Tuesday, February 19, 2019

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 2/16/19

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I said it to Brad. I said it to Wyatt. I said it on my 2019 Tournament Season Look Ahead: First Half post last week. There was no way our luck could hold out on Smith Lake. For reference, practice had historically been really, really bad for us leading up to the three tournaments I have fished on Smith. We would get very, very limited information and then BAM! Light's came on and we won two and had a second place finish in the third. You can read about two of those events, which were both in February, by clicking the links below. 

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 2/24/18

Couple of notes, here. I have been out on Smith a little bit for the upcoming Alabama Bass Trail event this Saturday, but Brad and I had decided to stay closer to the Smith Lake Park area, so that's where I prefished. The water is down over ten feet from full pool and the last time I fished Smith, back on January 1st, it was at or near full pool. 

Imagine my surprise on Friday when the weekend started out the complete opposite. Wyatt and I struggled most of the morning, but he had been out a week before and told me that we needed to be fishing the middle of slews and pockets. So, I knew of a few that were close to the areas that Brad and I had won those two tournaments on. They definitely weren't on those points we had been fishing in the past, so we backed out and started fishing deep. 

The lights turned on and we began boating fish. We didn't catch a ton, but everything we caught was an over. I believe we had one under and one slot and while we did miss a lot of fish, by the end of the day we had around 12-14 pounds and we did it without beating on any of the spots we fished. We had two really, really good spots and we agreed to split the two the next day. It seemed like both would be good enough to win on, if you got the bites in the boat. 

I was really excited and didn't sleep Friday night. I was on fish and this would all be a bonus going into the ABT event. It felt like we couldn't miss if we stuck to the pattern the next morning. 

I ignored a few really important facts, all of which fall under one factual umbrella: Mother Nature is undefeated. 

It rained that night. The temp plummeted and even though Brad and I could easily see that the water temp had fallen over five degrees from the day before, I didn't think it would affect the fish. We run to the spot that I was sure we would spend all day in. We picked up a couple of shorts and slot fish pretty quick. I was getting a ton of bites but I simply could not get them to hook up.

This happened a lot the day before, but I just let them chew on the shakey head thinking they would eventually eat it. Bite after bite after bite, the fish would not swallow this worm. I dyed the tail. I flipped the worm and dyed the head. I went to a stick bait. I went to different colors and shakey head sizes. I tried everything I knew and I could not get them to eat. 

The bite shut down at 11AM and I found myself having had 20 or more bites, only boating three fish with none of them overs. Brad boated around the same with no overs. 

We started trying to replicate the pattern, thinking maybe we had spooked the fish. It didn't work. Considering that I brought only four rods, something I have never done before, and they were all finesse baits, I didn't have the ability to go to my normal panic mode, which is to get my 6XD out and start running ledges. 

I kept throwing that worm and it kept not working. We were incredibly frustrated and decided to go home early before the high school tournament started piling up at the park. Again, that's something that I haven't done before. 

The weights to win were right where I expected it. The wildcats took the same weights. Our club took 14 pounds, which was exactly what I thought it would be. But, from third down in every tournament on Saturday, seems like everyone struggled. A lot of that is the pressure on the lake. A lot of it was poor weather and lake levels. 

Of course, I don't let that make me feel better. I didn't fish the current conditions and that was stupid. Water was coming up and it was stained. I should have been cranking, something I have done the past two years and it has landed me big fish. I think the thing that bothers me the most is that I dictated the game plan for Brad and it failed miserably and I feel like I owe him for that. If we would have just showed up with no prefishing, we would have done better. It was impossible to do worse.

Anyway, we didn't get the result we wanted, but the real prize is this weekend. Our number one thing we learned from  Alabama Bass Trail 2018: Year in Review was that fishing pressure is the number one thing that will affect the lake the most on tournament day. So, right now we are fighting the fish, the lake level, and unprecedented amounts of pressure. One thing I know about myself is that I would rather have the world piled on me than not. 

See you this time next week where, hopefully, we have a good showing. 

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

2019 Tournament Season Look Ahead: First Half

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It's hard to believe that tournament season is officially upon us. If you've been following along this winter (stats say a lot of you have been), then you know I never quit fishing this winter. Storms, sleet, snow....didn't matter. I made myself push through the weather and, for the most part, it was incredibly rewarding. 

