Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Dubuque Club Tournament

     With the mornings having a slight chill in the air, my enthusiasm for fishing has been growing daily. The hint of fall coupled with good reports of bait fish balling up in the backwaters gives me a sense of urgency to take advantage of every fishing opportunity from now until cold weather sets in. And our next club tournament in Dubuque, Iowa was the start of a long stretch of early fall and fall fishing that was filled with promise. My partner for this tournament was Jerry Mundt, a veteran of the Northeast Iowa Bass Anglers and experienced tournament angler. I met Jerry at the ramp along with our other club members, and exchanged hello's and good lucks as we launched the boats. Jerry owns a yellow Skeeter coupled with a smooth running Yahama engine that would barely have time to consume any fuel as we traveled only a quarter mile to our first fishing spot of the morning.
     As we launched the boat, I was informed by Jerry we would probably not be alone in our first spot of the day and he was right. We were the number three boat into this shallow back water bay and as we idled into our starting position, I noticed the water was alive with bait fish. The water had a grey stained look to it coupled with the fact we were going to be fishing in a 2' or less of water instantly limited my options regarding presentations. I took roughly 7-8 casts with my pop-r and dropped that rod for a Stanely Vibra-shaft spinner bait, and after the same amount of casts put that rod down as well. As we got closer to the bank I began tossing a black with red flake RC Tackle tube and withing a few casts hooked into a 2.06lb largemouth that quickly came to the boat. It was a good start to the day, however, my day was about to get exponentially better a few yards down the shoreline. As I flipped, Jerry was throwing a spinner bait to shoreline cover with no takers. The stained water made the need for vibration and a darker and larger profile a necessity. The darker profile of the black tube made an inviting target for my next fish, a 5.0lb largemouth that did its very best to try and toss the hook as I fought it back to the boat. After Jerry netted the fish we both took a second to admire the size of the fish, then quickly put the fish on the board, wrote down the weight, and released it back into the water. My only real regret was my hurry to get this beautiful fish back into the water as I neglected to take a photograph. Regardless, a 5lb fish is almost as good as it gets on the upper Mississippi river so with 7.6 lbs in two fish, we continued down the shoreline.
     Jerry managed a keeper a few yards further down the shoreline and as we continued to get bit, the fish seemed to be only taking part of the plastics instead of swallowing the entire bait. Our suspected culprits were smaller fish just eating the tails of the baits and running off. However, we were watching other members of our club boating and weighing fish so we new there was a substantial amount of fish congregated on this small stretch of shoreline. As we fished our way out of the bay, we decided to fish the rock shoreline leading out of the bay into the main channel. Jerry had fished it the day before based on the theory the fish may be pulling out of the shallow bay with the water dropping, but they had no luck. But the time of day was different so we gave it a shot, and shortly before the first bridge piling, Jerry's spinnerbait was crushed by the biggest sheephead I have ever seen out of the water. This fish would barely fit into the net and was easily over 15lbs probably approaching 20lbs. Not what we were looking for but an interesting twist on the morning's fishing.
