Thursday, June 28, 2012

Wood, weeds, rocks, or pads.........

     With the impending high water looming in the back of my mind, I figured I had better get on the water before the water rises and the islands start to disappear. So, I decided to take a day off and hop in with a father/son duo and fish pool 10 on what turned out to be a beautiful June day. Terry and Ryan picked me at the ramp, and as I quickly loaded up my gear, I got to hear about the success they'd had the first hour of the morning as I was busy driving to the ramp. They both had good fish off Bandit crankbaits and River's Edge swim jigs. As I looked over the photos that were barely an hour old, my anticipation grew as we quickly made it to our back water destination.
     Terry positioned the boat 20-25 yards off a weed chocked shoreline just off the main channel. The water had already risen over the past few days so we had lilly pads and grass on both sides of the boat in water ranging from 2'-6'. Ideal early morning conditions for a Pop-R, Buzz bait, or any top water lure. However, as we spent 30+ minutes throwing these lures, we failed to entice a single blow up. Collectively, we noticed the water color was significantly stained the more we wondered through the pad field. So we decided to head to the opposite shoreline, which was dominated by fallen trees and brush, and leave the grass and pads behind. This proved to be the right call very quickly as I hooked into a small bass after only a few casts of an RC Tackle 3" black with red flake tube. And a few casts later, landed a solid 2.7lb largemouth off another lay down. Ryan began catching fish off a swim jig swam slowly around and through the flooded timber lining the bank. In roughly 300-400 yards we'd each caught several fish apiece off soft plastics and slowly swimming a jig. But none of the fish were better than the 2.7lb largemouth, so we decided to head north in search of consitently bigger fish.
     Our next spot was a bit of a disappointment to say the least. I knew the mouth of this cut would have dirty water, but expected it to clear up as we moved toward the secondary lake in the back. We burned almost an hour trying to find clean water, and as we covered water with multiple lures, I began to regret my choice. Terry, Ryan, and I all agreed we should find another stretch of bank similar to the one we'd had our previous success on so we once again strapped everything down and headed further upstream.
     Terry dropped the boat down in the mouth of a cut just off the main channel, and we immediately began catching fish off the wooded bank. The current was significantly stronger than what we'd been fishing most of the day, however, the bass seemed to want the comfort of limbs, logs, and thick brush around them. In general, these fish were eager to bite, but we had to put our lures as closed to the lumber as possible. If you made an accurate cast, it usually resulted in a hook up. As we worked up the wooded shoreline, and finally reached a rocky culvert with 8'-12' of water, I switched to a Rivers Edge flipping jig while Terry threw a deep diving crankbait and Ryan threw the same swim jig he'd been catching fish off of all day. As we worked the deeper water without any luck, we turned our attention to the shallower flooded timber on the opposite shoreline with almost immediate results. Ryan had a fish crush his swim jig and come off shortly after the initial hook set. Usually, that's the end of the story for a particular piece of cover, however, Ryan threw back into the same spot and bent the rod over on a solid 2lb largemouth he quickly got to the boat. It was the bookend to a good day of fishing the quickly rising Mississippi river.
     Two things were clear during this day of fishing............One, the bass wanted the comfort of logs, and laydowns. They were crushing our lures if we got it in the strike zone. And second, Ryan had put on a clinic with the Rivers Edge swim jig. He caught fish at almost all of our stops slowly swimming the jig in and around whatever cover we could find. And what makes this even more impressive is the fact that Ryan was in the middle of the boat with little casting room, sandwiched between two other fisherman who were struggling to keep up with his catch rate.
.........................The old guys appreciate the lesson Ryan.... :-)

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Where for art thou...........