In the end, I fished over 48 days in 2018, which is a pretty astounding number of days for a guy with a full time job, three kids, and a lot of other hobbies. 

If you read my Alabama Bass Trail Year End Review, you know I was less than happy with how our first season among some of the best sticks in the south went. Bad decisions, bad luck, and lack of preparation kept us from either of our two goals: to break even by hitting a Top 40 in three of the events and/or making the Championship. 

Enough on the past. Let's talk the first half of 2019. 

I am fishing one club full time, the ABT, and associated wildcats to fill in the limited amount of time. That's basically a tournament once a week. For reference, I fished 48 days last year, at a minimum. 

First up is a double shot of Smith over the next two weeks. Brad and I have fished three club tournaments on Smith the last two years and we've won two and had a second place finish in the other. However, those 10-13 pound bags won't hold up in the local wildcats, much less the ABT.

2015's ABT event took 19 pounds to win and 14 pounds to get 40th. In 2016's ABT, there were three bags above 19 pounds with it taking almost 23 pounds to win. The Wiggins brothers had a solid finish in 2016 and they won both the amateur and pro side of a very tough event last summer. Hard to bet against them. It took 12 pounds to cash a check. In 2017, the bags were much lower with Wesley Sams and Jordan Wiggins taking the win with 17. Again, 12 pounds cut a check. If you look at the leader board, you see the same names over and over. 

We have yet to find magnum spots, though we've been able to put together consistent 12 pound bags of spots. Water level is going to be a concern, as is the weather instability over the coming days. It's going to take 20 pounds to win and 13 to get a check for the ABT. 13 is a number I think we can hit. That's do-able, though fishing against over 200 boats makes anything tough. For our club tournament, it will take 11-13 pounds to win, I believe. I am going to do a lot of fishing on Smith in the coming week, but my expectations are that I doubt I will get lucky three years in a row for the club tourny, but that's a sacrifice I am willing to make to be competitive for the ABT. 

March brings a club tournament on Wilson. Wilson in March has consistently been a fantastic matchup for Brad and I, though 2018 was a bit of a down year, though we did get 3rd in the two tournaments we fished. Those were two of our smaller bags we've had on Wilson. It will take between 20-23 pounds to win that and while 20 pounds is within our grasp, if anyone hammers them, it's not likely to be us. It's more likely we will find ourselves in the 16 pound range. I just don't have faith that we can find a five pound average on tournament day like others have. We just aren't there, yet. 

ABT on Wheeler in late March. This is an interesting time of year on Wheeler because fish will be in a lot of different spawning phases and it can be very, very tough. On the lower end, you are as likely to hit 20 pounds as you are to bust completely. The upper end is completely current dominated and more doesn't mean more is better. You are rolling the dice during the month with the most rain. There is a sweet spot in the TVA's flow and that end fishes super-duper small. Don't be surprised if it takes 25 pounds or more to win this event with it taking 15 to cash a check. More likely, there will be one 20 pound bag with a two pound drop per position to the Top 10 with a cluster around 14 pounds. 

Historically, it's been quite the spread. It's taken 20. It's taken 30. The spread to get a check is anywhere from 11-14. Barring some crazy event, we should get a check here. I would be really disappointed if we don't, considering how much time we spend up there. 

We head back to Weiss in April. That's a month earlier than we made this stop with the ABT last season. With a little less heat than May, this is going to be a numbers game for the majority of the field. Who can luck into those magnum spots? The top, however, has the potential to have the roof blown off, if last year were any indication. Despite being one of the top crappie lakes in the country, Weiss pounded out a 26 pound bag last year. That didn't come to a surprise to many, as Josh and I were told the night before the tournament that it would take 25 or more. The two ABT tournaments have taken at least 23 pounds to win. 

The cut line is going to be around the 12 pound mark and fractions of ounces will matter. Though we only had 10 pounds last year, we had on a fish that would have cut us a check. We had only one day of practice and by the end of the tournament, we had learned a great deal. However, what will it being a month early do to what we found? Still, we know how to fish for spots, so I expect us to be in the running for a check. 

Check back later with the back half of our schedule. 

Monday, February 11, 2019

Fishing Report for Wilson 2/9/19

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I know, I know....you guys are looking for info on Smith Lake, right? Chill out, we will get there. And yes, I have been prefishing on Smith, but with back-to-back tournaments coming up including the Alabama Bass Trail event, I don't think it's wise to air out my laundry.

