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Grand Lake Elite Series

Chris Koester (Non-Boater) – Day 3
Saturday, June 3, 2006

> Day 1: 3, 7-14
> Day 2: 3, 8-07
> Day 3: 3, 10-01
> Total = 9, 26-06 (1st)

Man, this is great. Honestly, I know it sounds a little anti-climactic, but it's a relief more than anything. I felt like I could win this thing, and I needed to win it. I told my wife I'd be real disappointed with anything less than a Top 3, but I really needed to win.

And it couldn't have come at a better time. We're in the process of moving from North Carolina to Arkansas. The kids and my wife are still living there in North Carolina, but I'm in Rogers, working and going back and forth. It costs $600 in gas round-trip, and we're as broke as we've been since I graduated from college.

I signed up for this tournament a while back. I couldn't fish the full FLW Tour season, but I wanted to fish something. So I signed up for two Elite Series – this one and Table Rock.

So I wasn't fishing for points – I was fishing to win. And it was actually really bad timing. The week before this started, I'd wished I hadn't signed up. We were trying to get our house sold, and everything was a disaster. But they had my entry fees.

So I came in and really took it pretty seriously.

> He won a Triton TR20 with a Mercury OptiMax 200, Lowrance electronics and MotorGuide trolling motor.

> Details of his winning pattern will be posted soon.

John Murray – Day 3
Saturday, June 3, 2006

> Day 1: 5, 14-15
> Day 2: 5, 14-10
> Day 3: 5, 13-05
> Total = 15, 42-14 (13th)

I'm real happy with 13th place, actually. I never really lost anything today that would have got me in the cut, but it was really more yesterday – not culling that little spot – that hurt more than anything.

I missed the cut by 10 or 11 ounces, and had one dead fish, which would have put me 6 ounces out.

I'd been catching them deep on dropshot, but today I fished shallower brushpiles in about 15 feet. I used a 7-inch Roboworm in margarita mutilator and oxblood, with 8-pound Sunline Sniper.

I don't think too many guys were dropshotting. It was a really good technique today, because it was calm and sunny. A lot of guys who were cranking didn't get the wind. But I wanted it warm, calm and sunny, and I finally got it. That was perfect.

From here I'm flying to Phoenix, then heading to Kentucky lake a week from Saturday. I'll have some time at home. Plus, I have an order of Roboworms and some weights coming in – I have to restock. I'll carry it back on the plane.

Chris Koester (Non-Boater) – Day 2
Friday, June 2, 2006

I fished with Florida pro Steve Daniel today. He's well known as one of the best jerkbait fishermen on the Tour, and he has a reputation for making it work everywhere. He spent most of the day keying on the jerkbait bite he found in practice, and we spent pretty much the entire day fishing either points or docks.

I mostly threw a shakey-head behind him today, and managed to mop up a few keepers that way. I only caught five keepers today, but I was fortunate that two of them were good-quality fish. One around 4 pounds, and one close to 3 pounds. I lost two fish that probably would have helped me - I broke off a fish on a wacky-rigged Net Bait finesse worm on a dock, and I lost a nice fish on a Tru-Tungsten jig in a brushpile.

That was the only keeper bite I had on the Tru-Tungsten jig today, but that jig really saved my rear yesterday. That's the technique that I alluded to in yesterday's report.

I caught my two biggest fish on it yesterday, several other keepers and a bunch of short fish. And this was on a spot where I couldn't even buy a bite on a shakey-head.

It's the best jig I've ever fished. It was designed and named after Jason Quinn, who was generous enough to give me a pile of them last night because I was scared to death I might run out.

My three fish weighed 8-07 today, giving me 16-05 for the tournament. I'm in 5th place. Co-angler weights are pretty tight except for one guy who has 20 pounds, which is about 3 pounds more than the next guy down the list.

I'm not going to worry about him or anyone else - it's way too easy for a co-angler to go out and have a bad day, a bad draw, have nerves get to him or whatever else. I'm going to go out and do my thing, and I think I have a legitimate shot at winning this thing.

I got a great draw for tomorrow - none other than Ike himself. I've always wanted to fish with the guy - he's the hottest fisherman on the planet right now, and his fishing style matches mine: patience and a healthy mix of finesse and power techniques.

