Nothing in the competitive sport of tournament bass angling is more exciting, more adrenaline flowing, as well as possibly more nerve racking than a bass anglers first entry into a Bassmaster or FLW tournament. Sweeten the pot with additional monetary funds by listing yourself as a Boater…and it’s time to do your homework!!!
For Messiah College student and Collegiate Bass Angler Travis Foster, his pre-planning began long before his entry form was completed. “My friend Ben and I decided this year to start competing as Boaters to get a few larger tournaments under our belt, and we could think of no better field to begin with than the FLW Outdoors BFL Piedmont Division.” (www.FlwOutdoors.com)
Like watching the ‘Sands of an Hour Glass’, Foster’s Friday March 6th college class finally ended, launching him into ‘BFL-101……Topic Kerr Lake’. “I have to admit I was really pumped-up for this event, and felt my preparation time formatting a game plan was based on extensive research backed with solid information.”
Pulling his Skeeter rig out of the Messiah College parking lot, Foster’s trip from Grantham, PA to Henderson, NC called for nearly six hours traveling time, arriving just in time for the Official Registration and Pairings. As though reviewing for a major college exam Travis Foster’s memory played and relayed every minute detail from his map research to his mentoring advise received from Professional Bassmaster Elite Angler Randy Howell.
“Not only was this my first BFL as a Boater, it was also my first time on Kerr Lake,” says Foster. Continuing the Massachusetts native revealed his studies leaned towards an early spring transitional movement, while a constant watch of the areas weather indicated blue bird skies and air temperatures in the 80-degree range. “Since, I was unfamiliar with the lake, and was unable to put in any practice time, I decided not to make a run. Concentrating on primary and secondary points within the Satterwhite Point section of Kerr Lake, would allow me more time fishing verses running.” Adding with a wry smile, “I knew it was going to be a tough tournament, and one bass could make all the difference. I needed to keep my baits in the water for as long as possible!”
Morning activity for the one-day event launched 165 teams out of Satterwhite Marina, into water temperatures registering 44-degrees. Explaining his strategy to his BFL Co-Angler partner, Foster elaborated his game plan. “I knew that the day would get warmer as it progressed, so I decided to start deeper on primary lake points and work my way shallow as the water temperatures warmed up later in the day.”
“Kerr Lake has an abundance of Blue Back Herring and Gizzard Shad, to implement their likeness I utilized Lucky Craft #100 and #78 Pointer Jerkbaits in Golden Shad and Chartreuse Shad colors,” recalls Foster. With an arsenal of Carrot Stix Rods paired with Ardent Reels spooled with an assortment of Hi-Seas line, BFL Boater Travis Foster, searched for baitfish pods on his sonar while making repeated cast in water depths ranging from 10-12 feet.
“I had very little success locating baitfish pods along primary points, so I concentrated on secondary points with structure breaks and any available cover I could locate on my sonar. As the day lingered on I switched to a variety of crankbaits to cover the entire water column,” says Foster. The crankbaits Foster chose were Rapala’s #7 Shad Rap, Storms Wiggle Wart and a Strike King Flat sided crankbait.
“This too proved to be unproductive and by now the sun was up higher in the sky as temperatures reached the 80 degree mark. I decided to move shallow and locate warmer water temperatures.” Moving into narrow shallow creeks Foster pulled his flipping stick from his Skeeter locker, making pitches to downed timber with a Stanley ½ oz Black/Blue jig trimmed with a Warrior Baits trailer. “It’s amassing but my confidence level never seemed to falter? I just tried to read the conditions and make adjustments as I saw fit!”
Locating surface temperatures as high as 54 degrees Travis Foster thought for sure he would be able to locate bass within this comfort zone relating to rocks and wood! Utilizing a one-two punch Messiah College Collegiate Angler Travis Foster worked his jig and crankbaits in and out of an array of cover effortlessly to no avail.
“Heading back to the weigh-in site, I felt disappointed, but certainly not totally bummed out. Like any bass angler I anticipated a bass taking my bait on every cast.” Much to Fosters surprise, the BFL Leaders Board revealed fifty-zero’s for Boaters, while a total of 125Boater/Non-Boaters arrived with empty livewells.
Critiquing his day on the water there would be no rationalization for this BFL First-Time Boater! “Evaluating my game plan and the areas I fished along with my presentations and baits of choice, I honestly believe I did everything right………(A sudden pause)… except catch bass!” Once again a wry smile appeared on Foster’s face, “The only adjustment I can possibly thing I could have made, was to slow down?”
According to FLW Tour Professional Bass Angler and former Perdue University Collegiate Bass Angler Michael Murphy (AKA Professor Murphy!!!) “Travis should indeed utilize this as a learning experience! I too believe it is possible to be in the right areas, work the right baits and still not get bit.” Adding with a Professional wry smile, “If it’s any constellation Travis, I recently had a similar situation occur to me on Lake Guntersville.”
God Bless and Best Bass’n