At just 20 years old, Colby Miller is pretty young to be a rookie on the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit. However, the Elmer, La., native isn’t lacking in accolades, as he’s now finished 24th or better in points in the Southwestern Division of the FLW Series two years in a row. Additionally, he’s starting the season close to home – Miller guides for bass and crappie on nearby Toledo Bend, and he’s got a lot of tournament time in on Sam Rayburn.
I meet him in a pitch-black boat launch parking lot, where we’re the first two trucks, and after a few more minutes of warming up in the truck, it’s time to brave the cold, post-frontal morning.
As Miller readies the boat for launch, a number of veterans pull into the parking lot nearly simultaneously. First, Chris Brasher backs down alongside him, then Joseph Webster and Jeremy Lawyer pull into the parking lot.
After a brief pause for me to run back to the truck for my gloves, we head out. Miller says he wants to spend the morning on this side of the lake, and then pull out and head to another arm to keep looking.
Running down the lake, Miller makes several quick stops to idle over various waypoints on drops and brush. He idles very confidently, rarely turning around to go over a spot again and never stopping just to make a cast or two to “check” fish.
On perhaps his fourth stop, Miller sees something he likes and pulls out a few rods and drops the trolling motor. First casting with a big crankbait, he swaps to a jig and begins to get bites. Unfortunately, after missing three in a row, the spot seems to go dead.
Miller adjusts, trying a creature bait on a wobble head and then changing that to a new color. Unfortunately, it’s no good, and convinced they’re spotted bass, he pulls the trolling motor, slips on his PFD and rolls out.
His next spot is farther back in a bay, where it turns out he’ll spend most of the morning. Starting offshore a ways, Miller makes a few casts at a waypoint and then works his way toward the bank, fishing a mix of scattered grass and stumps on the edge of a flat.
So far, the fishing hasn’t been much, aside from a few small bites this morning, so I ask for his take on the lake.
“It’s been fishing tough for me, even in pre-practice,” says Miller, playing to a common theme. “Maybe it’s the low water – I know it’s not really low, but normally it’s 2 feet higher and you can always run to the bushes and go catch fish.
“I think it’s going to be one of those deals where you really have to slow down and pick stuff apart. There was a Rat-L-Trap tournament yesterday, and it only took 21 pounds to win. In my opinion, they should be grouped up, and someone should have caught 25 or 26. Last year, it seemed like they were biting. This year, not so much, for me at least.”
Moving closer to the bank, Miller begins slinging a lipless bait up shallow, like Jim Tutt did the other day, and then slides into a creek. Skipping and casting a variety of baits under and around the bushes, he works his way back.
As he goes go, he tells me why he signed up this year. Not among the initial group of invites, he only had a few days to decide if he’d fish the Pro Circuit.
“My junior year of high school, I fished as a co-angler in the FLW Series, and after three events, I thought I could come out and compete with these guys,” he says. “I fished as a boater my senior year and had a really good year. So, I did it again and had another pretty good year and got the invite to go and do this.
“I always said if I ever got the opportunity I wouldn’t pass it up. Not having much time to make the decision kind of haunted me. I was going to just wait. But, my parents said no. They said ‘your opportunity is here, you’re gonna do it.’”
As he gets farther back in the creek, Miller hammers a fish with a lightning hookset. Fighting it to the boat, he swings in a keeper. It’s no giant, but it’s some proof that he may be on the right track.
“That fish can’t be alone back here,” says Miller. “I just don’t know why I fished so far without a bite. That sucker wanted it, though, that’s for sure.”
Perhaps 30 yards later, Miller sticks a second fish. This one comes into the boat just as quickly, and it’s plain Miller is pleased with his discovery.
Miller says he’s a shallow-water angler, which is no real surprise considering the part of the country he calls home. He thinks if he fishes to his strengths, he’s got a shot to do well this year, and isn’t necessarily stepping into the pro ranks ahead of schedule.
“I feel like me and some of the other rookies are in the same level, and some of the lakes will set up similar to places I’ve been,” he says. “If I just fish my strengths, I should be able to catch fish here and there and maybe do pretty good. My mind says that if John Cox can go all over and catch them on a frog and a wacky worm, surely I can catch two or three on a frog and a wacky worm.”
Moving out of this creek and to a new one at idle speed, Miller adds a swim jig into his arsenal, which has so far been pretty sparse. Though he’s got some Rayburn staples on deck, he doesn’t have a vast collection piled up.
Though this creek seems to look good, too, it doesn’t have any fish, so Miller picks up and heads to the next – he’s not planning on spending the whole day in this part of the lake, but he’s definitely giving this pattern plenty of run.
His next creek is perhaps the best looking one yet. With the sun beginning to make its effects actually felt, things are warming up and bait is moving in the creek. Noting some bait and fish on his graph in the channel, Miller pops a small fish on a lipless crankbait moments later.
“I wonder if he followed it out from that stick or if he was suspended,” muses Miller. “He got all of it, that’s for sure.”
Unfortunately, that bass is the last he’ll see for a while. Despite some lovely looking cover, the creek doesn’t seem to be giving up the fish.
“We should have done caught one back in here by now,” says Miller. “There’s plenty of bait, but I’m just not seeing the movement I want to see.”
After setting a deadline on casts, Miller actually sticks with it and packs up.
Moving back out of the creek, Miller hits a point on the way out of the bay and then begins running more offshore stuff. He stops to fish once, but for the most part, he simply eliminates water and notes things down. Occasionally, he drops a new waypoint, but for the most part, the looking seems unsuccessful.
Running a ways, Miller stops on a shoreline absolutely stacked with cypress trees. Apparently, it was good in pre-practice, and the time has come to try it again. It certainly looks amazing.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t prove to be amazing. After fishing for perhaps a hundred yards, Miller is rewarded with one pretty good backlash and zero bites. The time has come to call it quits over here.
Miller digs out a sandwich for the idle and then puts his boat on plane.
Running back to the ramp, we pull the boat out and Miller buttons things up and heads off. He’s got quite a bit more to check, and so far, this side of the lake isn’t doing it for him.