Monday, June 11, 2018

Fishing Report for Alabama Bass Trail on Logan-Martin Lake

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If you read my blog, you know how much I really, really like Logan-Martin Lake. This lake is full of fish. That can also be super frustrating when you are catching a hundred fish a day and can't scrap up more than an eight pound bag. More on that later.

And, you probably know how our first season in the Alabama Bass Trail has gone, thus far. If not, I'll recap. Guntersville-1, Wheeler-0, Weiss-5. That's total fish weighed in. Not optimal. To be fair, neither Guntersville or Weiss, which we had never been on before, were circled as lakes we expected to really compete upon. Wheeler, however, was and losing a big motor (which I still don't have fixed) torpedoed any chance of competing. 

We knew Logan-Martin was a challenge, but not in terms of catching fish. We knew we could catch fish here, and by the hundreds if we wanted to, but that isn't the point. I shared some of my thoughts in my Logan-Martin Lookahead post and it seems like a lot of you read it. Instead of rehashing what I said there, let me use the words that were said over and over on the stage Saturday:

"We could have caught a hundred fish."
"We just couldn't catch the big ones." 
"They were all the same size."

Over and over and over again I heard competitors utter that sentiment. How did that stack up for us?

So, we made our one and only trip to Logan-Martin this past Sunday and put in a solid day of work. What did we find? First, you can catch fish on that lake in almost any way up to and including froggin' river grass for largemouth. Obviously, largemouth are key to winning a tournament, but try as we might, we could not get consistent bites in the grass. Doesn't mean we didn't, because we did. it comes down to time management, really. If you have to fish 20 grass lines to catch a fish, than the odds are against you at catching a limit. So, despite catching multiple largemouth in grass, we never even added that to the game plan.

We also found two off-shore areas holding fish. Fishing humps isn't a new thing and I am sure over half the field had the same thoughts we did. Our approach was to idle until we found a super school. That meant, at times, idling for an hour before wetting a line. One spot wasn't holding as many fish as the other, but we could likely have caught a 100 of them in a single sitting, if we desired. The issue? Each spot topped out at around 6-8 pounds. So, we put those in our back pocket and kept looking.

We got on the lake Friday morning around 8 and the parking lot was packed. The morning started out extremely slow as we attempted to find new areas holding schools. We added two more areas, both with very similar features, according to the chart. Essentially, both were ledges and both held fish. One was holding 1.5 pounders, the other 2-2.5 pounders. 

By the end of the day, we had five spots that we knew we could catch massive quantities of fish upon. None of them were less than 20 feet of depth. We were using only finesse baits. 

We had a very candid conversation on the way back to the ramp. Yes, we had several really good spots and the likelihood of fishing at least one was very good. Truth is, once we identified the features, we didn't see boats on spots like that. Even when we checked some of our spots later, boats would be near it, but not on it.  ]

Still, what we had wouldn't win and we knew it. Nor had we any indication that there were bigger fish in the mix with these spots. There was a possibility that maybe the big ones would eat early, but that was a remote chance we weren't willing to take, so even though it was 4PM in the afternoon, we were tired and very hot, we kept looking.

Using the geographical features we had identified as key, we idled main river ledges in Cropwell until we found areas holding fish. One in particular had a brush pile on it, but not on the ledge, but just off of it. And on this brush pile were largemouth. We extended our sack from 8 or 9 pounds to 13 with the aid of a beast of a largemouth I caught on a 10" Ribbon Tail worm, easily the biggest fish I've caught on this lake. Josh ballooned the total to 15 with another four pounded of his own. 

We decided not to lean on those spots, though I worried if we had caught the only big fish we would find. 

Since we were boat 73 and we didn't have to run but 2 miles, we were catching fish as the flights kept streaming behind us. That included our big fish of the tournament, a four pound stud largemouth that Josh bagged as boats were screaming by on plane. That was an awful lot of fun netting when I broke the net handle and had to use just the ring and net itself with my tyrannosaur arms. 

Though I had caught everything on a worm the past two days, I threw a jig. I had this on a brand new Denali rod with a brand new Shimano Chronarch. And, as I set the hook on another beast, I realized that I hadn't tightened my drag at all and the 3.5 pound largie came screaming to the surface and spit the jig so hard it hit Josh. After fixing that up, I was able to catch a solid three pounder. We quickly finished the limit.

