Tuesday, May 24, 2011

A day off.........

     After attempting to take a day off from work here and there, and never having it work out for one reason or another, I was finally able to get a Friday off. A long time friend had just purchased a new boat, so we decided to venture out on pool 10 with his son Ryan to try and figure out what the bass were doing with the decreasing water levels. After a short map session, we decided to start our morning up the Wisconsin river and see if the smallmouth were starting to school up and feed agressively after having so much water available to them over the last three weeks.
     We started our morning near the railroad trussel on a short stretch of bank with water levels near the bank around 1'-2' sloping into 10'-12'. Terry and Ryan started the day fishing Stanley White and Chartruesse spinner baits while I followed up behind them with an RC Tackle Brown and Tan Beaver. It didn't take long before the RC Beaver got bit but I failed the seal the deal with the hook set. A cast or two later, Terry had our first fish of the day, a 1-1/4 lb largemouth. Very quickly Ryan followed up with similar sized fish and quickly after that, I sank the hook into a solid 2+lb fish that came very close to the bottom of the water column in 8'-9'. We continued to fish our way up the bank edging our way closer to a point where we had been seeing active feeding taking place. After watching the bait fish getting chased, I was confident in our ablility to take a few fish off a Berkly Pop-R, but after a dozen or so casts, that pole quickly got put down, and the flipping stick got picked up. We continued around the corner and onto a rock wall with 7'-10' of water and good current coming out of a flooded lake. This had the makings of a solid transition spot for smallmouth coming out and largemouth going in. To our delite, the smallmouth were there, and hungry. Ryan and I both caught fish immediately while Terry had a few bites, but couldnt hook up at first. However, he would have the last laugh on us as we got to watch him set the hook on a solid 3 lb smallmouth he quickly boated. We continued to fish the rock wall picking up a small fish here or there, but nothing like the solid fish Terry caught earlier. So we fished out and around the rock wall, packed up our gear and headed to our next few spots.

     Because of the recent high water, the bass have had to fight the Mississippi river current almost anywhere they go, however, it has been in some of the strongest currents we could find that the fish have been in good concentrations. So we stuck with that plan for the next few spots, but had little luck finding anything more than a dink her and there. So, by late morning we decided to hit a few back water lakes where we thought we could find fishing using the entrances as highways to and from deeper water. In one of sloughs bordering the Wisconsin side, we headed into a shallow, but large, backwater lake only to find a bass boat in the entrance. Quietly going by the other boat we decided to fish a grouping of dead lilly pad stems where we had found fish in weeks past. After about 45 minutes, this philosophy was quickly put to rest as the water levels where barely reaching 2.7'-2.9', and we hadn't had a bite. So, we decided to head out of a flooded opening at the south east end of the lake. As we trimmed up the big motor and pulled up the trolling motor to glide through the shallow opening, Terry noticed bait fish getting chased within feet of the boat. So I quickly threw a spinner bait in the area and got crushed, but was unable to hook up. Terry let the boat drift through the opening, which was only about the length of the boat wide, and turned us around so we could cast at the targeted area. What a spot this turned out to be. The smallmouth were stacked up behind the base of three large trees feeding on a school of bait fish. And for the next hour, we were catching fish at will. Spinner baits, chatter bait, tubes, jigs, crankbaits, and beavers got bit with rectlessness by an agressive group of smallmouth. The current was howling through the cut, but the fish were holding in a very defined area and if you landed in that 5 yard circle, you got bit almost immediately. Ryan took the biggest smallmouth of the group on a Rivers Edge Chatterbait weighing easily over 3+ lbs with a wide range of sizes coming in the 30 or more fish we took off that spot before the action finally cooled off. Needless to say, always keep your eyes open because sometimes, the fish will give themselves away.
     After the barrage of fish we'd recently experienced, it was hard to believe it could get much better than that, so we considered calling it a day. But since we had a lot of water between us and the boat ramp, we decided to check a few other areas on our way back up river. For Terry, this was the right idea, because he landed the largest fish of the day in a small back water area near Johnson slough. This 3-1/4 to 3-1/2 largemouth slammed into Terry's spinner bait after he made a cast to the base of two intersecting trees in about 2' of water. This was a pre-spawn female with a good size belly which led us to believe we might have been in an area with more females making or sitting on spawning beds. But no suck luck as we fished the entire area with only one other small fish to show for it. But our day wasn't over as I had one more stretch of bank i wanted us to fish before we quit.
     The shoreline I wanted to check was in a secondary channel with current on a flooded rock and small tree bank. It took two cast of my pumpkin green RC Tackle Beaver before we found eager fish. I pulled in my largest fish of the day, a 2-1/2 lb largemouth followed quickly by smaller, but equally agressive fish. We never found another solid fish on that bank, but given the time of day, i believe the quality of fish would have increased had we been there first thing in the morning.
     Regardless, we had an excellent day on the water with a vareity of fish coming on a multitude of baits and techniques. Spinnerbaits and plastic beavers and tubes brought us the majority of the fish, but overall, the placement of the bait was the real factor in getting the fish to react to the presentation.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Grant County 2-man

