Drawing Denny Brauer on Day One at the Bassmaster Elite on West Point Lake, Georgia

Story and photos by Russ Bassdozer, editor in chief of BassWestUSA magazine

I arrived elatedly in the beautiful city of LaGrange, Georgia with lofty hopes of getting some good pro partner picks to ride with as a marshal during the Bassmaster Elite event on West Point Lake in early May 2011.

It's standing room only for the 99 marshals who attended the pre-tournament meeting at Del'avant restaurant in downtown LaGrange, Georgia.

Bassmaster Elite official Chuck Harbin lays down the tournament rules for the marshals...

...and Bassmaster official Hank Weldon instructs the marshals how to operate the proprietary BassTrak system that's used to unofficially record the pros' weights during the day and to update the Bassmaster website.

Upon conclusion of the marshals' meeting, we joined the Bassmaster Elite pros in the adjacent room.

Meanwhile, the pros had concluded their own pre-tournament rule meeting.

Partner pairings were drawn, pairing each of the 99 marshals with one of the 99 pros for Day One of the tournament.

I was both surprised and honored to draw none other than the legendary Denny Brauer as my pro partner for Day One.

Denny Brauer started the morning by fishing a milk run of rocky rip-rap walls where shad were spawning in the first brief moments of dawn.

Denny's lure of choice was the Strike King Spit-N-King topwater popper.

Action was fast and furious along some of the riprap walls whereas little or no action was found on others.

The topwater action didn't last very long at all. Soon, Brauer settled into almost exclusively flipping a Texas-rigged Strike King Rodent creature bait for the rest of the day.

Slowly but surely, Denny Brauer completed his five fish limit and he culled some of the smaller topwater fish by flipping and pitching the Rodent primarily into blow-downs which are tall trees that had been blown down and fallen straight out into the lake all along the clay-rimmed shoreline.

Denny deployed his signature Ardent reel and American Rodsmiths Denny Brauer flipping rod.

It wasn't until later in the day that Denny Brauer jubilantly landed this fine 6+ pounder and shortly followed with a 3-pounder, his two best fish of Day One.

Basically, Brauer had a simple yet solid game plan - and he never wavered from it. Denny predominantly flipped and pitched blow-downs with a Texas-rigged Strike King Rodent creature bait to end Day One in 16th place among the 99 Bassmaster Elite pros.

I don't know what baits or tactics that Brauer used on Day Two, Three or Four - but I do know Denny finished 10th overall for the event!

It was a genuine thrill to ride along with him as a marshal, and here are some parting words of great wisdom that Denny gave me, and I'd like to share these with you:

"A flipping jig is at it's very best during the prespawn and also all during the winter season," Denny told me, adding that, "The Texas-rigged flipping tube is still unparalleled during the spawn when fish are on nests whereas flipping a Texas-rigged creature bait like the Strike King Rodent takes center stage during the postspawn and holds up through summer and fall." Brauer noted that those generalities may vary somewhat depending on the body of water and the size of the fish in it.