Top 10 Patterns from Pickwick Lake - Major League Fishing
Top 10 Patterns from Pickwick Lake
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Top 10 Patterns from Pickwick Lake

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April 27, 2022 • Sean Ostruszka • Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit

COUNCE, Tenn. – Were the bass spawning during Lithium Pros Stop 3 on Pickwick Lake Presented by Covercraft? Yes, kind of. Were the shad spawning? Yes, kind of. Was there an offshore bite? Yes, kind of. Flipping bite? Yes, kind of.

Honestly, no one truly knew what to make of what was happening during the Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit Presented by Fuel Me event.

While Jon Canada won on an offshore spawning pattern around stumps, even he had to adjust his game plan mid-tournament to try to adapt during a head-scratching tournament for most everyone.

2. Lucas’ Map Study Pays Off

Justin Lucas never thought he was going to make the Top 10, but once he did, he made the most of it.

For three days, Lucas methodically picked apart a shallow area near Coffee Slough, using his  Humminbird MEGA 360 to pitch a Texas-rigged Berkley PowerBait Power Hawg (green pumpkin) or drop-shot with a hand-poured worm to holes in the grass, logs, stumps, or anything he felt might hold a spawning bass he couldn’t see in the dirty water.

Problem was, that area was also where Andrew Loberg camped out, Canada started the event and numerous other pros cycled through. So, when he squeaked into the Top 10 by 4 ounces, Lucas figured he had to switch it up.

“The area I had been fishing the first three days I felt I had kind of milked it for all it was worth,” Lucas said. “It was pretty beat up. So, I really tried finding the next thing out where the fish would move to from there.”

Instead of going to bed Saturday night, Lucas spent a couple hours looking at his maps to see if he could pinpoint some good transition spots near there in 7-10 feet of water. That effort nearly paid off with the victory.

“I didn’t practice any of the spots I fished [the final day],” Lucas said. “I mapped out seven or eight spots, and because they were deeper, I could quickly check them and see if there was cover and if the fish were there or not with my electronics. That extra studying was worth it.”

3. Eel Grass Shad Spawn Produces for Crane

Going into the final day, most eyes were on Mitch Crane.

While he’s not a true Pickwick local, he lives close enough to know a lot of the unique quirks of the fishery and some areas to look that could give him an edge. Sure enough, he found just that above the Natchez Trace bridge and seemed poised to take home the victory if he could ever get a big bite.

Unfortunately, while numbers were not an issue and he was fishing in a well-known big-fish section of the lake, Crane’s pattern never produced a fish bigger than 4 pounds after he found it on Day 2 of the event.

Still, his offshore shad-spawn pattern certainly was fun to watch, and he had it all to himself.

“What I was fishing was the heads of a couple big river bars with steep, up-current drops,” Crane said. “Right on the tip of each of those drops were shell beds and just a little bit of eel grass. The shad were spawning in that eel grass, and was like a magnet to the fish.”

To capitalize on his area, he alternated between a 5/8-ounce SPRO Aruku Shad (chrome shad) and 3/4-ounce Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer (white) with a Yamamoto Zako (cream white) trailer, opting to go with the heavier-than-typical versions of both lures because it allowed him to work the baits faster while still getting down to the eel grass in order to rip them and get reaction bites.

4. Nelson Learns Pros, Cons of Vibrating Jigs

He’s one of the more versatile anglers on the Pro Circuit, yet Ron Nelson admits one lure he’s yet to really get comfortable with is a vibrating jig.

Well, he had to get a lot more comfortable with them at Pickwick.

While he really hoped the bass would go on beds like most anticipated, that never really went. He was able to pluck a few, but ultimately, he decided to focus his efforts on a rock wall that acted as a staging spot for fish coming in and out of a major spawning pocket.

“It was just a perfect transition spot,” Nelson said. “There’s a channel swing and a lot of bait. I caught a bunch of fish with clean tails that came in off the river and some with beat up tails that were postspawn and going out.”

