Let’s just start by saying I was very excited to dodge the winter storms and head to Florida for the first stop of the 2016 Bass Pro Shops Southern Open on Lake Toho. A long drive, to what I hoped was much warmer weather, increased the desire of getting the 2016 season off to a good start.

Practice was flat out brutal. I was faced with cold, muddy water to start but knew the coming weather would warm things up and have the fish ready to bite. Although I never put together a pattern, I did junk fish enough to catch a few good fish each day.

Day 1-Since I hadn’t figured out a pattern, I opted to start flipping a Reaction Innovations Beaver. After doing that for some time I gradually went back to junk fishing. Then, I picked up a TrueSouth spinnerbait and caught my first bass of the tournament. Some time went by with no more bites so I switched to a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper (Houdini) and caught number two. Caught my third fish on a Pop-R and ended out the day. I never could really get anything going. I went back to the motel, cut on my Blue Water LED lights, and tried to figure out where I had went wrong.

Day 2 approached and I wanted to go back to the thick grass to try and redeem myself. I had rigged up a Reins 1.5 ounce Tungsten weight on 65lb. P-Line XTCB Braid the night before which included a Reaction Innovations Beaver (Blank Check) on the business end. As my number come about during blastoff, I raised the TH Marine Atlas Jack Plate and hurried that Skeeter/Yamaha rig to my first stop. This is when good things started happening. I found very precise places the fish were locating and was able to pick these areas apart by employing the Power Poles. As my Abu MGX reel performed hundreds of flips effortlessly, the Abu Veracity Rod (7’9 Heavy) would pull them straight out of the thickest grass.

Overall I would finish in 95th place, definitely not what I had anticipated. I had 4-9lbs the first day and 12-8lbs the second day for a total of 17-1lbs. Wesley Strader went on to win the tournament with a 3-day total of 50-5. Congratulations to a great fisherman and even better person!

The tournament wasn’t a total loss. I learned a few do’s & don’ts during this tournament that should help me here in the future. Also, aside from all the tackle we use, I cannot stress the importance of fishing with a clear mind which enables you to hone in on the smallest details needed to catch fish.

My next stop will be the much awaited beginning of the 2016 Elite Series on St. John’s River in March.

Good Fishing, Shane Lineberger

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