How MLF BPT rookie Drew Gill won at the Chowan River

Was it just a matter of time before Drew won one? Yep. Here’s why – here’s his Bass Pro Tour finishes so far this year, in order:

– Toledo Bend – 3rd

– Santee Cooper – 45th

– Dale Hollow – 4th

– Eufaula, OK – 2nd

– Chowan River – 1st

He also won the opening MLF Invitational on Rayburn, TX that was held between the 1st and 2nd BPT tournaments. So obviously he has been fishing real well.

My own 2c to add to that is that Drew is a different cat. I’ve said it before and I think you’ll see some of it in what follows. Dude is on a different level – not necessarily higher, just different. And very intelligent. Here’s what went down at the Chowan River, NC.

Going in and practice

> “I really didn’t know what I was going into. I did lot of looking on Google Earth…I could see a lot of black water. It was connected to the ocean so I figured there’d be some semblance of a tide. I was expecting a little more of a traditional tidal-style tournament…expecting that or [fishing] upriver….

> “Word is the Roanoke [River] actually had current going on, but the Chowan had no water movement and no current. It had trees, pads, shallow docks and sand…a tidal fishery just without tide and current, or anything that makes it function like it’s tidal.

> “It has oxbows…sets up like a place that should have current, but there’s no current. I was absolutely tripped out.

> “For 43 miles on both sides of the Chowan River [it’s only] do you want to fish cypress trees on the left side of the river or cypress trees on the right side of the river? It was the same thing everywhere – patterning became a pain.

> “…some vegetative growth, pads and things like that…creeks and tributaries, places that have some flow. If you don’t have either of those, you have to have a hard edge.

> “The main river creeks really were not doing it for me. That’s kinda what got me started. …3-4 mile stretch of the river…had quality and quantity. I ended up locking myself in [that] 1 section mentally, knowing it was the best section of that river for that week.

> …figure it out from there…salvage as much stuff as I could as the tournament went on. I thought I’d make the Knockout Round, but I didn’t think I’d make the Championship Round.”


> “In the Qualifying Round [he had] 1 stretch…hard edge of cypress trees and bushes. …torched it. I caught enough to make it through. I made it through to the Knockout Round.

> “I burned half a mile [of the 3-4 miles] in the Qualifying Round. In the Knockout Round I burned about a mile of it. I knew it was good. I went and practiced the rest of the Knockout Round and was underwhelmed.

> “Justin Lucas [5th] was using one section [of the 3-4 miles] and Matt Becker [8th] was there as well. But there was one stretch I hadn’t been on and I hadn’t seen anyone on all week. I knew I would start the Championship Round there.

> Championship Round: “I started slow…one stretch of cypress tress. The 2nd period…stretch I’d saved, a little bitty stretch. I went down there [but stopped] about 400 yards short of that section. I’d caught a few big ones where big deadfalls broke the surface – like the ones where you go by it and are like, I’m glad I didn’t hit that….

> “If we got a hard West wind, it was like a little bit of wind tide that would drop the water. The 1st day of practice that happened. That was the only day where every deadfall had a scoreable on it. …by about 2:00 in the afternoon [of Championship Day] we had 29 mph gusts and it was blowing.

> “The first [deadfall] I see, I catch a high 2. The next one I caught a 3.5. The next couple of trees I caught a 4 [then another] 4, then I just rolled. I was in the mouth of one of the biggest tributaries and deadfalls were everywhere. Almost every one of those deadfalls had a 2.5- to 5 lber out there.

> “When the water decided to drop a little bit, it was enough to get them scared and they were stuck to pieces of cover…stuck to them like glue.

> “I mowed it down [then after that] tried to catch a couple keepers in the process of biding my time to let those trees and deadfalls to reload and settle. I knew if I was on them the entire time they would never settle down.

> “Michael [Neal] closed the gap to 8 lbs. I came back with 15 or something minutes left in the last period and caught 3 or 4 scoreables and closed the door.

> “When we got to like the 10-minute mark left in the day it just started to sink in that I had actually managed to take that 9-day process – which is the beginning of practice to the end of one of those BPT events, which is a third of a month that you’ve committed to one fishery essentially. When you think about it that way, you get really emotionally invested in all that work you’ve done that week.

> “To reach the end of the week and have enough left in the tank to fish against [all those guys]…not just survive the week, not just make the Championship Round, but to make a critical decision and beat all of them…that was the moment when winning became attainable to me mentally.

> “If I can do it once, I can do it again. And that feeling is something you can’t really fake. I’ve tried to convince myself I was capable of it. But I didn’t truly believe it til I did it.”

Those deadfalls

> “The biggest thing is they had to be within a foot of the surface or breaking the surface, and they had to be on a pretty close to 45-degree angle slant. Too flat they didn’t get close to the surface, and too steep I don’t think it creates the same effect.

> “My theory is when you have extreme water-level changes…I want to fish the cover that is the most reliable or resilient to the change. So like at Eufaula, OK [where he finished 2nd] it’s the floating dock…it’s always at the surface regardless of how much the water level changes. It’s the same thing with those big slanted trees [at the Chowan].

> “No matter how much that water rises or falls, there’s always gonna be that tree near the surface and there’s always gonna be that same shade line directly underneath it. The slope of the tree is the same angle regardless…so they’ e always got the same exact type of cover to relate to regardless of how that changes.

> “…gonna taper that same angle all the way down. So they can just track that shade…regardless of how that water level changes. I feel like it’s a stability thing and it;s an ambush thing.

> “About every tree had a good one on it, and about every 4th tree had 4 or 5 3- to 6-lbers on it.”


He fished a dropshot:

> New/not yet out/ICAST release 7″ Big Bite Baits Nekorama (matte gp) – “I designed it around a Neko rig specifically but I gave it a [cut?] back so that when you throw it on a dropshot the bait can slide out of the way of the hook really well…so you can get that bite of the hook in ’em.”

> When he ran out of those baits (he only had 1 pack) he used a 7″ finesse worm in 2 colors: purple and gp.

> #1 Owner Cover Shot Hook, 1/8-oz pencil-type weight, 12-lb Seaguar Tatsu fluoro leader to 20-lb Seaguar Smackdown Stealth Grey Braid, Ark G5 Spin Reel (3500 ), 7′ MH XF Ark Reinforcer Spin Rod.

He said he used that heavier line and rod – a “power spinning setup” – because he was fishing around wood, the bottom of the Chowan “is a minefield of endless stumps” and he was “winding them away from the cover.”

Why the Stealth Grey Smackdown Braid instead of the Flash Green color:

> “I like the grey only because really for me it’s not about seeing my line. I never use that as an indicator.”


> “I was using LiveScope in Forward [Mode on] a GPSMap 1222. My range was set to 62′ out and my depth to 16′ down. I used it in Forward exclusively….

> “I’m [using it to] making the cast and watching them eat – because sometimes you had a group of them and I was using the competition aspect and making sure I got a bite out of that group. [Come over a] deadfall, reel it hard, and then just open the bail and let it fall straight through ’em – try and build some competition. If there was a group, I got a bite a higher percentage of the time for sure.”


> “The big one for me…my Epoch batteries. I’m using the 120 amp hours…because I’ve got the [new Minn Kota Ultrex] QUEST on it which is a little bit more energy-effiient…. Those batteries were extremely reliable all week. I was able to run my trolling motor really hard…deliver insane power and my trolling motor is extremely fast because of it. That QUEST was pulling my boat at 4 mph, loaded with me in it and an official and camera man.”

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