Having a never-ending supply of fish cycling through meant Nelson could lean on his fish each day with little worry of hurting them. There would always be more, and they really liked a  Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Castaic Baits Jerky J (shad colors) on the back.

He’d toss it up shallow, roll it right off the edge of the break and the bass below would come up and smoke it. The only issue ended up being lost fish.

“On Day 3, I about had a meltdown after losing my first six bites,” Nelson said. “And then I lost a giant later. I tried switching rods, but I still lost a lot of fish. It was really my first time using a vibrating jig. So, I obviously need to learn it a little more.”

5. Marina Shad Spawn Buoys, Haunts Hatfield

The shad spawn giveth and it taketh away for a number of pros this week. Nick Hatfield knew all about that.

Focusing on the marina in Yellow Creek – a well-known shad-spawn area – Hatfield caught a solid limit there to start Day 1, only to lose every fish that bit there on Day 2. That’s kind of how it went all week for him, as he tossed around a  Megabass Magdraft (white back shad) and a Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer (white).

Fortunately, he’s an offshore angler at heart who found a deep school down the lake in practice. So, when 2 p.m. rolled around on Day 2 and he didn’t have a fish, he made the run and was pleased to find them still there and willing to bite a rotation of a 3.3-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT (electric blue and chartreuse) on a 3/8-ounce head, drop-shot, spoon and hair jig all thrown on Doomsday Tackle rods.

Yet, consistency always seemed to elude him all week, as he only brought in four fish the final day.

“I had a great week, but it was not easy,” Hatfield said.

6. Hunter Lives, Dies by Sneaky One-Cast Spot

If you’re going to catch giant bags of smallmouth on Pickwick, there’s usually only one place to go – the Wilson Dam. Turns out, there’s a few more, including one John Hunter found.

Around JP Coleman State Park, Hunter found a “sneaky” little gravel bar that kicked off the shore, and for the first couple days of the event, it was loaded with big smallmouth feasting on a shad spawn that also were more than happy to eat a Googan Squad Flat Banger (mondo shad).

Best of all, while a few other competitors found it, they didn’t know how to fish it.

“On Day 2, another angler started on it,” Hunter said. “I pulled up and asked if I could come up in there. He said yeah, but it’s kind of a one-cast deal to get them to bite, and he was sitting right on top of the cast. So, he only caught one and I caught two.”

Fortunately, later he came back when no one was on it, and immediately he sacked up another big bag. Unfortunately, that would be the last big bag from that spot the rest of the event, as by the final day, he said he made six casts and completely scrapped it.

He didn’t give up on the shad spawn, though, as he fished the same marina as Hatfield with the same lure (Megabass Magdraft) the last two days before running around hitting wind-blown banks with a  Googan Squad HoundGoogan Squad Scout, spinnerbait and a vibrating jig.

“What a fun week,” Hunter said. “Day 1 was one of the most fun tournament days of my life.”

7. Cox Baffled by Bed Fish

One can only wonder what would’ve happened if Pickwick’s bass rushed to the bank like everyone thought. John Cox sure wished they would’ve.

One of the best sight-fishermen in the sport, Cox made the long run every day down to Bay Springs in hopes that at some point the clearer water down there would reveal a fresh wave of spawning fish to pick off. And every day, despite everything seemingly lining up, it just never fully happened.

“I don’t even know why,” Cox said. “They should’ve been all over.”

If there was a fish on a bed, Cox was sure to find it, as he basically put the trolling motor on high and figures he trolled more than seven miles a day looking for fish. And he saw hundreds of beds, but the majority were empty. And even the ones that weren’t, the fish were usually so spooky that unless he saw them and caught them first cast, as soon as they saw him they’d swim off for good.

Yet, as only he can do, he made the most out of almost nothing, catching just six fish a day alternating between a wacky-rigged  Berkley PowerBait MaxScent The General (baby bass), Berkley PowerBait Swim Jig with a Berkley PowerBait MaxScent Meaty Chunk and a new Berkley PowerBait Shape 108 (yummy craw).