     As with every tournament, a good prefishing strategy can help you eliminate water, and make your tournament day efficient and effective at filling the live well with quality fish. But when your prefishing strategy only eliminates water, and leaves both you and your partner scratching your heads the morning of the tournament, your bound to feel less than confident when the day starts. That's how Rick and I felt the morning of our most recent upper Mississippi river bass team tournament. I had spent Thursday prefishing with two barely legal keepers to show for 8+ hours of fishing. Rick spent an equal amount of time on the water Friday and had similar results, and collectively, we spent the second half of the final practice day on the water without a keeper in the boat. As Rick and I spent the eve of the tournament discussing all the variables we'd fished through the last few days, we couldn't pin point the reasons why we'd struggled to put together a pattern over the last three days. Decreasing water levels, various stages of spawning bass, and other species, water clarity, vegetation growth, and weather conditions all played a factor in the puzzle we couldn't put together.
     Regardless of our struggles, we would have to fish hard and put together a limit for this tournament to even have a chance to compete for a check. And ironically enough, Rick and I drew boat number one, which is a stark contrast to our normal boat draw of last or very close to it. So, as the time drew near we decided to start where we'd caught the most fish, regardless of size, and hope the bigger ones would have the feed bag on first thing this morning. Rick dropped the Champion down in a shallow back water lake with emerging lilly pads and an extending weedline coming off the shore. The Motorguide went down and we got right to business throwing a buzz bait and a Stanley Ribbit frog. It was a beautiful morning with no clouds and very little wind, so our top water lures seemed to have the ability to call fish from all over the backwater. But as we made our way down the bank, the top water bite wasn't producing a single blow up. As Rick continued to throw the buzz bait, I switched to a Rivers Edge White and Chartrusse swim jig that Rick makes himself, and spent the next hour casting out both sides of the boat trying to locate active fish. It was a painful first hour or so as neither one of us had a bite over the course of 300-400 yards of shoreline. 
     We decided to narrow the focus and switch to a wooded bank not more than a half mile from our current position. This was a narrow cut leading to deadwater, which, given the recently dropping water, should be a highway for bass receeding back to deeper water and current. A few casts into the shoreline timber and Rick set the hook on our first keeper of the day. A solid 2lb largemouth planted along side a laydown that took his small soft plastic beaver. It gave us hope we'd found some fish, and possibly a pattern. I picked up a 3" black with red flake RC Tackle tube and began flipping to every piece of cover I could find. And after a while, a few bites began to come, but they were only dinks finding my tube. However, after another 20-25 yards down the bank, Rick set the hook on another keeper using the same presentation. And shortly after Rick had the fish in the live well and had made a few more cast, I boated another keeper, although barely legal, and we collectively decided to back down this bank and try and get a few more keepers. The theory was sound, but the fish did not cooperate as we killed another hour trying to duplicate our first pass. So, we decided to head down river and hopefully improve our luck. 
     As we began fishing another area, we immediately noticed the water color, which was brown and stained, and instantly felt like this was an issue. We'd make it a few dozen yards down the shoreline before Rick decided that he'd break up the bordum with a 10+lb flathead catfish near a log jam that took his soft plastic beaver. After netting and releasing the catfish, we started up the big motor and quickly drove to another spot further back into the cut in search of cleaner water. We where not alone as other bass boats where also searching for cleaner water and consistent fish. The water was almost instantly cleaner and shallower with emerging vegetation everywhere. Rick began throwing a swimbait, and I picked up the swimjig quickly followed by the spinning rod and a sinko. It only took Rick a few casts to catch our fourth keeper of the day that quickly went into the live well with little pomp and circumstance. My only contribution during this stretch was a solid bass that bit my swimjig and decided I needed it back before he made it into the boat. It's hard to see a quality fish like that come off anytime, let alone the afternoon of a tournament. But I've learned over the years that will happen and not to get to caught up in losing a fish. 
     After thoroughly covering this area, we decided to head back up river closer to the weigh in and fish the remainder of the day. However, it wouldn't result in a keeper and we would end our day without a limit to weigh in. It wouldn't be from a lack of having lines in the water as we fished hard from the first to the last cast. And as we idled into the boat ramp for the weigh in, I was curious as to how the other competitors fared in these conditions. 
     Rick and I loaded the boat, bagged the fish and weighed them in. As we turned in our weight, and began talking to the other fisherman, it was as we expected, a tough bite for a lot of the field. Limits where caught but consistently big limits where not, so the overall winning weigh was off by roughly two pounds from the year before. Rapidly dropping, and dirty water, coupled with post spawn timing made for a tough tournament. Our hats were tipped to those who found and caught quality fish on this particular day. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

bass on the down turn.........

