The Harris Chain of Lakes is a great tournament location because it entails so many different variables that go into an angler’s day. The entire chain is made up of nine lakes that are connected by two locks and canals that range from a few minute idle to 30 minute idles. This makes time management crucial throughout the tournament and can really rattle an anglers head if they make a bad decision. The fishing overall though is typical Florida grass fishing with the hardest part finding a group of fish when the majority of the cover all appears similar.
I fished the Harris Chain in January for the BASS Southern Open and spent the majority of my time on Griffin since it fished the way I like to and was by far the most productive. The only problem was that I lost almost four hours of fishing to get there and didn’t have enough time to compile a good stringer and finished in the middle of the pack. So this time around I really wanted to fish closer to take off and maximize my fishing time. Therefore, I chose to practice in Harris and Eustis knowing I had Griffin as a fall back. The only problem was after three days of practice I still felt like I hadn’t uncovered much and that Griffin gave me the best chance at a big bag.
The first day of the tournament I was an early boat draw and because of this decided to start close on a couple of bed fish I had found. I had two that were about 2 ½ lbs. and one that was over 5 lbs. within a 50 yard stretch of docks. I felt like with the short day if I could start on those bed fish and catch them I would stay in Harris all day and then go to Griffin the second day of the tournament. Unfortunately, I was beat by one other boat, John Cox, to my big bed fish. So I started on one of my other two and quickly caught it. I then moved to the other bed fish and quickly caught it as well. This gave me two for about five lbs. John Cox left the 5 pounder while I was fishing the other beds so I went to see if it was still there. It wasn’t so I figure Cox caught it considering he had 25 lbs. on day 1. I then caught the small buck male that was there and just went fishing. I spent the rest of the day mixing up a swim jig and a Senko fishing pads, Kissimmee grass and docks. I caught probably a dozen keepers but nothing over three pounds. By the end of the day I had 12 lbs. 8 oz. and was in 65th place.
On day two, I decided to start in Harris again. I had found and lost another spawner the first day that I wanted to go back to and catch. I didn’t know how big it was but I thought it was over three pounds and felt if I could catch it, it would be a good way to start the day. Of course it didn’t go as planned. I wasn’t able to catch the bed fish and never saw it. I then decided to fish around a little in an area I had fished the first day and wound up catching a couple of decent keepers. At this point, since we were delayed at takeoff by an hour because of fog I ruled out Lake Griffin and just continued to fish around on Harris. I filled out a small limit by 11:00 AM and then went back to the spawner I started on. This time he was there and I caught it. He was smaller than I thought at 2 ½ lbs. but was still a nice upgrade. At about 1:00 I started putting the pieces together and was finding other spawners on the main lake. I couldn’t see them but knew how they were setting up that they were on beds. Over the course of the next two hours I drove around the lake looking for similar areas and when I did find one I caught fish off of them. I probably caught 6 or 7 keepers that kept culling me up but I never got that big bite. I ended up with just under 12 pounds and finished the tournament with a total of 24 lbs. 5 oz., which was good enough for 48th place and a good check.
Overall, I’m satisfied with my tournament. I really had a tough practice and scrapped most of it in the tournament. Each day I kept learning a few new pieces to the puzzle and by the end of day two felt really confident as to what I was doing. Unfortunately, I didn’t have more time to run with it and find other similar areas throughout the chain of lakes. But that’s part of the game and I’m happy I followed my instincts and stayed close allowing me to maximize my fishing time. Next up is Lake Cumberland in Kentucky in early April.