RECAP: 2017 BASSMASTER SOUTHERN OPEN AT THE HARRIS CHAIN
Like most years, the 2017 tournament season started out with a whole lot of craziness. I tried to avoid it a bit this year and put a lot of time in on the front end organizing, preparing, and doing some boat and truck maintenance. During the last month or two in 2016 that really slowed down without tournaments or much guiding I spent hours and hours weeding out my tackle and narrowing it down to what I really need to make packing for tournaments easier and things more efficient on the boat. The guys at Boater’s Point in Port Clinton, OH did a great job getting my boat ready for the 2017 season.
At the beginning of January my girlfriend and I packed up the boat and truck after a break in the snow and I headed to my buddy Dan’s in Richmond, VA. I thought I was leaving the snow behind but the biggest storm of the year hit and we spent our time shoveling snow, plowing, and brushing off cars for hours. In the South the snow really shuts everything down and I had to wait a few days to head to Southeastern Marine in Richmond to pick up my new prop. They were a huge help last year and one of the coolest guys, Butch, really helped me out.
I kept heading south and spent some time with family in Charleston, SC. I had a great time with my Aunt and Uncle and spent some time setting myself up for the Harris Chain tournament that was coming up. I further organized my boat and truck and made myself some bags of snacks for each day on the water with two of my staples: Duke’s Smoked Meats and GoGo SqueeZ.
As soon as I got to Florida I went right to my buddy Mike Schnupp’s in Apopka and started practicing. Mike and his family are great friends, great people, and awesome hosts. I had a busy and productive practice. I sampled every lake on the Chain and landed on spending day one on Harris. I wanted to maximize my fishing time instead of locking. I landed a great draw and was in the first flight which solidified my plans.
Day one I got to the areas where I knew there were some great fish on beds. Sight fishing was tough – I couldn’t see any of the girls on beds that I did in practice. I waited for the sun to come up and tried to make it work but the water was still really cloudy; a lot of the fish I had marked I still couldn’t see or they had left.
After catching a few small bucks I pulled the plug and ran to a popular community hole to scrounge together what I could to stay alive. I never got a quality bite which is what it’s all about in Florida.
Day two I had a long day and decided to run to a lake on the chain that gets a lot less pressure than Harris and some of the others. I didn’t have a solid day of practice there but I knew if I could get the bites I could make it happen. I knew where they lived and things started off well; I was able to flip up some quality fish in short order and decided to put my head down and keep flipping. Things slowed down pretty fast and I left that spot about noon or so. I ran to Harris to hopefully get a limit and get a big bite. I filled the limit, made a small cull and finished day two with about ten pounds.
Harris started off the season with a tough tournament. I am disappointed in my finish but in hindsight I fished clean and never lost one. The key to a good finish in Florida is a big bite each day and I never did hook one. Toho 2016 I was fortunate enough to catch quality bites day one, day two I caught them but never did get that big bite. A six or seven pounder will go a long way in Florida especially when the weights are close.
As always, it was a great experience and opportunity to learn. No tournament is ever wasted – you can always build upon what you learn, good or bad. Fortunately, I am in Florida until May and will be able to put some more time in on Harris Chain. I will put the time in and figure out how to have a better tournament in the future. I recently signed up for the FLW tour event on Harris in March as a co to hopefully learn something that can help me out down the line. I’m looking forward to the rest of the 2017 season. Tight lines.