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!!!!!!!!!!