Wednesday, September 28, 2011

NE Iowa Bass Anglers....Guttenberg Open Tournament

     The morning of the Northeast Iowa Bass Anglers Guttenberg Open didn't start off with a beautiful sunrise complimented with idling bass boats eager to blast off in search of large bags. Instead, as we all rigged our equipment and staged our boats, we were greeted with colder temperatures and rain. However, it didn't dampen the spirits of the 25+ teams signed up for the tournament. As some members of our club signed up late arrivals, others started directing traffic near the boat ramp, and I checked live wells and informed the teams of the staging area, limits, and check in time. Eric, a fellow club member, was my partner for the tournament and as the last of the boats put in, we joined the masses waiting in the marina for take off. Within minutes of putting Eric's Triton in the water, our number 14 was called and we were quickly heading down river to our first spot of the morning.
     After a short, but somewhat chilly ride, we entered a secondary channel only to find another bass boat sitting on the spot Eric had in mind to start on. So, with a slight change in plans, we headed to a wooded bank and began our tournament day. It was a quiet first 20-30 minutes as we tossed crankbaits and spinner baits at the cover, and followed up those baits with jigs and tubes. Eric managed our fist keeper of the day, a cookie cutter 14-1/2" largemouth, after about 10 casts at a terrific looking brush pile. Regardless of its length, it was a keeper and the skunk had left the boat. After a few more bites that didn't materialize into fish and 75 yards of bank behind us, Eric and I decided to move to another area close by with shallow wood and less current. It was only seconds after we dropped the boat down and removed our life jackets when a boat who had been fishing just upstream from our starting spot, blew by us and headed to the back of the cove. Normally this wouldn't bother me but he had made the pass a little closer than edicate dictates.
Regardless, Eric and I began fishing a fairly open looking bank on our way up to a narrow shoot buried in timber. But we began pick up fish every few casts and had a total of three keepers in the live well before long. We both had high hopes for some bigger fish as we inched closer to the timber in the back of the shoot.
     I wish I could say we finished our our bag in this area with 3lb largemouth, but as we all know, fishing doesn't go to plan very often. We did however, fill our our limit very quickly and caught a great number of fish from 8"s to 14"-15"s. Long and skinny seemed to be the type of fish in this area and they were hungry biting on tubes and other plastics as well as crankbaits, spinner baits, and rattle traps. Regardless of how good the bite was in this area, Eric and I both agreed we needed to find bigger fish in order to compete for a check in this tournament. So we packed up and headed to a few other spots close by. As we covered water, we couldn't seem to catch the fish we needed to increase our weights. The fish were were they were suppose to be, but the big ones seemed to be playing hard to get. We did manage to cull a fish or two on these short distance spots, but only gained an ounce or two per fish. As the morning quickly got away from us, we decided we needed to make a run in order to fish completely different water to try and find a few heftier bass that could put us back into contention.
     As we dropped down into some deeper water with heavier current, Eric immediately caught a smallmouth that was legal, but not enough weighed to help us. This was a positive start to this spot, but this late in the day, we were both sure this area had seen its fair share of pressure throughout the morning. After a 20 minute stretch without a bite, we decided to move across to the other side. As Eric lifted the trolling motor, a situation I had not had the pleasure of experiencing unfolded. One of Eric's rods had gotten lifted up with the trolling motor and fell over the side of the boat. As quickly as the rod fell into the water and started to sink, Eric reached overboard for the rod and tumbled out of the boat. The saving grace in this situation was the fact that he had not let go of the side of the Triton and as the current brought him toward the back of the boat, Eric tossed the rod back into the boat and I pulled him out of the water. This was one of those situations where you know something unthinkable could have happened, but at the same time, I couldn't help but get a slight grin on my face as my partner sat on the front deck of his boat totally soaked in 59 degree water from his neck down. The fact is he was safely back in the boat but was going to fish with a slight chill for the remainder of the tournament. Possibly holding that rod a little tighter than he had before. :-)
     Knowing Eric like i do, I knew the competitor in him would brush that insident off and get right back to finding fish. So, once he was dried off, we headed out to find a few last minute fish that could help our overall weight. We both agreed we should check a few spots we'd caught fish earlier in the day to see if the bigger fish had moved up. But as we fished some of these spots, we quickly figured out the same size fish were still there and eager to bite. Regardless of the location, the fish were certainly active, eating both plastics and hard body baits. With time running out we made our last stand on a shallow point that had all the characteristic of great fall fishing. But with a dink here and there, and time runnning out, we had to pack up and head to the check in.
