So after a tournament fishing year that many of us (except the winners) would just as soon forget, the New Year is here. Tournament fisherman everywhere are getting their gear ready for the start of local derbies and, for some, the beginning of the major circuits.
Maybe you have been quarantined and missed out on a lot of tournaments (some of which were postponed or canceled) that you might have otherwise fished. With the vaccine being given as you are reading this--thousands of frustrated tournament fishermen (both pros and co's) will be back on their favorite lakes competing for wins (or, at least, a check that will cover the cost of gasoline and get you some bragging rights). Either way, there is nothing quite like sitting in your boat, checking your graph, making sure the rods are tied down and waiting for your number to be called in the first tournament of the year. You have your strategy and you know where they are (or, where they were during practice) and you hope you get to your first spot before your competitors do.
Will you throw jigs in January and jerk baits in February--or both? Tie on fish head spins at Lanier and rattle traps at Jackson--or both? Will you run up the river or down the lake? When will the top-water kick in? Will you throw your frogs and Vixen's in March in hopes that you get a pre-spawn giant? Will you give in and put that shaky head rod on the front deck--or keep it hidden--a last resort. Finally, what rods will be on your deck? Will you narrow it down to three on each side or will you be ready to junk-fish, with 14 rods on the front (a tight but necessary squeeze). These are the overwhelming questions for Covid-constrained tournament fishermen. In short, won't it be great when we can worry about what's on our front deck instead of whether we will test positive?
You are getting your cold weather gear ready, as the first three months of the New Year are always cold (at least in the morning) and you've either got those cold-weather clothes stored on your boat or in the garage (it is unlikely your wife has let you store them in your closet). By the way, don't forget to check your compartments if your boat hasn't been used.
Whether you are one of the hundreds of Atlanta area fishermen who chase the aggressive (and often elusive) spotted bass around Lakes Lanier and Allatoona or you haunt the great middle Georgia lakes (Oconee, Sinclair & Jackson), you will be getting ready. And of course, there is West Point, Blackshear and others to the west. We should not leave out Lakes Eufaula and Seminole, those beautiful lakes in south Georgia which hold some of the state's largest bass, and the great north Georgia lakes like Carters, Rabun and Rocky Mountain, just to name a few known for good bass fishing, if not for tournaments.
There are many Georgia tournament trails, including Major League Fishing's (formerly FLW Outdoors) Phoenix Bass Fishing League (BFL) which offers premium payouts for five tournaments in 2021, a Bulldog Division that begins at Lanier on Feb. 13th (see majorleaguefishing.com). Another major trail, the American Bass Anglers, kicks off its season at Lanier one week later, on February 20th. There is also the Georgia Bass Nation, the club organization sanctioned by B.A.S.S (georgiabassnation.com) and the Georgia Bass Trail (georgiabasstrail.org), which is conveniently broken down into 'North' and 'South' divisions (choose your poison--kickoffs at Lanier on Sunday Jan. 23rd or Seminole on January 16th).
Another major Lanier tournament trail is long-time tournament organizer Scott Barnes' Hammonds/USA Mortgage Series. You can check out Scott's Lanier tournament schedule right here--another trail where if your not catching sacks in the teens, save your gas for taking out the kids. And we can't leave out Berry's Tournament Trail, probably the longest running and most respected trail in the state, focusing on Lakes Jackson, Oconee & Sinclair (and if you're going to fish it, you'd better bring your "A" game--as Berry's always attracts the state's top hammers and sometimes the largest field). Speaking of legendary hammers, don't forget Tony Couch's Mid Georgia Tournament Trail. Check it out here.
Speaking of Hammond's--Georgia's largest (and best) locally owned fishing store--they've created one of the state's most unique tournament trails, which you can checkout here. In fact, there's a tournament going on right now (Sunday afternoon) at Lanier!
There's another (perhaps fasting growing) bass fishing tournament trail in Georgia--it's for electric-only boats. There are so many electric-only clubs in the state, with colorful names like High Voltage Bass Anglers, Extreme Jon Boat Anglers, Dixie Jon Boat Club and S.W.A.T. (Small Water Angler Team), that we can't name them all. They fish the state's great small lakes and reservoirs (places like Bear Creek, Cedar Creek, High Falls, Varner and Yahoola Reservoir). While we don't have room to list them all--they are filled with great fishermen who enjoy competing from their Jon boats with trolling motors and/or electric outboards (yes, you can get a 20 or 40 hp motor for your 16 foot Grizzly--and the torque is for real). And these folks are catching 20+ pound sacks, just like in the other tournaments. If you've got a Jon boat you'd like rig up for tournament fishing, check out Brett Cummings' excellent website at deckedoutjonboats.com. Brett has built a national following among Jon boat fishermen and he's also a Georgia Big Stick.
And another great site (for both tournament information and gear) is the newly founded fishnorthgeorgia.com, where you can not only tune-in for weekly podcasts hosted by the affable founder Danny Pruitt, you can shop for great gear, much of it made right here in Georgia (including Georgia Blade, Lanier Baits and Jim Farmer's remarkable custom topwater and crank baits).
You can also get a listing of tournaments every month in Georgia Outdoor News (gon.com). It's the greatest resource for fishing and hunting in the state, and by subscribing you can also go back and read great articles by Georgia Big Stick and multi-year, multi-club champion Ronnie Garrison, whose outstanding Map-of-the-Month series in GON takes you to a different lake each month and tells you where they are biting. Ronnie's encyclopedic knowledge of the state's large fisheries is universally respected, and he's been writing about sports and fishing for more than forty years. Ronnie is just another example of Georgia's great bass fishermen who don't mind telling you where they are biting and what he's catching them on.
So off we go into 2021. The first tournaments are beginning right now and go well into the fall. We will hear from the names we usually hear from, as the Georgia Big Sticks come to play in these tournaments. These are legendary Georgia tournament names like Batson, Baty, Carter, Carver, Couch, Dick, Driggers, Duvall, Fisher, Garrison, Goade, Goodman, Grizzle, Ingram, Jordan, Johns, Kimmel, Lowery, Martin, McMullen, Millsaps, Maldonado, Montgomery, Nichol, Pack, Partain, Stalnaker, Stokes, Vinson, Windham (just to name 30) and so many more. If you don't know these names, it's because you haven't stayed around the weigh-ins long enough to see who gets paid.
Here at Georgia Big Sticks, we'll have news and profiles of anglers, guides, tournament directors, sponsors and others that you may not know but will meet up close--and unique features that will hopefully help you become better fishermen.
If you'll be kind enough to subscribe to my blog (click the button at the top or bottom of the home page), you'll automatically become eligible to win a $50 gift card from Hammond's Fishing Center.
After a year of Covid-19, politics, civil unrest and division, let's get back on the water in 2021 and focus on what we love doing.