     In early March, I found water temperatures in the high 50's and lower 60's in dead water lakes, backwater sloughs, and parts of the main channel of the upper Mississippi river. The metabolism of the bass had gotten a kit start and the bass fishermen were reaping the rewards of the beautiful spring weather. However, reality had to set in eventually and the few days leading up to Easter weekend saw night time temperatures around the freezing mark coupled with little to no sunshine during the daylight hours. Obviously the water temperature couldn't hold its higher than normal temperatures and this would be the question mark we would have to deal with on our Good Friday battle for bragging rights on pool 10. Friends Terry and Ryan, fresh off their victory over us last week, were looking to make it two for two as Rick and I tried to even the score with a big bag of early season largemouth.
     As we launched the boats, the temperature read a blustery 31 degrees, and the frost on the shoreline was a sure sign of the cold boat ride ahead of us. As the Mercury outboards warmed up, and we bundled up, the last minute trash talking finished up, and we were off. After a short, but face stinging boat ride Rick dropped the Champion down on a wooded back water shoreline and we began our day.
     It only took a few casts before the first fish of the day hit my Stanley Vibrashaft spinner bait, followed shortly there after by our second fish of the day. This second fish, a borderline keeper would prove to be a mistake after I through it back without measuring it, saying "I don't plan on needing that fish today". Regardless, we kept fishing down the shallow back water shoreline putting a few more shorts in the boat before our first keeper of the day started a flurry of action around an old beaver dam. I tossed a jig at the front of the log jam and after a few short hops, set the hook on a 2.98lb largemouth. As I was just about to make my first return cast, Rick landed a solid 1.93lb keeper flipping a 3" watermelon beaver to the cover. These two keepers would be all we could pull from the congregation of wood, but it gave us hope the low 50's water temperatures hadn't put lock jaw on the bass. After roughly an hour fishing in the shade, the sun had started to peek over the tree tops and started to warm everything up, including the thick, snow looking frost that covered some of the shoreline. We decided to keep moving in pursuit of consistent fish so we packed up and headed to another backwater pocked only a short ride away.
     Rick and I found the next hour or so very disappointing as we threw a combination of baits at some very bassy looking cover with little to show for it. However, we rolled up on a the beginnings of a beaver dam protruding off the shoreline and the action would begin to pick up. Rick was alternating between a spinner bait and a rattle trap trying for a reaction bite, and I was combing the timber with a white and chartreuse spinner bait with a Colorado blade. As I made my first cast to the center of the beaver dam, my spinner bait was inhaled almost instantly by a 2.03 lb largemouth for our third keeper of the day. We had both switched to flipping jigs and plastic at the cover with only a few dinks for our efforts, So we turned the boat around and decided the bank looked two good to not try it again. This time Rick started chucking a swimjig and I decided to throw a Rapala jerk bait with surprising results. Two casts into the bank I landing a short and the third cast of the jerk bait, I had a 2.33lb largemouth smack the bait as it sat motionless in the water. Our forth keeper of the day got us wondering if we shouldn't have been throwing jerkbaits earlier in the day. So Rick tied on a jerk bait and we thoroughly covered the next 150 yards of bank without a fish. Disappointing to say the least after the first three casts produced two fish, however, it might have been a case of being in the right place at the right time versus uncovering a pattern that worked in other areas. So, in an effort to get our fifth keeper before time ran out, we decided to try a few places with more current and access to deeper water.
     As it turned out, the current areas only produced a few shorts and our final flurry came in a back water section of boat docks were Rick went back to back casts with 13-3/4" fish off a spinner bait. It was a sinking feeling as time ran out on us and we headed back to the boat ramp knowing our competition, whom we hadn't seen all day, would probably have at least a limit.
     The boats were loaded with little talk of fish or weights, so I began to think four fish might actually hold up and win this two boat fish off. After loading the boats, driving to the restaurant, and gathering around the boat, Rick and I were handed the bad news by Terry and Ryan. They had had another good day with their best 5 fish weighing12.62lbs compared to our 9.02lbs in four fish. It would have taken a big kicker for us to even have competed against that weight but that didn't stop my partner from reminding me that i'd tossed a potential keeper away early in the day without measuring it. So, as the rules dictate, we picked up the check for lunch and tucked our tails between our legs and headed for home. Two weeks in a row, Terry and Ryan have come out victorious with good bags of fish in increasingly tougher conditions.

