By Gary Haraguchi
At the end of April (seems like forever ago) we headed out for tournament stop number four of the FLW Tour; Pickwick Lake. As Jimmy and I reside on the west coast, the first leg of our journey began at the airport in Sacramento. On the plane to Tulsa, a gentleman asked if I was Ricky Dragon, a professional wrestler. Now I've been asked many times if I was Gary Yamamoto but Ricky Dragon?
The gentleman worked security for the WWF (World Wrestling Federation) and had met Ricky a few times. He said I looked just like him. Well, of course I had to google him to see what he looked like. What do you think? Any resemblance?
On Friday we stopped at Kentucky Lake, got our rods and tackle together and then did a little pre-fishing for the fifth stop on the trail. The Yamamoto 5.75" Kut Tail in Green Pumpkin (7C-10-297) brought us a few nice fish. Hoping we can keep up that quality and better in June.
Saturday morning we headed south to Florence, Alabama. We checked into our hotel, unpacked, and settled in for the week. Buffalo Wild Wings was just a few minutes from our hotel and I think Jimmy has found a replacement for his BBQ fixation. BWWs is a sports bar with wall-to-wall live sports and some darn good wings. If you ask, they’ll bring you a 7" tablet to play poker on, so of course we had to have a Top This Fishing Team Poker Challenge between Chuck Kavros, Billy Hines, Jimmy and myself. Billy ended up winning the challenge.
Sunday was our first practice day on Pickwick. This Tennessee River reservoir is known to hold quality largemouth as well as smallmouth, and we were hopeful we’d be slinging a few into the boat. We started shallow and caught fish up to 2 1/2 lbs on a 5.75" Kut Tail and 5" Senko both in Green Pumpkin. We caught a nice 3 ½-pounder off a ledge, but just the one.
The next two days of practice we stayed shallow with some 2 pounders, catching a couple of spotted bass on the ledges. Jimmy did catch a 20lb-plus catfish on a California Roll which was exciting, but wouldn’t do us any good outside of a fish fry. I’ll admit, our pre fish was pretty tough. We fished the ledges religiously but we weren't able to find any schools of post spawners, and the fish we caught shallow were rarely over 2lbs.
Jimmy shows off a nice fish brought in on a Senko, but our pre-fish was tough.
At registration we met up with Yamamoto Pro-Staff Coordinator Heidi Roth (they let her out of the office for a few days). I hadn't seen her in years so it was good to spend some time with her. She managed to round most of the Yamamoto pros up for a Yamamoto Team Photo.
Jimmy fished shallow the whole tournament and caught limits both days but finished a disappointing 69th. Fortunately he only dropped four spots in the AOY points to 22nd. Most of his fish came on a 5" California Roll in Green Pumpkin (130-10-297) with a 3/16 oz Frenzy Nail Shakey Head. I had the best luck fishing shallow in practice catching fish on a Green Pumpkin 5" Senko (9-10-297).
As most of you know, I’ve been fishing from the back of the boat from a very long time, which means I’ve learned a thing or two. As a co-angler, you have to be prepared for anything and everything because you never know how or where your pro will be fishing.
Each evening I tied on baits for both shallow and offshore situations. We didn't have a lot of bites during pre-fish so I decided to pack baits that I have confidence in and made a plan to simply fish the conditions in front of me.
On day one we headed west and started on a grass flat. I pulled out a 75-series Midasu Lipless Crankbait (82-MID-75-601) and caught fish, but every one was just shy of the 15" size limit. We pretty much fished ledges the rest of the day, fighting the 25 to 35 mph winds which made it difficult to fish. I was able to catch one keeper fish on a 3/4 oz. jig with a 5' Cinnamon Double Tail Grub (16-20-176) but lost a 4lber at the boat, ouch! That put me in 100th place.
On day two my second-day pro made a long run west only to fish for about an hour before we started having trouble starting the big motor. We made the long run back towards the launch early in the day just in case we had more problems. Fishing very tough for us but around 11:00 am I was able to catch a 3-plus pounder on a Frenzy Nail Shakey Head with a 5" Green Pumpkin Pro Senko (9P-10-297).
Our fish were coming few and far between and only one of them was big enough to meet the 15" size limit. With a little over an hour left in our day we pulled up on a bluff bank. I picked up my drop shot and was able to catch a couple of keeper spotted bass and a smallmouth. Yes! I had a limit for 9-9 and it moved me into 42nd place for a $1,000.00 check which I was truly grateful for. Even though I dropped two places in the AOY standings to 7th, I had a truly blessed day and was very excited to come back after that poor first day.