PREVIEW: Oxbows Mean Less Tackle Prep

By Rob Newell - June 13, 2018

By day five of the MLF Challenge Cup out of Vidalia-Natchez, it had become pretty evident that oxbow lakes were going to be the official playing fields for the week. For the second day in a row, Lake Bruin would be the site for Sudden Death and the cut weigh would again be 22 pounds.

Though no one in the day-five group had fished Bruin before, some were at least familiar with it.

Louisiana native Greg Hackney knew exactly where he was when the early morning caravan came to a stop at Lake Bruin State Park ramp.

“Yeah, I’ve driven right by here a thousand times, but never stopped to fish it,” said Hackney. “All I really know about it is that it’s a true Mississippi River oxbow. Those oxbows we fished the other day were from other rivers. This one was formed by the Mississippi and all that really means to me is that is should have plenty of depth. But it’s still a typical oxbow and I’m sure something will look familiar to me once I get out there and start looking around.”

“This is not a catch-enough-to-survive situation. It’s 22 pounds or go home.”

Edwin Evers had also heard of Lake Bruin.

 “I have a friend that has a lake house on one of these big oxbow lakes down here and I think this one is it,” Evers said. “If it is, I’ve heard some good things about it in the past. And with 22 pounds being the cut weight, and a front coming in, this thing could be over with pretty quick.”

Kevin VanDam agreed with Evers.

“Yeah, 22 pounds is about what I figured,” VanDam said. “And with this group, that’s going to happen fast. Sudden Death is the hardest day of the whole week in these deals. This is not a catch-enough-to-survive situation. It’s 22 pounds or go home. You better be on the right program right out of the gates. We’ve got a little wind and clouds moving in today so I’ll be looking to wind something.”

One thing the competitors have enjoyed about the oxbow experience this week is the reduction in tackle. No matter their size, source or location, oxbows almost always feature shallow-water largemouth fishing. The upshot of that for the competitors is that tackle preparation time had been reduced significantly for most of the pros during the week.

Instead of having to worry about multiple bass species, multiple cover possibilities, multiple water color options and all the thousands of other variables that call for hundreds of pounds of tackle and dozens of rods and hours of prep, tackle was a little easier for the week.

Most pros were getting by with less than 15 rods on the deck. A few flipping sticks, a squarebill or two, a vibrating jig, maybe a buzzbait and a frog in a couple of colors covered most of the bases.

Jason Christie was still relishing in his extra few minutes of free time due to less tackle stress.

“At least the tackle prep is not near as bad here,” Christie said. “I only retied one bait last night. It’s a little warmer today, so it might open up a few more options, but still, it’s not like we’re having to guard ourselves against smallmouth possibilities or fishing 20 feet deep.”

Jacob Wheeler also noted that tackle selection had been a bit easier for the oxbows.

“This type of fishing is very visual so tackle selection is pretty simple,” he said. “The first day I actually had too many rods on the deck and ended up putting some away. Having too much out in these situations can be a distraction. So sometimes being limited to certain fishery types is a good thing.”

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