Going back to what I was saying about the frequently uttered phrases: we didn't want a lot of bites. We were fishing areas we didn't expect to have a lot of bites. That was by design. So, it was no surprise when the bite was really, really slow. 

To keep spirits up, we visited basically all of our spots and caught fish on all but one of them. Truly, this one spot was a little different from the rest because it was more of a main river point. Come to find out, there was no current, and that explains why we weren't getting bit. But, we caught enough fish to keep us moving and keep our spirits up. We culled many times, but only by ounces.  So, we cycled the first spots again. 

We caught more fish, but none were helping. We also noticed that while several boats came by early in the morning, boats were now idling around us so I expect that they were fished in our absence. 

Eventually, we were both ready to weigh in. It was hot and miserable and the pleasure boaters were making life miserable just by themselves. I figured we had around 12 pounds and while I thought MAYBE that might squeak us into the money. We ended up with 12.95 which wasn't the 15 pounds I thought we should have. That was my fault. I should never have used a new reel the day of a tournament. But, initially it was enough to put us in 6th and while I knew better than to think it would hold, I was surprised with our 22nd place finish. We ended up catching between 25-30 fish with most of those being our super school spots that we used just to past time as we let our better spots rest. 

Still, we had a gameplan to win. We put in the work. And it rewarded us, which is a consolation prize to winning, but still feels really, really good. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler Lake 6/7/18

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For most of the week, Josh and I weren't going to fish the Thursday night Wildcat. We had the Alabama Bass Trail Logan-Martin tournament coming up and we planned to get down to Pell City early Friday morning. Even if we didn't sit around and chat after an 8:30 weigh in, we still get home around 10PM. In case you've been under a rock, we've been on quite the roll this late spring and early summer out of Ditto.  It's luck. Really is. But luck comes to everyone who rolls the dice long enough. 

In all honesty, this spot we've been fishing, we've hit it dozens of times the last few years and it's never produced like this. But, we've also not had current like this at this point in the year, or at least not consistent. In case you didn't read, here is last week's report. We had enough for a 3rd place finish and had a five pounder on the crank that came off at the boat thanks to a knucklehead move by your's truly. 

The bite was better last week than the week before, but we didn't know how three straight weeks of fishing would effect the fish. Still, as Josh said "run the horse that got you there" or something like that. We made the run to the dam and went right at them with crankbaits. 

Josh boated a nice fish pretty early, but we could tell really quick that the bite wasn't what it had been. The week before, we had a limit and were culling by 5:25 and the bite went on and on. Truly, we probably shouldn't' have caught so many fish and attempted to find new spots. Live and learn. But it was a lot of fun. 

Still, the fish were biting with the 60,000 CFS being pulled out of Guntersville dam, but unlike the week before, the water level was down two feet and it had re-positioned the fish and even scattered them a good bit.

I was able to get that big bite early and after a terrific fight, Josh netted a nearly six pound buckethead largemouth on a crank. I was shocked we got the fish in and relieved that I didn't lose a money fish two weeks in a row. 

It took an additional 30 minutes to finish the limit , but at 6PM, we were ready to cull up some fish. The issue was that our spot was still producing fish, but sparingly and none were helping. So, we decided to expand on something we began to dial in last week. On the other side of the river, up against some rip rap facing into the current, we had began catching a lot of fish on small cranks. It was basically every cast, but size was an issue. We did cull a few times, but the average size of the fish there were behind what we were catching down river. 

Instead of throwing smaller, shallow cranks, Josh went to work with a deeper diver while I was throwing a big worm. This resulted in some really nice fish as well as a good laugh.

I had what I was certain was a bite, set the hook, but found out that I was hung up instead. This got some laughs from my partner on the front of the boat. As we idled up to free my shakey head, I pulled out a wad of old fishing line, which had my hook AND a fish still attached. 

