April is always a special time for me in Tennessee mainly because it’s usually prime time for our pre spawn fishing campaigns and the chances of finding a monster out of this vast river is increased a lot more than other times of the year. This year however due to a family emergency back in England my pre spawn big fish hunt was going to be a very short one as I had to fly out as soon as I could, so after the plane ticket was booked I had 48 hours to get a couple of short sessions in.
Now the usual areas we frequent this time of year have been quiet to say the least judging by the fishless sessions I’ve put in and I thought staring at silent alarms with my fingers crossed was not on my agenda this time… I wanted the chance to do battle with a big bloody carp!
A trip was quickly planned to a very prolific swim on the Tennessee river where there was a good chance to catch 20 pounder s and the chance of a 30 or 40 is also a possibility but the extra bonus is that it is rare not to catch a fish from here, but could it all go wrong from this snag laden area ?
I had arranged to meet up with my good friend Kent Glass the next day but on this day I had the swim all to myself and I chose to fish the spot where I would usually set up as I know the layout of the river bottom there pretty well and I could get the rods in the water straight away without any messing about at all.
The set ups for the day were 3oz inline method feeders and as I was using braid I added two foot or so of sink tubing to prevent any possible fish damage, I thought using this tubing would also help me out in protecting the braid from being cut if a Carp hit any of the various snags that I knew I would eventually encounter.
Bait wise I brought my ever faithful non flavored crack corn method mix (see Brummie Bri's Cracked It! article for the recipe) and also a flavored grit pack bait. After checking the dam release schedules on the river for the day I intentionally made these mixes up a little stiffer than usual as I knew there might be some undercurrent to combat and stiffening the mixes up with extra quick oats or instant grits would prevent it from washing away instantly downstream. I decided to use these both together by first putting a small amount of method on the feeder and then covering it up with the grits to give off a type of underlay/overlay effect boilies. The presentation this gave when I tested its breakdown in the water looked like a meal no carp could resist.
My hook baits again from previous experience here were boilies from Venture baits and I would usually try a rod with hair rigged maize just to test the waters but the carp here seem to favor the boillies more so I jumped in with both feet and set all rods up with 20mm pineapples hair rigged onto venom X2 size 4 hooks which were tied to seven inches of super mantis. I also stripped back some of the mantis coating for a combi link effect.
After 30 minutes into the session I had my first run of the day and just from the sheer power in its initial run I was having to hold the rod with both hands I knew it was a good one but the fish preceded in taking me into a snag and as usual once you are in there is no way out and so the inevitable cut off happened…so much for the anti snag tubing idea, eh!
During the morning I had managed a couple of nice mid 20’s including a long torpedo of a male which battled me for what seemed an eternity, I unfortunately lost a couple more along the way. But the big one I yearned for was still a no show and the wind had picked up and changed direction and with that the bites I was getting ended swiftly. This did not bode well for me so I started thinking about a rig change and some way to entice a big fish in the dying hours of the session. Now I know big baits do not mean big fish as I have caught a fair few big fish on a single grain of maize in the past but I was getting desperate and I figured it was time to go a little extreme.
I do not usually use pop ups but I remembered that I had a few 20mm Scopex flavored pop ups left in my back pack that Karl Haymer from Scorpion Tackle gave me to test last year, these pop ups were very buoyant and the only way for them to work was with two 20mm boilies to counter balance the pop up so I thought why not ! and proceeded to set up a greedy pig rig.
The one thing about this place is the smallest difference can make the biggest difference when the weather changes and so I started to chop and change to different flavored boilies and added boilie crumble to the method but alas nothing I tried worked ,However I was getting bites on the rod with the pig rig on but nothing solid enough for a hookup. This kept happening and after the frustration of striking into thin air a few times I finally figured out why.
|Venture Baits are available Exclusively from Scorpion Tackle|
You see I usually bury my hook into my ball of method/grits on the feeder because I like my hook bait to be in the middle of the method or pack bait once it has settled on the bottom and I did this with the pig rig but burying a heavy rig like this made the weight on the feeder uneven and from testing it in the small cove close to me I found that it was burying the hook under the feeder every time on the river bottom and so it would have been virtually impossible to have caught anything like that .So with this in mind instead of burying the hook in the method /grit pack I left the hook length hanging down “as is” and covered the hook with a PVA nugget to prevent any possible dulling of the hook point when it reached the stony bottom of the river.
Within 20 minutes of casting it out this way I had a nice steady run and it felt like a good fish on the end so I tried to baby it in as best as I could but also to be mindful as I’m a newcomer to using braid and I did not want a hook pull from having my clutch on the reel set too tight and also of coarse if it veered to my right and found any of those dreadful snags it was game over. Luckily for me though after a few scary moments around the said area this brute moved to the left and it came to the top water pretty far out ,this fish was starting to tire some after a bit of give and take but I kept the pressure on and it slowly started to come towards the bank . For one heart stopping moment the fish got spooked by the landing net and bolted off however this was short lived and the fish came back to the top pretty quickly ready to be netted.
So once I broke the net down and had a peek in I knew she was a definite thirty just from seeing the girth on her so with haste I carried the fish up to the mat. I then slipped her into the sling, weighed and called her in at 36lb 3 oz !.This was a very special capture for me as I have caught nothing over 34lb in two years and with 30 minutes left to pack up for the day too it certainly was mission accomplished and a very memorable capture which I was also able to get to keep on video too for a great keepsake of the moment.
The next day I met up with Kent and we had a good day catching a fair few “twennys” but nothing over that 30lb mark for me, but the banter and the good weather that we had was just as good a feeling as my previous days result and so after returning back from the old country my fishing was declared over for a while due to a Ripley’s “ believe or not” fishing related injury but the glorious Tennessee river has not seen the last of this chubby bloke from Birmingham that’s for sure!