Story by Justin Brouillard | Photos by Tanner & Travis Lyons
Like it or not, mother nature plays no favorites – especially in March. With anglers facing freezing cold temperatures throughout practice, heavy rains finally caught up with reality as watersheds distributed over 11-foot of new water into the lake over a three-day period. With anglers having a final day of practice on Tuesday, and an off day on Wednesday, Thursday morning launch was canceled as water rose so fast, taking boats out of the water was a chore. Anglers will launch into sub-freezing temperatures with cloudy skies, and highs reaching near 50 later in the day.
Watch the Live Video from Friday to hear about the changes for Showdown Saturday. Join Luke Dunkin, FatCat Newton, James ‘Worldwide’ Watson, and tournament director Shaun ‘mudhole’ Mudhall as they discuss the first two-day cancelation and what to look forward to for Showdown Saturday!
“We all launched at the day-one take off and were out on the water prepping to fish waiting for a final word from the NPFL. By the time we were told it was canceled and I took my boat out, an hour or so period, I had to walk in the water to get off the dock to get my truck – it happened that fast,” said Matt Looney, making his return to the NPFL after season ending surgery in 2021.
Adam Savage knows Cumberland very, and if you read the Lake Cumberland Preview on Wednesday, you knew Savage was ready to give it a go. Savage has a lot of history on Cumberland and was happy with his official practice period this week. Although anglers just want to fish all the time, they also recognize the angler safety aspect and adverse conditions this week field made it an easy decision.
“I think it was a smart decision, and I know talking to a lot of anglers, they were upset over the ruling, but it adds a whole new dynamic to the lake when there are hazards all over. Overall, yes, I wanted to fish, but I think it helps my bite (and others), and now anyone worried about getting a limit over three days only has to worry about one day,” Savage added.
Another angler who is fine with the decision is 2021 Angler of the Year, Keith Carson. Carson expects the one-day deal to affect his game plan from practice as he planned on fishing hard and really chipping away at bites, not knowing where or when one may come.
“I am really excited for tomorrow. I don’t know why but the water has come up 12-foot over 3 days here and it’s still rising. With those first two days a wash, per say, nobody has been on the lake since Tuesday, nobody is going to be fishing the same water and we are all on a level playing field – I am here for it. Nobody knows what to expect and some guys are certainly upset over the decision, but I have a positive mindset – I may never get a bite, but I am ready to go tomorrow.”
For some anglers, they are not even sure what affect the delays and changing water levels will have on their fish. Gaston is one. Known as a guy who just goes out fishing and gets it done, I like Gaston’s chance for a one-day shootout on a body of water with an almost abnormal even playing field for everyone. Gaston does not.
“I don’t have no cause to even help or hurt with this cancelation. I caught only like three fish in practice with one being a keeper spot and I really don’t know what to do. I know I can go out and fish, but the problem is I don’t have anything to start on really so it takes time for things to develop and evolve before I can get dialed in.”
The other problem Gaston and the other anglers will be facing is, large floating piles of debris which are sometimes impassable. Choosing the right launch could also be a big deciding factor in the event because you simply may not be able to get where wanted to go.
“I think I have to launch at the dam just so I can get around and fish more places. There is floating debris everywhere, and in a lot of places it is 300-yards deep and stretches across the whole lake. I went down to the Burnside launch earlier and they were clearing the ramp with wood and junk – it wasn’t even usable at that time,” Gaston added.
Savage knows as a local, knowing how things change during rising waters and having fished in higher water conditions helps his chances for Saturday. With most of the field probably planning to cover water, Savage also thinks combing his local knowledge with moving around to high percentage areas will help.
“When I am out there running around, key areas will pop into my head, and I’ll just swing in and fish. I plan to keep my life vest on and just cover a 50-yard stretch and on to the next. Anything everyone found in practice is gone, way under water. I took a ride down to the dam (Friday mid-day) and it seemed like the conditions are the best and most stable. In practice I found some water that held all three species of bass and water was 46 to 56 degrees. I am looking forward to it,” Savage said.
Looney echoes the others, saying “the cancelation was not ideal for most guys but we all still get to compete out here this week, so I am excited. It’s going to change a lot, and anyone worried about catching a limit every day only now has to do it once. The NPFL has to be looking out for angler safety and they made the call to let us launch in a couple other places (due to floating debris) which is awesome, but it adds the new dynamic of playing with traffic and that’s a new thing.”
Looney is from Lake of the Ozarks and has been fishing this week like he was back home. Tossing a spinnerbait and crankbait and simply covering water. Looney located some shallow water largemouth in slightly warmer pockets. A few notes concerns are when he arrives down to the dam, will the water be ripping, will the water clarity have gotten worse, or maybe the water has come – will he have to thaw out his boat again?
Carson noted he prepared for this event like any other event. Not fishing the conditions for practice but fishing the conditions for the tournament. While cruising a bank casting and looking for fish, the Debary, Florida angler notes the things above his head.
“I knew what we were dealing with here, I know the rain was coming and I noted a lot of things in my head, above my head (at the time) and every time I saw a big boulder or a log, I made a waypoint. I think I can run back through some of those areas where I got some bites in practice and target those key spots. I may not get a bite like I said before, but I am super excited to be fishing and I think I prepared well – I just hope I can get a few bites.”
What did Carson think someone would catch to win?
“I think winning weight might be 14 to 17-pounds, which is a broad range, but someone could win with 10-pounds or 20-pounds, it will be interesting to see!”
How to Watch
Tune in to thenationalprofessionalfishingleague.com to follow along daily.
LIVE Coverage begins at 8AM EST
Under the Go Live Tab, choose the LIVE Leaderboard to see estimated weights entered by the anglers live from the water.
Watch the Live Weigh In at 3:30 EST!