The Eliminator Series Finale At Lake Oconee: Move-By-Move Diary

Mark Massey and David Millsaps go head-to-head for the title. Here’s an account of how the Eliminator finals concluded.

GON Staff | December 1, 2006

Mark Massey (right) won GON’s Eliminator Series after three rounds of tough competition. In last month’s Eliminator final, he beat David Millsaps in November at Lake Oconee. For the win, Mark collected $2,500; David won $1,000 for second place.

The outcome of the GON Eliminator Series finale at Lake Oconee could have fallen either way; both Mark Massey and David Millsaps have strong reputations on the lake. However, it was Mark who found a decent bite in practice while throwing a Rat-L-Trap which allowed him to scratch out a limit on tournament day and take the title of Champ in GON’ s first- ever, head-to- head bass-fishing tournament.

David missed three fish during the tournament that may have had him flirting with a 20-lb. sack, which just happens to be the Eliminator record for largest catch in one day — and he holds it.

With David thinking big and Mark going for a solid limit, both provided great fishing information on a dreary, wet, cold day last month on Lake Oconee.

Daryl Kirby rode with Mark, and Brad Gill went along with David. Here’s how both anglers fished.

Mark Massey, Oconee

6:50 a.m.: No long ride at blast- off for Mark Massey, and he gets no complaints from his boat companion. It’ s raining steadily and the temperature is in the low 50s. From the ramp at Sugar Creek Marina, he heads to a small pocket in Sugar Creek and starts fishing a Lucky Craft RC 1.5 crankbait, green and white, or “baby bass,” in color. Mark is fishing around boat docks and between them as he moves into the pocket. His casts are to the seawalls and bank, beginning his retrieve of the small-profile crankbait in about two feet of water.

7:04: Mark sets the hook and brings a short fish into the boat. The bass was between docks on a random stretch of bank, and it hit halfway back to the boat.

7:15: Mark picks up a rod with a  Texas-rigged Baby Brush Hog, black emerald in color. He works the pilings of a dock and then makes several pitches up under the dock.

“If it was sunny, I’d probably be fishing a jig under these docks,” Mark said. “When it’s cloudy like this, the bass are more scattered.”

7:24: Mark makes a short run into another pocket in Sugar Creek. He starts with the crankbait, and he continues to pick up the Brush Hog to pitch under several of the docks in the pocket.

“Lots of shad in here,” Mark said.

8:00: The rain has stopped, but it’s still very cloudy and the temperature isn’t warming up. Mark makes a run out of Sugar Creek to a main-lake pocket in the middle section of the lake.

“Look at this graph,” Mark says as the screen is black with shad.

The baitfish are in the middle of the pocket over 17 feet of water, and the bait is ranging from 12 feet deep to the surface. Mark begins fan-casting a crankbait in the middle of the pocket.

“I caught a few in here during practice,” Mark says, but not this morning. He fishes to the back of the pocket and back out the middle through the clouds of baitfish, but he doesn’t get bit.

8:41: Mark makes a short run across the lake to another pocket. He’s sticking mostly with the crankbait, but he’s also fishing the Brush Hog under docks.

9:15: Mark pitches the Brush Hog far up under a dock. He gets a subtle bite, sets the hook and boats his second bass of the day, but it’s also below the Oconee 14-inch size minimum.

“I barely felt him bite,” Mark says. “They’re just barely sucking it in.”

9:35: Fishing the Brush Hog on the outside corner post of a dock, Mark hooks and boats his first keeper of the day, a bass right at 14 inches.

“That bass was right where he was supposed to be,” Mark says. “Now, where’s your momma?”

9:55: Mark makes a short run up the lake to another main-lake pocket. He fishes about three-quarters of the way into the pocket and back out, trying both the crankbait and Texas- rigged Brush Hog, but he doesn’t get a bite.

11:14: Mark heads south, past the Hwy 44 bridge and into a medium-sized creek. He has just an hour and 35 minutes of fishing time left in the first-annual Eliminator Series finals, and only one small keeper riding in the livewell.

“I pulled in here yesterday and caught two on two casts,” he says.

Mark picks up a rod rigged with a bone-colored 1/2-oz. Rat-L-Trap. The spot he’s fishing is a shallow flat just inside the mouth of a small pocket near the mouth of the creek. The wind is blowing in from the main lake against a wooden seawall.

11:17: On his fourth cast, Mark sets the hook. A 15- inch bass goes into the livewell.

11:21: Another bite, but this time the fish surges under the boat before Mark can get to the net. Mark drops to his knees and releases the spool and uses pressure with his thumb as he gives the bass line. He regains control of the fish and gets the net under it.

“That fish almost broke me off,” he says.

The bass is a solid keeper, later weighing 2.41-lbs.

