Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson 10/9/17

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I know not everyone was fortunate enough to have the day off Monday, but those of us that are federal workers did. Josh and I and our friend Naaman wanted to go fishing, but the question was where. 

I am sure that you all have read about my last tournament on Guntersville, which was just days before. If you didn't, you can click the link below and see how I caught a 7.12 pig. 


However, Guntersville had been pounded to death over the last two weeks and none of us really though we could catch any numbers, much less any size. So, we looked at the weather. The weather was looking just like it had a few weeks ago when the last round of hurricanes came through and Brad and I caught some massive smallies.  Read that report here:


So, we loaded up Big Booty Judy (now with a really nice sound system) and headed to Safety Harbor.
There was a fair amount of flow, around 25,000 and it seemed the right generators were turned on. We began fishing the normal eddies but we couldn't get bit. I found it a little more difficult to concentrate and run the trolling motor with three people in the boat, as there were baits flying everywhere.

Josh was throwing a Bull Shad when he yelled that he had a fish. He didn't yell initially because the fish was big, but because it is hard to hear. But, when he saw the fish, he started yelling for the net.

This fish was a lot larger than he had thought and it wasn't a brownie as we had expected. 

It was a really, really good start.

It's too bad that we couldn't get consistent bites. In fact, other than about five short smallies that we hooked up with, the fish were really, really stingy. Some of that is likely because the current had kicked up and I imagine the fish had moved from their normal haunts. 

We did get into a huge pile of white bass and stripes that alleviated our boredom.  

It was about this time that I noticed I had a really, really bad headache. In retrospect, it coincided with the pressure change ahead of the weather. For some reason, it didn't turn the fish on, either.

We moved away from fishing current and started hitting bluffs. There was no shortage of bait, but no bites. 

We then moved to docks, which is where we began to at least get bit. We caught several measuring fish by flipping docks, but only did this pattern for around 20 minutes before we had to leave. We did the most work with jigs backed with creature baits. 

In all, the fishing was very, very tough despite what looked like terrific conditions. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fishing Report for Guntersville 10/7/17

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Been almost three weeks since I checked in with everyone. Our last trip was the last regular tournament of the year for NASA, which was on Wilson. Go check it out.


That meant that our club Classic was up and Guntersville was drawn (eye-roll). But, I don't give up. I was going to put in the time. So, Brad and I got out the week before to do some prefishing. 

Since the club was going to use Goose Pond Bait and Grill, we put in there. Since we hadn't fished Guntersville since our 3rd place finish in June, we decided to just put the trolling motor down and start fishing. You can read about that week of fishing here:

Report for Guntersville 6/1 and 6/3 2017


We began to talk and realized that we had caught five pound fish on every lake except Guntersville, which was truly astounding, considering how the lake is known (rightfully so) for its massive fish and number of them. Of course, Brad pointed out that I had caught a fiver on the G, but it had come on fishing deep cranks on a bluff. I responded that it didn't count.

We began fishing shallow grass near Goose Pond with frogs and buzzbaits. This resulted in a nice three pounder on a Spro Poppin' Frog for me and a lost five pounder-plus for Brad, though we were glad to have shaken it off. We ended up with around 10 blow ups in a small spot, which was far more than any mat has provided for us in the last few years.

We moved around a good bit that day, but the amount of rain and wind had decimated the mats. I was able to catch a fair amount of short fish on a PTL Swinging Hammer, fishing it as a jerkbait in the blown out mats. Location didn't seem to matter as I caught them in three or more places. 

I left for the beach for a week but Brad was able to fish the Friday before. When he reported in initially, the numbers weren't good. He had caught only a few fish, but had found a very small area where he caught two fish really fast.

Now, typically, two fish wouldn't get you excited, but when he showed me the picture, I was sold. We didn't think there would be another seven pounder the next day, but typically fish school by size. 