     We continued down the main channel fishing the stronger current with tubes, jigs, crankbaits, and spinner baits. I managed a solid 2lb fish on this stretch and Jerry caught his second keeper of the day a little further down. With no consistency in bites, we decided to try a few other main channel points and shorelines before the boat traffic made them impossible to fish. As we started to move around though, we noticed the boat traffic had already picked up making almost every bank we pulled up to a serious challenge to fish. We manage another keeper off a single point under another bridge piling, but decided the best course of action was to head down river and try and get out of the boat traffic and find quieter water. This would prove harder than expected as we encountered pleasure boaters where ever we went. We stopped at the mouth of a small river that dumps into the Mississippi river about 3-4 miles south of our starting point. This spot had all the elements including a rocky shoreline, variations of depth, slightly cleaner water, and current from multiple directions. Regardless of how good it appeared, Jerry managed two dinks and I couldn't pull a fish from anywhere inside or outside this area. It was one of the most frustrating spots we fished all day.
     After about 2 hours of stopping at spots in the middle of the pool with no luck, we decided to work our way back up river. One of the spots we stopped at was the mouth of a small marina with excellent depth and a steep bank with a combination of rocks and wood. But like our previous spots in the middle of this pool, we left empty handed. Jerry and I decided to return to our first spot of the day and make our last stand trying to fill our limit. As we arrived we recognized the two boats who also started in this spot almost 7 hours earlier. They had never left this bank and at the weigh in we would find out why. Regardless, Jerry and I put our heads down and fished hard for the next hour and half. Shortly into that time frame Jerry stuck a solid 2lb largemouth off a tiny lay down near the shoreline, so I thought our chances to upgrade our weight a little might be pretty good. I stuck with my black with red flake tube and Jerry threw a red baby-1, then a spinner bait, and finally back to plastic. We both got bit consistently but the bites were just as we left them, short and quick with rarely a hook up. As time began to run out on us, more of our club members began filing into the cove that was beginning to get crowded. With two to three boats throwing lures at this bank all day, you'd think the fish would have seen every lure multiple times and shut down. But as I looked up and down the bank I could still see that people where catching fish. However the size wasn't there and Jerry and I ended our day with roughly 18lbs between us.
     We finished in 4th place with close to 25lbs winning the tournament. As Jerry and I discussed the days events, we agreed that leaving the cove around mid morning in search of bigger fish was still the right idea, so collectively, we had no regrets on the days decisions. The water levels in the Dubuque pool were as low as they have been all year, so navigating certain areas on the Mississippi river were rough to say the least. There were specific areas of back water that were completely cut off from boats because this years consistent high waters had silted the entrances in. We adapted to what the river conditions gave us and despite some early highs and lows, has a good day of fishing on pool 12.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