Monday, April 2, 2012

early season bass..............

     The unseasonably warm weather has attracted an earlier than usual congregation of bass boats to the upper Mississippi river as of late. And spring fever hasn't been wasted on me, as a group of us decided that Saturday would be a good day to chase the green fish on the big river in a simple winner take all two boat contest. Rules are simple, biggest 5 bass wins, and the losers pick up the check for a late lunch. This would be a warm up for our annual Good Friday tournament, but a must win none the less. So Nate and I meant Terry and his son Ryan at the ramp around 7 am, quickly launched, and headed for our first spot.
     We've seen record highs in the last few weeks and the water temperature had ballooned to between 62-64 degrees. But a few cold, rainy, sunless days has driven the water temperatures down to the low 50's. Regardless, we dropped the trolling motor and a few casts into the wooded shoreline, we had our first fish. A dink caught on a Stanley vibrashaft spinner bait. Unfortunately, it would prove to be the only fish on this stretch of bank, so we quickly headed around the back side of the island where the water was deeper and has proven to hold early spring time bass. We quickly dissected the new shoreline with Bandit crankbaits and Stanley spinner baits and were just as quickly disappointed in the result. So an hour or so into our day, we had no keepers and a a pretty good chill going due to the wind and the 44 degree air temperature. We made a decision to go into a nearby bay that held fish in the late fall and early spring.
     As we entered the bay, I noticed we were not alone, as our competitors for the day were rounding the corner. Nate and I fished our way up to them and I couldn't resist asking how their morning was going. As much as I like to mess with my fishing buddy's, I expected to get the same in return, so I wasn't sure what to think when Terry said they had a good bag already anchored by a 3.89lb kicker. Hearing that, I quickly decided that honesty was probably the better plan so I told them we didn't have a keeper yet, and the news was recieved with cautious optimism. As Terry and Ryan headed to the back of the cove, we pounded the shoreline point with cranbaits, rattle traps, and jigs with our first keeper coming off a Rivers Edge custom jig with a Netbait trailer. This 2.07lb laregemouth would begin our comeback for the day. As our competition exited the back of the cove, we made our way into the back of the cove and Nates first cast with a weightless Sinko produced our second keeper of the day weighing 1.58lb. As we continued to catch fish, we never managed another keeper from this area and decided to head up river in search of some consistently larger fish.
     We hit a few spots on our way up river without much luck finally settling into a wooded shoreline leading to a backwater lake. Nate had been conistantly throwing a chatter bait while I was throwing a spinner bait. After about 50-75 yards up the bank, I'd been pulling in a few fish but Nate hadn't been bit yet. So he changed over to a white and metalic blue Stanley spinner bait and with the very first cast caught another of our keepers for the day. This proved to be the key for the rest of the day as we combed both shorelines tossing to every piece of wood we could find. We managed two solid fish in this stretch, a 2.73lb and a 2.34lb, and many between 1-1/2 and 1-3/4 lbs. As the time began to run out on our day, we made a quick run to another shoreline near the ramp with only short fish to show for it. So, our best efforts where going to have to hold up against our competition as we meant them at the ramp and loaded the boats.
     As it turned out, this frigged Saturday was more productive for our opponents than for us. Terry's assessment of their morning catch proved to be accurate as they amassed a 12.41lb bag anchored by Ryan's 3.89lb largemouth. Nate and I managed a 10.56lb bag with the 2.73lb fish being our largest of the day. Therefore, as the rules of the game dictate, we got the check for lunch, as we were filled in on how and where they caught their winning bag. It turns out the location versus the patterns and techniques proved to be the deciding factor for the day. Congratulations to Terry and Ryan for handing us the first, and hopefully only,  defeat of the season.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