I will say this about Smith. Smith Lake Park is essentially out of water and you are taking your boat's health into you own hands going there. Josh and I were on fish, but with the water level so low, we didn't bother fishing this week because I think that it would lead me astray. But, then again, what if the water doesn't rebound? It's a guessing game at this point, so I am not going to worry about it until late this week. 

Wyatt and I needed to get on the water, but with a date later that night, I couldn't go to Smith or Pickwick. That left Wilson, Wheeler, or Guntersville. I ruled out the G simply because of the number of boats that would be on the pond. I've fished Wheeler too much this winter, as it is. It hasn't been bad, but it hasn't been fun enough to continue to keep going. That left Wilson.

I was surprised at how many trailers were in the parking lot at Safety Harbor. The lot was almost completely filled, but we hardly saw any boats on the main river with only about four or five anywhere near the dam. 

You can ask my wife, I don't take hints so we fished the dam anyway, getting started about 9:45 AM. I thought the day was going to go terrific because within five minutes of fishing the 100,000 CFS flow, I boated the nice smallie pictured above. Another 15 minutes without a bite and I decided to leave. This wasn't a tournament day, this was fun fishing and I didn't feel like fighting that kind of current for hours just to get five bites.

Joke was ultimately on me, at least in terms of the numbers of bites. We fished the face of the dam, no bites. Ran to Bluewater Creek, no bites.

I decided to start running some of my better bluffs where I have caught huge 20+ pound bags, such as the one from this report: Fishing Report for Wilson 3/19/16.

It didn't take long to get on the board. Wyatt boated two chunks on a wacky rigged stick boat in two consecutive casts and missed another one on the third cast. I boated keepers four and five on two different cranks before we moved down the bluffs. 

At the time, my experience told me that fishing these bluffs was about covering water, not location specific. In addition, it also told me that the A-rig would be the best way to get bit. 

I didn't get a single bite on the rig, nor did we get a single bite anywhere else. Before we knew it, it was 1PM and we had to hit the road after a scant three hours of fishing. Still, our best five went 12 pounds, which wasn't too bad. I just wish we had gotten more bites. 

According to Mr. Johnston of Heartland Anglers, they had 28 boats with it taking 26, 25, and 22.5 pounds for checks. Like I said, I didn't see many boats fishing the river, though I was on the South side and the wind and waves are bad on that side and not many brave it. I believe most people were in the major creeks. 

Water was 52-53 degrees. About a foot of visibility. There was solid chop on the water. 

Monday, January 28, 2019

Hailey's Homer

Confessions of a Travel Softball Coach

Sometimes perception isn't reality. First impressions aren't always right. 

It was the very first tournament for AO1. More specifically, it was the end of the first tournament as we had just been beaten in single elimination and sent home after posting a 1-3 record. I can't say that I was shocked and neither were Alex or Alyse. We had very little time for this team to grow and the dynamics of the team just weren't there. 

I pulled three players to the side after our team meeting. These three players were our three older girls, those that were not playing their first games in 14U. I had coached just one of these girls and that really wasn't anything more than a single tournament she picked up with a team that I coached months before. 

I leveled with the three girls, all of whom were what I thought were our best hitters. 

"This team will go only as far as you three take it. Your bats are the only thing that are going to produce wins for this group."

Thinking back on this conversation, it was probably really unfair to level those type of expectations on these three players. None of them had ever played together, far as I knew. At the time, I was talking to two of those three players, but I knew the third had potential, though I wasn't sure what to expect from her. I've never had a player hit a home run for me and I felt one of them would do it.

Key and Em were easy to level with because Key is a natural leader, a great player, and has a personality that was easy to deal with. Em is also a gifted player and I believed she was the best hitter that I had ever coached, despite knowing that she had some confidence issues that I would have to overcome, eventually. 

Then there was Hailey, the player I knew the least about and really only included her because she was the second oldest player on the team. 

I didn't partake in the recruitment of any players. I left that to Alex because I hadn't embraced doing anything other than coaching the players under my care. Hailey was at our open tryouts, coming to us as a potential pitcher. She threw hard, for sure. She also plunked about three straight hitters.....at a tryout. The only thing I can say about her was that it didn't bother her. In the field, there was obvious work to be done, but nothing I didn't think I couldn't overcome, because it was mostly the expectation of effort. 

