Some days, some seasons, it all comes down to one fish. One bite, one cast, one flip that results in one fish that changes the outcome of the tournament. That's the way it's been for me every derby of the Elite Series so far this season. One cast of the bait in just the right place at just the right time and the course is changed for the day, or even the week. How does that work?
At Amistad, it was a 7-pounder caught early on Day Three that gave me the confidence to continue throwing the big swimbait for the remainder of the day and work my way up in weight to my heaviest limit of the week. That 22-6 bag helped me into the Top 12 and gave me the insurance of points and the confidence to throw it the majority of Day Four. I knew that if I ever pulled that 7-inch hunk of plastic over the right group of fish suspended in the right group of trees, I could change the outcome of the event in my favor. Unfortunately, I never swam the bait over the correct place at the correct time. I still managed to finish 10th and get the points that are associated with that place, though, thanks to one bite.
At Dardanelle, it was one cast to a small point with a Strike King Shad-a-licious swimbait on Day Two. I had jumped some sand to get into a clear water hole in the upper end of the lake. I had been in there for almost two hours with only one keeper. On the way out of the hole, I was eyeing a shallow point (less than 2 feet) that fell off into deeper water (around 3 feet; it's all relative). The point was covered with pad stems and some scattered clumps of grass. It was also in the path of every bass that swam into the clear water to spawn. They might even be spawning on the flat, for all I knew.
I made one cast across the point with the swimbait and was bit. A chunky 4-pounder was soon in the livewell as I used the swimbait and a Zoom Mega Speed Worm to work my way up to a 16-plus-pound limit and a jump from 49th to 24th in the standings. In addition to the jump in standings, I also learned where and what the fish were keying on and found another group of them just before I had to jet downstream to the weigh-in. I knew where to start on the following morning.
Unfortunately, Day Three was cancelled. Whew! Am I glad I made that one cast and caught that one fish on Day Two. I would hate to think about where I would have finished without that 16-pound limit.
Fast forward to the next week at Wheeler. Day One was less than stellar for me, as I managed a miserably small limit at just over 8 pounds and was mired in 89th place. Day Two was called due to some ferocious winds and waves rolling up the length of the lake. No hard feelings here. Wheeler is not a fun place to be with 90,000 cfs rolling down the lake and 15- to 20-mph winds from the northwest rolling up the pond. Makes for some tore up stuff.
Day Two, the Re Do, dawns clear and little wind — total opposite of Day One, when it was cloudy and windy. I caught a limit early that weighed a whopping 9 pounds. I pulled a 3 1/2-pounder out of a pile of sawdust that culled me up to around 11 and probably just a pound short where I thought the Top 50 cut would land.
Nearing my time to weigh, I ran back up the lake and pulled into a small pocket just off the main lake. The pocket was lined with buck brush and was covered with lily pad stems; a perfect spawning cove. As the water was in the low- to mid-60s, I'm sure there were some bass up there doing their business. I worked my way around the pocket flipping a Jewel J- Lock Flip jig. I caught a couple of small males, one of which culled me up a few ounces. That was cool, but I needed a big bite and I knew it.
Doing my best slow and methodical Hackney impersonation, I worked my way around the cove from one side to the other. Near the back I flipped the J-Lock to the base of a bush and the whole bush shook. Yes! That's what we want. The jig swam off and Whack! I nailed the bass — all 2 pounds of it. Not much help, but a little. Maybe that was the male and the female was nearby. I dropped the Power-Pole and flipped around the bush from every angle I could imagine a 4-pounder being positioned. Not a sniff, so I moved on.
Nearing the opposite point of the cove, I flipped up to a bush and swam the J-Lock over a small branch less than a foot under the surface. I watched the jig come over the branch and saw a monstrous set of green eyes follow the jig up and over the limb, then disappear. "Son of a ... !" I dropped the J-Lock to the bottom and shook it twice. Doink! and my 65-pound Vicious Braid started to swim away from the bush.
I loaded up all 7-foot 11-inches of the St. Croix Legend Xtreme as fast and as hard as I could and all hell broke loose as an absolute monster of a bass shot across the surface. No jumping this one into the boat, so I jumped down into the floor and after a short fight, wrestled her into the BassCat. The Cul M Rites pulled down to fat 6.39 pounds. I knew that was the one fish I needed to push me up in the points and make sure that I fished on Day Three.
One cast. One flip. One fish. Right place, right bait, right time. Was it just blind luck or was I putting myself in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the right situation? I'd have to say that if it had happened once, maybe it was just luck. Then again, if I was just a lucky kind of guy, I wouldn't have come down with the shingles two days before the Dardanelle event. To happen three times in three derbies, though? Some kind of voodoo juju thing must be working here.
Hope I can keep the magic going for a few more events. One fish at a time.
For more info on Kevin Short or to contact Kevin, check out his Web site at www.kfshort.com.