In Saturday’s BFL Savannah River Division tournament on Lake Keowee Dearal Rodgers of Camden finished in third place out of 160 boaters, landing a healthy Lake Keowee bag weighing 13 pounds 4 ounces worth $1,719.00. Dearal is always generous with information about how he catches fish, and so I caught up with him to hear how he did it.
Before this week Dearal had never fished Lake Keowee, but in the past year or so his environmental engineering business Elite Techniques has gotten to the point where he can be physically away from the office for a few days and handle things that come up over the phone. That meant that Dearal was able to get up to Lake Keowee a couple of days early and try to figure out the deep, clear spotted bass lake, which is about as different as South Carolina has from the shallower, stained to muddy largemouth bass lake that is Wateree (his home lake). By the end of practice Dearal had put together a pattern that he hoped would be productive, and he had caught some nice spotted bass in practice.
Tournament Saturday got off to a crazy start when Dearal hooked a fish early on and his co-angler came to the front of the boat to net it. A rod got tangled in the net, and when his co-angler lifted the net up the rod fell into the water and quickly started to sink into the depths. Dearal immediately decided the fish was more important than the rod, and about that time the fish took a hard turn and Dearal shifted away from the front of the boat. By the time Dearal had the fish subdued he turned and realized his co-angler, who had apparently lunged after the rod and lost his balance, had half his body in the water and one arm and one leg in the boat, “clinging to it like a tree frog.” Dearal helped him into the boat but in the commotion the net sank to the bottom of Lake Keowee, and the rest of the day the pair was without a net. Dearal’s co-angler said that his coveralls had gotten the main soaking and he did eventually dry out, but with 48-52 degree water temperatures it was a rough way to start out the morning.
As anyone who has been to Lake Keowee knows there is not a lot of cover on the lake, and Dearal said that he concentrated on deep water contour changes. He fished creek channel drops, the sides of underwater humps, deep points and most any other area that involved a depth change. His main targets were in 40-70 feet of water, with 50 feet being the average depth where he spent most of the day. However, he did fish as shallow as 25-30 feet of water, and Dearal’s impression was that some of the fish seemed to be starting to stage in anticipation of moving up into shallower water.
As far as baits Dearal threw a drop shot, Buckeye Lures Spot Remover, and a Buckeye football mop jig. He also caught fish on a jerkbait on main lake points.
In practice Dearal caught only spotted bass, and of the approximately 15 bass he caught on Saturday 14 of them were spotted bass. He weighed one 3-pound spot and three in the 2-pound range. The difference-maker, however, was a 4-pound 2-ounce largemouth that put Dearal ahead of the pack. Early on Dearal got his jig hung up off a point, and interested to see what it had hooked (on an often barren terrain) Dearal rode over and discovered a giant brushpile in about 35 feet of water. He made a note to return to the spot, and when he came back he tied on a ¼ ounce Spot Remover Pro in green pumpkin color and felt a bite as soon as the bait hit the bottom. Luckily the big largemouth did not fight as hard as the spotted bass, but it did jump twice, and realizing what a game-changer the fish was Dearal implored his co-angler to make sure he got it in the boat. Without a net his co-angler successfully landed the fish via a bear hug!
Dearal pointed out that Lake Keowee is a small lake to have 160 tournament boats on, and so more than usual he got to see what other people were doing. He also heard about other patterns as anglers weighed in on the stage. A number of people spent some time on docks, Alabama rigs played a role in the tournament (reportedly including catching the winning bag) and some anglers fished jerkbaits in the creeks. However, from what Dearal saw and heard he estimates that 90% of the fish were caught from the deep zone.
In addition to the fun that comes from doing well and catching a lot of fish (on a nice, sunny day), Dearal said the event was satisfying in another way, too. People who follow Dearal’s tournament career, including his time as an FLW co-angler and then professional, know that in 2013 he had a serious fall during a building inspection. Multiple bones in his all-important right hand and wrist were shattered, severely affected his fishing. Dearal was able to spend more time on the water in 2014, but pain was a constant – looking back at pictures from last year Dearal can see himself wincing to hold up fish in his right hand. Last Saturday, though, Dearal said that except for some relatively minor discomfort tying knots his hand did not hurt. Each day it is getting better, and Dearal says that even in the last month he can tell that his hand has improved significantly.
Anyone who has followed Dearal Rodgers on this site knows that he is among the most generous anglers with his time and knowledge, offering me full access for local and national tournament articles, taking the time to answer questions from fishermen, and even showing people around Wateree when he is able to do so. Dearal is a stand-up guy, and after physical hardship it is good to see Dearal’s fishing career getting back to normal again. We all enjoy the information he provides and so having him on the water is good news for everyone – except the anglers who have to fish against him on Saturdays!
In all seriousness, my sincere thanks to Dearal for his significant contributions to this site; it seems appropriate that his tournament career is returning to normalcy as my tournament reporting steps back up. Stay tuned for more information and reports from Camden’s Dearal Rodgers in 2015.
Note: Most anglers get help learning a new body of water, but less common is acknowledging the information your receive. Dearal thanks his friend Brad Fowler for giving him an introduction to Lake Keowee this week.