If you read Caz Anderson’s recent Lake Chatuge Map-of-the-Month article and also followed the BASS Angler of the Year tournament on-line or in person on Sept. 20-23, you saw Caz was spot-on for patterns and baits. The pros put their own special talents to finding bass and catching them, but they used the types of baits, cover and structure that Caz suggested would be in play. Some pros fished some of the holes marked in the September issue.
Chatuge showed how good of a bass lake it can be. Few of the pros fishing the AOY had ever heard of this mountain reservoir, much less fished it. But James Elam caught 15 bass in three days weighing 48-lbs., 8-ozs. to win. Even more impressive, it took 30-lbs, 3-ozs. to finish in 27th place. Those numbers follow closely Caz’s predictions.
Caz worked the weigh-ins and at the Expo, and he was able to get on the lake Sunday to watch some of the pros fish. He said James Elam fished two of the 10 marked holes, Justin Lucas had hole three as his main spot, and Jacob Wheeler used hole No. 10 the whole time. Caz added that there was good fan turnout for the Expo and weigh-ins.
The herring pattern was the key, as expected. Running and gunning drops and deep brush was the biggest factor in catching quality fish, but timing was critical. They had to hit them when the fish were active. There were some good largemouth in the pockets feeding on bluegill, but they were hard to catch and putting together a limit of quality largemouth each day for three days was tough, as predicted.
Micah Frazier is the only Georgian on the Elite tour this past year, and he qualified to fish the AOY Championship. Micah’s sixth-place finish with 39-lbs., 1-oz. guaranteed him a 2019 Bassmaster Classic entry. Micah said he had never been on Chatuge before practice for the AOY, but it was a beautiful lake and fished a lot like Lanier.
Every fish Micah weighed in were spotted bass. He fished an Oakie Shad Heddon Chugging Spook topwater lure all day each day, working offshore since topwater was producing the bigger fish. He said he found several schools of deep fish and could see them follow a drop-shot worm, but he caught only smaller fish in practice on the drop shot. The big spots needed for a good finish would come up and hit on top, so that’s what Micah fished.
A key to catching those bigger fish was working the bait fast. He said reeling the Spook as fast as he could and skipping it with little twitches worked better than the usual walk-the-dog method of fishing them. He credited the new Garcia 10-to-1 ratio reel that helped him move the bait faster than usual.
Micah said some of the pros fished primarily drop shot and did not weigh in a limit each day. The guys that stuck with shallow largemouth had the same problem. Although Micah saw a lot of quality largemouth when he went shallow, they were so difficult to catch that he gave up on them.
Chad Pipkins, from Michigan, is an expert drop-shot fisherman, but he agreed the deep fish would follow drop-shot worms but were lure shy. It could have been the fishing pressure. Those fish have seen baits all summer, and with 50 top pros on the water several days, they were spooky. Chad fished drops and humps with a Damiki Rambler 120 topwater, just like Caz predicted, for his best fish.
A 36th place finish with 26-lbs,, 5-ozs. was not the result Chad hoped for in this tournament. He said he made several critical mistakes. In practice he found three schools of fish in ditches and stuck with them too long in the tournament on that shallow pattern. He also lost some big fish, including a 3- and a 5-pounder. Both would have helped him a lot.
Chad agreed Chatuge is a beautiful lake that is fun to fish. He caught a lot of fish and said you can catch fish right after another boat leaves a place, since bass are constantly moving in and starting to feed. Timing is critical.
John Copeland, of Jackson, was a marshal in the tournament and got to see how three of the pros fished while in the boat with them. This was his fifth time as a marshal, and he really likes it and learns a lot each time.
The first day he was with Shin Fukae, who finished 27th with 30-lbs., 3-ozs.. Shin weighed in all spots and fished over deep brush with a spybait type lure, running and rotating to five to six places all day. John said Shin would cast the bait out past the brush, count it down to the depth it topped out and slowly reel it over the brush. That is one of the baits and patterns Caz suggested. Shin had 10 rods on his deck but picked up only two.
Day two John was with Alton Jones Jr., who finished 42nd with 24-lbs.,, 6-ozs. Alton tried to catch largemouth. He would run the pockets and fan cast a big wake bait with a Trick Worm trailer. When he saw cruising fish, he would often change to a Fluke. John said he saw many 5- to 8-lb. largemouth follow those baits, but the big bass would not take them.
Caz had predicted shallow largemouth would be hard to catch.
John said Alton was kicking mud with his trolling motor all day he was fishing so shallow. He covered as much water like this he could all day.
On day three, John was in the boat with Aaron Martins. Aaron came in 16th place with 33-lbs., 11-ozs. He, too, fished topwater over deeper brush and spent a lot of time on the brush Caz marked on hole No. 2. Aaron told John he had marked 200 brushpiles on Chatuge in practice.
John said Aaron made a bait he just knew would catch fish on day three. It was a big jerkbait that he cut the bill from and placed a small spinner on the tail after cutting out the ball bearings that come in it. He threw that bait 90 percent of the time on day three.
Aaron never got closer to the bank than 200 yards and made long cast, over 50 yards, to work that bait over the brush. He fished it fast on top to draw strikes from bigger fish and caught fish all day.
The pros showed how well they adapt to a new lake and also showed they somehow find the best spots local fishermen, like Caz Anderson, know so well.
Complete results are on http://bassmaster.com. Also check out a series of 21 pictures of Micah Frazier fishing day two at https://www.bassmaster.com/slideshow/fraziers-friday-morning.