Saturday, October 15, 2011

On the water with RC Tackle

     After almost a complete season of tournament fishing, and running into each other on and off the river, Glen Walker from RC Tackle and I were finally able to get together for a day on the water. With the last club tournament of the season only a day away, Glen and I decided to try and find some of the aggressive fall bass bite on the upper Mississippi river. Originally we planned to fish the bottom of pool 9, but the forecasted wind would have made fishing that open water a challenge, so we decided to focus on pool 10. I meant up with Glenn at his place in Prairie Du Chien, which coincidentally was only a short distance from a conveniently located public boat ramp. We quickly loaded the boat with my gear, drove the short distance to the ramp, and dropped Glen's Ranger into the water. The breeze had already started blowing across the water, but the sun was helping to reduce the cool temperatures of this colorful fall morning.
     After a short run, Glen shut down the Mercury and dropped the Minnkota just below a shallow point on the intersection of two merging secondary channels. I started throwing a shallow running crankbait and Glenn tried to invoke some top water action. We fished the bottom of the point thoroughly with nothing to show for it, but as we turned up the west shoreline we started to get bit. The fish we were catching, as small as they were, seemed to be concentrated on the shallow flat shoreline just up from the point. Glen was consistantly getting the top water bite to pay off while my shallow crankbait was also producing fish, however, he was able to occasionally pull in a solid chunk largemouth while most of my fish were short and skinny. The boat traffic was once again intense, so we decided to head down stream and start hitting some areas before the shorelines got to dirty from the constant waves.
     After a brief boat ride, we started pitching tubes and jigs at 3'-5' shoreline littered with brush and thick timber. And after only a few casts, Glen set the hook on a nice largemouth who thumped his black and blue 4" tube. As Glenn was releasing his fish back into the water, I hooked up with another fish small fish sitting between two intersecting logs close to the shoreline. As we continued around the corner the shoreline cover started to dissipate and the water depth increased. A few casts into this sandy transition with a Rat-L-Trap and I had brought a nice 2lb largemouth into the boat. This fish simply laid on the bay and as I felt the rod get heavy, realized I had a more than a clump of ell grass. After releasing this fish, and covering the remainder of the bank, we decided to start working our way north. The next area was one of my favorite spots on this pool based solely on the fact that its always good for at least one keeper. As we approached the rocky bank, Glen continued to try the top water approach as I again started tossing the shallow crankbait. We almost immediately caught fish, but they were not the size we were looking for. Short and skinny largemouth were all we could manage out of this area, so my theory on always catching a keeper seemed to have some holes in it.
     After we fished a few spots with limited success and no solid keepers, collectively we decided to start fishing a stretch of shoreline we knew would be crowded with pan fisherman, but was always filled with shad this time of year. It was exactly as we anticipated, crowded, but we managed to slip into the fray and began fishing. We fished a combination of crankbaits, rattle traps, plastics and jigs as we combed the shoreline structure. Ironically, we found good fish on a do nothing stretch of bank opposite the visually attractive shoreline. In several casts Glen had boated three solid largemouth and I had added another using tubes and jigs in about 3'-4' of water. As we continued up the "do nothing" bank, the structure started to increase and our bite slowly stalled with the exception of a school of smaller largemouth feeding on a school of shad near a sandy point. As we discussed the game plan, Glenn suggested we try a few points up another secondary channel, so we strapped the gear down and headed out.  
     We fished our way through a few points on our way up river finally arriving at the spot Glenn had in  mind. The only issue when we arrived was the the condition it was in from an entire season of flooding. The water depth and drop offs were the same, but the shorelines and the primary cut Glenn was planning to fish had no vegetation, thus nothing to hold the fish to. Regardless, we threw lures at the swift current drop off with no luck until Glenn set the hook on a solid 5lb.....5lb......??.......walleye. If was 15-20 seconds of excitement with the expectation of a football shaped large or smallmouth bass. Regardless, a 5 lb walleye is a beautiful fish so we admired it, and released the fish back with no harm done. As we did so, we both commented on the increasing winds and decided to work our way back toward the boat ramp fishing as long as time would allow.
     The waves on the main channel were as expected, with white caps all around us. So, as we approached the cut leading into a secondary channel we'd fished earlier in the day, we decided to stop and fish the mouth. This time, our approach was different as Glenn worked the rocks slowly crawling a creature bait along the bottom and I threw the Rat-L-Trap. It wasn't more than a cast or two and Glen had reared back on another chunky largemouth just outside the mouth of the cut. Once we had sufficiently covered the mouth of the cut, Glenn guided the Ranger into the cut and down the shoreline. After about 50 yards without a bite, and with Glenn retying a rod, a school of shad began to get chased in the middle of the cut. I quickly tossed out the Rat-L-Trap and Glenn began splashing water with his top water lure. In a quiet swirl just off the front of the boat, Glenn's began his battle with our largest fish of the day, a 3.2lb largemouth. As the fish was caught, weighed, and released, I continued to fish but couldn't manage anything of that quality. The feeding frenzy on top subsided, so we continued down the cut another 40-50 yards and found ourselves on a bend with some ridiculously aggressive largemouth bass. These fish were not quality tournament winning bass, but they were so aggressive and fun to catch it was hard to stop fishing them. A conservative estimate would be 8-10 consecutive casts Glenn hooked into a fish feeding on his top water popper. At 1 o'clock in the afternoon, you wouldn't think of top water as the lure of choice, but how can you put it down and fish another lure when these fish were hitting the popper with absolute recklessness. Regardless of how fun this last spot was, reality had to set in as both Glenn and I had appointments to keep, so we needed to get back.
     Over the course of our day we had managed a large quantity of fish, and in between the small to average size fish, would have managed a good bag if this were the tournament day. The lures varied from top water and crankbaits, to tubes, jigs, and creature baits. As it was the previous day, it was hard to find good concentrations of large fish, making it a grind to put together 13-15lbs of bass. The day had passed by quickly as a fun day of fishing always does. Once again, I learned more about the river than I knew the previous day and had a solid anticipation of what to expect for the following days tournament. I appreciated the opportunity to fish with Glenn Walker after such a long season of trying to get on the water together. We approach the river in much the same way, so fishing with Glenn was a pleasure and I hope to get the opportunity again.


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