It was nice to get home last week to catch up and do a little bit of ice fishing but it was back on the road for me this past weekend as I returned to Tennessee for a Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Lake Chickamauga this week. The timing was great to watch a couple of friends have a great tournament a couple of hours up the road at Cherokee Lake in Northeast Tennessee.
Canadian anglers took first and third in a Bassmaster Southern Open, a 225 boat pro/am tournament with strong competition that includes local anglers, pro anglers and the best up and coming anglers trying to qualify for the Elite Series.
Cooper Gallant of Bowmanville, Ontario won the $52,000 first place prize, while Kenora’s Jamie Bruce took third, winning $18,000. Knowing that both anglers were in the top ten after day one, I decided I had better take the ride over to watch hold things unfolded on day two and I was glad I did. I was very proud of both guys for showing up to a lake they had never fished before and doing so well.
Normally, the Opens are three day events, but day one of the tournament was cancelled because of high winds so the entire field fished for two days. Cherokee has largemouth and smallmouth bass but it is known for being a really good smallmouth fishery which is what both anglers targeted. Gallant had a two day total of 36-1, while Bruce hauled 34-7 to the scales, weights that are similar to many of our tournaments in northwest Ontario in the summer.
Both anglers fished for smallmouths in deep water and caught their fish with a variety of finesse techniques that are commonly used by anglers on Rainy Lake and Lake of the Woods, which was nice to see. Congrats to both anglers, this was a really great accomplishment for each of them.
The tournament this week on Chickamauga is a big one for me. I’ve had a tougher start to the season than I had hoped for so a good event this week is important to avoid digging my hole any deeper in the points department. The top 40 anglers in points at the end of the season qualify for the 2023 Bassmaster Classic, which is my primary goal and after three events I have landed myself in 58thplace. So I have some work to do with six events remaining on the schedule.
I have fished three tournaments on this lake in the past but none in the spring, so it’s like a new body of water for me. Everything I know from the summer and fall events that I’ve fished here is essentially irrelevant this time of year.
My first day of practice did not go great but I have two more days to hunt around out there and try to figure out how to catch some big bass. Chickamauga is a heavily pressured lake and we’re getting some weather this week that is all over the place so it’s shaping up to be a tougher event I think. But, these anglers always bring big bass to the scales so figuring out a good plan will be important.
The tournament starts on Thursday and runs through Sunday. After which, I’m headed home for a good break of about a month or so. The rest of the schedule after this event suits my strengths a little bit better as far as getting the opportunity to fish offshore in a couple more southern events, followed by a few smallmouth events up north over the summer, where I’ll be in my element a little bit more.