The best news was, it wasn't a frog bite and that was good because the Spro tournament was the same day as our Classic. In fact, with a bit of a genius move, Brad had listened to some of the guides and decided to fish deep grass lines. 

The next morning, we went to our shallow grass spot and caught a few fish including one measuring and several shorts. We quickly moved to our next spot where we went to work with big worms. We would throw it shallow into the grass and work it through the scattered grass, down the ledge. The bites started immediately and I caught a nice spotted bass and Brad caught a short fish.

That's when the bite happened. When this fish bit, I knew it was the one. Working a big fish on a 6-6 medium heavy with 10-pound line isn't something for the faint of heart, especially when you see the fish is so big she can't jump. I loosened the drag and we fought the fish for the better part of ten minutes while trying to be discreet as there was another boat in the area who had already seen us catch one fish.

Brad finally netted the beast and we finally had that big bite. 

Of course, that comes at a price. The nearby boat moved within a cast length of us and began throwing a bama rig all around which resulted in a four pounder for them quickly. Good for them and all, I guess. 

As it turned out, we really needed that four pounder. We didn't catch another measuring fish though we did put another ten to 15 fish in the boat. 

The story was similar for everyone at weigh in. They caught short fish, if they caught any at all. Only two limits were weighed in and neither broke the 13 pound mark. Our three fish went 11 and change with the fish being a 7.12. That was the big fish of the day and of the year. It is the personal best for me in terms of tournament fishing by over a pound. It's the largest fish I have caught since 2011. I have to really hand it to my partner for putting it together. After fishing the G for a couple of years without a big bite, he was able to put two 7s in the boat in 24 hours. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/15-16/17

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I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of readers I had on last week's post. In case you didn't read it, click the link and see how Brad and I braved hurricane Irma and caught some toads on Wilson. It's received 830 hits, so yall must have liked what you read! I appreciate that! 

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/12/17


So, the reason we went out wasn't just because it was the perfect conditions for smallmouth, though it  certainly that. We also had a club tournament on Saturday and we wanted to be prepared. 

But, we also knew that the conditions would be polar opposites from Tuesday to Saturday, which is why we went out Friday as well.

Man, things couldn't have been anymore different. First, there was no current. TVA held the current at under 10,000 CFS, so we didn't even bother going to the dam. In fact, judging by prediction for Saturday, we needed to plan NOT to fish the dam at all.

With that said, we headed into Shoal Creek, where we have had a ton of success in the past, but not the last few years, for some strange reason. The idea was to find some topwater fish, at least early. With our experience this time of year, especially with no current, catching them early was key. 

Alas, the fish were not on board with that. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise because they haven't wanted topwater all year. It's crazy to think that I caught more topwater fish in March than in September, but I digress. 

We did, however, mark some fish on ledges and were able to catch two very quickly on finesse baits. Neither were very big, each weighing under two pounds. But the quickness of these bites told us to leave them for tomorrow. Both bites came in 20 feet or more of water. 

We then ran across the river to a similar spot in McCarren creek. This resulted in a single bite from a largemouth, but several stripe were caught. This bite didn't come in the same 20 foot depth, but it was the deepest part of the creek. Running to similar spots resulted in nothing. We ended the day fairly early, having boated no good fish nor numbers. We did have one spot that we had confidence in, but we worried about being able to get on it, due to another large tournament coming out of Lock 6 the next morning.

In summation, here's what we knew: weights and numbers were going to be exceedingly low. Like, to the point where we should expect five bites and we better fish clean and get all five bites into the boat. Again, this was experience talking to us. We had no ambitions of another trip like last year's classic. Wilson can do that, in a heartbeat. She's done it plenty of times. 


Sure enough, we blasted off behind this other tournament but we were able to fish the spot on Shoal creek that we wanted to fish. 

It resulted in a series of quick bites and we landed fish. Again, no topwater bite and we had to really, really feed these fish finesse baits. 

