Steve Grace pulled out of his driveway and into a blinding rainstorm as he prepared for his Day on the Lake trip to Lake Columbia recently.

By the time he arrived at the lake, dawn was breaking and Grace was greeted with post cold front conditions, high winds and rapidly falling temperatures - which had fallen some 25 degrees in just a few hours.

Undeterred by the deteriorating conditions, this Dobyn's pro staffer angler was determined to find and catch fish.

Grace had never before fished Lake Columbia, which was part of the Day on the Lake challenge. We hoped to see just how good the lake might be for someone who had never before set eyes on the water.

As the consummate bass angler, Grace quickly used all assets at his disposal and researched the lake online.

"Mike, I printed off lake maps and studied the topography of the lake, and read all I could on it," Grace said. "Then I called the lake manager, Dustin Brumfield, and got as much information as I could.

"He said that the bite has been really tough lately but that someone had caught a 9-pounder already this year."

Brimming with confidence, but reserved with the knowledge of how tough fishing can be after the passage of a cold front, Grace went about his business with the clockwork precision of a seasoned pro and veteran of many bass wars.

Lake Columbia is a topwater angler's paradise - if you like to fish frogs, weedless topwater baits, or plastics. When the topwater bite is on it, can be nothing short of fabulous with bass in the 2 -to 4-pound range feasting heavily.

And the opportunity to catch the lunker of a lifetime is there on every cast.

If you don't like fishing for lunker bass in lily pads and grass, then this lake's not for you. But if you're willing to get geared up to fish the salad patch, then you might just have the trip of your lifetime.

Here's how Grace's day ended up:

 

7:00 a.m.

Idling up the northeast arm of the lake, this accomplished tournament angler quickly assessed the situation and stopped at a point, put down his trolling motor and began casting into an emerging lily pad field.

 

7:15 a.m.

Grace worked his soft-bodied stick bait through the pads, and let the lure glide into a dark hole. Seconds later he reared back on the rod and drove the hook home, deep into the jaws of a hungry bass.

The lunker bass quickly exploded through the surface and shook violently from side to side as it tried to free the stinging hook from his mouth.

After a frenzied battle Grace wore the bass down and brought it into the boat.

The ice was broken only minutes after our day began.

"I figured these post-spawn bass would be in the pad fields but didn't know how they'd react to the post-cold frontal conditions," Grace said. "Boy, he hit it real light."

While Grace had high hopes of a strong frog bite after the post spawn, the deteriorating conditions seemingly torpedoed any hope of catching fish on topwater lures.

I quickly went about working the pads with a Scumdog Walker, as well, determined to catch a bass on a frog before the topwater bite quit.

"Mike, if you'll work that frog, I'll stick with the Lake Fork Hyper Stick or soft stick bait, and we'll see what they want," Grace said.

I quickly drew a strike. However, the bass missed in the pad-strewn waves, but at least they were still somewhat aggressive.

"I'm going to try the west side of this pocket where the wind's not so strong and see if we can get a topwater bite," Grace said.

As he maneuvered around the pocket, Grace began working around a lily pad point with a frog, and I followed suit.

 

7:30 a.m.

A nice bass smashed my Scumdog Walker, and I quickly set the hook. The bass popped up out of the pads, and I fought it all the way to the boat to release it to grow some more and be caught another day.

But the important thing was that the bass were still active and willing to hit the toads.

A few minutes later Grace enticed a bite on a Ribbet frog but missed on the hook set when the bass bore down deep in the pads.

As it turned, out the high pressure hit us full force and that was the last frog bite of the day, as nary a fish struck the surface or even swirled again.

Grace continued working the pads despite fierce cold and windy conditions making it nearly impossible to make pinpoint accurate casts.

However, the angler was really working the Senko with the help of his Gary Dobyn's 8-foot Carolina-rig rod.

"Mike, this rod isn't really made for this, but the long shaft and flexible tip give me just enough control to cast this lightweight lure out and hit the spot," said Grace.

 

8:04 a.m.

Grace pitched his lure near a hole in the pads and worked the lure slowly to the edge, letting it sink slowly and glide into the dark water.

Seconds later he reared back on the rod again, and his second keeper bass of the day was history.

Grace was slow and methodical in his approach to fishing this water.

It's not often you hear about finesse fishing in the lily pads, but that's just what Steve Grace was doing, although he was hampered by the wind and cold.

"Sometimes you have to take what the lake and weather will give you, and today the topwater bite's not happening - but the bass are still there and hungry," Grace said. "We just have to locate them and entice them into biting."

Grace kept working the lure through the pads, drawing strikes but missing occasionally due to the windy conditions.

 

8:26 a.m.

Grace scored on another bass that sucked in his offering and didn't move. Sensing something had the lure, Grace drove the steel home again, and the bass buried up in the pads.

