Going in and practice
> "Going way, way back when they released the schedule, this one got circled, check-marked, asterisks, stars – I was really looking forward to this.
> "I was certain after day 2 of practice. I had seen enough of them locked on beds that I knew it was gonna happen. I was concerned it was going to happen really good in other places [too], mostly the lower lake. It can get really nasty down there whenever they decide to bum-rush a place. You can get rich real quick. That was one thing I was worried about but I didn't want to spread myself out too much."
> "We had an off day between the last day of practice and the 1st day of the tournament. So I was not able to put them to bed, so to speak. I saw them on Tues afternoon and didn't see them again til Thurs morning. It was kind of an uneasy feeling. You don't know if the one you're gonna start on will be there....
> "I was boat like 70, not what you want in a sight-fishing tournament. When I got to my area I was the 1st one there. I was like, Holy cow!
> "I got the one I started on...caught her a few casts into the day. I went to the next one that wasn't on a bed the last day of practice...on a bed 15' away from where I saw her [last]. I caught her real quick and went to the other 3 females I had marked for day 1. They were very obvious beds, bright sandy ones on the edge of the pads.
> "I caught every one of them...never really happens. Usually a couple are already gone or someone else starts on one....
> So by 11:00 on day 1 I had 31 lbs. I spent the rest of the day on the trolling motor, like I was practicing again. I found 2 more 7-lbers that had just moved up. So going into day 2 I was feeling pretty good.
> "I thought I'd catch those two 7-lbers and then I'd really have to hunker down in my area and make it work that day, then I'd have to bail on it.
> [Day 2] after I caught that first 7, I went to the 2nd and she was gone. But I stayed in my area and ended up finding enough fish again. At that point I realized the pocket I had was a little more special than I gave it credit for.
> "At the end of day 2 I had a 7-lber in the middle of the pads.... Right before I had to go in I pulled up there, made a 50-yard cast to her and got her to bite. She got me in the pads and swam right at me, so I never really got a hook in her. She got off super quick.
> "Day 3 I thought I would start on that fish. Then Sat morning we get to the boat ramp, and I knew it was going to happen: Whenever we have a small craft lake advisory...I knew it would get canceled. It was a very testing, grueling, long day, sitting there at the house and watching the boat traffic in my area. The way the wind was blowing that day, my area was very protected....
> "So I didn't know what to expect going in to the 3rd day, which was now Sunday. But I have an 8-lb lead going into 3-day tournament so the odds of me winning just went up tremendously.
> "I had a gameplan and went out and rigged more rods – then they changed it back to a 4-day event. It was a mentally-testing day.
> "I started [day 3, Sunday] on the one I lost on day 2 – she was gone. It was a trying day. I had to really scratch 'em out. But at the end of the day it all worked out. At the end I found 1 more female, was fishing for her and had to leave. Told my camera guy...on the way in might be a blessing I didn't catch that one. While it would've been a 3-lb cull, it's 6 lbs to the bottom line on day 4.
> "Day 4 I started on that fish and got – it was almost 6 lbs. That helped me anchor my bag to get the win."
Where he found 'em
> "I did have to move further into the pads [each day. Early on the fish] were right on the edge and super-easy to see: Bright beds. Once I moved into the pads they were black beds – they were spawning on pad roots – so they were a lot harder to see. ...had to sneak around, a lot of poling...that was the main adjustment I had to make.
> "A lot of the time, whenever I'd see 'em [in the pads], I'd back further off them or use the actual pads to block them from seeing me. If there's a hole in the pads with a bed in the middle, if I could get the fish to the closest side to me, when they look up all they saw was pads – they couldn't see me.
> "A lot of times all I could see was their tails, so it was more setting the hook by feel, not by sight. You could see when they'd get excited and when they bit it. The tail would kick and they would turn on their sides. It was really like hunting – concealing myself, camouflaging myself to be able to catch 'em."