Her first time at the plate was not impressive. At the end of practice number one, I just didn't think she was a good fit, not just because of what she laid out on the field, but because she was so quiet. I was used to vocal players and I assumed silence was disrespectful, especially when I corrected or coached them up. 

Second tryout was much the same for Hailey, except the bat came alive and in a big way. Liner, liner, liner, liner. The problem with this is that without a defense to play against, you can't really judge just how good those liners would be. One thing was absolutely certain, she got all of the ball.

We offered her a spot. In the limited practices before our first tournament, I didn't take stock in the fact that almost 100% of the team had played together or at least had a mutual friend on this team. Hailey did not. That left her as an outsider and her quiet demeanor almost came across as stand-offish or even stuck up. The lone conversation I had with her was about just how bad her old team was and sometimes that comes across wrong. In addition, her parents came to every practice, sat on the fence, and constantly talked to her, something that I was wary of from other parents that may have been a little more involved than they should. 

Following that first tournament, I had considered that they may pull her from the team. What little I knew about her was that she is quietly extremely competitive.

Considering how she didn't really fit in the with the team and her quiet nature, I can't say that I was going to miss her. I asked Alex about it and he had a talk with her parents. The surprising news was that not only were they NOT leaving, they didn't attend a single tryout after practicing with us. They informed us that she didnt want to go anywhere, period. A shocker for me, as I had been on her hard, just to get emotions from her.

Over the fall season, Hailey and I spent a lot of time with each other. For the most part, she only hit in games. She pitched some and would occasionally play in the field, but it was obvious what she was made to do: hit. Yes, she was quiet. Yes, she has a very dry sense of humor, something that can come across wrong, especially coming from a young lady.

The conversation that forever changed my mind came during a mid-season game when she either struck out or hit out and she stopped at third base and told me, pitch by pitch, what went wrong and what she should have done. 

Throughout the season, this happened time and time again. On occasion, she would ask me what I thought. These were high game IQ questions that, truly, no one else would ask. "I knew this pitch was coming because these two pitches proceeded it. I hit here because the defense shaded this way" and so on. 

Her final stats: .333 batting average (2nd), .435 OBP(2nd), .538 slugging (2nd), led the team in total hits and RBI, tied for second with most walks, and had just four strikeouts in the entire season. In finality, she was the best hitter on the team, any way you sliced it. But, she kept finding defenders with her hits. I meant that quite literally. She was taking pitchers and shortstops out of the game because her hits never got off the ground. For a player with home run potential, this became very frustrating to hit almost every at bat but be stuck on first base after barreling a ball. 

Despite having up to five players on this roster with homer potential, not one was hit for me and the drought at coaching a long-ball hitter continued. 

In the off-season, I have worked very, very hard with our girls on hitting. Most all of them needed significant mechanics tweaks or at least to see hundreds of pitches to work on seeing the ball. I took a different approach to Hailey. Sure, I might work on front foot rotation or little things, but I stayed in her ear. I wanted her to be an extension of myself in the box. 

"A walk is a win for them."
"You get one pitch an at-bat."
"You can't win a tournament with one swing." 
"Be aggressive, first pitch is best pitch."
"Know who you are and be who you are."

None of this is 100% true, but I believe that building a power hitter is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one. Her issue was never seeing the ball or hitting it square. It was hitting the wrong pitch, being too passive, or taking too much pressure on herself in one at-bat. 

Friday night before our first tournament, the team went to a local hitting facility, where we've been trying to hit off the simulator at least once a week. By Friday night, the girls were absolutely hitting the cover off of the ball. The bad news, we found out that due to school ball restrictions, Hailey wouldn't be able to play with us until after her high school season. Naturally, we were upset about that but nearly as upset as her parents. They were worried we would move on from Hailey, which prompted a huge laugh from Alex and I. We assured them that we would make do and her spot wasn't going anywhere.

Saturday morning at 8AM, we were in Calsonic Indoor Arena in Shelbyville Tennessee for our tournament. I knew that hitting the ball wasn't going to be an issue. What would be an issue was keeping the ball off the ceiling or off the nets. The only way to hit a dinger was to thread the narrow gap between the net and the ceiling.