Brad checked the TVA app out of habit and noticed that they had turned current on already. We weren't expecting any until at least noon. So, we made the run to the dam. Initially, the wrong generators were turned on. That wasn't unexpected. Then, they turned the right ones on and we moved into position and got ready to catch them.

But, we got no bites. We typically catch them on deep diving cranks, but that didn't work. So, we threw swimbaits, the next best thing. Still nothing. Everything was right, aside from high skies. 

We knew this was a possibility. Sometimes you have to wait them out. Just stay the course and keep casting. So, we did. And we nearly threw our arms off without catching anything. Not even drum or stripe, which told us that they weren't in the current, or at least where we were fishing.

So, despite telling ourselves we wouldn't move, we moved. It isn't like we moved far. We just left the hard eddies that we typically fished and moved to fishing hard placements like the wing walls of the dam and rockpiles off the current as well as areas further down where the current spreads out.

This allowed us to slow down and throw finesse baits. We never found a pile of fish and we REALLY had to work, but we began to get a bite every 30 minutes. The issue was, all of them were small. I've never caught so many small fish at the dam. Typically, I catch small ones and that allows me to hone in on the big ones. 

Not so on Saturday, as frustrating as it was.

However, when Brad boated this massive smallie late, late, late in the day, we knew a tough day was now on our side. If we weren't getting a lot of bites nor size, even after two trips on the lake that week, the chances of someone else getting them were slim.

That ended up being the truth. We weighed in 12 pounds with second place having just four fish for five pounds. Third place had three fish for three pounds. In fact, you could take every fish caught by the club, add it together and it wouldn't weigh more than our five. That's not bragging on us, that's telling you how tough it was everywhere. 

With that said, I did see a nice bag similar to ours, but without the spread between a five pound smallies and a half pound dink weighed in, in the other club. We saw what they had been doing and it was the same thing we were doing: covering water. Except these guys were drifting further down river, by several hundred yards. 

In the end, it doesn't matter how the day went, if you win. Of course, I wish everyone could catch as much as they want, as long as we catch more. Saturday was more of the same with Wilson, especially this time of year. Like I said on Facebook: Fish hard, fish clean.


 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/12/17

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First off, let me begin by saying that I am in no way making light of the struggles of our fellow Americans who have dealt with horrible circumstances this past month. I feel for you all. 

Late Monday night, my fellow Redstone Arsenal employees received notice that we would not be coming in to work. It was quite the surprise to all of us, as we weren't supposed to experience really bad weather. True, Monday night we were set to receive some heavy winds and a fair amount of rain, but nothing to close down the Arsenal. 

Despite schools and businesses closing, I couldn't help but stare at the weather predictions. There would be rain and there would be wind, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then I did the wrong thing: I checked the TVA app, which told me that TVA was pushing a lot of current, around 70,000 CFS. Now, I recognized that they were doing that to make sure that the water level would remain constant 24 hours after the rain, but even if they cut that in half, it had the makings of a perfect magnum smallie bite.

Brad and I discussed it, but neither were willing to get up super early, only to find whipping winds and a deluge of rain. I woke up around 6:30, looked outside, and called Brad. Brad was already up. It seemed perfect. 10MPH sustained out of the Northeast, which would be perfect to hide from. 

We got to Wilson and were on the water by 10AM. Unfortunately, TVA had cut the flow down to 19,000.Usually 20K is the bare minimum needed. You may recall that this time of year, last year, that Brad and I had smoked some big bags. You can read about our last 20 pound sack by clicking the link below. 

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/24


The day started off very, very slow. About as slow as the current, I guess you would say. Although I did catch a decent smallie and a chunk of a largemouth on Strike King 6XD, we wouldn't get the numbers of bites we expected.
But, as expected, TVA kicked two more generators on at lunch and that boosted the current to around 45K. It took awhile for the current to make its way down to us, but eventually it did and it activated the fish for about a 30 minute flurry. 