let it begin.......

     I cannot remember a St. Patrick's day weekend where I had opportunity to spend an afternoon on the water with 80 degree air temperatures and between 62-64 degree water temperatures. With the expectation of getting on the water on Sunday, I spent Saturday getting all the yard work (possibly a bit premature), out of the way so I had zero guilt spending Sunday on the water. It was everything I hoped it would be with the exception of a 15-25 mph south wind which at times created issues with boat control. Regardless, it was great to be on the water and getting my Rivers Edge custom made jig hammered by some hungry largemouth bass.
     Immediately upon dropping the trolling motor I was surprised to see the water temperatures hovering around 62 degrees. I expected 55 degrees or less, but regardless, I almost immediately found eager fish. I crossed over a small channel and into 6'-8' of water with a slopping rock and wood bank. I started throwing a medium diving Chartreuse Bandit crankbait but after about a dozen casts, decided to slow down and throw a jig. It was roughly 3-4 flips into the bank before the first 1.9lb largemouth thumped the jig in about 5' of water. It was a nice way to start the day and shake off the winter rust. I continued to pitch to the shoreline slowly working the jig along the bottom back to the boat. By the calendar date, I would assume the bass would still be in deeper water, but since the water temperature was so high this early in the spring, I didn't want to rule out the bass moving shallower. It was another 20 yards or so before my next fish, a small dink that bit in 2' of water or less near a rock covered bank. Not two casts later another solid 1.7lb largemouth ran off with the jig almost directly under the boat in about 8' of water. So at this point I'd caught fish at three different depths, so decided to continue working the jig with a Net Bait brown and orange craw trailer completely back to the boat. 
     As the wind continued to howl across the water, I decided to go back over the 200 yard stretch I'd caught fish on and change jig colors to give the bass another menu option. However, I hadn't even turned the boat around and caught another 1.5lb bass off a large laydown I'd thoroughly fished not 2 minutes before. So, I decided not to switch jig colors and fished up the bank to wear I'd began. This proved to be good move as I managed to catch two other fish along the way roughly the same size as I'd caught over the past hour. 
     I decided there was one more rocky point I'd seen a 3+lb largemouth caught on last year early in the spring. The sun had been on the rocks all day and the water depth was 2'-4' around the point entering a shallow spawning bay. As I reached the point, I was torn between a swim jig, a shallow crankbait, or the jig in which I'd caught all my fish on to this point. So I decided to stick with the jig, and it paid off. A couple casts onto the rocks and I set the hook on a 2.35lb largemouth that was already in mid season form with the fight he put up.  
     It was a great ending to a surprisingly productive afternoon on the water in early March. I hope the weather continues to hold its pattern and the fish continue to cooperate this early in the year. 

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why I do what I do..........