First inning of first game, Hailey swings at the first pitch and it is smoked to the wall, but because of the walls inside the arena, it bounces right back to the outfielder and she's stuck on first

Second game, Hailey walks her only at-bat.

Third game, she doesn't like the first pitch. She smashes the second pitch for a double that scores two RBI. Next at-bat, she fouls the first pitch, she swings in desperation at the third pitch, watches the fourth pitch for a third strike to end the inning. We discuss it and she knows what went wrong. She fouled her pitch and then became passive. 

Forth game is the semifinal game. We jump up to a 1-0 lead and Hailey is up to bat. I normally have some words of instruction or encouragement. But, I've noticed that this pitcher's windage is perfect, but she struggles with elevation. The ball is either in the dirt, down the middle of the plate, or over the batters head. So, I tell Hailey that if it comes out of her hand straight, she needs to jump on it. Typically, the first pitch has been money. 

I'd always wondered what my reaction would be when that first homer was hit. Em smashed a no-doubter off the ceiling earlier that day and I felt robbed by that. I know she did. I celebrated when that one came off the bat, just to see it bounce harmlessly to the middle of the outfield for a single. The same thing happened at least two other times that day. By 8:30 that night, I was tired and had honestly given up on being able to yelp and scream and hug that player who would gift me something that I had worked very, very hard to see. 

I had imagined running to the plate and getting in line with all of the other players, none of which have had homers hit for them nor have they hit any themselves, either. I imagined fist bumps and hugs and all types of exuberance. A watershed moment, just as we had the final game of the last season with C's Story

The reality was so much different as I watched the ball clear the net and hit the seats. I didn't find myself jumping and yelling like the idiot I imagined I would be. The truth is, I turned my back to the celebration and let the girls celebrate on their own. I watched it from a distance. I reveled in it because it is their team and her moment, not mine. Hailey rounded third and when she did, she saw AO1 screaming and yelling at her. With tears in her eyes, she did something I had never see her do: she showed emotion and emotional attachment to her team. It's been there all along, I know that. But, it HAS been hard for her. She isn't like the rest of the team. She's never had a team that was her family like every other player on that team. I think while she gets along just fine with all of those girls, she hasn't had that bond. Some of that is being from a different school and playing for different teams. Some of that is the gamer in her. 

Some of that is breaking down her own barriers. She's had that homer in her all along and nothing has change in the six months I've known her but she had to uncork it that first time to know it could be done, and it would be done going forward.  Just like that first dinger, she needed to uncork her emotional reservations and show herself to her team and it took Hailey's first homer to do it.

Post Script:

I never high-fived her as she ran the bases. Two plays later, the inning was over and we lost that game 6-2, never scoring another run. Even between innings, the two of us didn't speak. After the loss, after we shook hands and had a prayer, she eventually approached me. Did she want to brag about it? Did she want to complain about the loss? Nope.

She wanted to talk about how what I said before the at bat affected how she read the ball out of the pitchers hand. She knew it wasn't a good pitch to hit for her as it was a bit outside and low (as you can see in the picture) and how she caught just enough of it to get it out to right center. She wanted to talk about how the pitch sequence she'd seen in the hitter before her told her that was her one pitch

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Fishing Report for Wheeler 1/21/19

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To start off, I guess I would like to say that furlough life sucks, even with assured back-pay. I don't care who you are, you can run out of things to do and your cash savings PDQ after a month. I could deal with all of it, if the weather would cooperate. 

It hasn't. You guys know this. It's rained, and rained, and rained. When it doesn't rain, post-frontal moves in and it gets real cold. Sometimes it's just rainy AND cold. What did I expect, being in Alabama in January, right? I'd love to start prefishing for Smith, but it's a long way down there on top of the not-so-optimal weather. 

On Monday, it looked like the weather would break. Josh didn't want to take the time to go to Smith, and I was A-ok with that. So, we decided to fish out of Ditto. Of course, there were the small issues with a ton of current. That's been the marker for what has been good days and bad days. But, you know what they say about a bad days fishing....and that still holds true for even those of us NOT working. 

I got a call as I entered south Huntsville from Josh. Ditto was closed. So was Whitesburg. Turns out, that's because the roads were underwater. If you watched the news a few weeks back, you may have seen an interview talking about how the roads into Ditto Landing are below the water level, so while the ramps may be out of water, the roads to them aren't. We tried going onto the arsenal, but we had to try three gates to get one open, so we didn't get on the water until around 11:30. Wyatt tagged along in his boat, too. File that away. 

