Editor’s Note: Mark Rose of Marion, Arkansas, one of Strike King’s FLW pros, just won the last FLW Tour event for 2011 on Pickwick Lake, which forms the boundaries of Mississippi, Alabama and Tennessee. Rose took home $125,000.
Part 1: Mark Rose’s Game Plan for His Pickwick Lake Win
Question: Mark, what did you know about Pickwick Lake before this tournament?
Rose: I knew quite a bit about the lake. I grew-up fishing tournaments on Pickwick, and in the last 4 years, I’ve spent a lot of time on Pickwick learning how to fish offshore structures. I was very familiar with Pickwick before I showed-up to compete.
Question: What was your game plan before you went to Pickwick for practice?
Rose: To win. (Grin)
Question: What did you think you’d have to do to win?
Rose: I knew that in late July on Pickwick Lake, this tournament would be a ledge-fishing event. I also realized that the key to winning this tournament would be to find a big school of bass or several schools of bass that the other competitors might not have identified. This was one of those tournaments where everyone knew where the bass would be and on what they’d be holding. My goal was to search for a place to catch bass where no one else was looking to find the fish.
Question: Tell us what you found, Mark.
Rose: I located one really-big school of bass, and that one school of big fish helped me win this tournament.
Question: Ok, Mark, how many official practice days did you have?
Rose: We actually had four practice days, but one of those practice days was on Sunday. So, instead of practicing, I went to church, stayed home with my family and drove to Pickwick on Sunday night.
Question: What did you learn in practice, Mark?
Rose: I learned that there were a lot of competitors fishing the same type of structure that I was planning on fishing. Most of my competitors had found all the productive areas on Pickwick with which I was familiar. I realized I’d have to approach this tournament with the idea that I was going to have to look for a new place to fish that no one else had found.
I also learned that there would be current running late in the day. I knew that when the current ran at Pickwick, the bass usually started biting then. I also learned in practice that the bass really wanted a Strike King Sexy Spoon and the Strike King Football Head Jig. Since I loved to fish those two lures, I had an awful lot of confidence going into this tournament.
Question: Mark, how did you locate a place to fish that no one else found?
Rose: If you use GPS and quality maps, the obvious places where bass will be holding will stick-out. And, you can see the fish holding on those places and the underwater ridges with your depth finder. Fishermen know that to catch bass, you need to fish the tips and sides of those underwater ridges. Most people with fishing nets fish 12- to 17-foot-deep water, so I decided to move out to water that was 22- to 27-feet deep.
I knew I’d encounter fewer anglers fishing. I was looking for some kind of bottom break that would hold bass. Using my side-scanning depth finder, I found a hole in the middle of an underwater bar. I didn’t think anybody would be looking for bass in water that deep. When you’re participating in a tournament, you have to assume that all of your competitors know the same things you do, and that they’ll all be fishing the most-likely places to catch bass. Therefore, your edge has to be to pinpoint the place with a school of bass that everyone else either hasn’t found or hasn’t searched in that area. That big spot on that bar in that deep water was a place that I felt no one else would look at to find bass.
Question: How big was this hole, Mark?
Rose: Because the area was flat and had a ridge off to the side of it, the hole looked like a bowl. The ridge jumped-off from 19 feet to 25 feet, and then the bowl sloped-down into 26-foot-deep water, making an impression about 6-foot deeper than the other water around it. The other side of the bowl came up to about 20-feet deep.
Question: Mark, did you see any fish in the hole when you discovered the hole?
Rose: Yes, I did. I was using a Lowrance HDS side-imaging unit. That’s the reason I stopped and decided to check-out this hole.
Question: Mark, when you spotted fish down in the hole, did you ever think the fish down there might be catfish, since in the hot summer months on Pickwick, often the catfish will stack-up in holes like this.
Rose: No, I could tell that the fish I was looking at were bass. In late July, I knew that catfish on the Tennessee River usually schooled and set-up on the main river ledges. But I could tell that these were bass, because they were sitting on the bottom, holding underneath schools of white bass and shad.
Question: Mark, where did you find this hole?
Rose: Although I found this hole during the official practice, I also pinpointed a lot of other schools of bass that had moved around where you normally would expect them to hold. Pickwick had many obvious places where bass could hold, and there were bass holding on all those obvious places. However, due to the change in fishing pressure, often the bass would get moved to one side or the other of the obvious places where they should be holding. So, I found some areas where some schools of bass had moved-off the obvious structure to get away from fishing pressure.
I decided to use two tactics to win the tournament. Number one was to fish a hole that no one else has found. Number-two technique was to use the fishing pressure of other contestants to push the bass off obvious places where they normally would hold and fish those places to which the bass had moved.
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