some rain gear and fires up his Lowrance units his practice partner Shayne McFarlin backs us into the lake.

While we wait for Shayne to walk down to the dock, Felix and his travel partner Andy Young (who also hails from Minnesota and is in his third year on the FLW Tour) go over a little game plan as to how they will approach the day.


Enough light finally breaks through the cloudy, gloomy morning and we idle out of the no-wake-zone and begin our travel down river. Felix spent the first day of practice on the lower end of the lake and wasn’t totally impressed by what he saw, so today he is going to sample the bite closer to takeoff. If after a few hours he isn’t impressed, he will likely head back down to the lower reaches of Cumberland.


It begins to rain almost immediately as we set down from our short ride to a creek arm not far from the ramp. Despite low light conditions, Felix notices the water is cleaner than he thought it would be and that is a good thing – for him at least. The upper portion of Cumberland is known to have dirtier water, so finding some cleaner water leaves the window open to find big smallmouths or largemouths.

After a quick couple of casts with a jerkbait Felix tags a baby smallmouth and almost immediately backs it up with a non-keeper spotted bass.

“If I can just catch a largemouth I’ll have a Cumberland hat trick,” laughs Felix. “They seem to be biting a little better today because where I was at yesterday I didn’t get a ton of bites, but they seemed to be a little better quality.”


The water on Cumberland has been steadily rising and the rain isn’t going to help things. Because of this there is floating debris all over the upper end of the lake. From trees to logs to sticks, it makes it not only hard to navigate your boat safely but also efficiently use certain techniques.


Felix keeps plugging away down the bank with the jerkbait, but also has several small Keitech swimbaits tied on to match the hatch. As you can see, there is no shortage of life between baitfish and predators in the area, but most of the bites he gets are small, non-keepers.


We make a move a little further back in the creek and Felix sticks a solid crappie on his jerkbait. His practice partner, Shayne, was a little upset he let it go but Felix continues along in search mode.

As he eases closer to a small pocket Felix hauls aboard a hefty largemouth. While it is a welcomed sight, he seems a little perplexed at the randomness of the bite. After snapping a quick photo he sends her back with hopes she might make another appearance come Thursday.


Waterfalls of all sizes and shapes can be found on Cumberland and while they are not only cool to look at, they also make a great place to catch a bass ambushing bait gathering around the inflow of water.

Felix skis this small largemouth across the water and into the boat for a quick measurement. The minimum size for largemouths on Cumberland is 15 inches and this fish barely touches. That’d make two keepers for Austin today if this was the derby.


As the rain subsided some, I took the time to tackle snoop throughout Felix’s Ranger and I come across the mother lode of Keitechs. They are his go-to when it comes to putting big smallmouths in the boat and I assume that he will put a dent in his stash by the end of the tournament.

Felix also takes the break in the rain as a sign to liven up the prefishing party.

“I know why we haven’t caught a fish for a while,” says Felix. “It’s because we don’t have any tunes playing, but I’ll fix that.”


Unfortunately, the music hasn’t helped the bite so Felix pulls the trolling motor and we are off to find greener pastures.

On the console of his boat, Felix sports a Mille Lacs Smallmouth Alliance decal. It is not only the place where he learned how to catch big bronzbacks, but also one of his favorite places to fish in whole country. He hopes that some of the knowledge he has gained over the years on Mille Lacs will be put to good use on some Cumberland smallies this week.


The new area we run to has some dirtier water so Felix grabs a Keitech to chunk around for a while. It doesn’t take long to get bit, but they just aren’t keeper size. He notes that he has probably caught more fish today than he did on day one, but with the fact only two have been keepers he feels the need to make another move.


Felix kicks the speed up on his Minn Kota to cover more water alternating between a jerkbait and a Keitech.

After another little lull in the action, Shayne hooks up with a decent largie on a jerkbait. A better average fish is no doubt a welcomed sight for the two, but I believe the lack of rain has them more excited than anything.


Felix eases back into a pocket where a large trash mat comprised of logs, dock parts and duck weed has formed. He thoroughly works it for a bite, but to no avail. This mat may not be the ticket, but for sure some good largemouth will get caught off of this pattern throughout the tournament.


Now that the rain has completely stopped, Felix busts out a midday snack. Andy Young bought him a pecan pie from the store yesterday and Felix couldn’t be happier about it. After devouring the tasty treat, we decide it is time to drop me off back at the ramp while we are still close.


It is early in the afternoon now and the boys decide they are going to continue checking out this end of the lake. While Felix hasn’t found any keeper smallmouths up here yet, he isn’t done pursuing them. He idles back out to the river with hopes of finding an area that could kick out a few keeper smallies each day, and may just be the ticket to fishing on the weekend and help keep his Forrest Wood Cup dream alive.