     A week ago, a friend and fellow tournament angler and I decided to take part in the annual 2-man Grant County open in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. We both knew we would have limited pre-fishing time, however having just come off the spring Iowa State Tournament, we had a good feel for pool 10 and since the tournament is always well run, thought we'd spend the entry fee and just go fishing. Eric and another friend of mine spent the Friday before the tournament pre-fishing pool 10 and found fish, but not in great quantities, with the exception of one spot, and that would be our starting spot the morning of the tournament.
     As we came around the corner to our first spot, the air was quickly let out of our sails as we saw another tournament angler sitting right on top of our spot. So, we drop in just below and started fishing while politely keeping our distance. Eric managed a solid keeper shortly into our day off a spinnerbait, but the thrill was short lived as we watched the gentleman fishing the "sweet spot", set the hook on three keepers within moments on each other. The spot we needed to be in was fast moving current with a ledge gradually dropping from 2'-3' into 11'-12' of water. A combintion of largemouth and smallmouth would move up the ledge, actively feed, and drop back down. The spot was roughly 10-15 yards long and was not large enough for two boats to effectively fish, so we decided to head up around the corner and into a protected lake to try and find some spawning and posting smallmouth and pre-spawing largemouth. This led us into roughly two hours of exploring with little more than one more keeper that exploded on a Berkley Pop-R in a quiet cove. As we made our way back out of the lake, we were disappointed to find yet another boat on the spot we were seeking and decided to head to other areas in search of fish that would put us in contention.
     Eric and Rick had found fish two days earlier in a back water lake enlarged by the flooding Misissippi river, and as we entered the lake, we were suprised to count nine other boats inside the same area. However, we decided to drop the trolling motor and start fishing the outside of a dead lilly pad field in 3'-4' of water. It didn't take Eric long throwing a colorado bladed white and red shirted spinnerbait to boat a 2-1/2 lb and a 3-1/4 lb largemouth quickly helping the cause. We thought this might be a pattern, but after an hour of nothing else but an 8+ lb northern pike on a rattle trap, we moved out of the heavily bass boat ladden backwater and took a short drive to a smaller lake with similar topography.
     Shortly into fishing the smaller back water pocket, I hooked into a solid 2lb largemouth off a Rivers Edge white and blue chatterbait and added him to our livewell. We continued to fish into the farthest end of the cove where the water became clear and calm. The area had all the components for holding fish including standing timber, laydowns, buck brush, and most importantly, bait fish. We fished everything we could throw at with no luck until Eric hooked up with a keeper near the transition between timber and the dead lilly pad field on a spinnerbait. Before it was over, he had caught several fish, but only one keeper. The action was fun, but time was getting short and we needed two more keepers to fill our limit. So, we decided to start spot checking our way back to the weigh in.
     As we fished our next spot with no luck, we decided to check a heavy current spot we'd seen on our way down the river earlier in the day. This spot had a slight current break in the form of a small rock point and it was worth the stop as I pulled a solid 2+lb largemouth off the first cast with a brown/green/orange Rivers Edge flipping Jig with a papi-craw trailer. After 15 minutes with no luck we ran to one last spot and made a series of casts with spinnerbaits and chatterbaits in flooded backwater filled with timber and sparse lilly pad stims. With the clock winding down on our day, we packed up one fish short of our limit and headed to the weigh in.
     Of the eight fish limit, we weighed in seven fish for 15.91lbs. We need the eighth fish to give us a chance at cashing a check, but as hard as we fished, it wasn't meant to be. We caught fish on spinnerbaits, jigs, tubes, and rattletraps, in heavy current, dead water lakes, in shallow and deep water. Which tells us the pattern was a little hard to dial in on given the high water level, the varying stages of the spawn between smallmouth and largemouth, and the immense fishing pressure of the last three weeks on pool 10. Regardless, we were happy with our efforts.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

A tale of two days.............