Inside of 30 minutes, Brad and I caught five fish that would weigh 17 pounds. It included three smallies and two largemouth. Additionally, we also lost several fish from combinations of breakoffs and generally messing around. In all, we went hunting for big fish and we found them, just not in the numbers we would like to have found. 

I had posted on my Facebook page that this was the perfect weather to catch big smallies and that proved to be true, as you can see from the picture. While we would have loved to have found a six-plus pounder, you can't expect to find those on every trip, especially when you haven't been out in awhile. But, when the weather is nasty and the current is flowing, you have to brave the elements for days like this. I'm not saying to brave 25 MPH winds and 5 foot rollers or anything, but a light wind and misty rain shouldn't keep you from fishing. I've found that the super nice days generally are the worst for fishing and vice-versa. 

It was ironic to see all my friends messaging me, asking why I would dare mess with the weather. Well, the pictures speak for themselves. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Ditto Wildcat Classic: Day One

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Josh and I qualified for the Ditto Classic, which is a two day event. I've always thought that multi-day events were great for the two of us. Give us enough time on the water and we will find some fish. You may recall that we finally started catching fish two weeks ago out of Ditto. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing 8/10/2017


After weeks of the same old thing, we finally got a decent little limit and cashed a check. Not that we should brag because we had donated plenty and the 20-spot we each got was hardly worth the effort. However, we hadn't caught more than five or six fish a trip and suddenly we were catching 20. Of course, there was a small problem: None of them were worth anything. In fact, we were stretching them to get them to measure. Not literally, but you know what I mean.

We know that the best quality of big fish is at the dam. I don't think anyone would debate that. Your chances of catching a five pounder anywhere else from the 65 bridge to the dam is almost like hitting the powerball. But, there are issues with fishing the dam. Of course,  it is current dependent and it fishes really, really small. And, there is no guarentee that they are going to bite. In a short 3 hour tournament, dedicating 30 minutes of run time to get shut out is tough to deal with.

There was really good current. TVA app said they were pushing 34,000 CFS through Guntersville dam, but they had been holding steady for over 12 hours. In addition, the sky was very high and cloudless. All of this, in my opinion, negated the dam bite and told me it would still be tough. 

So, we had a plan. Logic told us that to have a chance on day two, you have to make it to day two. That means having some sort of limit on day one, even if it is a teeny, tiny one. If we could stay in the top five at the end of day one, we would then decide what we would do. After all, someone is going to catch them, or at least that one buckethead that outweighs someone's limit of dinks. 

So, at blast-off, we did we did last tournament. We dropped the trolling motor, eased our way to the little bitty cut of rip-rap and started grinding. While Josh threw a crank, I alternated between the Strike King 5XD and an Alabama rig with Powerteam Lures Swinging Hammers. Neither of us had a hit, so I picked up my shakey head and began working the 7" Tickler. It didn't take long for that to pay off as a fish thumped it and I set the hook. We worked a solid three pounder aboard. That's the kind of start we wanted to see.

However, we didn't get another fish off of our spot and we began hopping around to some old spots. Unfortunately, none of them produced anything other than the occasional 6-inch dink. 

Moving back down river, we began working rip-rap banks in an effort to cover high probability areas. We stumbled upon one spot that had a laydown sticking into current. Josh bagged two keepers in back to back casts. I had hits on back to back casts, but I was probing a laydown and both times the fish wrapped me up in the brush. Both felt like quality bites. The frustration was pretty high for me because bites had come at a premium and I felt like I was experiencing last weekend's tournament on Wilson all over again. If you recall, I felt like I didn't fish clean enough and it cost us. 

We worked the spot over pretty well without another bite, so we decided to grind our first spot for the last hour.

Again, on back to back casts, I had bites. One was a solid hookup, but the fish threw the tickler. The next, I broke off setting the hook. Frustrated with fishing a shakey head at night, I went to the crank, as did Josh.

