Capt. Ethan Hamrick
Call or Text 727-242-1672

Outcasts Tournament: Lake Arbuckle March 2020

Our fourth tournament of the season was held on Lake Arbuckle in Frostproof, Florida. The shallow lake stretches about five miles long and is made up of only 3,828 acres. This may seem large but is pretty small compared to many of the other lakes we’ve fished this year.


My grandpa and I had one full day to pre-fish the lake and do our best to locate some bass. We had a very slow start to our practice, landing only two bass in the first five hours of fishing. Low water levels and a strong north wind didn’t help our situation and made it difficult to navigate and fish most of the lake. That afternoon, we decided to stay on the north end of the lake, where it was a lot calmer and where we didn’t have to fight the wind as much.

I used a soft-plastic ZOOM lizard to probe some isolated lily pads near the launch. Within the first thirty minutes, I picked up nearly ten strikes in one small area of pads. This quick string of bites told me that there were a lot of bass in the area and that we needed to start the tournament in that location.

My grandpa and I decided to vacate that spot and do some more searching on the north end of the lake. We ended up finding one other place that seemed to be holding quite a few bass, also not far from the ramp. There, we caught a few decent fish flipping soft-plastic lizards and senkos into and around bulrush reeds and scattered lily pads.

We left that area and explored new water the remainder of the day, but never found anymore fish. However, we’d had a decent practice day and knew of a couple areas holding a number of fish. The two of us had high hopes going into the following day’s tournament.

Tournament Day

The next morning, my grandpa and I began the competition in the first area we’d located fish the day prior. We started getting bites almost right away. The two of us used soft-plastic lizards to quickly catch our five fish limit and began culling by 7:30am.

We caught fish consistently throughout the morning and steadily improved our total weight. Nothing too big, but by 11:30am, we’d caught over twenty bass and our best five weighed almost twelve pounds. After lunch, we went without a bite for a little more than an hour.

Around 1 o’clock that afternoon, my grandpa picked up a swim jig and quickly got two or three decent bites on it. A soft-plastic lizard just wasn’t getting those big bass to strike. So, I decided to pick up a swim jig as well and began slowly working them through the isolated lily pads.

Not even five minutes later, I made a long cast to a small patch of pads out in front of the boat. As the bait sank to the bottom, I felt a super light tap and set the hook. Initially, it felt like I’d just hook the pad stem. However, seconds later, a large bass breached the surface, shaking its head violently. I battled the fish to the boat and my grandpa netted it as soon as it was within reach. The fish weighed just over five and a half pounds and was a significant upgrade to our weight total.

That fish was the turning point of the day. Just getting a big bite on a swim jig was the sign we needed to stick with that bait the rest of the tournament. It turned out to be the right decision.

Thirty minutes later, I landed another big bass out of a different patch of pads not far away. This fish weighed nearly six pounds and gave us a real chance at having a high finish in the tournament. I caught a few more small fish within the next hour that didn’t help our cause.

Then, with about ten minutes left to fish before weigh in, I pitched my jig to another clump of isolated pads. As the bait fell to the bottom, a fish thumped it and I set the hook. It was a near three pounderand a small upgrade. On my very next cast to the same set of pads, another fish inhaled the lure, this one a four and a half pounder. When that fish hit the deck of the boat, I had a feeling that we had just secured the victory.  

We made a short putt over to the launch, where weight-in began shortly after. The clutch last minute catch had put my grandpa and I over the twenty-pound mark! We weighed in 21.27 pounds of bass and took home the victory on Lake Arbuckle, our first win of the season! After several average tournaments earlier in the year, I felt good to get that first victory out of the way!

What Worked

We caught fish on three main baits at Lake Arbuckle. A Texas rigged soft-plastic ZOOM Lizard (this one here) was our primary lure throughout practice and most of the tournament. We also caught a few bass on a Texas rigged Yum Dinger, which is a senko style bait.

June bug and black and blue seemed to be the color patterns that produced the most bites. The water in Lake Arbuckle is stained and darker colors give off a larger silhouette than lighter colors, so they tend to excel in murky water.

Then, of course, we caught our winning fish on a black and blue Strike King Tour Grade Swim Jig, paired with a black and blue Strike King Rage Tail Craw as a trailer. This deadly combo is super versatile, can be fished a variety of different ways and catches fish year-round. Whether fishing around grass, rocks, or timber, skipping boat docks, or working isolated pads and reeds, you can’t go wrong with a swim jig!

The main cover my grandpa and I focused on was scattered, isolated lily pads over a hard, sandy bottom in 2-5 feet of water. Isolated cover is simply cover separated from other cover in the lake. Bass like hanging around isolated cover because it is something different then most of the other cover in the lake.

What Didn’t Work

Nearly everything went right for my grandpa and I during this tournament. We executed our game plan well and caught all three of the big bites we got. Big bites are often few and few between, so it’s important to take advantage of those bites and catch them when they occur. Fortunately, we did just that!

Back to You

As always, thank you so much for reading the latest tournament recap! I hope these techniques help you put more bass in the boat on your next outing this spring.

If you compete in fishing tournaments of any kind, please feel free to leave a comment down below. Let us know where you’re fishing and how your doing. We’d love to hear from you.

Happy fishing, and keep your hooks wet!


2 Responses

  1. We’re knowing this was a great weekend for you and ya Grandpa.
    Congratulations on your tournament win !
    More to come fro sure🤗

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