He was fishing some of the same areas we were fishing today, so I know exactly what he's doing. In fact, he caught most of his weight today from the exact same spot where I caught my 4-pounder.

The way he's fishing should give me at least a chance at a good sack. I've just got to go get the job done.

I'm a little concerned about spectator traffic - Ike had 15 to 20 boats watching him at times today. Tomorrow's Saturday and the forecast is for hot and sunny weather. It might be a real carnival out there.

Should be interesting.

John Murray – Day 2
Friday, June 2, 2006

The bite's been good. I've been real consistent as far as catching them.

I started out in the mornings throwing a Rico topwater, trying to catch a good one, then I go right to the dropshot – a 7-inch Roboworm on brushpiles in 8 to 15 feet of water.

After that, then I move out deep and dropshot in 20 to 25 feet of water. Each day I've caught one almost 5 pounds that way – out deep. And both days I've tried to keep that going and it's died on me. I end up having to go to the bank to fish shallow in the afternoon.

I'm going to start deep tomorrow – get out there pretty early. I don't know if they've been pulling water, but the deeper bite's been better in the morning. So I'll switch it up. Now (after the cut) you just have to go for a big bag.

Jarrett Edwards – Day 2
Friday, June 2, 2006

Today was one of those days when everything just goes wrong. At about 11:00 my non-boater catches his fourth keeper and goes to start culling. Problem was, he opened my livewell and threw out my 2-pounder. I caught him just before he dumped his fish in my well.

I was furious inside. This week has been tough enough – I don't need anybody throwing my fish away. Life goes on and I said a special prayer to catch another keeper, and as fate had it, I was fortunate enough to do so.

I started on bluff walls near the dam slow-rolling a 1/2-ounce shad-color Tru-Tungstenspinnerbait. This pattern was great and I caught several keeper spots and largemouths on it.

My boat would sit in 50 to 70 feet of water and the spots and blacks would suspend, chasing shad every so often. I also caught a few small fish on a Luhr-Jensen PJ Pop topwater popper. I had to twitch it extremely fast to get a solid reaction bite.

My gear this week for the reaction baits were St. Croix Legend tournament rods (7-foot, medium-action), matched with 30-pound PowerPro braided line. The water was pretty stained here and the no-stretch line matched with a medium-action rod was ideal for hooking those topwater bass on those long casts.

This is the second tournament in a row where I've finished low in the standings. Mentally, I feel myself falling in a slump and I'm not sure how I can fish my way out of it. I started the season off great, making $30,000 in the first three events. Then a mediocre finish at Guntersville and now two butt whoopins in a row.

I'm learning a great deal though. For example, here on Grand Lake many of the top finishers are fishing jigs on the chunk-rock banks and points near the mouths of major creeks. The bite is pretty mushy and my buddy caught them great today doing just that. Lessons learned.

I have to keep telling myself that I'm only 26 years old and that many veterans have been fishing these lakes for that long. I need to be more patient with success – it'll come.

Tomorrow Rebecca and I will head down to Tulsa and attend the company BBQ for Lowrance Electronics. It'll be good to see everybody, and then we're off to the Bassmaster weigh-in to work for our sponsors. I'll be hanging around the expo. Stop by and say hello.

Until Kentucky Lake, good fishing and safe boating.

Jarrett Edwards – Day 1
Friday, June 2, 2006

Today was a tough day for me. The weather was overcast and I chose to keep with the Yamamoto Kreature bait instead of throwing the topwater. They slayed them on top today.

I caught over 30 bass but only had five keepers. My non-boater was a great guy and he had a limit dragging a 6-inch lizard behind a Carolina rig.

Tomorrow the weather is supposed to be bright and sunny and I believe that will toughen the bite quite a bit. I'll need 15 pounds tomorrow to be fishing on Saturday. That's not an easy thing to do but it can be done.

Tomorrow I'll throw a Luhr-Jensen topwater and then slow down and fish vertical walls with a 3 1/2-inch tubebait. I hope to catch 'em.

Chris Koester (Non-Boater) – Day 1
Friday, June 2, 2006

I was paired with California pro Mike Reynolds for the day. He started out with a topwater bait, and got some early activity on it. It was difficult for me to fish behind at first, because of the way he was approaching the water, and I struggled early. However, it seemed I couldn't even get bit when I had good opportunities to do so.