The fishing was better at our second spot, in terms of numbers. Size was still at our first spot, but we really wonder just how long it will hold out. I prefer my saying, which I think I stole from my wife: "dance with the girl you brought" or something like that. So, we will try that spot again! Especially since it rewarded us with another win. We weighed in 14 pounds, which is a terrific bag this time of year. Obviously, a 5.75 lunker goes a long way, but honestly, we haven't put together our best bag yet. 

Water clarity was fairly stained, water level down, with a lot of current. We caught around 20 fish total, down about half from the previous week. 

Wednesday, June 6, 2018

Logan-Martin Look Ahead

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Let's try a little something different, shall we? A lot of you reading this are fishing the Alabama Bass Trail on Logan-Martin. Don't lie. Yall came here for some free info, didn't ya? I'll be honest, I'm just here for the clicks. But, hey, I bet we can help each other, right? 

Logan-Martin is easily one of the most fun lakes to fish in Alabama. While you don't expect massive fish on any cast as you can on the Tennessee River, a good day can mean a solid 16 pound bag where you also caught 100 fish. 

So, Josh and I were able to get down the LM this past Sunday. With it being such a long drive, we didn't get up super early and we didn't get in the water until around 8AM. 

We did go to the new-ish ramp, which we will be using for the ABT. This is the first time I've used it, as we have always used Lakeside campground's ramp. In the past, that's where a majority of tournaments have been held. It's parking lot only holds a few trailers and you typically end up parking the grass. The ramp can support up to four boats at a time, but the turn space is so narrow that it's not easy to accomplish that feat. 

I guess I had expected this new ramp to be different. I had heard it was "huge" with parking aplenty. So, as Josh and I dunked his Bullet, we thought maybe we were in the wrong spot. The parking lot IS bigger, but is is clearly designed for passenger cars, specifically for the nearby beach area. It can support three trailers at a time, but again, alignment will be an issue. We were later told by a park official that parking will be held in an overflow lot up the hill, but I can assure you ABT guys that you need to show up EARLY. At least the docks can handle more than two boats at a time, unlike our recent experience with the ABT North on Weiss

Anyway, Josh, Brad, and I have had a lot of luck in our once-a-year trips to Logan-Martin fishing downriver areas, specifically offshore rock piles. You can click any of the links below to watch vids and read reports (we didn't go in 2013).

I had seen a guy post a few days ago that he was catching frog fish. I have had a DECENT amount of luck catching fish on a frog, so the first spot Josh and I checked, we caught two fish on essentially back to back casts with a frog.  By the end of the day, we found that this was not a PATTERN but a SPOT specific thing. We fished some new areas that I hadn't fished before but only got bit on stretches I had been bit on before. It was very repeatable. 

We fished all new water for us all the way past Riverside landing where the lake necks down into a river. If you've ever fished this lake before, you know that catching fish isn't hard. You can catch fish on every main point, every rock pile, and every dock if you so choose. That's where this lake gets interesting. 

We found two off-shore areas holding fish and both had very specific things associated with them, which I am keeping to myself. But, rest assured, we didn't find any magnum fish.....just a lot of them. We were bit every single casts on one spot each time we came back to check the fish. What makes me wary is the next point:

My very best advice on LM: if you catch five fish of the same size in a row, and they aren't at least two pounds, it's time to move. Now, understand that I am not a pro and I fish that lake once a year. Local guys may tell you different. And, if you pay attention to the results of this tournament each year, you will see that one individual has won MULTIPLE events here and he wins them at the dam. Now, the vast majority of people fishing the ABT aren't gonna go to the dam. So, this info should be pertinent. 

My best trips on Logan-Martin have always started with a shad spawn or at least an area where migratory shad are being pushed shallow by the bass. This presents anglers with a terrific top water bite. Buzzbaits work the best and while walking baits and poppers also work, the buzzbait works the best. Any seawall with big rock or some other sort of cover should be targeted.
When this bite dies, it is all about the offshore for me. Hopefully, you have done your scanning ahead of time and you know where the fish are holding. Shakey heading is the deal, here. Depending on the wind and depth, you may have to go to a Magnum Shakey Head approach. Here's an article I wrote some time ago on the subject.

