BY DAVE LINK
Chase McCarter and Ty Trentham of the Sevier County Anglers finally figured out the bite at Dale Hollow Lake on April 29 during the final stop of the Tennessee Bass Nation’s North Central Division trail.
They had success in other tournaments along the same trail in Middle Tennessee, but not Dale Hollow.
Until their most recent visit.
“We like those lakes up there,” Trentham said. “We don’t really care as much for Dale Hollow, but we did real good this last time. That’s the first time we’ve even caught a limit there. We’ve caught three fish at most.”
This time, they were able to cull a 1.5-pounder – Trentham caught a 3.31-pound largemouth in the afternoon – on their way to a second-place finish with five bass weighing 15.05 pounds.
It was a sweet weigh-in after their previous trips to Dale Hollow.
“The past few times we’ve been there it’s been rough,” McCarter said. “We’ve just caught a fish here and there. It’s not been all that great, but we seemed to hit the nail on the head this time.”
Zack Knight and Peter West of Gallatin Fishing won with five bass weighing 17.03 pounds, including a 3.81-pounder.
Eli Myers and Holden Harris of Grundy County Fishing were third (five bass, 15.04 pounds, 4.75-pounder) and Elijah Hamilton and Johnathan Welch of East Hickman Fishing were fourth (five bass, 13.67 pounds, 3.62 pounds).
Alcoa Fishing Team’s Jackie Hatfield and Graham Willis were 13th with five bass weighing 12.25 pounds, including a 2.84-pounder.
McCarter and Trentham finished second in the North Central points standings, which should propel them into the 2023 Bassmaster High School National Championships in August.
It’s familiar territory for the two juniors at Sevier County High School.
Trentham and McCarter posted a fourth-place finish out of 314 teams last Aug. 11-14 in the Bassmaster Nationals on Lake Hartwell in Anderson, South Carolina.
“We’re going back to the same place,” Trentham said.
They’ve got lots of fishing before then, though.
And momentum from the Dale Hollow finish carried into Saturday (May 6) when McCarter and Trentham made the trip to Old Hickory Lake in Nashville for the Tennessee Bass Nation’s Central Division Championship.
They posted a fourth-place finish with the five-bass limit weighing 12.85-pounds, including a 3.62 pounder.
The Sevier County duo aren’t the only high finishers in the North Central points race.
Hatfield and Willis were 10th, while James Lane and Jackson Daugherty of Kingston Fishing were 13th and Harlyn Nelson and Jake Lovingood of Alcoa Fishing were 16th.
TECHNIQUES AT DALE HOLLOW
Trentham and McCarter didn’t get lucky at Dale Hollow to reverse their negative trend from past trips. They changed what they were doing.
“I think we’ve grown since last year,” McCarter said. “We’ve become better finesse fishermen. In that lake, you have to know what you’re going to do.
“If you try to shallow fish and power fish there, you’re not going to do that great. We came to the realization that we need to finesse fish. That’s what we did different this time. We’d been power fishing, and it just didn’t work. The water’s clear, and they’re a lot smarter than your average fish.”
McCarter said the water’s been so clear at Dale Hollow he could see the lake bottom in 18 feet of water.
And the bass are wary.
Thus, finesse fishing may be better.
“Finesse fishing, we usually fish with some kind of worm or slow technique, something real natural they would feed on,” McCarter said. “Power fishing’s more of a reaction, kind of like a cat-and-a-mouse deal, like it’s just their instinct to jump out and bite a lure, whereas finesse fishing’s more they analyze the lure and they bite it.
“The reaction style baits are all your power fishing; they kind of bite it out of instinct. Sometimes they’re not that hungry. And most of the water on Dale Hollow is real clear, and they’re just a lot harder to get to react to a lot of the lures. You have to trick ’em into thinking they’re actually eating something real.”
All five of their bass were largemouth, caught in shallow water using plastic worms on shaky head jigs.
“We threw it on the bank and pulled back, honestly, but we were catching all of our fish in like 6 to 12 foot,” said Trentham.
Trentham said two factors were in their favor this time at Dale Hollow.
“One, it just lined up because of what time of year it was,” he said. “It fishes similar to Douglas this time of year I think in a way. Some of them are on beds still and some of them just came off, and they were just set up how we knew how to catch them. Another reason is we’ve always tried to power fish and fish aggressive there, and this time we changed it up to more of a finesse approach, and I think that really helped us there too because it’s just such a clear lake.”
LANDING THE BIG ONE
When they landed Trentham’s 3.31-pounder and could cull the 1.50-pounder, it was the difference between second place and seventh place in the final standings.
“We were really looking for that last fish,” Trentham said.
He found it on a gnarly bank.
“It was on a pretty steep bank in a creek,” Trentham said. “There were a lot of rocks and a brush pile down there. When I hooked it, I set the hook and it didn’t move. I knew it was a fish.”
That’s not what McCarter thought.
“Chase said, ‘That ain’t no fish,’” Trentham said. “And I held it there, and the rod tip just barely surged. I was like, ‘Get the net, it’s a fish.’
“We went over there to get it out, and when we started heading that way, it swam out of the brush pile and I saw it roll down there on the rocks. It really frayed my line up and I thought it was going to break me off, but when I got it up to the boat, it really didn’t fight as much.”
Once McCarter netted the big bass, the two headed back for weigh-in – and by far their best finish at Dale Hollow.
“I honestly don’t even know if we’ve got a top 15 before this,” Trentham said. “It’s always been real hard for us.”
MIDDLE SCHOOL AT DALE HOLLOW
Carson Everley and Gunner Robbins of Upperman Junior Fishing won the middle-school division at Dale Hollow, landing the five-bass limit weighing 15.79 pounds, including a 3.37-pounder.
Jaxen White and Kale Trobaugh of Clay County Junior Anglers were second (five bass, 15.48 pounds, 3.19-pounder), and Aiden Perry and Ethan Morris of Gallatin Junior Bass were third (five bass, 12.76 pounds, 3.05-pounder).