He held the bass tight to lily pad stems and maneuvered the boat to the pads, reached down, and pulled up bass and pads in a wad.

Keeper No. 3 was in the boat.

"Mike, it looks like we're getting bit everywhere we have the small, dollar-sized pads and the big pads mixed together," Grace said.

He had established the only visible difference in the lake in the shallow pad-filled water.

 

8:39 a.m.

Another bass took Grace's Senko style offering, and No. 4 was in the boat. And we'd never left our first spot.

"I didn't know what to expect with the weather conditions, but we're really doing better than I thought under the circumstances," he said.

It was obvious that this tournament angler and Lake Fork Tackle Pro knew a thing or two about finding and catching bass in extreme conditions, as he was succeeding during one of the worst weather days of the year.

Leaving the northeast cove of the lake, Grace motored across the water way and stopped in the northwest arm of the lake, reading the visible cover while mapping and graphing the bottom.

"I wanted to check the lake out and look for more-productive water. and see if we could catch a few more bass and maybe a lunker," said Grace.

The salad-patch angler didn't waste much time, hitting pay dirt as he worked the pads once again.

 

9:04 a.m.

Keeper No. 5 fell victim to his soft jerk bait, and his limit of bass had now been caught in less than two hours on a lake he'd never before seen.

 

9:05 a.m.

Culling began.

Grace caught bass on back-to-back casts, and was now culling to get his biggest creel of the day.

Although he was practicing catch and release, Grace was keeping up with the size, number and weight of the bass, just as he would in a tournament situation.

Over the next hour, Grace caught and released more bass on the Hyper Stick, and I joined in, as well.

 

10 a.m.

Grace pulled up the trolling motor, and moved back across the lake into the eastern cove along the dam and covered some more water while reading the bottom.

"There's some fish schooled up down there," Grace commented.

The angler quickly switched gears, and pulled out a lightweight spinning finesse rig and worked a shaky heady across the area.

"There he is!" he said.

Grace bowed up on a 3-pounder, fighting it gingerly until he worked the bass to the boat on the light line.

He made a quick release.

Grace had found a school of bass while fishing and glancing at his Lowrance LCR.

As the sky began to lighten up, the bite got even tougher, and Grace worked several deepwater points in search of another school of fish.

"Sometimes the bass will gang up off of these types of points when they're in post-spawn mode and getting ready to feed up and replenish their strength from the spawn," he said.

After graphing more bass along one of the points with no more bites, Grace moved again back up into the northeast cove, this time concentrating on the eastern side of the cove while working farther back into the pocket.

"Once the bass get a good case of post-frontal lockjaw, you have to finesse them into biting, and it's not a power game anymore," Grace said. "No matter how much you want to catch them on frogs, or how fast you want to fish."

 

11:50 a.m.

Grace pitched his stick bait way back into a pocket and missed a bass due to the wind.

He immediately cast back out, twitched the lure into a hole and another bass smashed his offering.

In short order he brought keeper No. 11 - a nice 3 ½-pounder - into the boat before quickly releasing it, as well.

 

12:02 p.m.

I cast to a hole in the pads right next to a clump of reeds, and a bass swirled on the worm. I set the hook and turned the bass toward the boat, adding to our creel.

Bass No. 12 was history.

 

12:17 p.m.

We continued working the area toward the rear of the cove while working the pockets and holes in the pads.

Bass No. 13 struck and bore down into the pads an instant before I turned it around.

"We can't quit on 13 keepers, that's for sure," Grace commented lightheartedly as he hit another honey hole.

 

12:18 p.m.

Grace enticed another strike and the bass buried deep into the pads. This time the bass buried up, and Grace had to work the boat over to the fish.

"Sometimes you have to go get them," he said. "If you don't go to them, you'll lose them more often than not - and sometimes that means losing the lunker of a lifetime."

Bass No. 14 was caught, admired and released.

Grace was really hitting the right spots now, enticing bass into taking his offering with regularity.

On the downside, the wind kept him from hooking up with some of the bass.

 

12:36 p.m.

Grace followed up a miss with a cast to a spot where he noticed a bass swirl. As the worm glided to the bottom, the fish sucked it in and took off.

Grace set the hook, and keeper No. 15 was on the way to the boat.

 

12:57 p.m.

Keeper No. 16 bit Grace's offering, and he quickly nailed the bass and brought it in.

With the wind still whipping and cold chilling to the bone, we agreed to call it a day.

But not before one last bit of action.

 

1:09 p.m.

Grace spotted a swirl in the pads amidst all of the wind, and promptly sailed a Senko just past the spot and retrieved it just short of the hole before stopping and easing it in.

The bass couldn't resist it, and the talented bass angler set the hook to jerk this bass out - pads and all.

Keeper No. 17 had come much like the rest, and topping off our first Day on the Lake Series.