Most of the time, fishing Southern impoundments in August is all about slowly dragging worms through brush piles.
That’s what Dakota Ebare planned to do at the FLW Cup on Lake Hamilton. How he wound up catching enough fish to finish in third place felt more like Southern stream fishing. Ebare spent three days fishing the tailrace below Blakely Mountain Dam where the cold, clear waters drained through from the bottom of Lake Ouachita.
This area is unique within the confines of Lake Hamilton. The water temperature can fluctuate drastically based on the flow, but was regularly in the low 60s. There’s thick grass growing in the channel, with rows of laydowns along some stretches of bank. There are also docks. More importantly, the area beams life – bream, shad, suckers, bass.
Ebare sort of stumbled into it.
“I had done a lot of graphing on the lake and had found a ton of brush piles, and that was my game plan,” Ebare recalls. “Well, I wanted to go check the current situation up there on the river to see if it was still flowing. I got up there [the first morning of practice], and there was still a lot of current. I started throwing a buzzbait around. Immediately, the first little laydown I brought that buzzbait by I had one about 3 1/2 eat it. I kept on going down the bank and had a couple more blowups. I started seeing fish once the sun got up and the fog burned off. Man, there was just fish everywhere. And it was really untouched at that point. They were active, they were biting, and there was 3- and 4-pounders – a lot of them.”
After that Ebare spent about six hours fishing brush down the lake without a bite. The next morning, it was more of the same. That’s when he decided to scrap the brush and focus on the river.
The challenge was getting the fish to bite. Ebare says the best time to get bit was when the sun was high and the current was flowing. It usually kicked on around 9:30 a.m.
On day one, Ebare was all around quality fish. They’d swipe at or nose his bait, but he struggled at times to get them to commit and brought in only 9 pounds, 8 ounces. On the second day, he finally figured out that if he threw his weightless watermelon magic Zoom Salty Super Fluke on 8-pound-test line instead of 12-pound test he’d have better luck getting bites. That day, Ebare weighed in 14-15.
“That made all the difference in the world because of the clear water and pressure on the fish. I think that lighter line gave my bait a little more action as well,” Ebare says. “The lighter line definitely made a big difference for me.”
About 70 percent of Ebare’s weigh fish came on the Fluke. He did catch some on a buzzbait the first day. On the final day, once the sun got high, he caught some by skipping docks and any shady cover with a weightless Zoom Trick Worm. When the current was slack, Ebare poked around in a nearby creek and actually caught some fish there, too.
But mostly, he stuck with the Fluke on the main drag. While Ebare was able to spot and cast to some fish in the clear water and get them interested, he had a much easier time casting to current breaks and staying out of sight of the fish. Laydowns, dock pilings, depressions and inside grass lines all harbored keepers.
He even found a couple pairs of bedding bass that were seemingly all out of sorts due to the cold water. While it was cool to see, those random fish didn’t wind up being part of his pattern.
“Both of those pairs had a 4- to 5-pound female,” Ebare adds.
What eventually did in Ebare was his inability to get the big fish he knew were there to eat. On the final day, he weighed in only four bass for 7-11.
“I knew the fish I needed to catch to win the event were there. I just didn’t capitalize on it,” he says.