COUNCE, Tenn. – Through two days of the Toyota Series Championship Presented by Guaranteed Rate, Pickwick Lake hasn’t made it easy on the anglers. Though the anticipated terrible weather hasn’t really materialized, chilly temperatures and a near-constant dampness seem to have the fish a little less active than one would hope. Taken together, it means that Mikey Keyso isn’t far ahead of basically everyone in the Top 10, and that a lot of the successful patterns are very similar.
Overall, fishing grass above the Natchez Trace Bridge has proven to be the best bet for most of the top pros. Still, there are a few in the mix who have some different patterns going on, or at least one or two different things to do. On the final day, it sure seems like a big bite or two might make the difference, as so far, catching a limit with decent quality hasn’t been too terrible for most of the Top 10.
Sticking in second place for the second day in a row, Chris Digino followed up his 18-pound bag on Day 1 with 13 pounds on Day 2.
“I worked the same area, unfortunately, I had to milk it a lot longer today,” says Digino. “There was a lot of boat traffic that came in today that wasn’t there yesterday, there was a lot more commotion going on. The ones I hooked were just slapping at it, I think overall it was just a tougher day.”
Fishing one stretch of shallow grass with a crankbait and a vibrating jig, Digino knows he’s got a good thing found.
“It’s the same type as everything else, it’s just a lot healthier than everything else,” he explains. “This has got a real nice stalk to it, it’s super bright green. That’s really important, and there’s a lot of good forage in it right now.”
Digino has always been consistent in MLF competition, but now he’s on the verge of a really big win. To do it, he’s likely going to need his juice to produce for one more day.
“There’s still more fish there, there’s no doubt about that,” he says. “We’ll see if I can get five more tomorrow out of it, outside of that, I’m going to have to run new water.”
One of a number of Southwestern Division pros showing out this week, Jeff Reynolds went big on Day 2, putting 19-9 on the scale.
“I went back to the same spot I caught them on yesterday, I knew there were some good ones there, but yesterday I couldn’t get them to bite,” says Reynolds. “I pulled up this morning, it took about 20 minutes for me to get to the right stretch, and when I got up to the sweet spot my first one was a 3 1/2- or 4-pounder.”
Then, Reynolds promptly put a hook in his hand. After getting that settled, he put a 5-pounder and a 3-pounder in the boat nearly back-to-back. Then, he had to grind the rest of the day, ending up with just five keeper bites from his shallow stretch of grass.
“I just never could get a big bite yesterday,” he says of the change in fortune. “It felt right, I thought they were going to bite yesterday, conditions were perfect. But for some reason they just didn’t.”
Arguably the most accomplished pro in the Top 10, Todd Castledine is in his element, winding around in shallow grass like so many others.
Castledine says he’s been catching just a couple of fish off each area, and his first two stops on Day 2 each produced a keeper. His third stop was what put him in the top five.
“I didn’t know what was there, yesterday I pulled up there and caught my fifth one and another one and then kinda left,” says Castledine. “Joshua Weaver was in there and he was catching some fish, I thought there was a small chance if I worked it pretty hard I could catch some fish there.
“I pulled up, and within five minutes I lost a 5-pounder,” he says. “I thought that was it, I haven’t had one of those, I thought that was my chance at making the Top 10. Then I caught two more, and calmed down and caught no. 5. Then I culled two more times.”
Castledine has four Southwestern Division Angler of the Year titles to his credit, and two Toyota Series wins. To say he’s dangerous on Day 3 is an understatement.
“Now I’m in the hunt,” he says. “Bryan Thrift didn’t do Superman like he usually does, so it’s open. We’ll see.”
The best of the locals so far, Cody Nichols is rolling with the offshore grass game as well. On Day 1, he only caught four, but he caught an 8-pounder and lost another of similar size. On Day 2, he managed a quality limit.
“I finally caught five, I caught five at 2:15,” says Nichols. “I can’t put ‘em in the boat. I lost five or six today, I should have had 3 or 4 more pounds than I did. It’s just not working out the way I would like it to, but it’s working out enough I guess.”
Winding in grass, Nichols has caught fish on everything from a big swimbait to a vibrating jig.
“I’m rotating a lot of different baits,” he explains. “I’m in the right area, but trying to get them to bite is hard. I really hope fewer boats will make it easier, but the water coming up since practice has hurt a lot for what I’m doing.”
With a 2016 Phoenix Bass Fishing League win to his credit on Pickwick, Nichols is no stranger to success on the big Tennessee River reservoir. Still, taking home $200,000 would be his biggest payday by far.
“I think I’ll be alright, it’ll be a lot calmer without all the boat traffic,” Nichols says of Day 3. “If I can put them in the boat I think I’ll be alright. I just need to execute with every bite.”