The way Josh and I thought, the current should drive bad fishing out on the main river. We decided to fish inside Ditto and other bay-type areas.

We began at the lower arsenal ramp area and didn't catch a fish. We moved into the NASA barge area and also didn't get bit. So, we proceeded into Ditto with a stop first inside of Aldridge Creek. Same deal, and though we marked a ton of white bass and could not get even one to bite. Inside Ditto was much of the same. We marked fish and bait, we could not get bit. 

Ditto was almost completely under water and we figured the fish would follow the water level up. 

Fishing around docks that were under water, I finally got bit. It was a very light bite and because I hadn't had the first sniff all day, I tried to set the hook way early. Josh set the hook on a big fish, but didn't get the hooks in her. Eventually, I connected on a fish with a shakey head and swung aboard a nice chunky fish, but pretty obviously a male. Minutes later, I boat swung another big male. Then, Josh connected with the fish pictured above when he played a ned rig out a little deeper. 

After following the new sore line around for half a mile, we found seven bass inside of a spot no bigger than your dinner table. Still, by the end of the bite, we had a solid 12 pound bag without a real giant. 

Now things get interesting. After following us for most of the day, Wyatt struck out on his own. 

After the last few trips, I have found Wyatt has really good instincts, something that I think a lot of fishermen have about that third year of serious fishing. After that, sometimes they get in their own heads, similar to what happens to me a lot. You know, fishing history instead of fishing the moment. 

When he called me around 4PM, I expected him to say he hadn't found anything. So, when he scoffed at our seven fish for 12 pounds with 27 bass of his own, I had to scratch my head. 

I was REALLY scratching my head when he told me he was fishing the heaviest current on that end of the river and catching them every single cast on a crank bait. I know where he was. I just didn't believe it. 

So, we made our way over there after he had signed off and put it on the trailer. Sure enough, we marked all the fish. I was simply amazed at the amount of fish and bait that were standing tall in a massive pileup of current. 

AAANNNDDD.........we didn't get a bite. But this point, the sun was behind the trees and the temperature was dropping. Boy, did Wyatt get a laugh out of us! 

Suffice to say, they can be caught, but you can't outsmart yourself. 

Current was over 140K with visibility in the low inches. Water temp was 47 degrees. 

Monday, January 14, 2019

Fishing Report for Wheeler 1/12/2019

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Let me just say that yes, I realize I haven't put up a report in a month. If you've been following me on Facebook, which you should, you'd know that I HAVE been out fishing. Now, you would think that since I currently don't have a job, thanks to the government shutdown, I would be fishing a TON. 

The answer to this riddle is really two-fold. First, before the shutdown, we had been going to Smith to prepare for the upcoming Alabama Bass Trail event as well as our first club tournament and I have been put under strict orders to not talk about Smith. Again, if you follow me on social media, whether that is Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, you know that we have been catching fish. I'm happy to talk about it on messenger, if you are interested but I'm not going to talk it here. 

Secondly, we haven't fished a lot during the shutdown because the amount of current on the Tennessee river has made fishing simply a crap shoot. I noticed in late November and early December that any current over 100,000 CFS wasn't good fishing on the main river. And, over the last few rain-soaked weeks, current hasn't really been below 170K, which is down-right dangerous. 

The current eventually got below a level that I felt like we might be successful, but then there was the problem with weather stability. Finally, we had a day were we had a few days of stable weather AND the current was fishable, so my friend and co-worker Nick and I put in at Ditto Landing. Nick has never caught a smallie and I thought we had a chance to not only catch a smallie or two, but maybe catch a giant. But, I also knew that the current was still a bit higher (20K higher than experience had told me to fish). 

About the second cast, I catch a decent spot on a Strike King crank and I thought, maybe, just maybe, they would be on. But, I quickly noticed that the fish weren't grouped up and neither was the bait. We did a lot of scanning, but quickly figured out that the fish weren't on the main river again. So, we moved into shallow bays. 

We didn't get bit until we got into the very back of the bays and were around docks. I began to scan larger bait balls and a lot more arches but to get bit, we had to really soak plastic worms. After hours of having just one bite, I finally got bit and broke off a fish. I retied and caught the chunk pictured above on the next cast on a PowerTeam Lures 7" Tickler. Nick caught two or three but it was taking soaking the baits up to five minutes per cast and the fish weren't THAT good. I was also getting a lot of taps from uncommited fish and I decided to leave. 