COTR Tournament Day Part 2

     As the morning sun quickly climbed into the sky, we continued to catch fish, but no more size than what we'd been averaging. With our fifth keeper came a subtle relief that we'd caught our limit, but that was early in the morning and we'd been searching for bigger fish for almost two hours managing to only upgrade an ounce or two at a time. It was getting to the point in which we needed to leave this spot in search of bigger fish, so we decided to pack up and head up river a little to some fresh water. The spot we had in mind was a slight cut back off the main channel with an underwater rock jetty that came out from the shoreline dropping off gradually into 8' of water. We'd caught fish in this spot earlier in the week, and in years past i've stumbled onto a mixed bag of largemouth and smallmouth bass in this spot, so anything could happen. Rick positioned the boat just off the 8' depth range and I began casting a crankbait and Rick started slow rolling a spinner bait down the rock ledge. Quickly disappointed that no agressively feeding fish jumped on our presenations, we both switched to a plastic with Rick throwing a baby brush hog and I stuck with the 4" Watermelon with red flake beaver. Now, what makes this spot so good is also what makes this spot a pain in the butt to fish plastics, or a jig. There are varying sizes of rocks on this ledge and it it didnt take long for both of us to become snagged. Rick manuvered the boat and eventually we both retrieved our lures and kept fishing. Rick managed a few shorts and I managed a short and one more keeper roughly the same size as our previous keepers. Throughly covering this area and the back of the boat docks adjacent to the point, we decided to head to our larger weed fish we knew were possibly still in that area. With another short boat ride, we entered what would be our last stop of the tournament.
     Having had the results we did the day before in this area, I couldn't help but get a little excited as we rolled quietly up on the moss covered tree line. We both knew we would need a good hook set, and a quick fight back to the boat if we engaged any of the qaulity fish we knew were here. We began casting at the flooded tree line and brush piles sorounded by a thin layer of moss, but our lures didnt recieve any attention. As we began casting in and around the 15 yard stretch where we'd hooked a couple huge fish the day before, my excitement grew in anticipation of what could, maybe, happen! But the frogs passed over the weed mat time and time again from almost every angle we could cast to only to return to us for another ride. The designated "hot spot" came and went and we quickly found ourselves turning around for another pass. Again, everything was as quiet as the first time we'd passed through, so we decided to fish up to another large brushpile covered in the same vegetation. As we blanketed the northside and made our way around to the south side, Rick and I began talking while I cleaned the moss off my Spro Frog, and Rick's Live Action floating frog was sitting in the water next to the boat. In a split second of water splashing and Rick raising his fishing pole, there was a keeper largemouth in the bottom of the boat. This fish was either sitting under the mat at that exact spot, or had followed the Live Action Frog back to the boat and when Rick stopped the lure, decided it was a good time for lunch. Regardless, it was not something your going to experinece everyday, and it gave us something to chat about for a bit.
     It was getting late in the day and we decided to blanket every inch of the area in search of fish deciding to keep the lures in the water versus burning time running to our other fish. Rick took a few minutes to check on the fish, and untangle the cull tags while I took the trolling motor and contiued to fish. We knew we'd better leave a solid half hour before our weigh in time in case we ran into a rough main channel, engine trouble, ect.
We were just approaching our target area one more time and suddenly my frog was attacked just on the weed edge. I set the hook and thought I had the fish we were looking for as I told Rick to "get the net this is a big fish". As Rick netted the fish, I was slightly embarrased by what I saw. The fish was only a 13/3/4" largemouth and needless to say, I took a little ribbing from my partner. As the "monster fish" jabs started flying Rick reminded me that it was 1:43 and we needed to finish up and start idling out of the back water. Just then our largest fish of the day enhaled the frog and was quickly loaded into the boat. Rick tossed our smallest fish over board replacing it with the 2-3/4lb fish and we both went back to casting as fast as we could remembering it was just about this time the day before when the bigger fish began to bite in the flooding trees. However, we couldn't get a flurry of large fish going and time simply ran out on our tournament day.
     The ride back for me was more satifying than I expected considering the weight we thought we had. We'd fished hard, didn't make any mistakes, had no fish come off, and most importantly, had a really good time on the water. The marina was packed upon our arrival and the crowd at the weigh in was a pleasant suprise. We idled in, looked for a place to pull the boat into, and after Rick grabbed a weigh in bag, took our fish to the scales. 11.33lbs was the result of our tournament day, with our largest fish weighing in at 2.75lbs. Respectable, yes, what we wanted, no. Rick is as competitive as I am and our goal was to cash a check at this years Country on the River Tournament. The last checks were handed out to weights in the low 13lbs, so we knew we were one large fish away from our goal. But we fish these tournaments for alot of reasons including competition, comrodery, and the love of the sport. This years COTR tournament satisfied all of those for me................. 

