Sunday, April 24, 2011

wapsi backwater

     As previous discussed, the Mississippi river is still very very high, and is not expected to drop below 15' for another four to five days. Therefore, I took another opportunity today to wet a line on an inland river after recieving an invitation from Eric, who happens to know the Wapsipinicon river backwater extremely well. So, after the Easter eggs where found, dinner was eaten, and the children were busy cracking open Easter candy, I headed out. Eric had already been on the water for an hour with little luck as I pulled up to the ramp, loaded my gear into his boat and headed up river. The water temperature was hovering around 45 degrees in stronger current with 46-47 degrees common in slower moving current points and back water. Expecting a combination of smallmouth and largemouth, I decided to tie on a Stanley Vibrashaft white and chartruese spinner bait, an RC Tackle black with red flake 4" tube, a Bandit chartruese and blue 6-8' crankbait and given my previous success with this bait, a Rapala suspending Husky Jerk. As Eric pulled up to the first spot, he explained the topography and depth in which we'd be fishing. A small channel break bending around the top side of an island that created a back flush in 4'-6' of water. I began throwing the 4" black tube while Eric started with a spinner bait. After about several casts, my tube got picked up and carried off, and as I set the hook, drew only water. This got my blood going and I threw back again and again in anticipation of another carry or tic of the line. But there was no cooperation below the surface, so I switched to the spinner bait, the crankbait, and jerkbait, and back to the tube. Both Eric and I had thrown everything we had tied on with no takers. So, we moved on to the next few spots.
     The reoccuring theme was brush and timber in shallow water with both current and slack water within reach of either side of the boat. Usually a recipie for successfull bass fishing this time of year, or at least that's what we both thought. We fished every log, brush pile, current break and bassy looking cover we could find with little success. Eric did manage a solid 1-3/4 lb large mouth on a chatterbait down a 4'-5' deep log jammed stretch of bank that looked like it should hold dozens of fish that size and bigger. This time of year, slow current on a bank holding 4'-5' of water should have various stages of spawning smallmouth and winter starved largemouth. The question of whether the fish were actually there, or if the presentations we were using were the issue, kept running through my mind. Eric had caught fish in these stretches earlier this year so it was as puzzling to him as it was to me.
     Since I knew my trip today was going to be short, around 1:45, Eric decided to show me a stretch of back water that might have warmed up more than the spots we'd been fishing since 11:00 am. So we laid the poles down and headed to our last spot of the day.
    As we weaved our way through a few narrow cuts and the river opened up into a large backwater with cabins, docks and rock banks, I knew why he decided to head to this area. And shortly after we started fishing, it was confirmed with 50+ degree water, one small largemouth on Erics second cast, and a second bite a couple of casts later. With the max depth in these areas being only 2'-4', and little to no current, the water had a 3-4 degree increase in temperature over the water we fished earlier in the day, and we both believe this was the difference in our success. The only draw back was that we'd found it with only 15 minutes left in my fishing day.
     So as Eric dropped me off at the boat ramp, I was more than a little jealous as I watched his boat speed off upstream to were we'd finally found fish..............

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

waiting, and waiting, and waiting................

     I could write for hours on how frustrated i am at the Mississippi river levels on pools 9, 10, and 11. Its been over 14' and as high was 18' with a projected crest next tuesday of 22.7'. Needless to say this has put a damper on my early season fishing, forced the cancellation of our first club tournament, and is threatening the Iowa State Bass Federation spring tournament the last week of April.
    Since the mighty Mississippi doesn't want to yield any of its early season bass fishing, i've had to take advantage of what is available to satisfy this bassing itch. And that has meant fishing the Maquoketa river. The river levels have remained stable the last few weeks and the water clarity is excellent. This has created a normal spawning window for this rivers smallmouth population, which in years past, has been increasing in quantity and quality of fish. I have been targeting two different locations with similar depth, around 4'-6', and similar structure, which includes larger rocks near the shoreline and smaller rock flats out from the bank with slow but steady current. The first spot i targeted was one i'd had luck in previous years throwing a chartreuse and blue 4'-5' diving crank bait. Specifically cranking the lure until it hit bottom and then slowing my retrieve so the lure would touch an occasional rock or two but mostly stay off the bottom. So, after 10-15 casts, I began to think the smallmouth had stopped using this as a spawing flat when i spotted a small fish following the crankbait to the shoreline. So the next few casts I tried to stagger my retrieve thinking once the lure would pause, the bass would be enticed to strike. No suck luck. However, I did have a second decent sized fish follow the lure to the bank. This made me analyze how the pause in the crank bait might look to the fish. As we all know, a standard crank bait will start to rise when we stop retrieving, and this unnatural presentation is usually a deal breaker. So I remembered I had a couple Rapala Husky jerks in one of my crank bait boxes, and tied one on. This change in presentation was the answer on the second cast! The first smallmouth of the year, a small male, crushed the jerk bait as it sat suspended in the water column. In the same amount of casts i'd made with no luck using a chartreuse and blue standard crankbait, i caught four smallmouth and had one get off using this suspending jerk bait. This was enough to satisfy my bassing itch for that day, and also reminded me that i hadn't forgoten to take the little pieces of information the fish give you, and use it to your advantage.
(The weather conditions were sunny, little to no breeze, 55-57 degree air temperature, and the time was 10:30-11:00 am.)