    When I'm asked how I became so passionate about fishing, the answer is always the same. But to be honest, I never get tired of answering the question. My grandparents owned a home in Harpers Ferry, Iowa and I spent almost my entire summer on the Mississippi river from age three on up. With a guide like my grandfather, I had the luxury of being asked what I would like to fish for that day. And as a youngster, my answer would vary from bobber fishing live bait for bluegills and crappies, to throwing big spoons and giant Mepps spinners for northern pike. But it didn't take long before I discovered that bass fishing, specifically the wide variety of baits to fish them with, grabbed my attention, and started a passion that hasn't let go to this day. I cannot truly express the gratitude I have for all the time and patients my grandfather showed me. I can only hope to follow in his foot steps and teach my children the simple joys of fishing, and hopefully install in them a life long passion for spending time on the water.
     My daughter Kennedy (9), and my son Grant (5) have been around the world of bass fishing by default. Listening to dads stories, viewing pictures, and coming to weigh in's has exposed them to tournament fishing and to dad's competitive nature. I cautiously view this as a positive, simply because I want them to experience fishing for the simplicity that it is. I remember Kennedy's first really fishing trip to the river, in which she simply couldn't keep her line in the water because the bluegills where bitting so quickly it was only a matter of dropping the line in the water. I was thrilled as a father to watch her smiling face as she kept pulling bluegills out of the water, showing the same suprized expression every time she caught one. To add contrast to this story, I can remember Grants first trip fishing as being a dull waiting game with few bites and no fish. As a parent I was robbed of the joyful expressions I expected to see in Grants face, and was left reassuring him that fishing doesn't always mean you will be catching. Needless to say, I didn't have Grant running to the vehicle the next time I said, "hey lets go fishing".
     But that is what the simply joy of fishing is. Not seeing the whats under the water, not knowing if you will catch any fish that day, the size, the species, ect. Just hoping for a good day on the water was enough for me as a child and I hope that is enough for my children as they continue to grown and develop as individuals. As a parent, I have always embraced technology and the educational properties inherent in today's electronic world. So in my quest to expose my children to the world of fishing, I have used this to my advantage on the water and at home. The other aspect of fishing that echos today's culture, is the competitive nature inherent in our children's lives. I'm not one who shy's away from competition, in fact, i'm actually a proponent of it. I believe the challenges that come with competition bring out traits and character in people they never knew they had. But competition at an early age is a delicate thing, that needs to be monitored. That's why I don't let them see me get too high when i do well in a tournament, and I don't get too low when i do not do well in a tournament.
     It's comforting to see all the friends I have in the bass fishing tournament community talking from time to time about taking their children out chasing the little green fish, or fishing in general. I see more and more father and son/daughter teams on the various tournament series and open tournaments around the upper Mississippi river valley. I'm anxious to expose my daughter and son to the bass tournament world, but want to keep in mind why I fell in love with fishing in the first place. If they have that foundation to build on, they can pursue anything they want on the water, as long as it brings them the same joy and satisfaction that I get from our sport every time out.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Bass Boats: What you want vs. what you need....