Friday, August 12, 2011

COTR Tournament Day Part 1

     There was a slight chance of rain in the forecast for the morning of Country on the River, but when I first stepped outside, it was clear by the spattering of stars in the sky, we wouldn't have to worry about a rainy take off. As we got ready, chocked down some coffee, and loaded a few odds and end in the vehicle, my adrenaline started kicking in. The feeling is comparable to when I'd head to the pitchers mound in a college baseball game. A mixture of emotions from nervousness, to excitement, to a little fearful of how the day would unfold. But confident that we'd put enough time and effort in to expect a few pieces of the puzzle to come together. The evening before we had decided to use a little off the path boat ramp to avoid the congestion associate with big tournaments and the Washington Street boat ramp. Apparently, many others had this same idea as we were greeted with several boats lining up to use this ramp. After some maneuvering, and a polite ride out to the boat by an old friend, we were headed to the take off area.
     One of my favorite sites in all the world, is a conglomeration of bass boats all floating carefully around each other in anticipation of take off. Weaving our way through the crowd we communicated with other boats trying to align ourselves with other boats in roughly the same take off order as us. The previous year we had drawn 99 out of 108 boats, so when we drew 26th this year, Rick and I were a little more excited about getting to our morning spot first. As the boats began to idle off to the side and quickly get up on plane, we lined ourselves up with the take off point, slammed the doors on the live wells, and off we went. Instead of following the main channel like almost every boat before us, Rick wisely decided to cut up through Rosea and take advantage of some calmer water even if it was only for a mile or so. As we meant up with the pack again, it seemed like the timing between boats was just enough to let us comfortably change sides of the river and we continued to speed up river to our first spot of the day.
     My eyes were trying hard to spot any other boats in the cut as we approached from the south side, but as we got within 200 yards, I could see we'd been beaten to our spot. Not only beaten to our spot, but there wasn't a ripple in the water and they were already fishing quietly in the north end of the cove. As Rick set the Champion down, we tried not to let this effect us because we new there was a chance we'd have to share this water and make the best of it. The other boat was sitting right on the point where Rick had caught 2-1/2lb-3lb fish earlier in the week, but he had also caught fish on the west side with pads, weeds, and flooded
timber behind, so that's where we decided to start fishing. I started throwing a Spro Frog to the pockets behind the grass, and Rick started throwing a Stanley Double Willow blade spinner bait along the weed edge. It wasn't long before we heard the familiar splash of a fish on behind us as our competition started boating fish. Not exactly what you want to see, but it was only minutes into the tournament day, so we knew our time would come. As we got closer to the flooded timber line behind the weeds, I grabbed the flipping rod and began chucking a 4" Watermelon with red flake beaver. The very first cast I felt a tic and set the hook, but missed. I quickly adjusted the lure on the hook and tossed right back to the stump where the bite came from. Again, the lure got hit on the fall and I set the hook and this time, connected. The fish almost immediately buried itself in a patch of lilly pads and became hooked up. This was concerning for two reasons. First off, I wasn't sure of the size of the fish and didn't want to release the tension I had on the line because I could still feel the fish struggling. Secondly, I didn't really want to make Rick ram the Champion that close to the flooded timber on the outside chance the fish was not a keeper and we'd spook the other fish. But Rick quietly positioned the boat so I could reach into the water and pull the fish free of the weed stem it was hooked on. Immediately upon retrieving the fish I was disappointed in the size, but after Rick said, "You better measure him just in case", I was pleasantly surprised to see 14-1/4" on the board. It wasn't a monster, and wasn't the tournament fish we were seeking, but we both agreed it was a start. Shortly after the first fish debacle, Rick caught another keeper on a swim bait he'd managed to surgically place between the low hanging tree limb and the flooded trees. Two keepers in about 20 minutes was an OK start, but 50-60 yards behind us our competition was already hanging fish on the digital scale and culling fish. So we just kept the lures in the water and continued to fish.
     As we began creeping closer and closer to the spot where the flooded timber and pads transitioned to cattails and moss, Rick popped his live action frog into an open water spot and watched as it was quickly inhaled by a solid 2lb largemouth. Our third keeper of the morning was proof the fish we were on were aggressively feeding on whatever crossed their paths, and it was simply a matter of getting a lure presented to them. As I looked over my shoulder I could only see our competition from the waste up. Their boat had completely disappeared into the cattails and they were flipping frogs to patches between the cattails no bigger than a kitchen sink. And getting bit almost immediately upon slash down. Rick positioned the boat at the mouth of a narrow shoot that went back to a completely covered shallow lake in the very back of the cove. The thin mat of weed cover made this shoot excellent frog fishing and we managed our fourth small keeper from the edge of the weed line. As we continued to fish, it became apparent we were going to have to share this water with more than one boat as two more boats were pulling into the cove to pursue the panfish bite that was obviously taking place.
     With some gentle maneuvering, we managed to fish our way back through the narrow canal to the back of the cove with a few blow ups, and only a few northern pike to show for it. So, we decided to head back out to the main weed line and continue our efforts there. Our competition had crossed over to the side of the cover where we had started, but immersed themselves a little north, and further into the vegetation than I would have ever thought to go. But they continued to set the hook repeatedly. As a matter of fact, at one point a sharp crack rang through the air as we looked up to see a broken pole, a dropped reel, and a man hand lining a fish he'd hooked on a frog. As he managed the fish into the boat and held it up, Rick, myself, and two other boats started a round of applause for the effort. It was a nice break from the action as everyone in the cove got quiet chatty with each other after that.................................