     Being as competitive as we both are, it wasn't the bag we wanted to bring in, but it wasn't from a lack of effort. We had fished hard and made decisions that helped us find and catch fish, however, they just weren't the quality we needed. As our bag of 11+ lbs of fish quickly got left behind as the bigger bags came in, Eric and I both agreed we'd done all we could to compete. It just wans't in the cards for this particular day. I had a great time fishing with Eric as we have the same fishing styles and competitive nature. So, it wasn't the easiest pill to swallow as we watched the weigh in, but regardless of the out come, we both learned more about the river and the crazy fish we chase than we did before the day started.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Fall Iowa Bass Federation State Tournament Day 2

     Day two of the Iowa Fall BASS Federation State tournament had me pair up with Rob Smith, a previous regional qualifier who has been a long time Federation member and state tournament participant. We had meant the night before at the meeting and briefly discussed the next days strategy which once again, had me pleasantly surprised to be staying on pool 12. I met Rob and his Express pair with a 200 HP engine in the parking lot of the ramp, were we loaded up, prepped the boat, and launched. It was going to be another beautiful day with temperatures in the high mid to high 70's, and a light wind out of the northwest. My only concern was the fog. Most people who locked north on day one ran into a fog bank and it was set up to happen again on both pools. We had drawn seventh in the take off order and as quickly as the names were being called out of the bull horn, we were off and down the river.
     As we made our way down river and around a few turns, we suddenly ran into a patch of fog that stopped most of the field dead in its tracks. We set down almost instantly as did most boats, but we could still hear a few running through the fog trusting the GPS with their lives. As Rob idled a short distance in the fog, we made the decision to head toward a cut and start fishing versus taking our chances in the fog. Its wasn't more than a cast or two into the first log jam just off the main channel and my tube was inhaled in a swirl of water. I set the hook and swung a nice keeper into the boat for the first fish of the day. The current coming off the main channel, coupled with deeper water shortly off the shoreline, set up the scenario nicely. As Rob and I fished the first few lay downs we came across, the bites started piling up. But the keepers did not. We both caught a few shorts on the first bank before switching over to another, larger brush pile on the opposing shoreline. A few casts into the structure and my tube started running off toward deeper water. I set the hook on my second keeper of the day, a 2lb largemouth that had once again taken the black with red flake RC Tackle tube. Within moments of putting a cull tag on that fish Rob loaded up on his first keeper of the day, another good largemouth. Its was a good feeling having three keepers in the boat a half hour into the day after fishing for 5-6 hours the previous day without a bite. But that's fishing, and that's why we do it.
     After thoroughly fishing this tree, Rob and I made quick work of the bank below us and came to a fork in the current which lead down stream in the main cut, or into a shallow back water. We fished the point with only shorts to show for it and decided to head into the shallow back water fishing the immense amount of lay downs and shallow stumps lining the shoreline on both sides. Rob had made his first cast to a small patch of logs and had a nice keeper explode on his swim jig. With his second keeper in the live well, Rob moved us quickly down the entrance to the back water and into the shallow water lake. It was quiet and peaceful, but it was alive with bait fish and movement if you kept your eyes on the water. Its wasn't a cast or two along the first shoreline before Rob had his third keeper of the day. The whole shoreline was set up like the first 10-15 yards I was excited to see what this could produce. We continued to get bit over the next 50 yards flipping to every piece of cover, but could only manage shorts. Although Rob got relieved of his lure by a toothy critter during this stretch. As we came to a subtle point on the shoreline, Rob hooked his fourth keeper of the day next to a patch of tiny limbs from an small tree that previous flooding had left in the water. The fish in this area were coming anywhere from 4'-5' off the shoreline, to inches from the shoreline. But they were next to cover regardless of where they was in the water column. Shortly into our second pass I caught my third keeper of the day, which proved to be the last fish we'd take from this area. So with the fog lifted, we decided to head to Rob's original starting spot to see if we could finish out our limits.