“This places changes more than any lake we go to, and I just kept waiting for it to happen,” Cox said. “Every time I thought I had something figured out and could pattern them, it changed.”

8. Loberg Makes Back-to-Back Top 10s

If you don’t know the name Andrew Loberg by now, you better. You’re going to be hearing a lot about the young rookie from out west for a long time.

For the second tournament in a row, Loberg found himself leading after three days of competition. Unfortunately, just like at the Harris Chain, the weights zeroing the final day hurt his cause for the win. He finished second in Florida, and this week, his bread-and-butter grass flat finally bit the dust the final day, having him finish in eighth.

“It is what it is,” Loberg said. “I’m still stoked to have made another Top 10. Eventually I’ll seal the deal.”

As mentioned earlier, Loberg was sharing the same area as Lucas. However, the veteran Lucas was able to adjust the final day to make a run at the win while the rookie may not have had the experience to do the same. So instead, he lived and died by his grass flat, keeping more than a dozen rods on his deck to catch his fish. Though, his main players were a 1st Gen TopSpin with a swimbait trailer, Lucky Craft Slender Pointer and a Lucky Craft LV RTO 150.

“I wish I could’ve found something else, because I just kind of wore them out in that area,” Loberg said. “I had stuff to flip in practice, but the water dropped out of it.”

9. LeBrun’s Big Day 2 Turns Around Event

Sitting in 88th going into Day 2, Nick LeBrun was basically hoping to just salvage his tournament and get a check. By the end of the day, he was in 11th and on his way to fishing on Sunday thanks to a risky run.

“I found a big school of prespawners in practice suspended off a rock wall in Bay Springs,” LeBrun said. “I made the run to them on Day 1 and had a bite on my first cast. It was a big one, but I lost it. And they just never would bite after that.

“So, on Day 2, I hung close and just got some small keepers. I said I’m fishing to win this year, and if I’m going to do that, I needed to run back down there and try. So, I ran back down there middle of the day and culled out everything I had in an hour.”

Needless to say, he made the run the final two days of the event, with the school eventually growing stingier and stingier. That’s where replacing the stock hook on his Megabass Magdraft (white back shad) with a No. 2 Hayabusa TBL930 hook came into play, as he feels it helped a lot to stick fish that were not eating the lure well.

When his main pattern dwindled, he went to a backup pattern of flipping wood along the banks of Yellow Creek with a 1/2-ounce V&M jig (blue shadow) with a V&M Flat Wild (blue shadow).

10. Stokes Carolina Rigs Stumps

Troy Stokes never really knew what he had, and by the time he did, it seems like it was too late.

For the first two days, Stokes started off fishing a shad spawn with a 1/2-ounce Eco Pro Tungsten Sick Boy swim jig tipped with a Zoom Ultra Vibe Speed Craw (white) and a Z-Man/Evergreen ChatterBait Jack Hammer tipped with a Big Bite Baits Kamikaze Swimon (glow silver). After getting a solid limit, he’d make a long run to fish an area for an hour to catch one big fish each time. However, when his shad spawn bite died on Day 3, he decided to spend half his day in the big-fish area … and cracked 20 pounds, 3 ounces.

Needless to say, he was excited about what a full day on Day 4 could produce, but by then the spot was done, as he didn’t bring in a fish.

As for what he was running to, it was the same area as many other top pros, but while most focused shallow, Stokes fished out in the main channel of the sloughs focusing on stumps.

“It’s an area with a bunch of isolated things, and I’m meticulously picking it apart with a Carolina-rigged NetBait Mad Paca (junebug),” Stokes said. “Everyone was flipping the stuff they could see, but I went for the stuff they couldn’t.”

Using his Humminbird 360 to find the stumps, he’d toss his Carolina rig out and drag it to where the weight would bump up to the wood. Then, he’d just dead-stick it. 

“Half the fish I caught I don’t know if I had a snag or a giant on,” Stokes said. “They’d just pick it up and start swimming. So, I’d just lean in, and sometimes it was a stump and sometimes it was a big fish.”