11:24: Another hit, and Mark catches his third keeper bass on the Rat-L-Trap in just seven minutes.

“I’ve been thinking about this spot all day,” Mark grins as he puts the 15- inch bass in the livewell. He has quickly gone from almost nothing to just one bass short of a solid limit.

“I may not leave this spot the rest of the day,” he says.

11:37: Mark hooks into another bass, but this one comes unbuttoned quickly.

11:40: Mark boats a 13-inch bass.

11:48: He catches another short fish.

11:53: Another fish short of the 14-inch minimum.

12:18: Mark catches his eighth bass in an hour off the same flat, but again, it’s short of the size minimum. He’s still looking for his fifth keeper to fill his limit.

Mark gets on the trolling motor and moves away from the mouth of the small pocket, heading down a stretch of bank along the main creek arm.

“I’m going to give those fish a rest,” he says.

12:29: Bringing the lure along the side of dock, Mark catches another short fish on the Rat-L-Trap.

12:50: Mark idles back to the stretch of bank at the mouth of the small, wind-blown pocket where he caught eight bass in an hour.

“I may stay here the last hour,” Mark says.

1:17: Without another bite, Mark changes his mind and decides to make a move to a pocket near the Hwy 44 bridge.

1:26: Keeper No. 5 hits the Rat-L- Trap as Mark brings it along the edge of a dock.

1:30: Mark catches a short fish on the Trap. It’s his 12th bass in just over two hours, all on the Rat-L-Trap, all in just a couple of feet of water in areas loaded with small threadfin shad.

1:50: Time is up, and Mark heads to the ramp with a five-fish limit. He doesn’t have a heavy kicker, but considering a day that started off slow, he feels good about his late limit.

At the weigh-in, his five bass register 8.60-lbs., and his best bass was the 2.41-lb. chunk that almost broke him off by surging under the boat.

Four of Mark’s keepers came using a Trap, including this 2.41-pounder.

David Millsaps, Oconee

7:00 a.m.: The skies open up with rain as David motors west of Sugar Creek Marina and then begins fishing a pocket that has four lit boat docks. His first cast is with a white, 1/2-oz. Lunker Lure buzzbait. The bait is dressed with a white Zoom Fat Albert grub.

7:05: “I’m looking for a big one,” said David.

7:07: On the third lit dock, David catches Keeper No. 1, a fish that would later go 2.34 pounds. The fish was positioned on the front dock post in three feet of water.

7:10: Halfway back David goes across the pocket to another dock and begins heading back toward the mouth of the creek.

7:16: David approaches a dock near the mouth of the cove that he calls “5-lb. Dock.”

7:17: David misses a fish in three feet of water on the front of the dock that he said was a really good one. His next cast is with a Chug Bug. The top- water bait has a black back, silver body and an orange mouth.

7:18: He changes to a 3/8-oz. Sworming Hornet spinnerbait. The skirt is chartreuse/white, and it has a big willowleaf and a small Colorado blade; both are gold.

7:19: “That was a 5-lb. blowup on the 5-lb. Dock. I’ll give him a taste of the real medicine,” said David.

He throws a 3/8-oz., black Sworming Hornet jig. It’s got a blue chunk trailer made by NetBait.

7:23: Goes back to the buzzbait.

7:30: David leaves the dock. He goes across the creek mouth and starts fishing where he started that morning.

“We’ll come back to him,” said David.

The rain has about stopped, but it’s a very dark, dreary morning. He picks up a double-bladed, black, 3/8- oz. buzzbait that has two red strands in the skirt that are tipped with chartreuse.

“You can reel this real slow because the double blades won’t let it sink,” said David.

He adds a trailer hook.

7:42: Picks up white buzzbait. 7:49: Goes across the pocket and for the first time starts pitching his jig under a dock.

7:53: Heads back toward the creek mouth and throws the white buzzbait.

8:00: While fishing the dock adjacent to the 5-lb. Dock a big fish rolls on the buzzbait but only gets the plastic trailer.

“That hurt,” said David.

He adds a trailer hook and starts fishing the same dock with a jig.

“He had it,” said David. “I should have caught him… come on jig, show him you can catch a fish.”

8:04: Throws white buzzbait. 8:07: Back to 5-lb. Dock.

“This dock owes us one,” he said. 8:11: David rigs up a Texas-rigged Zoom Speed Craw in green pumpkin. He’s fishing the plastic on a 1/8-oz. Spotsticker jig head.

8:14: Back to jig.

8:21: David misses a fish on the jig and rips off the blue-chunk trailer.

“I threw in there 100 times didn’t I?” David asked.

8:23: David goes back across the creek mouth.

“Let’ s make one more loop and see what happens,” said David. “We’re one-for-four, and I think two of them were good ones.”

