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.