My expectations for this coming tournament? It's going to take 20-21 pounds to win, followed by an 18 pound stringer for second. From here on, there will likely be multiple 16 pounds stringers where someone caught a solid limit of 3 pound spots anchored with a kicker. To get a check, 13 pounds is the magic number. And, I haven't found that weight thus far this year. Our best five this past weekend only went around 9 pounds. Now, I believe we can get some bigger bites early, but we are a long way from 13. We could catch fish on every spot we fished, but the good spots are obvious if you find them, but let me warn will do a lot of looking before you find one where they are stacked. This one spot had easily 50 fish on it. 

Be safe and see yall this weekend! 

Fishing Report for Guntersville 6/1/2018

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Our club had a tournament coming up on Saturday  on Guntersville. Typically that means that Brad and I are getting ready to fish and we try to put a few days on the water. This week was different for me. I had a family reunion on Saturday and a trip to Logan-Martin to prefish for the Alabama Bass Trail(will add article later) on Sunday, so I wouldn't be fishing with Brad. I did, however, have a FANTASTIC time catching monster bass with my kids. If you follow me on Facebook (and you should), you've already seen my six year old catch a five pound beast on a zebco. Here is the report

But, Brad and I are partners and though I might have a big tournament on Logan-Martin, I still want to see him succeed, even if I am not there. I agreed to fish with him Friday, just a few hours after finishing 3rd in the Ditto Wildcat

Report for Guntersville 6/1 and 6/3 2017

Last year was really tough and by all accounts, the Big G is on the upswing. While I personally have not experienced that, I have no alliance to the lake like most people and I'm not willing to wade through the bad days. I'll just go somewhere else. 

Don't misunderstand, I crushed personal bests on the G in my last tournament last year and first tournament this year by weighing in a 7-3 and a 9-0. However, with the good days come the bad and the G is notorious for living on the very ragged edge of each with nothing in the middle. That's why I avoid it.

So, when Brad had a phenomenal day two weeks ago when he quit counting five pounders that he was catching on one of our hot ledge spots that we used last year to finish 3rd in this same event, I kinda knew that we were do a bad trip. But, to be fair, we were doing about 2/3rds scanning and 1/3rd fishing. 

That still resulted in no boated fish for us, but it wasn't just the fish to be blamed but essentially everything else. Wind was whipping at a 25MPH clip and it combined with the current to create enough flow to make it impossible to do anything off shore short of cranking, which the fish didn't want. In addition, all of our ledge spots had a boat on them and typically, one would leave about the time another was running in to sit on it. 

Most ledge spots, which included main river shell beds as well as off-main drains and humps didn't have fish grouped up. At most, some would have four or five golf balls sitting on them, hardly enough to warrant fishing. In my opinion, the vast majority of ledge spots are getting broken up by mid-morning by fishermen. If you find one that has more than five or six bass sitting on the ledge, preferably 10 or more, you need to sit on that spot. 

We were chased off by storms around noon, but the last spot we marked was easily the best spot. This was the entrance into Allreds. There is a pile of brush that is sitting on the bottom on a steep ledge. As we idled towards the ramp, we graphed between 10-15 golf balls sitting near this brush, but the current, wind, and incoming storm kept us from fishing. But, I suggested that Brad and his partner, Mark, start there as it was the best thing we found all day.

That paid off handsomely for the two as they won. They took 11.72 in a three fish tournament to take the win. In all, the two caught around 20 fish, all on soft plastics, which shocked me considering how well Brad had done cranking ledges just 10 or so days before. It was a great feeling for me because I felt like I had at least helped them eliminate water. I joked with several friends that our success isn't on me, as Brad has now won two tournaments in the last few years without me even in the boat. We also have to give Basswhacker Guide Service props, once again, for helping us with learning ledges. His information over the years has been invaluable. 

Here is a quick lesson he gave us years ago:

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Family Fishing 6/2/2018

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Most of you will probably realize that this is a family fishing trip on a pond, which won't help you for your upcoming tournament and click the X. But, I think that reading this is important. It will be fun, I promise!

I haven't written about Humphrey lake in several years. In fact, I don't think I've talked about it since some of my very first blog posts. So, let me give you some info. Many, many years ago, before my time, our family land outside of Columbia, Tennessee, was turned into a land-trust. On that land-trust is a spring fed pond where I learned to bass fish. 