We fished another bay and Nick got a ton of short strikes but none got in the boat. It was more of the same and I wanted to fish one more current break because I had found that while the fishing may not be great on any of my handful of main river spots, one out of five was likely to hold five or more fish,

Didn't take Nick long to get bit and he fought a 3.5 to 4 pound spot to the boat, but as I tried to pin the fish against the boat, the fish threw the bait. Nick got a few more bites on his swimbait he was throwing, but as we drifted, I went across one of the rockpiles I've caught them good on in the past and sure enough, there were around three large arches sitting on it. 

So, we drifted over and I picked up the jig. I had five bites on consecutive casts that landed two really nice spots of around 2.5 pounds apiece, but I missed several more bites. Nick was able to get a few more bites including another decent fish. 

Both Nick and I were out of time but after several hours of just a once bite, we figured them out and even put together a really solid 11-12 pound bag. 

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Fishing Report for Wheeler 12/14 & 16/2018

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November was an incredible month to fish, at least one Wheeler. I didn't really give it the proper due on here, though you can read about our two tournaments we fished in the month of November by clicking the links below. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler 11/22-23/2018

Obviously, I focused on the tournaments and not the days leading up to those events. While we concentrated on big fish areas, there were other patterns that we didn't use that produced incredible numbers of fish. Truth be told, most fun-fishing days, we were catching between 20-30 fish in just a few hours. 

Once I found the big fish, I left those patterns. 

But, starting this month, the instability in the weather, which I believe is a combination of wild temperature swings combined with heavy rain, thus creating heavy current, has essentially shut down the spots that I had been catching monster smallies and magnum spots upon. 

It didn't shock my when my two best spots quit producing. I knew that eventually we would catch every five-pounder if we hammered them long enough. But it was strange to see the spots disappear, too. Over the course of three trips, I attempted to fish these areas. First trip, we caught a few fish. Next two trips, nothing.

So, I went back to the two patterns that had been working for numbers. On bright days, I was covering rip-rap with crankbaits, typically a Spro Rock Crawler or a Strike King 3XD. On overcast and rainy days, I was throwing a spinner bait tight to wood. 

Wouldn't you know it, those two patterns quit working. So, instead of doggedly sticking to those patterns, I started scanning alot, which sucks when it's raining and cold. But, that's what you gotta do. I found that bait was scarce and so were the fish. Occasionally, I would mark some arches and on my last two trips, I caught just one bass. One. 

It was interesting to scan isolated rock piles that had initially held spots, then smallies because drum had now moved in. Of course,  I didn't know that until I caught three on consecutive casts. I ended may trip on the 14th without a single bass, though I did have my first triple white bass attack on an A-rig, which was cool.

After a lengthy "discussion" with my wife about me and Josh fishing this Sunday, I was cleared to fish until around 1PM. We decided NOT to fish any of the areas that I had fished the last few trips and instead go back to building on some patterns that had been producing around the dam. 

White bass, drum, and one decent spot were all that were produced, initially. With TVA pushing 100,000 CFS and the flood gates being open, we eventually figured out that current wasn't the deal and it didn't matter if you were fishing the dam or down at Triana. At this point, we started fishing hard current breaks with jigs. This would include areas like Butler Basin and Ditto Marina, itself. We immediately found more bait and more fish. However, the bass weren't jumping in the boat and though we may mark what we knew were a school of bass, typically 15-20 of them laying on the bottom, we couldn't catch more than one at a time. In the end, we caught just seven fish with the best five MAYBE pushing ten pounds. 

It's tough right now, but starting Sunday afternoon when the clouds lifted, we are experiencing several solid days of stable weather, which should really turn the fish on. 

Water clarity on the main river was less than two feet with it being negative visibility within 10 yards of any bank. TVA is steady at 100,000 CFS, so fish have acclimated to current and I don't think it's driving them to feed. Water temps are down to the very low 50s in the afternoon with morning temps being between 45 to 47 degrees.

Just a reminder that we will be hosting a Wildcat tournament on December 29th out of Ditto, open to anyone. It's $20 a boat with $10 big fish and optional $5 side pots for Smallie and Spot.