Thursday, October 6, 2011

NEIA Bass Anglers September CLUB tournament Pool 10

     As I drove to Guttenberg Sunday morning for our September club tournament I was feeling some regret knowing it was the last of my three straight days on the river. This time of year is some of the best fishing the upper Mississippi river has to offer, and I want to spend as much time on the water as possible. Eric and I would be fishing together for the third day in a row, and having found fish the two previous days, I was eager to see how the day would pan out. I knew from our launch ramp in Bussy Lake we'd have a cold run regardless of where we started. Late September mornings are known for brisk air, and this one was no exception. So we wasted little time launching Eric's Triton, staged near the ramp for a short period of time, and away we went.
     As we made our way through a few cuts and turned the corner to our first spot of the day, Eric barely let off the gas as we kept going right by the spot and the bass boat that was sitting on the weed line we had intended to fish. I knew where Eric had in mind next so after a slightly extended run, we dropped down and started our day. We began by flipping a wooded bank with slight current and subtle changes in depth. I expected our first keeper of the day would come at any time during this first stretch, but it never happened. Eric quickly redirected the boat to the other shoreline, and almost immediately caught his first keeper of the tournament. A long skinny largemouth that was the kind of fish you want to catch when having a golden ruler paper tournament. The fish went 2.2lbs on the board and was quickly released back into the water. As we continued up the bank, I set the hook twice on bites but didn't make any solid contact. We began fishing out of both sides of the boat as the cut narrowed and after a few casts with a crankbait to a baron stretch of shoreline, I hooked my first keeper of the tournament. This small keeper got the adrenaline going and put the cold weather in the back of my mind for the rest of the day.
     As we approached the top of the cut, we came upon a large brush pile with faster current bouncing off the outside. I dropped a jig along side the outside log, and after a bounce or two set the hook on a solid 2lb largemouth. Eric and I agreed the fish seemed to be more active earlier in the day than they had been the two previous mornings. So after we fished the cut out, we strapped everything down and made our way to the next spot. During our trip we were reminded by the bass boat traffic that there were a few other club tournaments going on this weekend so we knew we were in for some tough fishing pressure. Eric set the Triton down below the top of an island he'd found fish on previously, and we began tossing a combination of jigs, spinner baits, and crank baits. After about three cast with my jig, I hooked another solid keeper which was exciting to both of us because we hadn't even made it to the area we thought the fish would be concentrated in. However, after dozens of casts by both of us we moved to the other bank disappointed in the result. Both areas looked good so we wondered if the fish had moved up the bank further to ambush bait fish from more defined structure. We both caught dinks almost immediately, but no keepers blessed our efforts, so we packed up and headed to yet another spot similar to this one.
     This next area was one that could be fished in a variety of ways so we both started throwing different baits at different angles. It didn't take long for Eric to load up another keeper off the end of a brush pile using a crankbait. But as he was measuring the fish, we both heard the familiar sound of bait fish shipping across the surface trying to avoid disaster at the hands of a school of hungry bass. Eric quickly spun around and fired his lure at the target, and almost immediately upon impact was again hooked up with another nice keeper. I made a cast of my own, but had no takers on my first pass. My second pass through the area was greeted with a short but aggressive bass which I quickly discarded and returned to the water. As quickly as the school of bass appeared, they disappeared. But not before Eric hooked into a nice 3.2lb largemouth that we both thought was bigger when it first breached the surface. Regardless, a fish that size will help any tournament angler increase his or her total weight for the day. We spent another half hour catching dinks and fishing this area thoroughly and finally decided to head to our next spot.
     As we dropped down and began fishing the next spot, I was eager with anticipation because this area had all the component needed to hold good numbers of quality fish. However, looks can be deceiving, and on this day, at this time, we finished the area with only a few small fish and a head scratch or two. So, not wanting to waste valuable time, we moved on to our next location slightly down stream. The current was moving swiftly regardless of where we went, and the variety of vegetation floating in the water was making it increasingly harder to fish moving baits. But we continued to fight through it, and very quickly started catching fish, good fish, with regularity!!! Eric had made a cast to a discolored patch of water on a shallow flat and hooked into a 2.9lb laregmouth, followed shortly by another 2.2lb fish. It was an ambush spot a school of bass where using to dart out into the current and feed on whatever was passing by. It was an awesome hour of fishing as we culled fished repeatedly gaining a few ounces here and there until 2lb fish no longer helped either of us. It was a hard decision to leave such good fishing, but as Eric and I discussed, we both needed bigger fish and the real quality fish where not coming often enough.
     We headed down river and covered a few new spots with nothing that would help us, and as we did, were reminded that we had less than an hour of fishing left in our day. So as Eric turned the Triton around the bend on a familiar curve, I knew where we were going to finish our day. It didn't take long to start catching fish once again, but the first few were shorts and not very encouraging. Suddenly, as my crankbait rod loaded up, that all appeared to change as I was having trouble turning this particular fish toward to boat. Eric got the net and from under the boat the reason why became clear. A 1.9lb largemouth had eaten the back hooks on the crankbait, while a 2.8lb largemouth had eaten the front hooks. It had been a few years since I'd had a double, and never two fish of this size. As I spent entirely two much time and blood pressure trying to unhook these two fish from one crankbait, Eric was continually catching fish on this stretch of bank. Once I had managed to get the fish weighed and the mess straightened out, I returned to fishing and observed as Eric caught several fish within the last few minutes of our tournament day along a wooded stretch of bank. It was the kind of area and time of day in which you didn't want to leave the fish because they were eager to bite. But we reluctantly strapped everything down and raced back to the weigh in.
     It was a great fall day on the water to cap a fun three days of tournament fishing. Eric and I had used a variety of baits in a number of situations and caught a 24+lb bag of fish to end our weekend. Which happen to be good enough for a first place finish. It was one of those days where you hated to quit fishing because when you found the fish, they were starting to bunch up, feed on shad, and were eager to chase moving baits. You know its been a good tournament day when you catch a bass roughly two pounds, look it over, and decide it wont help your overall weight. That's why Eric and I both agreed if we had more day light, and a little less of a boat ride, we'd have headed back out to enjoy some of the great fall fishing on the Mississippi.

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