Now, for most of my life, bass fishing was a texas-rigged ribbon tail worm or a lizard and nothing else. Ten year old Zach didn't even know other baits existed that would catch bass. For good reason, too, since it worked so well. My dad and I caught tons of fish on these two baits and he caught the first big bass I can ever remember out of the lake. 

As an adult, I would still occasionally go up and fish the lake. This tapered off to the point where I only went up there once every year, at the most. Part of that was because the lake had some serious issues that were impacting the fishing, namely that the lake had a hole in it that was severely impacting the spawn. Numbers and quality of fish were very poor. You can read about some of those repairs that were done by clicking the links below from 2012. 

Every year, the family reunion is the first Saturday in June. It isn't at the lake anymore, but just down the street. Just in case, I always bring a rod or two. But, I don't think I have actually fished since 2014. Again, some of it is about time. Some of it was the state of the lake.

But as we pulled up the road and I was able to see the lake for the first time in years, I could tell things had changed. First, the lake was full. Second, a line of trees had been allowed to grow down an arc of the lake that historically had never had cover of any sort. in truth, only about 60 degrees of the lake has any shade at all and no cover for bait fish, which I believed was part of the problem

As you can see in the first picture, there had been an algae bloom, so I got out my frog rod. Meanwhile, I rigged up a PowerTeam Lure's Swinging Hammer Swimbait on the kids' Zebco combo. Alyse was fishing with a wacky rigged and weightless PTL Sick Stick. She caught fish. I caught fish. Then, it finally happened. Gavin (6 years old), was casting the swimbait and he hooked into one. Just watch! 

Yes, I did have to help him. There was a brush pile and I didn't want this tank to get caught in it. But, Gavin (with some help from Griffin) was able to catch this monster!

Over the next hour, I handed over my frog rod (well, for awhile) to Alyse, who had never caught a frog fish. She's had blow ups, but never landed any. That changed. She caught fish after fish.
I was amazed at several things: first, that the fish were so aggressive. They acted like they hadn't seen a frog before. That actually may be true. Secondly, the number of bites. We could stand in any one place and get bit every few casts. Lastly, the quality of fish. Our best five when around 20 pounds!

It was truly a surprise and, if it weren't for the heat, we would have kept catching them. But, we were hot and sweaty and had places to go.

Just let this be a reminder: you don't have to fish out of a $70K bass boat to catch great fish. And, (talking to myself) you don't have to be fishing a tournament to have fun.

I've always heard that to get kids hooked on fishing, you have to be quick to quit on the bad days and make sure you make the most of the good days. Well, we certainly did that!

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing 5/29/2018

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Last week (I guess it's actually TWO weeks ago now) was a good week. Josh and I have cashed a fair amount of checks in the Thursday nighter out of Ditto, but never won it. Well, we finally slayed that beast and we managed to do it without catching a fish over three pounds, which is fairly rare. Usually the winning bag has some sort of limit and a kicker. We weighed in 9.90 on our way to a win. You can get the scoop by clicking the link below.

Thanks to the continuing rain and TVA's attempts to keep up with water levels, 60,000 CFS was being pulled out of Guntersville while at least eight flood gates were open.  Contrast that to 45,000 the week before without the flood gates. Typically, we've struggled when current reaches that kind of levels. 60K is a strong amount of current and makes it tough to stay on spots or finesse fish.  The further up river you go, the harder that gets. 

The conversation was pretty much settled because of the week before. We had the winning limit at 5:35 and that's with the 12 or so minute run to the dam. While the bite died off pretty quickly that day, we felt like it might still be holding fish. So, we made the run. 

Last week it was all about shakey heads and 7' worms. This week was a Strike King 6XD. It wasn't as if we didn't throw both of those each week, but I'm assuming that the increase in current made the fish want a moving bait and it was hard to keep a shakey head, even with a 1/2 ounce weight, in the area. 

It took even less time to get a limit. At 5:25, we had caught a limit and upgraded several times. Truthfully, we were getting bit each and every cast. Of course, due the nature of crankin' we didn't fish nearly as clean as we had the week before where we essentially boated ever bite we had.

