Anglers Prepare for BASS Nation National Championship
As we spoke to Corey Brant and Matt Stearns, they were somewhere in Iowa and headed south to Lake Pickwick to compete in the BASS Nation National Championship.
The anglers were set to arrive in Alabama Friday night and begin their practice on Saturday, with the final day of pre-practice concluding tonight (Monday). Pickwick will be off-limits tomorrow as he anglers have media day and then the official practice day will be Wednesday.
Competition for the full field of anglers will begin on Thursday, followed by Friday. Following the second day, the top two anglers from each region will move on to fish on Saturday. A non-boater champion will be crowned following Friday’s competition day, unless they make the cut and will be fishing on Saturday.
The goal for the anglers competing in the BASS Nation National Championship is to finish in the top three overall, as those finishers will qualify for 2019 Bassmaster’s Classic!
Prior to October 8th, Corey and Matt were able to get info from other anglers to help familiarize them with a lake neither of them have been on. “We wanted to just get a general feel of how the lake could fish and a reference ow how the event could fish,” stated Corey. “But we still wanted to keep our minds open and not get locked into one thing, as seeing the lake first hand and the conditions that are present could change things up,” said Matt.
It is likely that anglers will be fishing the vast amount of grass and main lake flats that Pickwick has to offer, but with the cooling temperatures, some of that grass may be dying off. If this is taking place, the Pickwick smallmouth bite could factor in, which if it does Corey may be looking to key in to. “If I can, I’ll be up by the dam fishing for smallies, but if there is no flow that bite is tough and water temps need to be down in the 60’s,” explained Corey.
Like many southern lakes, there is a prevalent fall topwater bite as the bass push shad to the backs of creeks and on points to feed up before winter. But that bite seems to be slowing up and the fish are not super shallow anymore, but they are more in a transitional phase. “I plan to look for grass on the main lake flats in areas that are close to deeper water where they will want to eventual winter,” discuss Corey. “If I can drag a Carolina-rig or an All-Terrain Rock Jig, I’ll feel at home.”
For Stearns, he’ll garner some great insight of the lake and how to approach it while pre-practicing with Corey, but for Matt, his tournament strategy will be dependent on his boater pairings for the event. “For me, I’ll keep an eye on what my boater is doing and always be doing something different, even if it just the cadence in my retrieve,” stated Matt. “I plan on fishing a lot of reaction baits to try and get the aggressive fish into biting.”
The duo broke the lake up into three sections for practice, down river by the dam, which is farthest away from take-off. Followed by the popular mid-section of the lake, that has plenty of main lake flats, creeks and grass for the anglers to explore. Lastly there is the Wilson dam end, down by Florence, where take off is, this end has the tail races and current. “We plan on looking at each section, but will play it by ear and evaluate after every day to see if we have to key in on one area, or keep exploring,” explained Brant.
For the Minnesota anglers, they’ll be right at home for the conditions as the weather looks to be in the mid 60’s with lows in the 40’s, an improvement on what we are experiencing at home! The water temps have been in the low 60’s, could be down into the upper 50’s by tournament time, again putting the smallmouth bite in to play.
As for tactics, Brant and Stearns feel that their familiarity with fishing grass will benefit them. “Much like fishing the grass up in Minnesota, I hope to be able to be flipping the grass with a ¾ oz jig or power shot,” said Corey. “Hopefully we will be able to pull up to an area and evaluate the vegetation quicker than our competition,” stated Matt.
With the changed BASS Nation formats, boaters have a co-angler with them. “I’m stoked to have a co-angler practicing with me this time around,” exclaimed Corey. “This way we can each be doing something different and break things down quicker, than I did in 2015 in Louisiana because I was by myself.”
Corey would like to thank the Minnesota BASS Nation, Classic Bass, All-Terrain Tackle and Rapala for their support. “I especially want to thank Arsenal Fishing for their support, as I’ll be using the Arsenal wrapped boat this week!”
Matt wanted to thank Shimano, Phoenix and the Minnesota BASS Nation for their support.