     It's rare these days when a person can afford to buy the exact bass boat they would like to have. The want versus need concept comes into play, usually in the form of the devil on one shoulder and an angel on the other. The devil saying "buy it, you only live once", while the angel is saying "you cannot afford that boat. And its more than you need anyway". I'll admit, I've been listening to that dialog for approximately two years now. And that's just about how long ago I decided its time to buy the bass boat I want.
     I've been fishing tournaments, club or money, for over 20+ years, and this has allowed me to fish from some of the finest bass boats the industry has to offer. Some of my favorites include Ranger Boats, Triton Boats, and Champion boats. There are other models and brands including, Nitro, Bumble Bee, Bass Cat, and Tracker boats, which all have both positive and negative attributes. However, in my modest opinion, Ranger, Triton, and Champion boats have been supplying quality bass boats year after year. With that being said, fishing from a fully loaded Triton Tr-20X with dual power poles, 250 Mercury Optimax, Minnkota trolling motor, and Lowrance electronics can set the bar very high and spoil a person for the next time they get in their grandfathers flatbottom with a 25 hp Evinrude, a plywood front deck and a hand controlled 30lb thrust trolling motor.  Which finally brings me to the point of this article. Buying what we "need" versus what we "want" can still help us reach the practical goal of getting to the fish, quietly finding the fish, and keeping the fish alive and safe until weigh in. At the practical level, which I consider most tournament trails to be anymore, there are no extra ounces added to the weigh in slip for style points. Being seen at the ramp launching a brand new 20' Ranger from a brand new Chevy Silverado, is no different from the 1987 Ford F-150 driving down the ramp launching a 1990 Champion bass boat. Both individuals or teams still need to find and catch a tournament winning bag of fish. Sure, the new more advanced rig will be faster, have better fuel economy, more advanced electronics, coupled with a few more bells and whistles designed to make time on the water more comfortable. However, if that team didn't put the time and effort in to finding the patterns and locations of the fish, their boats make little difference in the outcome.
     In years past, I have competed in club tournaments from a 14' flat bottom Alumacraft with a 25 hp Mercury outboard with a Minnkota trolling motor and actually won a few small tournaments. Now, buying what you "need" doesn't mean you have settle for a 14' flatbottom or utility boat. However, boats today, such as the Tracker Grizzly 1648 aluminum are better suited to accomplish all that a bass fisherman needs for a small local tournament. V-front hull design, tilt and trim motors, steering wheels, and manufactured casting decks. If you are interested in simply getting time on the water chasing large mouth and smallmouth, these boats can serve every purpose needed for this sport. As a matter of fact, just last season, more than one flatbottom cashed a check in some of the smaller money tournaments I fished.
     With that being said, the want versus need debate can be simplified by asking yourself some of these questions. What do I want to accomplish with my fishing boat? Do I want to be the one getting passed at the start of the tournament, are do I want to be the one passing people. Do I want a larger boat for the room and the stability, or do I want a smaller boat to save on gas, and sacrifice comfort during those long runs in choppy water? Simply put, most fisherman will tell you an 18.6' bass boat with a 150 hp motor will serve almost every practical purpose a tournament bass fisherman will need. But I continue to wrestle with this concept. Do I spent the extra money and get the bass boat I want, and possibly be the guy who owns a great looking rig, but cant afford to put the gas in to tow it and drive it. Or, do I cover the necessities I need in a quality used bass boat paying attention to price and the practical applications in which i will be using it. Do I listen to the devil on my left shoulder or the angel on my right shoulder...... :-)

Thursday, February 2, 2012

October 2011 Season Finale Tournament..........