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Day Five of COTR

     After a map session the night before, and comparing what we'd found for fish the night before, Rick and I dropped his Champion in at the Washington Street ramp in Prairie Du Chien, and headed out to spot check some of our more productive spots. The day before a tournament is an interesting time because you can use this opportunity on the water for a variety of purposes. Some tournament anglers will take the hooks off their crank baits, bury the hook inside a tube, or creature bait, and put a piece of plastic over a spinner bait hook just to prevent accidentally hooking the fish they are checking. Some anglers will use the day before to search almost exclusively new water insisting on leaving the fish they have already found untouched. Others will employ a combination of these theories. We were not going to one extreme or the other, but we had every intention of making sure we didn't hook many fish in any of the existing spots we had fish on, but were also going to use every minute of time we had to keep searching for more quality fish. With 106 boats in the tournament, 212 fisherman would have a line in the water on Saturday and we needed every spot we could find.
     We decided to check an area first thing in the morning that we'd both failed to check during the week, but given the current conditions, we felt somewhere in this backwater lake should hold fish. As we idled through some shallow water, we decided to give a little area a few casts to start the morning. Lilly pads, current, and a shallow flat spilling into deeper water. Sounds productive I know, however, not a single blow up on a buzz bait, pop-r, spinner bait, or swim jig. So we quickly made our way to this intended area. As we arrived, I was pleased to see we were the first ones in the area, but after about an hour I realized why we were alone. Not a single bite except a pesky hammer handled Northern Pike that tackled Rick's spinner bait along some wooded cover. Disappointed, and wanting to use our time the best we could, we decided to check a few spots up river. Arriving just down stream from our next targeted spot, we almost immediately started getting bit on a main channel transition spot going from rip rap to wood. The bites were consistent, and we figured out why quickly. The small largemouth were hitting the beavers and brushhogs as they were falling down on the initial presentation behind the larger trees providing the current breaks. Not able to get a solid fish out of this stretch, we decided to move up to the spot around the bend where Rick had managed some solid 2-1/2lb to 3lb fish earlier in the week. As we arrived, Rick explained the topography of this shallow bay with flooded pads, cattails, and timber. All the pieces seemed to fit together with one unexpected surprise. A Ranger boat appeared from the flooded timber, passed by us without a word, and headed out of the bay. We both hoped they hadn't found a pile of willing fish and left disgusted and cursing the time they spent in the area. But the sad reality was they probably caught some fish and were headed out not wanting to burn too may of them in case they had to come back to them later in the tournament day. Rick and I began fishing swim baits, swim jigs and spinner baits on the outside edges of the structure, with Rick catching a few shorts on the swim bait. It wasn't long into fishing this area when we heard the familiar noise of bait fish being fed on in the flooded timber. This sight, coupled with another bass boat entering the cove and starting to fish around use, we decided they were still here and we'd leave the spot alone.
     As the day wore on, we checked a few other spots with relatively little success with the exception of Rick catching a solid 2-1/2lb fish on a Live Action Frog, and a solid 2lb fish on a secondary channel point that yielded several bites that I couldn't manage to hook up. Early afternoon, we decided to make a long stretch of backwater with wood and weed cover our last stop of the day. Once we got past the initial entrance without a single bite, we made our way along the flooded timber and began throwing frogs as it became increasingly covered with weeds. Our first pass took us all the way back to the end of the cut without a blow up, but on our return pass, we had a surprise waiting for us back in the flooded timber. As Rick pulled his frog through the weed bed just on the edge of what would be the original bank in normal pool, his frog was absolutely crushed by a what I initially thought was a very big Nothern Pike. As the battle ensued, I said to Rick, "that is either a Nothern or a really big bass", and as I finished the statement, we both realized it was an enormous largemouth that had been hiding in the tree line. Moments later, the fish spit the frog and Rick and I were left speechless. The only thing I could think to do in that silence was to continue throwing the frog into the tree line. And on the first cast, just yards away from where Rick's frog got crushed, my Spro frog was engulfed by another enormous fish. This fight lasted 5-7 seconds and again, the bait came loose. We quickly realized this specific section of the tree line was holding good fish and ended the day knowing we had late day fish to go to on tournament day.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Day four of COTR