This hurt us really, really bad. After wading through literally dozens of fish, I finally got that big bite that you have to have to win. The fish jumped several times, but stayed buttoned up. As I maneuvered the big one around the back of the boat. I changed my rod angle from a 45-degree arc to straight up because she had gotten into the current and I needed to reign her in. The change in rod angle popped the crank loose and she went swimming off. 

That's a tough pill to swallow. You can go weeks and weeks up there without getting that bite, but you have to get her in the boat. The chances of getting that bite again were slim to none and I knew it. That kinda stinks considering it was just 5:30 and we still had three hours to fish.

All told, we caught around 20-25 fish off of the one spot, a current break within a mile of the dam. Then they were done eating, so we started moving around.

Josh was able to catch several smallies on rip-rap around the dam. Most of these fish were very tight to cover and the cover was typically on a current break of some sort. As he flipped the cover, I tried to keep the fish honest by fishing the current, but never really got bit.

With a few minutes left to go, we moved to a straight section of rip-rap that was essentially current facing. I began throwing a Strike King series 3 and if i could cast it just to the edge of the water, I could get bit. I caught five fish on consecutive casts including our largest fish of the day, a 3.30 smallie. 

We came up short of a win at weigh-in but did manage third, just behind my high school buddy, Matt, who managed a second place finish all by himself, which is really impressive. We had 10.90, a very very solid sack for this time of year. Unfortunately, this begins the tough time of year where the water gets hot and stagnant. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Thursday Night Wildcat 5/24/18

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Kinda in a hurry today, being the first day of summer and all. Just so happens that everyone is already celebrating the holiday week, but I actually had work to do today. Well, I mean, I have time to write this, hence me telling you it will be short. Kinda like the bite we got on last night (spoiler alert). 

Fishing is such an interesting and weird sport. You can fish and fish and fish and spend weeks trying to scrounge up a limit. I mean, it's crazy the think that we've caught tiny limits. We've caught a 6.3 without finishing a limit, but we have yet to put together a good bag.

The last few years, I've begun to wonder if we outsmart ourselves. This is a 3.5 hour tournament and you can't make bad decisions and you can't miss fish. It seemed like when we went to the dam, the winning bag was from down river. When we went down river, the bag was caught at the dam. Believe me when I say that the decision on where to go was talked about for an hour before blastoff, so it isn't like we just blindly chose.

TVA was pulling 45,000 CFS out of Guntersville. They had been steady all day, and they had the flood gates open, so there's actually a good bit more current than that. This time of year and on into deep summer, TYPICALLY current of this nature positions the fish really well and you can't just junk fish the way you normally would this time of year. So, we chose to run all the way up river to the dam.

Well, not quite. There are a couple of creeks that feed into the river within two miles of the dam. Try as we might, we've never caught a whole limit off these points. It's not that the fish are there, but my opinion is that when current has been steady, they've already fed up and are just chilling until the next feeding. Typically, that isn't in the window we fish. Now, we still usually get a solid bite on each of these so we just hoped we could piece together a bag.

I began throwing a Xcaliber zell pop while making the comment that I had YET to catch a top water fish this year. On the first cast, that remained true, though a fish exploded on the popping bait just a few twitches. The resulting wind knot I had was impressive as braid was wrapped all over the rod. The five or so minutes I spent untangling this mess was just enough as the same fish destroyed the bait seconds after it hit the water. We had a nice two pounder in the box. 

Typically, I would have suggested that we only give that spot five minutes as we never catch more than one good fish. But Josh set the hook on another two pounder on a big worm seconds later. I took over the trolling motor and caught two on back-to-back casts on a big worm. After putting his fish in the box, Josh boated our biggest of the night, a 3.00 spot. 

Then the bite died.

That doesn't mean we didn't get bit. Actually, we culled up three more times but bites on that spot dried up. Literally five straight casts or so to start, then nothing. In fact, it was more because we caught fish that didn't help in between some of those bigger ones. 

By 7PM, we were moving around at the dam, looking for a big bite, but never found it. 

At weigh in, we had 9.90, which was good enough for the win. This time of year, 10 pounds is going to get you a check in virtually every tournament from now until August. We were fortunate enough to get that bite. 

Oh, and enjoy the laugh of my SECOND top water fish of the year.