8:25: Throws Chug Bug.

8:28: Switches to Speed Craw. 8:30: Goes to white buzzbait. “What a pretty day — perfect for what I’ m doing,” said David.

8:43: Back to the jig.

8:46: “I may have to put on a little crankbait,” said David.

9:02: After a quick loop without another hit David runs to another pocket in Sugar Creek.

9:13: With the jig he’s really taking his time on a few docks that have produced in the past. He’ s fishing every piece of wood on and around the dock.

9:25: Starts working down a sea- wall with the white buzzbait in 2 1/2 feet of water.

9:29: Throws Chug Bug.

9:31: Switches to spinnerbait. 9:40: David begins fishing a spinnerbait on the Sugar Creek rip-rap, starting at the bank near the gas dock with plans to head for the bridge.

9:48: Picks up jig.

9:52: David heads toward the mouth of Sugar Creek and stops on a series of shallow docks.

10:00: Fishing the jig, he misses a fish in 1.1 feet of water.

“He really hammered it; now that’ s snakebit,” said David.

10:15: On a different dock a fish picks up the jig but spits it out. The fish is in 1.5 feet of water along the dock’s walkway. David digs under his seat and gets out his Jack’s Juice. He sprays the crawfish scent on the jig.

10:23: David changes to a smaller jig, a black, 1/8-oz. Sworming Hornet bait with the same NetBait blue chunk.

“Seems like they’ve been hitting it on the fall,” said David. “I’ll slow it down a little and see if that helps.”

10:30: David begins to wonder what Mark has in the box.

“This is his turf,” said David. “I need 10 or 12 pounds.”

10:42: He goes back to the dock where he missed the fish at 10:00 and works the white buzzbait and jig with no luck.

10:54: He runs across Sugar Creek to an area of docks.

“The water is a little muddier; this may give us a better shot,” said David.

11:03: After no luck he moves into a short pocket and aims his jig for a blowdown. The water temperature is 61 degrees.

“Maybe the cold water has them moved on to wood,” said David.

11:11: David begins working down a bank that has scattered blow- downs. He tries the Spotsticker with a watermelon-colored Zoom Speed Craw and a spinnerbait. He quickly picks the jig back up.

11:14: David pitches a jig in the middle of a blowdown in two feet of water and a fish nails the bait. David lays back and brings the fish’s head out of the water—it looks to be at least a 5-pounder. The fish spit the bait.

“He hurt my feelings,” said David. “That’s why you throw a jig there. That fish was dead in the tree.”

11:34: David moves farther toward the mouth of Sugar Creek to fish more blowdowns. The pocket is full of bait skipping on the surface, but the bass aren’ t actively feeding on them. He begins casting a jig to a blowdown at the mouth of the pocket.

11:44: Throws spinnerbait in the same tree.

11:45: Moves deeper in the pocket and fishes the jig in a new blowdown.

11:48: David fan casts the spinnerbait in the back of the pocket.

12:08: He heads back up Sugar Creek and goes into a pocket where he wants to fish a blowdown with the jig.

12:15: Leaves blowdown and fishes the jig along a series of boat docks.

12:30: David moves farther back  into Sugar Creek and fishes some main-creek docks with the jig. He heads for a point that’s loaded with Christmas trees.

12:44: David moves across Sugar Creek to a line of very shallow boat docks. He catches a 12 1/2-inch, short fish on the jig.

With an hour left David knows he’s got a tough road ahead.

“I’m not going out with a Carolina rig, that’ s for sure,” said David.

12:52: David is fishing docks fairly quickly with a jig, heading for the pocket where he missed two good fish earlier that morning.

1:07: Casting the jig, he’s back on the 5-lb. Dock.

1:16: He moves one dock down where he also missed a good fish.

1:18: David throws the white buzzbait.

1:24: He goes back to 5-lb. Dock with buzzbait.

“I’ve picked up a buzzbait a lot of times when I’ m struggling and just worn them out,” said David.

1:26: He goes across the creek mouth and begins working the set of docks he first started on that morning.

1:28: Switches to a jig.

1:31. He misses a fish in 1.1 feet of water.

“That fish was holding right on that post,” said David.

1:47: David goes to the back of the pocket.

“One of these light poles was burning this morning,” he said.

1:51: Time is up for David. At the weigh-in, his one keeper gives him 2.34-lbs.

At the weigh-in David lost by over six pounds.

The Oconee Eliminator Championship concludes GON’s first crack at a heads-up bass-fishing tournament. We took eight anglers, visited seven lakes and we were able to bring you some great fishing information. We’ve heard wonderful response from the bass-tournament community, enough so that we were inspired to bring you more heads-up fishing in 2007.

“It was the most fun I’ve had fishing, and I’ve been fishing all my life,” said David Millsaps.

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