     The 2011 Iowa State Spring Federation Tournament was held this past weekend in Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin dispite the 15'+ water levels. And by my own admission, I did not expect the bags of fish being brought to the scale to be what they were. And simply put, they were incredible. The day one leader had over 18lbs followed by numerous 15lb-16lb bags of quality largemouth and smallmouth. Day two did not have an 18lb bag of fish but did have the consistant 15lb-16lb bags with more 12lb to 14lbs being weighed in than I ever imagined.  Dispite the lack of boat ramp acess, and the high water, I would consider the tournament an overall success. My time on the water this weekend was a tale of two very different days.
     Day one of my spring state tournament started before the last boat left the marina and without our boat ever getting on plain. My boater for day one pre-fished near the marina and had some good fish in a small stretch of 2'-6' of water bordering on a 15' ledge. We spent the majority of our morning going up and down this stretch of bank throwing everything from a 12'+ crankbait and rattle traps, to jigs, tubes, spinner baits, and shakey heads. The only thing we had to show for our efforts was one 3lb fish my boater caught midway through the morning. Dispite the high winds, rain, and even more high winds, we grinded away on this bank until late morning. Finally, we made a short run up river into a flooded bean and corn field adjacent some river backwater. Spent roughy an hour with no luck and decided to make a run down river to try and change our luck.
     After a 5-6 mile run, we dropped down off plain and slowly made our way through flooded timber back to a new bank bordering the train tracks. This is usually dry land, but we needed to find slower moving water, and this was one of those areas. It produced my only fish of the day, a 2.53lb largemouth taken on an RC Tackle black with red flake 4" tube. But with time running out, we had to weave our way through the flooded timber in order to make it back to the weigh-in in time. As we pulled into the marina, I was watching closely as other boats were bagging their fish, and I knew somehow, we had missed opportunities elsewhere on the river. As I mentioned earlier, consistant bags from 10lb-15lbs were being brought to the scales. I do however, want to make it perfectly clear that I had only myself to blame for this situation. I was unable to spend the time prefishing I should have and as a result, could not add any insight to help my boater and I find better quantity and quality of fish. Day one result..............one fish for 2.53lbs.
     Day two was a complete reversal of day one, starting with a cold run down the river and a drop down into very heavy current. At first the current was so fast I questioned my ability to keep any lure in the strike zone long enough to be affective. However, my concerns where quickly laid to rest as my boater set the hook on a solid 2lb largemouth on his second cast. And another on his third cast, and another on his fourth cast.......and.......oh, by now you get the point. My boater had made seven casts and caught five keepers. In that mayhem I managed to catch two keepers and shortly after caught my third. The only complication we had in the first half hour of fishing was sharing the net. In the next few hours I filled out my limit, mostly on various beavers, and a Rivers Edge Jig with a papi craw trailer. All while my boater continued to catch quality fish almost at will. Despite the fact that the wind was blowing so hard we had the boat pointed down stream with the trolling motor on almost high just to keep us in place.
     I specifically want to mention what I consider two acts of incredible sportsmanship witnessed throughout my day two on the water. The spot we were fishing had a very defined sweet spot which the heavy current made difficult to fish affectively. As the morning played out another competitor had come up behind us and spent the better part of an hour with only one fish to show for it. As we conversed with them, my boater asked how many they had, and the answer was bleak. So my boater asked me to come up to the front of the boat where he asked me if we should bow out of this spot and let them fill out their limits. I thought this was an awesome act of sportsmanship and was glad to be apart of it. So we lifted the trolling motor and moved over to the other shoreline.
     After roughly an hour and a half, we saw the boat leave and wave a "Thank you" as they departed our area. So, we made our way back over to our original starting point and almost immediately began catching fish again. As the time to weigh-in grew shorter, another boat joined us and had the unfortunate opportunity to watch us continue catching fish and tossing them overboard. And as he had done with the previous boat, my boater asked these gentleman if they had their limits, and they said no. So he turned to me and asked the same question he asked me three hours earlier. "Should we give this spot to them and go fish somewhere closer the weigh-in". And again, I was happy to say yes and be apart of his act of sportmanship. So we strapped everything down, and headed to waters closer to the marina.
     My second day on the water was different from day one in many ways. I had two boaters who where very fun to fish with, and would gladly fish with either gentleman again. However, even having 12.52lbs of fish to weigh in on day two pailed in comparision to watching a contender give up his spot not once, but twice to fellow competitiors who had not yet filled out their limits. This kind of sportmanship is why I love this sport so much. I had a fun 2011 Spring state tournament, but will take more than two weigh in slips away from the experience.