     A fellow tournament angler, Eric Brockmeyer and I decided to start, what we want to become, the October Season Finale bass tournament on the upper Mississippi river. With some quick organization we started to promote our tournament in early October and by tournament day we had 15-18 verbal commitments. Not bad considering nobody knew of the tournament 3-1/2 weeks before we hit the water. With some collective early morning efforts, Eric and I had the check in table set up, the rules sheets ready to go, and the coffee flowing. As the tournament anglers started to arrive in the marina, they were greeted with some chili morning temperatures, windy conditions, and a light mist. Not the best late fall conditions, and as the smart phones started to dial up the local weather forecasts, the optimism that the conditions would improve diminished quickly. Regardless, the boats continued to arrive, the rules meeting took place, and I dumped my partner for the tournament Rick and his Champion into the water. As the last of the boats staged, I began sending them off into the morning mist in search of a tournament winning bag.
     Rick and I volunteered to take off last in order to be the tournament starters, so we began following the boat wakes up the river to our first spot of the day. Needless to say late fall fishing can find bass congregated in specific areas, and this day was no exception. Approximately half of the field of boats arrived in the same general area we intended to start our tournament. So, as we've done in other crowded situations, we dropped the trolling motor and began fishing as close to our target destination as possible. This meant tossing shallow crankbaits into a dead and dying lilly pad field bordering a deep back water wintering hole. It only took a few casts before Rick had our first keeper which passed the 14" limit but had little weight to it. Regardless, it was a fish in the live well and we continued further into the bay changing from crankbaits to spinner bait, to swim jigs and top water. The baitfish were exceedingly congregated during this time of year so the bass could be anywhere chasing their favorite food. For us, this meant covering water quickly in an attempt to locate tournament competing bass.
     As the time passed, and the dinks kept adding up, I finally managed a keeper from another dead lilly pad
field on a Mann's -1. It was very similar to Rick's first keeper but helped lighten the mood as the morning mist turned to a full on late October rain. Rain gear on and hoods up, we came to a 4'-8' sloping bank with boat docks stretching 50-75 yards down the bank. As we both switched to medium diving crankbaits, Rick boated another keeper, with this 2+lb fish adding some weight to the livewell. We completed the bank and circled around for another pass. As we reached the section where the depth slowly creeped into shallow water again, our biggest fish of the day, a 3.14lb largemouth swallowed my Bandit crankbait and attempted to put up a fight only as Rick attempted to net the fish. No matter the weather conditions, when you land a quality fish like that in a tournament, its gets the blood flowing. We made another pass through the area completely blanketing every piece of cover and banging the bottom all the way to the boat. During this time a few boats left the area so we decided to pull up the trolling motor and head to our original starting spot.
     As we approached the small rock entrance into the bay we immediately noticed two things. First, there were bait fish everywhere and there were fish actively feeding on them. Secondly, we were not alone!! There were a dozen boats all within site of each other, all pulling fish. It took Rick all of two cast with his crankbait before boating a nice 2-1/2lb largemouth that very quickly went into the live well without a cull tag to ensure Ricks quick return to the casting deck. This began a series of casting and catching that went on for 3-4 hour in a cold Halloween weekend rain storm. Collectively, Rick and I caught 20-30 fish apiece, and periodically we needed to stop and weigh and cull our fish to ensure we kept every ounce of weight we could. As we fished and culled, fished and culled, we where passed by anglers leaving the area and new anglers arriving. The disheartening news came about noon when one of the boats in our tournament passed us and announced they had between 17-18lbs. At that point we new we'd better start searching for bigger fish if we were going to compete for a pay check. So we headed down river to a few spots we knew had the potential for bigger fish.
     As optimistic as we were, the next few spots produced nothing that could help us compete with some of the big sacks we anticipated were going to be brought in. So as the clock quickly ticked away on our tournament day, we made a final cast apiece, packed up our soggy equipment, and headed back to the landing to get the weigh in station set up.
     With the boat out of the water and the equipment set up, the anglers started to arrive at the landing as check in time approached. Rick and I weighed in our days efforts and couldn't complain about 13.05lbs. However, we knew there were going to be bigger bags of fish yet to weigh in so we kept our optimism to a minimum. As the sacks of fish began arriving at the weight station, it was apparent the fishing was good despite the weather conditions. Big bass for the tournament was 4.11lbs with second big bass weighing in at 4.03lbs. Both were beautiful fish. The winning team was Marty Mayne and Troy Berntgen with 17.04lbs. The second place team of Eric Brockmeyer and Kyle Wegmann brought in 16.02lbs and the third place team of Dan Parker and Jim Klemp caught 14.11lbs.
     Even though the weather was not ideal, the competitors were all first class fisherman and the results of the tournament showed exactly that. Congratulations to the winners and we look forward to seeing everyone back next year for the second annual October Season Finale Tournament on the Mississippi river.

apologies for the delay..................

Apologies to all my readers. I've been away for a while and will have the finale of the 2011 season updated shortly. Then we will proceed with some product reviews, 2012 preseason check lists, and some early season smallmouth and largemouth techniques. Please remember to click on the "older post" icon to read all of the 2011 articles. Thanks

.................away we go!!!!!!!!!!