     As we arrived to the secondary channel spot, Rob set the boat downstream and dropped the trolling motor down to start heading back up stream. Not because he wanted to fish it that way, but because there was already another tournament angler on the top section of this area. Regardless, a few casts into this area, Rob finished out his limit with a nice largemouth holding on a current break. With one limit secured, we continued fishing but could not manage another keeper out of this stretch. So Rob put the trolling motor on high and we headed to a small point with some isolated lay downs just off shore. After a few cast in front of the tree, my first cast behind the tree was greeted with a smack and I reeled in my fourth keeper of the day. Once the fish was securely in the live well, we spent another 10 minutes on this point and headed down stream a 100 yards to fish some channel structure. It wasn't long before Rob started catching keepers, but nothing that would help him. The current was stronger on this cover, but the bass were holding and feeding none the less. After a few more shorts and sheephead that I thought was my fifth keeper, we decided to head back up stream and hit a few more spots.
     After a short boat ride, we set the boat down in a narrow wooded cut with water between 2'-5'+. It was after lunch and it was getting down to crunch time so my nerves were getting to me. I told Rob it was easier for me to be sitting on three fish than four. Sometimes the fifth keeper seems to be the hardest fish to catch for me. We fished every piece of wooded structure on both sides of this cut and hadn't gotten a keeper until we had almost reached the top of the cut. I tossed the tube over the side of a log sitting in four feet of water and tic, the line bounced and I set the hook on my final keeper of the day. As I put the cull tag on the fish and placed him in the live well, I was filled with a great sense of relief that we both had our limits on a pool that wasn't notorious for giving them up that easily.
     We continued up the shoreline and made our way out of the cut where it meant the secondary channel. Rob made a cast in front of a lay down in heavy current and quickly set the hook on a keeper, that after a few minutes with a scale in his hand, turned out to gain him some valuable ounces. After dissecting this area, we made our last run up river closer to the weigh in and finished the day out fishing deeper water in heavier current. We had conversed with a few other anglers who had reported some tough fishing for the day. Which made us all that more excited about having two limits to weigh in. We decided to head in, get the boat loaded up, and start the weigh in process.
     Rob and I found a parking spot, a couple of weigh in bags, and loaded our fish up. As we walked to the weigh in there were mixed reviews by the other anglers on the days results. Some looks of disappointment, and some heads held high with double digit weigh in slips. Rob weighed in 10+lbs and I weighed in 11+lbs. Not bad for a 3 hour fog delay that prevented Rob from getting to his preferred starting spot until late morning. Overall, it was another great day on the water. Rob and I both caught a number of fish and in the end had respectable weights for pool 12 and the pressure its received over the last several days. I had been blessed both tournament days with anglers I would fish with any time they asked. The weather was beautiful both days, I learned a lot about pool 12 that I had not learned prefishing, and made some new friends along the way.

Fall Iowa Federation State Tournament Day 1

     This years fall BASS Federation State Tournament was held out of Dubuque, Iowa where the boat traffic is heavy and the fishing can be tough. Once again, I was blessed to be partnered with two great boaters for Saturday and Sunday and the weather couldn't have been better with the exception of a few patches of fog each morning. As the tournament approached, I had all but convinced myself whom ever I drew for a partner would either lock up into pool 11 or lock down into pool 13. Pool 12 was not yielding a lot of weight in recent practice sessions so I guessed most fisherman who prefished pool 12 were experiencing the same results. I was pleasantly surprised when my partner for the day, Jerry Mundt from the Northeast Iowa Bass Anglers (My club) said we were staying in the pool. As Jerry and I launched the boat in the caous of everyone using the same launch ramp, I was excited to get the day started and catch some fish.
