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.

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