KODAK, Tenn. – Chalk up another one to experience and persistence for ol’ hardhead Tommy Biffle.
You have to fish out in deeper water in summer, people say. You can’t catch them shallow because it’s too hot, people say.
Biffle doesn’t listen to people. He listens to more than three decades of tournament experience from the club events of years ago on his home water in Oklahoma to the toughest tournaments in the country on lakes he’s never seen before.
The 52-year old Okie slammed the best five-bass limit of the week Saturday in the final day of the PAA Bass Pro Shops Tournament Series presented by Carrot Stix, winning the season-opening event by more than two pounds over Bobby Lane of Florida. Biffle finished with 36.18 pounds, with Lane next at 34.11 and Todd Auten of South Carolina third with 31.99.
Biffle caught five keepers weighing 16.76 pounds Saturday. He worked small backwater pools where bass were lingering around flooded willows, despite dropping water and skittish attitudes, with one coming on a Heddon Spook topwater and the rest on his Gene Larew Biffle Bug.
Biffle won $10,000 and a Phoenix 719 with a Mercury 225 Optimax and T-H Marine Atlas Jackplate. It was the first time he’d won consecutive major events, and his first consecutive tournament wins since his club days years ago. Biffle won the Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Fort Gibson Lake two weeks ago, and is set to compete in the Elite Series post-season in two weeks in Alabama.
“I tell my friends you’re only as good as your last tournament,” he said, “so with two of them I’m feeling pretty good. I wasn’t too motivated about this week when I was driving over last Sunday. I’ll be at ICAST this week in Las Vegas, I need to get my truck wrapped before the post-season and I’d never seen this lake before.
“But things turned out pretty good. I got here about midday on Sunday and got on the water. I started catching a few and was looking for areas that I like … flooded bushes, buck brush, anything like that with water on it. When I found something I’d punch it into my Lowrance unit. That way I didn’t have to go searching for anything.”
Biffle threw the “Sooner Run” colored Biffle Bug on 25-pound Sunline Shooter fluorocarbon line with a Tru-Tungsten 5/16ths weight and 4/0 BMF hook. He rigged it on a Quantum Elite Biffle 7-foot-6 signature series rod with a Quantum PT Burner reel. The bait color is green pumpkin with red flake and a darker back.
Biffle trapped ‘em
With just two fish in the boat at mid-morning on Saturday, Biffle pulled into a backwater pool he said was about 20-25 feet wide by about 60-75 feet long. He could ease the nose of his Ranger into a little nook and make pitches in either direction around some flooded willow trees.
“When I peeked around one of those trees I saw about seven or eight bass in there about 3 to 4 pounds each,” he said. “I put down the Power Poles and told my cameraman we were staying until I won. I felt like I could catch at least one or two of them.”
The bass were cruising and skittish, he said, and ducked under or around the willows. One gnarl where they were hiding was too thick to punch his bait into, so he waited them out. A small area between two willows to the left of his boat allowed for a pitch, “and anytime one tried to swim through there and get out I’d pitch the Bug in, and it would turn around and go back.”
He caught one on the Spook and then another on the Bug. But by 2 p.m. and with a little more than an hour before check-in, Biffle opted to make a run to try to get his fifth bass. He caught a snapping turtle in his next spot, then re-tied a new hook and Bug on and made a long pitch to the shallowest water in that area. His bait “felt heavy, and then I saw the line moving away.” That one was a keeper bass, instead of a turtle, and was enough to secure the win.
“This is pretty gratifying,” Biffle said. “You’ve got a pretty strong field with good guys from BASS and FLW here this week under really tough conditions, and on a lake I’d never seen that didn’t really set up for my kind of fishing. But I know from fishing on Fort Gibson in summer the bass get shallow even in hot water and that’s what I went looking for.”
The next PAA Bass Pro Shops Tournament Series presented by Carrot Stix will be Aug. 12-14 on Lake Norman near Charlotte going out of Blythe Landing.
PAA Sponsors: The PAA Tournament Series is sponsored by Bass Pro Shops, E21 Carrot Stix, Laser TroKar, Markel Insurance, Phoenix Boats, Nitro Boats, T-H Marine, Fishouflage, SolarBat, U.S. Reel, Sign Designs, BoatU.S. Foundation, Mercury Marine and Jasper Engines and Transmissions.