From The Back Deck With Daniel McElrath - Old Hickory Lake

My experience with Old Hickory Lake, outside Nashville, was limited to staring at it for about 30 minutes before the commencing of the tournament. It looked pretty enough. How it fished, I had no idea. Fortunately, for the first day I had been teamed with Gary Clouse, president of Phoenix Boats, who lives close to the Cumberland River impoundment and fishes it regularly.

Not knowing what to expect in my first P.A.A. and fishing on an unfamiliar lake, I had brought a wide selection of tackle. As a full-time co-angler, I have to be prepared to fish virtually any technique, fearing none. I was ready to fish virtually anything except deep-diving crankbaits.

"We'll be deep most of the day, fishing crankbaits," said Clouse.


I carried only two deep-divers, both for show. They were different colors of the same model and were there mostly so I could tell myself I was "ready for anything."


The tournament began very late by bass tourney standards. Gary hightailed it to a shallow point and boated two keepers in the sparse grass on a Spook. Then topwater time was over.

"I think we started right at the tail-end of the topwater bite," said Clouse. "Anyone who was relying on topwater is in trouble."

We then headed out to deep water where we stayed the rest of the day, throwing heavy (3/4-ounce) jigs and deep-diving crankbaits.

Gary soon informed me that my brand and model of crankbait dove only about 10 feet, though it is advertised and reputed to run much deeper. He was kind enough to offer me the use of some of his, but I declined, perhaps unwisely. That was partly because he had more at stake, and partly because I'm mule stubborn.

The fish wouldn't touch a jig, but Gary was able to scratch out a limit on crankbaits. Prior to that day, I had never caught a fish on a deep-diver. That hasn't changed.

My second day partner was Bobby Lane. It was a good thing I had bought the kitchen sink with me. While Clouse had spent the bulk of the day in 20 to 25 feet of water, I don't think Lane ever had us in more than 3 to 4 feet.

We beat the grass with swim jigs, bladed swim jigs, buzzbaits, soft-plastic flip baits and frogs.

Lane works in close, right on top of cover, even casting at what others would consider pitching distance. Hell, he began his retrieve with a frog where I would have ended mine. His walk-the-dog was a marvel of fine, tight manipulations, maximizing the very active frog's time in one place.

We both had strikes on flip baits (I missed mine), then Lane settled on a buzzbait. I followed behind with a Chatterbait, finally hooking up after two days of frustration.


My two boaters were a study in contrasts, with one working deep, open water and the other weed-filled shallows. Clouse inspired me to invest in different models of crankbaits and to keep throwing them when I know the fish are there. In deep water, I'll pick up a jig in a heartbeat, but there was a time long ago when I didn't have faith that lure, either.

Fishing with Lane actually made me feel better about my technique. I don't get to practice pitching/flipping much with my bass club as we fish a lot of spotted bass lakes. Lane is one of the premier pitchers/flippers on tour. It was reassuring to notice we frequently reached for the same rigs at the same time. Moreover, I could often hit the same targets. Oh, not as consistently, not as precisely and certainly not as quietly, but I was in the neighborhood.

Okay, one tournament, one fish. Not a great start, but we learn by doing. And the next stop is Neely Henry, a lake I've actually fished before. Wouldn't miss it for the world.

Get Your Fish On.

Plan your next fishing and boating adventure here.

Recommended for You

Other Hunting

New Gear: MidwayUSA Competition Range Bag

G&F Staff

Perfect for competition or a day at the range.


Get Ready for Summer with Cordova Coolers

May 23, 2019

Memorial Day sale offers 15 percent off everything website-wide.

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Berkley's Surge Shad

Major League Fishing pro Scott Suggs has relied on the Berkley Surge Shad lure concept for years, using similar designs to capture MLF titles and a $1 million dollar FLW Forrest Cup win. With new features in the Surge Shad, Suggs tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead that even he can find success out on the water!

Costa and Captains for Clean Water

With the company's heavy involvement in initiatives like Kick the Plastic and Captains for Clean Water campaigns, Costa's Amanda Sabin tells OSG's Lynn Burkhead all about the sunglass maker's unwavering commitment to help the freshwater and saltwater environment.

13 Fishing Pathfinder Weedless Walking Bait

Fresh off catching the biggest bass in ICAST Cup history, 13 Fishing pro Jessie Mizell shows OSG's Lynn Burkhead the new Big Squirm soft plastic worm and the company's unique Pathfinder topwater walking bait that is totally weedless in design.

See more Popular Videos

Trending Stories


10 Best Long-Range Cartridges Ever Made

David Hart - January 14, 2015

Want to test the outer limits of your shooting skill? There's more to successful long-range


Find and Fish Bluegill Beds Efficiently

Terry Madewell - May 22, 2019

You can catch bluegill faster with these strategies.

Other Freshwater

3 Deadly Bait Rigs For Stripers

J.B. Kasper - April 21, 2005

The colder waters of early spring are prime times to use bait rigs for stripers.

See More Stories

More Bass


3 Pro Picks for Post-Spawn Bass

Pete M. Anderson - May 31, 2019

MLF pros Josh Bertrand, Dave Lefebre and Andy Montgomery share their choices.


Baitfish for Bass: Search, Suspend or Sink Crankbaits

Jason Houser - May 21, 2019

Crankbaits mimic exactly what they eat when hungry — other fish!


Topwater Lures, Tactics for Summer Bass

Ronnie Garrison - June 24, 2019

Here's how you choose the best topwater baits and where, when and how to fish them.

See More Bass

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Temporary Price Reduction


Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services


GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.