     After our brisk morning boat ride, we set down and Jerry began laying out the situation. Basically a secondary cut with a weedy shoreline varying from zero water to 3' to 6'. The weeds where just thick enough to make a buzz bait and a pop-r impossible to fish, but almost immediately Jerry had a blow up near the boat swimming a jig just below the surface. He and his prefishing partner had found fish on this stretch during the week and they were good fish, so we knew there couldn't be any mistakes once we got the fish to bite. We continued to throw a variety of baits along this bank and it became apparent the fish were not holding to the weed line in any great quantities. After about an hour of flipping the weed line Jerry smacked his first keeper of the day, a solid 2lb largemouth. As the cull tag went on the fish, I notice a few hundred yards above us on the opposite bank we had another boat fish the weed line. Honestly, Jerry expected this place to be crowded, but gratefully, it wasn't. We continued up the initial bank and as it came to a point, we continued across the open water to the bank on the upper side. This had a similar set of structure with a sharp weed line and access to deeper water. Shortly into this stretch Jerry had his second keeper of the day, again off soft plastic, and again, a solid 2lb largemouth. To this point, I had yet to have a bite. It appeared we would have to grind the day out pitching and flipping to weed lines and the occasional small brush pile or fallen log.
     We decided to start slightly further down from out starting point and work our way back up the bank hopping to grind out a few more fish. This produced one more keeper for Jerry and sent us to the adjoining bank with hopes of finding fish on some untouched water. After about 50 yards up this new bank Jerry hooked into a solid 2-1/2lb largemouth on the outside of the weed line in about 5' of water. It was clear that the few fish we did have were sitting in water deeper than three feet. So we decided to keep searching for weed lines that had that kind of depth. As we skipped over to the the point we had already fished that morning, and approached a single patch of three little pads against the weed line Jerry noticed a swirl underneath one of the pads. He quickly tossed his soft plastic on top of the lilly pad and let it drop over the side into the water. The line quickly swam off and Jerry set the hook as I dropped my rod and got the net. The 4-1/2lb largemouth came into the net easily and we both stood there in awe over the size of this bass. That was a nice way to book end a limit for the first day of the state tournament.
     As the sun got higher and the time shorter, Jerry and I decided to head up river a little and fish a stretch of bank that had weeds and some good size stumps bordering 8' of water. Initially we didn''t get bit, but as we started our second pass down the bank, I set the hook on a chunky 3lb largemouth that bit my tube as it fell down next to the stump. Finally, I had the monkey off my back and a reason to get a weigh in bag once we returned to the boat ramp. However, a few stumps later I had the exact same response when my tube hit the log and disappeared along side of it. Another solid 2-3/4lb largemouth. This got my adrenaline going after almost six hours with only a few bites. We fished this spot for the next hour, but couldn't recreate the quick action of the first two fish. And as the time grew later, Jerry and I decided to head back closer to the ramp and fish a few spots along the way.
     As we stopped and made a few cast along the way, we passed a number of fellow tournament anglers fishing every point, log jam, and rock bank up and down pool 12. This late in the day, everyone was scrambling to improve their day one sack before weigh in. Jerry and I ended our day on a stretch of main channel bank that produced a few small fish and a lot of boat traffic waves that made the experience rocky to say the least. As Jerry dropped me off at the ramp to get his vehicle I noticed a great number of fisherman were already weighed in and either rigging their boats or standing around the leader board. We made quick work of loading the boat, got our weigh in bags, loaded the fish and stood in the line to see what we had. After the dust had settled, it turned out Jerry's 13+lbs of fish was leading day one of the fall Iowa State tournament. My meager 5.98lbs in two fish was not what I was looking to bring in, but I was grateful to have the fish I did. Between Jerry and I, we collectively had 12-15 bites all day. Jerry made the most of his bites and it paid off. It was a fun day on the water fishing with a fellow club member who I was genuinely happy to see have the day one lead.