ALL-STAR UPDATE: IT’S TOUGH ON SHELBYVILLE
Story by Matt Pangrac - Photos by Matt Pangrac and Dave Rush
Decatur, IL - After one full day of practice in the books on Central Illinois’ Lake Shelbyville, one of the two fisheries selected to host Toyota Trucks All-Star Week, the concern was evident on the faces of many of the 12 competitors.
While Shelbyville has regularly surrendered five bass limits surpassing the 20 pound mark in the past, the bite has been nearly nonexistent recently. On September 8th and 9th, Shelbyville hosted a two-day Illini Division BFL tournament, and it took a grand total of 17 pounds over the two days to win.
Out of the 53 boat field, it took a total weight of 5 pounds, 5 ounces over two days to crack the top 10.
On Tuesday evening, it became apparent that the cold front that swept through the area on Monday evening and dropped the temperatures into the mid to upper 40s didn’t change the tough conditions on Shelbyville – if anything, it made things even tougher.
Here’s what some of the competitors had to say about the first and only day of practice on Illinois’ Lake Shelbyville:
“I really wish we could have a second day over there to explore a little bit more. The lake honestly drove me nuts today. It has great ledges, stumps, and standing timber. You can see that there’s flooded grass when the water is up and there’s also a lot of bait. There’s great habitat and no bass. I really don’t understand it. It’s a lake that looks like it should have a ton of fish in it, and it doesn’t.
“When you don’t have feedback from the fish, you question whether or not you’re doing the right thing. I tried covering a lot of water, but I didn’t fish a lot of outside deep stuff. I just pounded the bank and kept looking to see if the fish were in the pockets or on the main lake.
“I was pretty excited to get away from the Alabama River for a change. Most people know what happened to me on the river there, and I have a sour taste with the Alabama River so I’m just glad to be doing something different somewhere else.
“I’m hoping that the crowds are big. The fishing could be slow, but if we can have some giant crowds and have fun with that, that’ll make it all worthwhile.”
“It was really slow today. It’s a neat lake and I really had high hopes from driving around and looking at the place. I may have had two keeper bites today and two or three short bites – and that’s about it.
“I found enough areas that are within my comfort zone so that I can fill an entire day of fishing. I just have to hope that there are more fish in those areas than I saw today. The conditions today might have had them shut off a little bit.
“I talked with Randy Howell all day off and on, and he wasn’t much help either because we are both stumped. It will be interesting to see how this goes. I’d be thrilled to catch 10 pounds and take my chances on making it to Lake Decatur.
“This whole week is very exciting. You have to enjoy the limelight while you can, so it’s an honor already just to be here.
“Between Brent and me, usually one of us figures something out. Today, the lake left both of us scratching our heads. I think that we are hitting Shelbyville under the worst possible conditions right now. The wind was blowing and the worst cold front of the season just blew through.
“I don’t know how good the lake really is because I don’t have a lot of knowledge about it. The hard part is trying to figure out if you’re even around a lot of fish or if you’re not getting any bites because you’re not around them.
“Every one of these anglers is really competitive. It’s tough for everybody, so you could catch four or five pounds a day and probably make it to Lake Decatur.
“I had so many rods on the front deck today that it took me at least 15 minutes to put them all up at the end of the day. I think that I had five on the floor and about 12 rods on the deck. I might have it cut down to a total of about 12 rods on Thursday.
“The most exciting thing that happened to me was when I warmed up and quit shivering this morning because I left my heavy jacket at home. I didn’t shake anything off today, and I only had two little keepers."
“I’m going to predict at least five zeroes on Shelbyville between the 12 of us.
“You come up here to win the event, but after fishing for eight or nine hours without a bite, it’s hard to get fired up and you feel like you’re beating your head against a wall. The thing is, you have to get past Shelbyville to qualify for the final four on Lake Decatur, and it’s hard to get fired up to practice Decatur tomorrow.
“That’s like saddling up a horse before you’ve even bought it. Why practice on Decatur if you can’t even catch fish on Shelbyville? I know that I have to survive Shelbyville before I even think about fishing Lake Decatur this week.
“It was cold this morning, so I think that the fish just might not have been very active. I’m serious, after nine hours out there today, I was kicking cans. I really like going to new fisheries, so I hope that the fish participate a little bit more. I really didn’t feel any pressure this week until I got out there today and started practicing.
“I threw the flea flicker, Hail Mary, and the reverse today – I pulled all the tricks out of the bag and there just wasn’t a lot going on out there. The deepest water that I fished was about 20 feet and the shallowest was about three inches. I can inform you that the first 20 feet suck.
“It really might be because of the cold front. I like the junk style fishing where you try to find a target here and there. To be in tune with that pattern, you need to have a few bites to remain focused. When you run three or four of your best ideas and don’t get a bite, then you start second guessing if you’re even putting your lifejacket on correctly.”
“Anywhere you go in the country in late August to mid September with the exception of New York, Wisconsin, or Michigan, it’s going to be tough – but it’s really tough here. I didn’t catch a bass today, and I snagged a white bass in the side.
“I didn’t learn anything today. I charted a lot of fish out there but I couldn’t make them bite. The thing about this tournament is that there will be eight guys who go home and four guys who move on. You can’t just run the bank and catch fish, so I’m going to stay offshore and gamble.
“About the only thing that I didn’t throw today was the Alabama Rig, and that’s because we can’t. I threw topwaters, crankbaits, Dingers, jigs, shakey heads, drop-shots, Carolina-rigs – I threw it all.”
After Tuesday’s practice on Shelbyville, the 12 All-Star Week competitors will get a chance to practice until 2:00 on Wednesday on Lake Decatur. The competition kicks off Thursday morning on Shelbyville and the field will be cut to the final four on Saturday who will compete for the title of All-Star Week Champion on Lake Decatur over the weekend.