Scouting Cherokee with LeBrun - Major League Fishing

Scouting Cherokee with LeBrun

The first day of practice for stop No. 5 of the FLW Tour
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Nick LeBrun Photo by Jody White.
April 7, 2019 • Jody White • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

Nick LeBrun came into his rookie season on the FLW Tour as one of the more decorated first-year pros in recent memory and backed it up right away, finishing second at Sam Rayburn to start the season. The Louisiana pro hit speed bumps at Toho and Seminole, but finishing 24th at Grand got him right back on track to make the Cup.

Now in the second half of the Tour season, LeBrun is up against another new lake, and sort of a new species. He says he’s never seen a smallmouth on a bed in his life, and has spent just two days on Cherokee in pre-practice. Looking forward to seeing how LeBrun would break down Cherokee, I hop in the boat to chronicle his first day of practice for the FLW Tour event presented by Lowrance.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Launching mid-lake with a handful of folks fishing a local tournament and a bunch of other Tour pros, LeBrun readies the boat in some rain and then drops it in the water. After ferrying Brandon Mosley and Matt Becker out to their respective boats, LeBrun eases away from the pack to pull out a few rods before cranking up.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Running up the lake, LeBrun starts off by pulling into a pocket and heading straight toward a bank with big chunks of rock on it. The water is down, so there isn’t a ton of stuff in the water, but this certainly looks good.

“I think they call it broken rock,” says LeBrun. “I think back home it’d be like hydrilla in 3 feet of water – what they spawn on.”

Cycling through a jerkbait, spinnerbait and crankbait, LeBrun fishes along the bank until he gets near the back. Then, he cranks up and heads out.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

The next cove is rockless, with sloping clay banks and a handful of laydowns with their tips still in the water. Running a spinnerbait through the end of one, LeBrun hooks up with a solid largemouth to get the day kicked off.

“That’s probably going to be the deal,” says LeBrun. “If you can find some wood with water on it. That fish smoked that too.”

The rest of the cove is pretty uneventful – there aren’t any takers on the clean bank, and the few logs with more than a couple of inches of water on them don’t seem to be occupied at the moment.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Finishing the cove, LeBrun runs a bit farther back into the creek he’s in, settling down on another rocky bank. In no time flat, a spunky smallmouth takes a crack at his spinnerbait and comes aboard. LeBrun says it is only the second one he’s caught here, through his pre-practice wasn’t necessarily focused on smallmouths, he never ventured as far up the lake as he is now.

Though Cherokee is a lot different from Louisiana, it isn’t completely foreign to him. Back in the fall of 2016, LeBrun fished the FLW Tour Invitational on nearby Norris Lake and finished 16th. So, he may not be a smallie expert, but he’s proven he can compete in east Tennessee.

 

Nick LeBrun

As he fishes along, alternating between the spinnerbait and a squarebill, I ask how his first year fishing on Tour has treated him so far.

“It’s been weird,” explains LeBrun. “Yesterday I was driving 12 hours, but still taking to my friends back home who were whacking them. There’s part of me that wants to be fishing with them.

“But then I remember that I’m trying to make this career work. You’ve got to commit to the road. Even though I miss my family and miss fishing BFL’s. You’ve got to realize the mission you’re on and pay your dues out here, just like you did back home. There are days and nights when it’s really tough to be away from my family, but I’ve got to realize the mission the good Lord has put me on. It’s been an adjustment, but I really enjoy it.”

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Starting the day with a full suite of Fitzgerald rods on deck, LeBrun only added one baitcaster and one spinning rod to the pile as the day went on. Though some pros were undoubtedly excited at the chance to get a bunch of spinning rods on deck and target smallmouths, LeBrun was taking a decidedly power approach to day one.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Working his way down the shoreline, from one stretch of rock to the next, LeBrun manages another bite on the squarebill and even makes a few casts with a big swimbait. But, his main focus remains the crankbait. After finishing out a stretch of rock, LeBrun readies for a move, idling out from the bank while shooting an update for Facebook, and then immediately getting distracted by fish on his graph.

“Let me show you my deep-water skills,” says LeBrun.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Pulling out his spinning rod as the sun begins to break through the clouds in earnest, LeBrun tries to break out of the Louisiana mold and fish deep for a bit. Though no disasters occur, he can’t muster a bite. Perhaps the dots on the graph are some of the many carp that are frolicking around in this part of Cherokee and not in fact bass.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Done with the mysterious deep fish for now, LeBrun sits down again and breaks out his iPad to search out another stretch of rocky bank. All morning, he’s relied on it for satellite imagery from Google Maps, and he quickly identifies the next spot and takes off. This stretch is a bit of pocket and a bit of point, and it’s unfortunately a non-starter with the bass. It’s time for a bit of a change.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

At around 10 o’clock, LeBrun bounces to another point, this time one with big rock that runs way out, LeBrun drops the trolling motor and ties on a football jig.

“I know early in practice you can get bit running down the bank with a crankbait and a spinnerbait, but by Friday afternoon you’re probably going to have to do something different,” posits LeBrun. “I don’t think the fish are gonna be ultra-deep, but I think there will be a bite in about 10 foot.”

Dragging the jig pretty quickly produces a bite, but it doesn’t hook up. Giving the point another few minutes, LeBrun decides to roll.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Moving across the creek to another point, LeBrun gets right to it with the jig, quickly missing another fish. Despite that, he’s not all together unhappy – this practice is starting significantly better than his practice on Grand.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

With the rain rolling back in, LeBrun dons his jacket again and readies himself for a move. On the way out, he stops again – his Lowrance has absolutely lit up with bait and fish. Again, the spinning rod comes out, and again the fish don’t seem to want any part of it. Whatever is down there doesn’t seem hungry today.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

LeBrun’s next move takes him back out to the main drag, and he pulls up to a point with some gravel on it that lead into a clay pocket. Fishing along with the spinnerbait and a jig, LeBrun hits some docks and bare bank with nothing doing. Getting to the next point with big rock, LeBrun pulls out his jig again and promptly misses another fish.

“I’m missing something about this jig bite,” says LeBrun. “It’s like they just don’t quite want it.”

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

The final move of the morning is back out to a bluff on the main river. A few casts with the jerkbait lead to a switch to the spinning rod and a new, livelier, grub. Though he does get a small one to follow his jerkbait up, that’s the only customer on the bluff.

 

Nick LeBrun

Nick LeBrun

After a short run back to the ramp, I hop out and LeBrun heads back out. Through three total days on Cherokee he hasn’t figured it all out yet, but it’s not going too badly in his estimation.