Wednesday, June 8, 2011

humbling experience..................

     No matter how good the last few fishing trips have been, or how many big bags of bass you've caught recently, or how confident you've become, there is always the next fishing trip waiting to humble you. And that is exactly what I experienced today in a trip to Lansing.
     I accepted an invite to join Mike on pool 9 and head out after some of the good populations of largemouth and smallmouth in and around the Lansing area. We met at the state ramp at first light, dropped Mikes ranger boat in the water, and headed out with relative confidence we could find quality fish. The water table has been somewhat stable over the past few days, weather has been unseasonably warm, and no storm fronts had moved through the area, so the conditions appeared to be on our side. As we put down and idled to our first stretch of bank, Mike noticed the water color had gone from semi-clean to stained. Not sure how this would impact the bite, we started fished the flooded brush and emerging grass along the shoreline with cautious optimism. This would be the highlight of our confidence as we spent the next two hours casting and flipping every piece of cover in the area with little more than a tap or two on the other end of the line. The area had all the components needed such as log jams, smaller flooded brush, fresh green grass, and a mix of current and slack water. Yet nothing more than a missed bite or two.
      Disappointed, we loaded up and headed to another spot closer to the main channel thinking the fish had moved out of shallower back waters. Our next area had similar structure and a little more depth, not to mention a good reputation for holding quality fish. Although the water wasn't at the ideal level, we had hopes of pulling at least a few fish from this area. As we fished the area with tubes, jigs, spinner baits, and the occasional pop-r, our confidence continued to decline as we again had a bite every 50-75 yards and still nothing to show for it. As we approached the back of the cove, and yet another good looking grouping of flooded trees, Mike would stick our only quality fish of the day, a solid 2-1/4 to 2-1/2lb smallmouth. It was somewhat out of place that far back in the trees, however, it gave me confidence there could be more in the area so we continued to fish another hour. Humbly, we packed up our gear quietly, and headed down river evaluating the situation and trying to figure out what the fish wanted. Was it bait fish?, we had seen schools of bait fish. Was it current? we had fished current. Was it weeds, or wood? We'd fished both. Nothing seem to stand out as the reason for our poor fishing.
     We blew through some narrow cuts and down into an area that had two to three intersecting current flows. Again, we had timber, brush, emerging weeds and pads, and now we had rocks. We initially fished the back side of an island and after about 100 yards had one tiny northern pike as the only proof we'd fish the bank at all. As Mike took the boat down one of the cuts, we came up on a bridge and started to fish the rock shoreline with tubes and beavers. Mike got bit almost immediately on the rocks, but didn't hook up while I managed the tinniest of tiny smallmouth on a KVD 1.5 white/grey/chartreuse crankbait. There were a few more bites further up this shoreline, but no hooks ups, so we decided to check a spot or two closure to the ramp. At this point, you could almost feel the desperation between us as the conversations started to dwindle and we both spent that time trying to put together the pieces of the puzzle we'd failed to do throughout the course of the day.
     Next, we sat down in heavy current on a rocky main channel shoreline. Again throwing tubes, beavers, spinner baits, and jigs, we started to get bit. And as we quickly found out, these were 8" to 10" bass grouped together in subtle current breaks. It was nice to get bit, but by now, these fish were little concellation for the days efforts. We fished a little more of the area, then headed into the marina and fished our way to the boat dock.
     Its a little hard to swallow the outcome of the day considering the conditions were right for a good day on the water. Usually, the drive home offers a little clarity on the situation, and provides a bases for wiser decisions going forward. However, Mike and I talked our way through the entire day while we were in the boat fishing our way through pool 9 and failed to come up with any factors except one. The water clarity in almost all the spots we checked had become slightly stained compared to previous outings. This was the only real factor we could come up with that could have impacted the fish.
     The old saying, "A bad day of fishing is still better than a good day of work", still applies. It was a great day to be on the water, and as I do on every trip, learned more about the river than I previously knew. That being said, Mike and I are both competitive and the sting of a humbling day on the river won't go away quickly enough.



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