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.