After having the first club tournament of the year cancelled due to high water, we were finally able to have our pool 9 spring tournament out of Lansing. I was excited to get an early jump on the mornings fishing but was quickly deflated by the site of 25+ bass boats lined up at the state ramp in Lansing. Bass World Sports was having a tournament out of the same ramp, so I knew right then and there the river was going to be crowded. Our club members put their boats in, wound our way through the other tournaments staging boats, and put up on plain headed for our first spots. My partner for this tournament had prefished the lower end of pool 9 and was confident in our ability to find fish, with the only question being size.
As we dropped down near a quiet shoreline, I was excited about the prospect of calling up some early morning fish on my Berkley Pop-R, while my parnter started the morning throwing a scailed down spinner bait. We were on a flat of about 1-1/2' to 2' of water with 3+ feet of water just beyond the other side of the boat. The water was slightly stained from the rain the night before with moderate current on the shoreline timber. The water temperatures where 63-65 degrees. As we fish further down the shoreline I had a few hits on plastic but no hook ups, but Dan was also getting fish hitting the spinner baits but not eating. We both agreed we were on a spawning flat with fish either sitting on or guarding beds. Shortly after that conversation Dan hooked up with his first keeper of the day, a solid 1-3/4"-2lb fish. I continued to alternate between the the pop-R and an RC Tackle Beaver with nothing to show for my efforts. As we made our way down the bank, Dan would occasionally get bumped on the spinner bait and quickly used a follow up soft plastic bait. The fish would appear to run off with the bait but would not get hooked, so this re-confirmed the fish were guarding beds and only carrying off the baits versus truely eating them. After about 200 yards, we turned around and worked our way back up the bank and Dan managed to boat two more keepers and some dinks while continuing to get bit on the spinnerbait. We entered an area just north of the shoreline we started on only to find the creek feeding this area had muddied up the water. So, we decided to head offshore near some emerging grass flats. This grass was in extremly shallow water, but bordered 3'-5' of water. This was where i hooked my first keeper of the day on a spinner bait. Normally this wouldnt be that interesting of a side bar, but the fact of the matter is i casted into the wind, got one whale of a backlash, and when I managed to untangle the mess, and start realing in the line, there was a solid bass on the other end. Needless to say, that was all the amunition Dan needed for a day of ribbing about deadsticking a spinnerbait.
With a solid limit on the board for Dan, and one pure accident on the board for me, i agreed to tie on a custom spinner bait that seemed to be the ticket for the early morning bite. And oddly enough, the first stretch of rock bank we went down I nearly got the rod jerked out of my hand by to very agressive smallmouth. This was enough to convince me that slow rolling a spinner bait was going to be a big part of my afternoon.
As we crossed over onto a rock bank with decent current and varying water depth from 2' to 6', we started to find active fish on a variet of lures. Dan was alternating between spinnerbaits, tubes, jigs, and an occassional crankbait, while i was throwing mostly black RC tackle 4" tubes, rattle traps, and a Rivers Edge jig. We caught fish consistantly for the next two hours with Dan culling out a few fish and me finishing out my limit and upgrading a little. The magic depth consistantly holding good centrations of fish was between 3'-5'.
Early afternoon, we decided to start looking for some bigger fish which meant heading back up river and out of our wind protected lower end. And with that being said, i can truely say the last couple of spots, and the periodic short rides up the river were a real challenge. We consistantly fought 3'+ waves with some rollers reaching 4' or better. This made for some tense moments and a real appreciation for a being in a 20+ foot boat that handled the conditions quiet well. Between these short boat rides, we managed to catch more fish, but nothing that increased our overall team weight. And with some of my fish barely crossing the 14" limit, i knew this might hurt our chances at a win.
We entered the Lansing state ramp marina and fished our way to the boat ramp with little more than a few lost lures thanks to some overly agressive shallow water Northern pike. So we loaded up the boat and had to settle for a 3rd place finish. Dan had over twelve pounds and I had slightly less than 8lbs running our total to 20lbs. Not what we wanted, but considering the dropping water levels, and the limited prefishing, we were content with the results. It took 23+ lbs to win our club tournament with big bass being a little over 3.5 lbs. Overall, a very enjoyable day of fishing, and a reality check for me regarding my stubborness in staying with baits i want to catch fish with, versus fishing with baits I have proof the fish are agreesive with.