     My intent on the morning of day four was to fish a few main channel points to see if the size of the fish were bigger than the 1-1/2lb to 2lb fish I'd found over the last 36 hours. My partner for the tournament had spent the first hour of his pre-fishing week on Wednesday drilling 2-1/2lb to 3lb fish so I felt obligated to change things up a bit. As I dropped the boat down on a main channel point, I new instantly that the trolling motor was going to drain quickly if I fished this much current all day. I picked up one of my crankbait rods and started throwing a KVD 1.5 shad colored crankbait above the point and pulling it through the break. The second cast produced a 10" bass, followed by another 10" bass, followed by another 10" bass. In 20+ casts I'd caught a dozen clones of the first tiny largemouth. I could see the small minnows in the current break and assumed these where what the bass where feeding on and was convinced there were larger fish in the vicinity. I switched to an RC Tackle Brown and Tan camo pattern 4" Beaver and continued to catch only small fish. But by now, I had a bass boat drop down behind me about 100 yards and start fishing his way up to me. As he politely held his distance, I continued to catch fish but couldn't get anything above a 12" fish. I worked my way up above the point and the bite quickly dropped off. It was apparent the fish were below the point, but I had no interest in dropping back down and continuing to catch fish that wouldn't help our team come Saturday. So, I packed up and headed to a few more main channel spots with limited success, and decided to try and find some secondary current.
     Winding my way through a secondary cut, I noticed a small dead end cut that was chocked up with slop but had cattails at the very end. As I began to fish the wood on my way into the cut, a few fish began busting the surface trying to feed on a group of shad. I threw a white and blue tinsel double willow blade Stanely spinner bait at the disturbance, but couldn't get bit as I pulled it through the ball of shad. The second cast made it clear the Northern Pike were making a meal out of the school of shad. I tossed back the fish and continued to cast out the cove without a bass. The cove left me a little confused because there was 4'-5' of water, large lilly pads, wood, and bait fish. But, that's why we pre-fish, to eliminate water as well as find good water.
     Up stream and around the next bend was a giant log jam that I'd fished in previous seasons. It had current and depth but this time with the high water, the trees directly behind the log jam were flooded with 3'-4' of slightly moving water. Coupled with a weed bed just down from the log jam, this situation looked promising so I began fishing down stream from the log jams current break and made my way up slowly. Two larger trees that were usually out of the water made another secondary current break and as my spinner bait made it's way by the first tree, Wham!, a solid 2lb largemouth came springing out of the water just after I set the hook. The fight lasted seconds and I began repeatedly throwing the Stanley spinner bait by all the standing timber I could reach. After having another hook up but having the fish come unbuttoned, I switched to flipping a beaver at the cover. After about a dozen casts, I had the line swim off toward the main current and I set the hook, turned the fish initially, but had the hook come out. I decided this was a spot I would check the following day so I packed up and headed up river to cover more water.
     The rest of my day was very uneventful, and honestly, quiet boring. As the week went on, I was experiencing more and more bites, but the size of the fish I was catching was not improving. This was a concern as there was only one more day of pre-fishing before tournament day and I had not found quality fish on a consistent basis, and my partner had a few spots with only one yielding tournament quality fish.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Day three of COTR