We did manage to fill out our limit. Josh caught a nice 2-pounder with 12 minutes left. 

Our expectation was that we would be at the bottom of the board, but we were surprised to find out that multiple boats had already pulled out and called it quits. In the end, we are sitting in 4th and we actually won big fish of the night with a 3lb 3oz largemouth. 

Now, the question is...what do we do now? 

There are several ways to look at this. First, we need to assess the current situation. TVA app says they won't be pulling much today. The weather is mild and there isn't a power demand. There is zero chance of rain for the next few days, so TVA is likely not to pull at all. The sky will be mostly sunny. I honestly don't think the dam is going to be worth fishing, but with all the big fish up there, someone catching just one means we are out of winning this thing. 

In all likelihood, it's just going to be a grind, but I really believe we have two spots that we can catch fish on. Is there another 3-plus somewhere? Cause we gonna need one. Can we win with another 7.70 sack? Anything is possible, but again, it won't take much to knock us out. Do we go to the dam and fish for the one big bite? 

I'd like to hear from yall. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson 8/19/2017

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I know that the vast majority of you read these reports to the info on catching fish and you aren't terribly interesting in my philosophical thoughts and ideas on bass fishing. So, if you are simply here for the where and how, skip to the bottom. If you want to have a thought provoking conversation (and I hope we will, that's why I have a comments section, so use it), then let's have one.

What's a lesson worth to you? Can you put a dollar amount on getting schooled? I can. $80 dollars. While I am not hurting for $80, donating money to your local club or wildcat hurts, even if it's just your pride. But I try to look at things for more than the dollars and cents. Rather, for dollars to sense.

What do I mean? 

Let's cut to the chase. 

Our club was on Wilson Lake this past weekend. You all know how I feel about Wilson. I have had the vast majority of my success and virtually all of my best bags (for what they are, I know) on Wilson. It's versatile in both techniques presented and what you can catch. The lake may be a ten minute run from end to end but it has some of the best large and smallmouth fishing on the Tennessee river. 

While I have had success for over 5 years on Wilson, I have really just started to learn the intricacies of this lake. Specifically, I am speaking about fishing this time of year. 

So I didn't practice any for this tournament. Why? Mostly because I took one trip 2 weeks before and didn't catch anything of value. Mostly because with the water temps and time of year, I knew that to have a legitimate chance to win, you have to fish the dam. While you MAY be able to catch some large fish elsewhere on the lake, you are essentially just looking for a limit and hoping to hit a hail mary. The dam, on the other hand, has the greatest concentration of big fish, but it means hoping for current and contending with that current as well as any other fishermen up there. 

But, this was a three fish tournament, which is about the number of bites I'd expect at the dam. TVA was predicting a 34,000 CFS average, which is a solid number. However, this time of year, TVA won't turn up the juice until around noon or one. Up until that time, they won't generate any current. I also know that on weekends, if there isn't' a demand on the system, they are just as likely NOT to turn on the turbines at all. I was fairly nervous about committing to the dam because Saturday, we had a mild-ish summer. 

Still, we had a plan. Get shallow early and fish some grass with topwater for a quick limit. Then, starting around 10, we would get in line at the dam and grind. We would commit to winning there, no matter what. 

We blasted off and headed to Shoal Creek which has the greatest concentration of grass. Josh began with a buzzbait and I used a Whopper Plopper because I wanted a hybrid bait that would combine buzzbait action with a top water walking plug.

Josh began getting hits immediately, but the fish refused to commit to it. In all, he had five hits but none made it to the boat. I didn't have a single hit on the Plopper. 

The sun rose and the bites stopped. We headed to a deep water point that Josh had caught several fish over three the previous week. Fishing shakey heads with PTL 7" Ticklers, he caught a two pounder. Meanwhile, I could not get fish to connect and when I did get two bites, but broke off on the hookset.

