Casting outside of the box
Parks and Smith aren’t accustomed to fishing the deep, clear water of the Missouri Ozarks.
Back home in Alabama, they often encounter off-color water and big bass that will relate to shallow cover.
But the teammates on Auburn’s fishing team knew they had to change it up and fish deep if they were to stand a chance of winning.
“This time of the year, the bass are usually chasing baitfish,” Smith told Your Bass Guy. “We knew that if we could find an off-shore bite, it would be more consistent.”
But Parks and Smith didn’t have a lot of experience with that type of fishing to draw on.
“I had never caught bass suspended in 100 feet of water before,” Parks said. “I had fished in 50 feet of water on Lake Hartwell, but nothing like this.”
Still, that proved to be the winning formula at Table Rock Lake. As the fishermen were traveling to a point they planned to fish, they noticed a large flock of gulls diving down on the surface, feeding on shad.
They pulled over, turned on their LiveScope unit that showed real-time activity of gamefish, and hit the jackpot.
“There were big schools of baitfish and the bass were right underneath them,” Smith said. “We could watch on LiveScope how the bass would react to our baits.
"Some were just curious. They would come up to a bait and then just turn away. The ones who came racing up to our baits, those are the ones we wanted.”
With the water so clear, the fishermen cast their baits a fairly long distance, then watched on the screen as they swung down.
“We threw to 200 to 300 fish that final day,” Parks said. “If they wouldn’t swim at it hard, we’d just reel up and cast to another fish.
"We were looking for reaction strikes. If they got a good look at that bait, they wouldn’t hit.”
“Before we pulled up to that spot, we only had one 15-inch fish,” Parks said. “But once we found that place, we caught 15 pounds of bass in about 30 minutes.”
That was enough to boost their winning total to five bass weighing 16.48 pounds, barely edging second place-finishers Joseph Nicholson and Gary Sterkel, who had 16.18 pounds.
It wasn’t the first time Parks and Logan have found success. They were Bassmaster’s College Team of the Year in 2021. And both have done well in individual tournaments.
Winning the U.S. Open with its huge payback was life-changing.
“Winning a tournament of this caliber gives you the financial backing you need,” Smith said. “We both want to go pro, and that’s expensive. You have to travel, pay expenses, gas, meals, everything.
"This will definitely help us get started.”