Reynolds slowly put together a limit, but lost a couple of nice fish in the process - one jumped off and I got a good look at it, it was easily over 6 pounds. We quickly dialed in to one specific area and piece of structure that fish seemed to be relating to while they chased bait.

We got topwater bites off and on most of the day, but it was hit and miss (literally) because the fish were not eating the baits well.

I finally put a keeper in the livewell on a topwater, then another small keeper with a dropshot. We were both wading through quite a few short fish to find fish over 14 inches. I continued to experiment throughout the day, trying to find something that would catch keeper fish with some consistency.

I finally found it. I started whacking the fish with pretty decent authority once I figured it out, and managed to cull three or four times. One of my fish was really nice, easily over 4 pounds. For now, I'll keep the bait and technique to myself, but if it continues to produce, I'll share it with you guys in my day 3 report.

I finished the day with my three-fish limit weighing 7-14, good for 11th place. Weights are stacked very tightly, as can be expected with the three-fish limit.

I'm paired with Florida pro Steve Daniel tomorrow. I've fished with him before, and he's a great draw. I think I'll at least have a shot at another limit tomorrow, but the forecast has things looking a lot tougher than today.

Chris Koester (Non-Boater) – Practice
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

As usual, I brought my own boat to this event for the official practice. I actually skipped the first practice day – it was Memorial Day and it was hot and sunny - I knew the recreational contingent would be out in full force. I didn't want to deal with the traffic, and I recently broke the butt seat in my boat and haven't replaced it yet, so I just would have ended up in the lake.

Since BASS Elite rules state that co-anglers cannot provide any fishing information to the pros at all, my focus for this event is just to get bites in a variety of different areas, depths and water quality, rather than attempting to identify any specific productive areas.

My practice was decent. I have a pretty good idea what I want to do regardless of what kind of water my pro puts me in. Shakey-head worms and jigs have both been pretty decent for me overall. I've gotten a lot of dropshot bites, too, but almost all short fish. I haven't managed to get into any numbers of topwater fish, but it appears lots of fish are suspended and feeding on bait. Some topwater action will no doubt come into play for some people in this tourney.

Based on what I've seen so far, I think the fishing will be pretty good for the tourney - I think we'll see some 20-pound sacks on the pro side. Shallow vs. deep is a tough call, I think the pro side could be won either way - or with a combination of the two. Probably depends on the weather and/or water levels.

Jarrett Edwards – Practice
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Wow, what a few long weeks it's been. Becca and I went to Texas to work the Bassmaster Major. The show turned out awesome and it was great to see Peter T. show off a quarter-million-dollar check. It's great seeing the sport at that level. Most anglers go home for their time off, but living out West makes for a long drive home, even if it's for a few weeks.

After my butt-whooping at Clarks Hill I've been looking forward to getting here at Grand Lake O' the Cherokees. I've always heard good things about the lake and always wanted a chance to tear her apart. Well, the last few days the lake's been getting me good.

The bite has been tough on me. Monday I caught a few small keepers on a Carolina-rigged Yamamoto lizard up the river, but I've not been able to duplicate it much. Today I fished near the dam and tried to catch some of those keeper spots on finesse gear.

I caught a lot of small fish on a Luhr-Jensen 1/8-ounce Speed Trap – retrieving it extremely fast in the stained water. Truth is I'm scared for another repeat of the last event. Somehow I'm going downhill in the point standings – post-spawn fishing is definitely my weakness. I'd better find something fast if I plan on catching up this event.

I've received many emails from Bass Fans concerning our ESPN interview last week on BassCenter, and also my latest front cover of Bass West USA magazine. Thanks for the emails of encouragement concerning my plans for our cancer foundation. We're taking care of the legal work and will be able to officially announce plans this fall. Wish me luck, I'll need it.

John Murray – Practice
Wednesday, May 31, 2006

This seems like sort of a warm-up for Champlain because the fishing's been real good. What you always hear about Grand is that you can do whatever you want to do to catch them. That's pretty much what I've found.

From flipping willows to fishing deep structure, I've been able to catch fish. And some nice ones – 3-pound fish. I've had lots of 2- to 3-pound fish, but nothing over 3 1/2 pounds. I'm mostly catching largemouths and a few spots.

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