Well…Ish flipped a frog. Yep, FLIPPED a FROG. But that was after he ran aground and stumbled onto some fish so…here’s what went down.
> “The two spots I found kind of played out just right.
> “I spent the first 2 days of practice down on pool 9, 1 pool down. But I needed some fresh water. The last day of practice I decided find some water up top [in the launch pool] in case I’d lock back early.
> “In the morning I got 8 bites out of [the first place he stopped], and all were 3+ lbers. Solid big fish. Then in another spot I had 13-14 bites that were decent. The areas were a 5-minute run from each other.”
> “[He felt like] if I can come in here and scrape 14-15 lbs out of it, I don’t really need to lock down.”
Tournament: Day 1
> “The first day I tried to run to that 2nd spot, but I missed the turn because of the rain. I knew I could get there running through this other chute, but I missed that turn too…then I completely beached on a sandbar. I went from 50+ mph to a complete stop.
> “My marshal [was a bigger guy]…I put him in the front of the boat and had to push my way out. [Ish got out, eventually pushed the boat loose and out, and]…I’m beat. I put the trolling motor down after I got to some depth of water, put the Power-Poles down and sat there to catch my breath.
> “When I stood up and looked, I was like: That [cover right there] looks like the stuff I’d been fishing. So I decided to just fish for a few minutes to figure out how to navigate to my starting spot. Turned out I was about 2 miles away.
> “I caught a limit in 10 minutes that weighed 11-12 lbs. So I’m like, Okay here we go. I decided to just fish my way to my starting spot, and ended up catching them so good it took me til 1:00 to get there. By that time I had about 14.5-15 lbs in the boat.
> “I fished through it really quick, caught 1 that culled and missed 1 that would have helped. Then I fished even further past [his planned starting spot] and caught 1 that helped and a couple that I balance-beamed.
> “I was actually happy with it — I was in 20th place. I never made it to my big-fish spot, so on day 2 I wanted to start on my big-fish spot and see how it went. From there, I planned to fish where I fished [day 1] — I burned through that water so fast I knew I left a lot of fish.”
Tournament: Days 2-4
At his big-fish spot:
> “It was a little slow, then all of a sudden I caught one, and then another, then another…. At 7:30 I had 15 lbs in the boat.
> “I fished my way around this deal and literally caught 50, but I was only able to cull up to 16 and some change. They were all the same size — I was putting them on a balance beam.
> “So now I move up a little bit, to 6th place. I go back in there on day 3 and fish my way around. I saw pond in there the day before but I couldn’t get in there. But that day I saw a ditch and drain to get in, plus with the water rising I thought I should be able to get in there.
> “It was a 1/4-acre pond. I caught 5 fish out of it — 2 over 3.5, and the other 3 were 3-lbers. I fished through it fast because I was catching good ones. That was my day 3 — I had 17 and some change and was now in 3rd.
> “I realized how many fish caught each day out of this spot…50+ on days 2 and 3…but there was still a ton in there.
> “Day 4 [he fished the big-fish spot again and the little pond]…I was catching a lot more little ones, but [still enough 3-lbers] to get to 16 lbs.”
He fished the down side of an island:
> “The up side of the island was a hard line — dirt, bank, trees — a hard line. Then pads in the middle, duckweed in some of the pads, and duckweed pushed into the bank. A light current was rolling through there, and it had a sand bottom with a little bit of hydrilla mixed in. The current was hitting the front line of the island, and I was on the back side of it.
> “In practice the hard line was 6” deep, and by the end of the tournament I had 1.5-2′ of water on the hard line. Other guys had 3′ [meaning the water rose more in their areas].
> “[In his spot] day 2 the water was still flowing downstream — it was sucking water downstream so it wasn’t backing up or rising a lot. Day 3 the same thing — the water came up a little bit. Day 4 finally it reversed and water came backwards into the spot. But there was clear water in there because of the hydrilla.
> “Wherever the duckweed was pushed in the most was best. Each day the duckweed changed because of the current. Duckweed was the key — grass, reeds, pads, but there had to be duckweed.”
How he fished
> “I was flipping a frog. [Initially] I was getting bites on a frog, but I saw fish moving under the duckweed. I tried to flip them out of there [with a soft-plastic], but they wouldn’t eat it. Then I saw a small patch of duckweed, like a 2′ circle. I pitched the frog right to the middle and a 3-lber ate it right away. I didn’t even have to move it. So I repeated that.
> “I’ve done that [flipped a frog] before a little bit, but not to the extent I did at this event. Rojas did it at Dardanelle [last year] when he almost won it.
> “You can’t work the bait because there’s not enough area to work it, but the fish are looking up. So when when you try to flip through there with a weight, it goes to the bottom too fast and they won’t eat it.
> “They sucked it in under the duckweed. Duckweed is the best frog fishing mat you can ever fish — it’s the easiest stuff for them to access the bait. I had bites I didn’t even see. They’d just grab the bait. I didn’t even hear anything — the line was just pulling to the side. It was one of the best frog bites I’ve ever been on.
> “They were literally blowing holes through the mat. I’d pitch to the holes and catch those fish.
> “I went through about 10 frogs over the course of the tournament.”
> River2Sea Phat Mat Daddy Frog (black). “I caught a few on ‘yellow head,’ but the majority was on solid black.
> [The frog has] “a little wider body with a flatter bottom to it, so it pushes more and spits water when you slap it. Like when you keep your fingers together and slap the water — that’s how the water sprays. And when you push it through a mat, when you chug it, it pushes the mat because it weighs a lot more.
“The hooks are most important. I’m using an XH-action rod with braid, so I needed a beefier, bigger hook in this bait.”
> Why that heavy braid: “Braid is everything. I can bust 30 and 40 on the hookset, plus the diameter of 65 keeps the braid floating.
> “I could not flip those fish to save my life. You couldn’t throw a swim-jig through it, you couldn’t throw a Senko, the only bait you could throw was a frog. And the fish wanted a frog that made a bigger impression in the mat.”
> “Keith Poche (6th) was literally 200 yds from me. He was super cool about it.” [Ish said each guy stuck to their area.]
> “I never made it back to the day 1 fish. I went to my big-fish spot and stayed there because fish were filtering in there.”
> “Lowrance is working with C-Maps and their satellite imagery [with contour depths]. On my Carbon 16 I could see the pond [with that imagery] — it let me know it was there.”