How Bernie Schultz missed cut; made BIG Day 2 rebound at Elite tourney on Cherokee
“There was no mechanical failure,” said Bernie Schultz, discussing the reason he zeroed on Day 1 of the recent Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Cherokee Lake.
“I made a lure change,” said Schultz explaining how he weighed-in over 17 pounds on Day 2.
That weight would have put him in the Top 5 on the first day. After a dismal practice and fruitless first round, Schultz made the right adjustment. It was a classic case of ‘too little, too late’ as he still missed the cut.
“I caught more weight that one day than I did in three days of practice, combined. And I was sticking everything I could in practice so I could gauge their size.”
It was some limited success early in the practice process that lead Schultz down the wrong path, as far as lure selection was concerned. Cherokee’s rock strewn drop-offs and jade depths suggested a jerkbait. “You couldn’t build a better-looking jerkbait fishery. The structure was beautiful. I really like the lake; the way it lays out, the way it looks. I caught two 4-pounders really quickly on a jerkbait the first day of practice. That and a swimbait were the only deal I had going. I tried to force that on them the first day of the tournament and I believe I was fishing below the fish.”
While many top finishers caught smallmouth in depths of 20-to-30 feet, Schultz says there was also a strong shallow bite. His fish were positioned on the bank, therefore, he was actually fishing too deep with the jerkbait and swimbait.
During his productive 2nd round Schultz turned to a lure that has produced for him from coast to coast across the seasons. “I tied-on a Rapala DT6 crankbait. I caught them in about that depth – 6 feet – but that bait will actually run deeper.” Schultz used the ‘Disco Shad’ color. “It’s one of Ike’s Custom Ink colors.”
Randall Tharp and Ott DeFoe were among those who ran up the river to fish the shallow pattern. Schultz did so right down by the dam. The pattern was solid from end to end along the lake so Schultz opted to work it where others did not. “It was well-known that the bite was ‘on’ up the river so I decided to go shallow but to do so down-lake just because there were far fewer boats fishing that way down there.”
It was a solid game plan. When he put it all together it worked. Could he have gone the distance with a better start? “I don’t know. It wasn’t a huge, heroic thing, I tell you. I just ground-out 6 bites on the 2nd day and the fish in that lake tend to weigh about 3 pounds apiece. Cherokee is full of healthy fish.”
Schultz looks forward to the next Elite event on Okeechobee in a couple of weeks. It will be the polar opposite of what we just saw in so many ways.
But on Cherokee, Schultz can take pride in having made a good call on Day 2.