QCREW: Bassmaster Elite on Lake Cherokee – One ounce short!
QCrew kicks off 2017 Elite Series season at frigid Cherokee Lake
JEFFERSON CITY, Tenn. – Qcrew Water Team members Jacob Powroznik, Stetson Blaylock and Jay Brainard knew going into the 2017 Bassmaster Elite Series opener at Lake Cherokee in East Tennessee that they might have to deal with some capricious Smoky Mountain winter weather.
Mother Nature delivered: temperatures plunged into the low-20s during tournament week, making longjohns and Primaloft as valuable as jigs and crankbaits. Welcome to the Smokies, boys.
Cherokee Lake, an impoundment of the Holston River northeast of Knoxville, was a mystery to almost all of the Elite field, including Powroznik, Blaylock and Brainard. A deep, clear mountain lake with both largemouth and smallmouth, Cherokee’s waters during tournament week settled into the mid-40s – the dictionary definition of “cold-water fishing”.
“You fish these mountain lakes like this in early February, you just know that you’re dealing with lethargic fish, and that it’s probably going to be an uncomfortable few days of fishing,” Powroznik admitted. “Things could’ve been much worse, though: it gets down into the single digits here some years, we could’ve been breaking ice off the lake.”
The key bait this time of year on Cherokee is a vertical light-line technique referred to as the “Damiki rig”: basically a small (2-inch) shad imitation rigged on a jighead with a 90-degree line tie like those favored in the Great Lakes. That presentation – which allows anglers to drop the bait vertically right onto bottom structure, where Cherokee’s smallmouth were holding – is used extensively in East Tennessee, but has been a well-kept secret otherwise.
“I fished that rig for hours and hours one practice day, and couldn’t get a bite,” Blaylock admitted. “There are just some subtleties to it that will take a little more time to figure out.”
QCrew Results: Powroznik finished 53rd at Cherokee, Blaylock finished 70th, Brainard finished 80th.
On to Okeechobee: The QCrew starts practice this weekend for the next Elite Series event, Feb. 23-26 on Florida’s famed Lake Okeechobee. Both Powrownik and Blaylock have competed on Okeechobee several times, when they were fishing the FLW Tour.