Shinichi Fukae Wins Douglas Lake PAA

Shinichi Fukae admits that he's not a big fan of umbrella rigs. However, he knows in the ever-evolving world of pro bass fishing, other competitors are using it to their advantage where the conditions call for it. "This is my job so I need to use it," he said. As someone who fishes predominantly FLW Tour events, he's seen how well it can work up close. He was there at Lake Guntersville back in October 2011 when Paul Elias unleashed it on previously-finicky suspended fish ganged up 20 feet down over 30 to 35 feet of water. With a prespawn scenario facing the 99-boat field at the Douglas Lake PAA last week, the umbrella rig (Tennessee allows a version with three hooks) was the technique of choice for just about everyone, especially those near the top of the leaderboard, including Fukae. The key fish weren't as deep, although there were bruisers scattered all through the water column. He targeted rocky points, of which there are hundreds around Douglas, and capitalized on the few bites he got to notch his first PAA victory with 67.73 pounds over 3 days. While others weighed plumper bags, particularly on day 1, he was one of just two anglers to bring in 20 pounds each day of the event - runner-up Andy Morgan was the other - and he was rewarded for his consistency with his first win in 3 years. "This lake is so amazing because more than 10 people caught 20 pounds or more the first 2 days," he said through his wife Miyu, who helps translate his Japanse. "I've never seen that type of weight in this type of lake. The quality of fish here is really good and it's not a really big lake. The heft of his stringers steadily increased each day and he closed out the week with a 23.16-pound effort that topped the other 14 finalists and allowed him to fend off Morgan. Douglas is a distinctive fishery in that it's loaded with chunky largemouth and trophy-class smallmouth all the while undergoing annual drawdowns in the fall and fill-ups in the spring. The water was on the rise this week and a segment of bass were on the move toward the bank for their annual spawning ritual. Prior to the lake going off limits, Fukae spent 5 days at Douglas riding around and learning what it had to offer as he'd never been to the impoundment on the French Broad River in eastern Tennessee. Seeing the lake in its drawn-down state allowed him to get a feel for the areas that might hold fish once the water started to come up. Conditions earlier last week made for a tough practice as wind, sleet and snow let the anglers know that winter wasn't quite ready to hand the reigns over to spring. Undeterred, Fukae braved the elements and spent 3 long days on the water.

Competition:

Fukae brought in a respectable 22.02 pounds that had him in 6th place on day 1, but that effort was greatly overshadowed by the 27- and 28-pound bags reeled in by Timmy Horton, Ott DeFoe and Brian Snowden. He got about 12 bites and thought the day-long sunshine charged up the fish after several days of cold, overcast conditions. While Horton and others struggled on day 2 and fell out of contention, he improved his weight by nearly a half pound to climb into 2nd, a little more than 4 1/2 pounds shy of DeFoe, who seemed like an even-money bet to close out the victory on his home lake. Fukae had marked about two dozen spots that he felt he could catch fish off of, but focused most of his time on five key spots that seemed to hold the bigger specimens. The common bond among the spots was they were nearby rocky points and the fish he caught came out of 5 to 15 feet of water. "Timing was a big deal this week," he said. "I had to leave my key spots at times to let them rest. The timing of when I'd leave and when I'd go back was crucial." Entering the final day, he was hoping for another sunny spell, but he had to wait until the afternoon for the clouds to break up. By then, however, he'd already done the bulk of his damage as he caught a final day-best 23.16. Meanwhile, DeFoe managed just two keepers and opened the door for Fukae. It was his first win since he claimed the Lake Champlain Eastern FLW Series tournament in 2010. He also has two FLW Tour wins to his credit, but none since April 2006 when he won at Beaver Lake. His previous-best PAA finish was 4th at Lake Norman in August 2010, a tournament he led after 2 days.

Winning Gear:

Umbrella rig gear: 7'6" extra-heavy Megabass Black Jungle casting rod, Shimano Antares HS casting reel (7.4:1 ratio), 50-pound YGK Black Dyneema braided line, 5-wire Megabass Spark Rig (Wakasagi), 1/4-ounce Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits jigheads (white), 4" Megabass Spark Shad (albino) or 4" Fish Arrow Flash J Shad (pro blue silver). He rigged 4" swimbaits on the three active jigheads and 3" versions on the two dummy wires, essentially making it a three-bait rig to comply with Tennessee regulations.

Main factor: "One of my policies about being on the water as much as I can worked out. Fishing before the cutoff gave me an advantage since the water level was lower and I could see some submerged stuff. Also, during practice last week, I was out there from sunrise to sunset all 3 days despite the miserable weather and it paid off."

Performance edge: "To cast the umbrella rig all week long, I needed very light, but strong rods such as the Megabass Black Jungle series rods. Also, casting that rig further was one of the keys for me and my Shimano reels allowed me do that without any issues."

Douglas Lake PAA Winning Pattern Bassfan 4/2/13 (Todd Ceisner)