     Having found cleaner water, bait fish, and bass the evening before, I decided to investigate this area some more and take a different approach to see if there were larger fish to be had. I drove straight back to the spot I left the evening before with the intent of throwing a buzz bait to try and call up some of the bigger boys. It only took a few cast before a fish took a good swipe at the buzz bait but missed. I quickly dropped the buzz bait rod, picked up the Berkly Pop-R and casted back to the scene of the crime. One twitch and the popper was inhaled. A good 2lb fish to start the day, and it also reminded me the popper was roughly the same size as the bait fish I'd seen the evening before. This scenario repeated its self several times over the next hour. Some fish I caught out right on the buzz bait, but most were caught with the Pop-R after they'd missed the buzz bait.
     As the morning bite came to an end I started to investigate the entire area so just in case the water levels dropped more than anticipated, I would have a general idea of where these fish might pull out to. This lake however looks the same regardless of where you go, but the deciding factor was bait fish. Where I found bait fish and clean water, I found bass. Not in great numbers, and no hogs, but solid fish. It was hard to leave the area, but I knew I better start fishing all the areas I checked on the map for that day or it wouldn't get done. On my way down to my starting spot, I passed by the entrance to another small inlet that I felt better get checked. It had lots of wood and current running across the front and as it turned out, had a nice 3lb largemouth waiting for me when I dropped a Watermelon with Red Flake tube next to a fallen log. This would turn out to be the biggest fish in this area by far, as I only caught two more fish and both wouldn't have added up to 14"s. My next spot was a weed line with good water and current, but when I pulled up, the winds from the over night hours had pushed a thin mat of weeds over the top of the weed line. So once again, I grabbed the frog rod and within a dozen casts, I had five blow ups and two 2+lb fish. I realized as I left this spot there where a few other locations that mirrored this spot so I spent the next two hours checking those spots with a little less success.
     As the day was coming to a close, I decided to fish a rock shoreline I couldn't earlier in the day because it was simply too windy. I was throwing a Rivers Edge Brown and Tan Camo pattern Beaver and caught a few fish right away. Only a few yards away from the end of the rock shoreline, I casted the beaver out and watched the line quickly swim away toward deeper water. I set the hook and the pole doubled over with a 4+lb largemouth in about 6 feet of water. I quickly got down and lifted the fish into the boat. All I could think about was how nice five of these size fish would be on Saturday. I realize this was an odd place for a fish like this to be, and the likely hood that he'd still be there come Saturday, and bite again was slim, but any time you get a 4lb largemouth into the boat, it's a good day. It was a great close to day three.    

Day Two of COTR

     Having day one of pre-fishing out of the way, my hopes were high for my second day on the water. After once again getting wet to launch the boat at 5:30 am, I decided to start my morning on a weed line that had a secondary channel on one side, and 3'-5' of water on the other. The point was made up of arrow head and lilly pads, the water was calm and peaceful, and I was ready to change my luck. I grabbed the buzz bait rod and made several cast to across and through the vegetation but it wasn't until I threw across the top of the point that the buzz bait was slammed. A solid 3-1/2lb largemouth had just started my day off right!!. I quickly released the fish and spent the next half hour combing the weed point with multiple baits hoping this was not an isolated fish. But as hard as I tried, no other fish came off this point. In fact, no other fish bit my lure for the next six hours. That's right, I said six hours. I fished wood, weeds, current, depth, shallows, sand points, you name it, I fished it. I even spent an hour throwing everything I could think of at the Metro Dome of beaver huts. This eight wonder of the world had 3' of water on either side and 5' right in front of the entrance with so much cover for bass I couldn't help but attached a photo. Disappointed, and once again hot and hungry, I left this part of the pool in search of lunch and an attitude adjustment.
     With two Mc Doubles down and a diet coke chaser, I pulled into another ramp ready for my afternoon/evening session. I wasn't sure what the solution was, but I was sure going to try and fish my was through it. I made the trek down to a small lake with current feeding the top end and good weed growth and sections of depth. As soon as I began casting to a weed line, I could hear action all around me. This was something I hadn't seen any of for the past day and a half, and it was quiet a thrill to see fish exploding on schools of bait fish. The water clarity was multiple times cleaner than any water I'd been fishing so far and there were schools of bait fish everywhere. I sat back not really sure how to approach the situation. There were pad fields all around me, but  not quiet enough spacing for me to get a spinner bait or chatter bait through, so I picked up the Spro Frog and started launching. The second cast produced an open water blow up which made me realize they were not holding tight any over head weed cover. I casted back to the same area and this time he made it count. A solid 2lb fish crushed the Spro Frog. This would be the start of 40-50 blow ups over the next two hours. Most of the bass where in the 12'-14' range, with a few pushing 2-1/4lbs, but this action is hard to beat. These bass were clumped together in a 50 yard area on a 3' flat with cleaner, deeper water near by. I realize these size fish won't help come tournament day, but regardless, it was an outstanding end to day two and it gave me some ammunition for day three.  

