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Follow my Fish of 2014
Disappointment. No other way to describe it. But, hey, that's fishing.
I made the comment to a few people that I had Never lost out on a check on Wilson. Now, understand that is actually not a big number. I have only fished a few tournaments on Wilson, but when I have, I have usually been fairly unbeatable. In the dead of summer, I fully expect to weigh in 12 pounds. I have, on occasion, blown up the scales to the tune of 18 pounds, as we did in 2012.
So, the Friday previous to our night tournament, I went out to check the few spots I have. Sure enough, one of the two main spots I hit was loaded with fish. I didn't fish it too hard, just enough to prove that there were both numbers and size, and judging by the 5 pound smallie that smoked a top water plug and another 4 pounder or two that I shook off, they were there. You can read that *limited* story here.
But, in the days leading up to the tournament, it was obvious that the weather wasn't going to be kind to us. It was a 100% chance of rain with the potential of serious weather. But the time Thursday rolled around, the thunderstorm chances had dropped, but not the potential for heavy rain. But, we had 7 boats lined up and ready to fish. I don't think any were excited to fish, but none of them wanted to be the boat to call it.
Blast off was at 5:30 and Josh was to meet me at 3:30. But, traffic due to the rain slowed him up and we didn't leave Madison until 4-ish. We needed a few things, so we stopped in at West End Outdoors, just outside of Athens. On top of gas, ice, and snacks, we needed a few things: namely punching skirts. Well, I needed them, since Josh had taken me to school during the PEO Tournament on Wheeler, and the only difference between our baits was a punching skirt. Sure enough, they had a decent selection whereas every box store had never even heard of them. This place has everything. Everything. Even beer on tap. While I didn't sample any, I was amazed.
We showed up late to the ramp and everyone was gone. In a rush, we donned our full rain gear and dunked the boat. We had to make a short run to our spot, but that proved to take a little longer than expected due to the big rollers, massive wind gusts, and driving rain. Josh managed to get a video of what we had to deal with. In the mix, we buried the nose of the boat in a rogue 5 footer which scared us. It took a long time to get where we needed to go, and we didn't lift a rod until after 6.
I went after the fish with the bait they had been killing the previous week, a Strike King series 3 in powder blue back. In the first 3 casts, I bagged two measuring fish and one drum.
But then the rain and wind picked up, the temperature dropped, and the fish quit biting.
One thing that stayed active was the bilge pumps. And after they kicked on for the 4th time in 3o minutes. I broke down and asked Josh THE question.
"Did you put the plug in when you took the straps off." He shot me a look of bewilderment. And then he cursed.
I laid flat on the deck and reached under the boat. I could get my finger tips just over the vent for the livewell, but not far enough to reach the plug, even with my head under water. Since he is 3/4 a foot taller than me, I asked him to take a look. He managed to reach it, but it left both of us even wetter than we had been, which was impressive. I guess the wave over the bow had just dried off.
The already limited sunlight started to fade when we abandoned the deeper spot and headed to flip grass. That had been the plan all along, but not until we had a limit. We had planned to either whack them on my spot or at least have a small limit when the sun went down, then we would move closer to the shore and flip standing grass for the bigger fish.
Josh quickly yanked a 2.5-3 pound fish out of the grass, but as it flew toward the boat, the fish came unbuttoned. It hit the boat and went right back in the drink. Josh was quickly able to flip up another decent fish, though smaller than the one he lost, getting us to 3 fish. Other than the bream pounding my bait, I couldn't get a bass bite. Nothing new there.
And then that bite died.
It was 9 pm, the rain had been pounding us since we set foot out of the car. It had chilled off a good bit and we needed to get dry. My Frogg Toggs were drenched and had absorbed water. Additionally, the crotch of the pants had ripped at some point that day. We pulled into a boat dock, wrung out our wet cloths and pulled towels out of storage. At least we could get warm for awhile. In the meantime, we both played Clash of Clans on our iPhones. Eventually we got back on the water, but we knew we had to get desperate to find fish. I didn't have any faith that my spot would pump out enough fish to win at the rate we were getting bites.
I though we needed to slow down, but the wind seemed to come from all directions, preventing us from being able to finesse fish. The only spot that I could think of was the 72 bridge in Shoals Creek.
We started just north of the bridge, working around an old ramp and docks. We fished around them, then around an old houseboat. But, as we flipped around the bassboat, we became aware that there was actually someone in there. It was a lady, playing guitar and singing what sounded like Waylon. I was weirded out by hearing someone in such a decrepit houseboat singing the blues and I bet she was weirded out to look out the open window and see two faces just feet away. So, we moved on to the bridge.
That seemed to be the right move....at least for bites. I was throwing a shakey head with a PTL sick stick backer. I was getting consistent bites, but I wasn't setting the hook. We were sitting in 30 feet of water and casting to rock piles in 20 or so. The submerged fish were hitting it on the drop and running deep. So, as I pulled the slack from the cast in, it would take me several seconds to realize that a fish was on there. Most times, they would simply drop it. So, to keep them holding the bait long enough for me to figure out there were there, I doused each worm with PTL's Hog Tonic. That worked, but only marginally. Now, I at least would be able to get a hook in them. The problem was, they were already spitting out the worm when I set the hook. I would get a fish on, get them to the boat and as I boat flipped them, they would come on done. I must have had 3 in the air and on the way to the livewell before they went back into the water. I know for sure that I had at least 2 2+ pound fish to the boat. I did manage to boat one of the 2 pounders, but it was too late. The bites dried up and the clock struck metaphorical midnight.
We headed to weigh in early because the wind had picked way up and the wind was even choppier.
After we saw 3 bags of limits get weighed, I didn't even bother to pull our fish out. It took 10.20 to win, backed up with 9.47 and 9.37 for 2nd and 3rd. Ironically, we were the only boat that wouldn't have weighed a limit. Hello eye-opener.
I don't know why I was more upset with myself. It could be that I expected to hit another home run that night. Or it could be that we had enough fish AT THE BOAT to win despite having struck out entirely on my game plan.
What can I say? Life is about humility. The only way to truly get better at things is to fail and learn FROM your failures. If you can't humble yourself, you can't learn. Well, I got a good dose of it! And rain. Far far far too much rain.