Monday, August 1, 2011

Day one of COTR................

     It was anything but an outstanding start to my week on the river preparing for the Country on the River Tournament out of Prairie Du Chien, Wisconsin. Even the best laid plans always seemed to have a little twist in them, and this day was no exception. I planned to start my day using a small ramp down the Wisconsin side of the Mississippi river, and when I pulled into the parking lot I saw lots of water between the dock and dry land. So, I launched the boat managing to stay dry, (from the knees up), parked the vehicle, and headed out to my intended area. After a short boat ride, I dropped the trolling motor and began casting to a weed point dropping gradually from 1' to 6'-7'. With no luck and a lot of weeds chocking up the spinner bait, I switched to a swim jig with the same result. As a creeped up on the point I picked up the tube and made several casts before claiming two 5 lb northern pike on back to back casts. Disheartened, I began heading down river to the next few spots.
     The water clarity was a mix bag of semi clear water, clouds of dirty water, and flat out stained brown water that you'd loss visibility of the swim jig just below the surface. I decided to try and find some cleaner water and headed back up river a few miles to a couple back water lakes that might be what I was looking for. This was not the case. The water was just high enough on pool 10 to be going over most of the islands and I was saddled with the same mix of dirty water I'd been fishing all morning. With nothing to show for my morning efforts, and the sun and humidity beating down on me, I decided to head back toward the ramp and check out one weed chocked inlet I saw leaving the ramp earlier. I pulled the frog rod out and began chucking and winding. A few blows up almost immediately and my adrenalin began pumping. The next cast was swallowed by a large dogfish, which of course managed to inhaled the frog forcing me to perform surgery in the boat, and creating the usual mess they manage when caught. A few cast later, my Spro frog was swiped at by a good size bass that i saw come out of the water, but no hook up.  Seconds later however, a very large northern manage to eat what the bass failed to eat. A few casts later, and I was done with my morning session. Covered in sweat, and sunscreen, I packed up the boat and headed out for lunch and some cool air before the afternoon/evening session.
     I decided to fish a little closure to Prairie based on the possibility of rain, so I launched in town and headed to a couple of current spots close together that always seem to hold fish. When i arrived I noticed cleaner water and some sparsely flooded bright green vegetation just north of the pocket I intended to fish. After several casts with a black with red flake 4" tube, and only a dink to show for it, I made my way around the point and starting pulling the Spro frog through the pads and weeds which had surprisingly clean water around them. A few casts in and only a few yards from the boat, my bait was slammed by a 12" largemouth I quickly swung into the boat. Proof of life!!!!! I released the fish and continued to work the weed section getting a few more blow ups, and one hook up that came unbuttoned after only a few seconds of action. Needless to say I focused the rest of my evenings efforts trying to find water that duplicated this scenario. With a blow up hear and there, and no hook ups, I decided to fish a few more rock ledges on my way back to the ramp. My first cast was greeted with the familiar tic of the line and I reared back and drew air. This happened to me a few more time before finally managing to get the little #@%&*#*% to eat the bait enough so I could set the hook on him. Having had enough for the day, and at least finishing the day with a bass, I called an end to day one.
     Tomorrow is calling for rain, and if the fishing doesn't pick up, it could be fairly miserable out on the water. But hey, its better than being at work.