So let me stop there and say this: this time of year, you cannot miss fish. You just can't do it. You must do whatever you can to ensure success, whether that is triple checking knots, constant worrying over weak spots in your line, or letting fish eat your bait. 

We moved to the dam and found ourselves the sole bass boat there. Number nine and ten generators were running, but current was a paltry 13K. Josh fished a crank and I fished a PTL Swinging Hammer. This resulted in lots of drum, but no bass. 

Eventually, one of the best fishermen (and prob the best one on this lake) in our club came up to the dam. He fished for 30 minutes and left, which made me extremely nervous because he knows what he is doing. Eventually we abandoned the dam and ran to some bluffs. It was 11 now and we decided we needed a limit now. 

While we fished the bluffs (around 1230), we heard the siren begin to wail, signifying another turbine was being spun up. In retrospect, we should have quit what we were doing and gone back to the dam. 

Eventually, we put some intel (thanks, Wyatt. I owe you) I had to work and ran to McCarren Creek where we fished the middle of some pockets. After going hours without bites, we boated a trio of fish in the first five minutes. However, only one measured, though we both lost measuring fish. It's ironic that we lost fish because the other partner was currently fighting a fish, after going hours without a bite. 

With about 10 minutes to go, I finally boated a keeper on a C-rig. So, at least we had a limit. 

Naturally, we didn't win. But, the aforementioned fisherman DID win, but not at the dam. Second place, however, was caught at the dam by a good friend of mine. In talking with him, he informed me that exactly what I said would happen, did happen. 

When the siren went off and the current kicked out of number 11 turbine, the fish started biting. When they heard the siren, they got in position. In a matter of minutes, they put together a 10.5 pound limit with a 5.30 kicker in three fish. A very, very solid sack. It was the first time they had cashed a check in this club and I was very proud and happy to see them do it.

However, it meant that I had shared the winning pattern with someone, who had enough faith in me to stick to it, though I didn't have enough faith in myself. And that hurts, a lot. It was an $80 lesson but I believe it will ultimately prove to be priceless.

It's one thing if you haven't been practicing and you don't really have a lake pegged to call an audible or punt on a game plan. It's another when you have fished it a lot and you KNOW how the lake acts this time of year. 

We read magazines all the time about "trust your instincts" and "don't be afraid to try something new" or "call audibles." What you never read about (at least I haven't) is "listen and trust your experience and stick with a game plan you believe in."


Friday, August 11, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing 8/10/2017

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It took 2 months, but we finally figured something out. No one said we were the smartest guys in the world, but as Josh and I discussed our plans leading up to the Thursday night wildcat, we both came up with the same idea at the same time. The one spot we have both caught fish every time we have fished. What's funny is that each time we have fished this spot, just a few football fields from the mouth of Ditto, has been when we had largely given up. 

Each time we fished it, we gave it a little more time than the last. In fact, after weeks and weeks of being unable to catch a limit, we bagged and weighed our first one off of this spot.

You can read about our last few trips here:


Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ingalls+First Creek 7/15/2017



So, when everyone blasted off, heading to the dam or wherever, we dropped the trolling motor and started casting. We weren't the only people who had this thought and just ahead of us was another boat who landed a keeper on the very first cast.

It didn't take us long to get on the board, either. Josh bagged spots off of a Strike King plug, but none measured. I was able to get a keeper in the boat on a PTL Bull Nose Jig with a Craw D trailer. Next cast, another one. Next cast, another fish. The problem was, few of these fish measured and those that did weren't big enough to matter.

Eventually Josh caught a decent fish on a crank and minutes later, I fought a three pound spot to the boat. Then disaster stuck. As Josh dunked the net, the fish made a last second jump and threw the jig, something fairly uncommon. 

All we could do was go back to fishing. That is until I set the hook on a fish and snapped about a foot off of my jig rod. 

After swapping lures for awhile, catching ones and twos on a Strike King crank, I picked the jig back up and went back to catching fish.

The key was an extending point of underwater rip-rap. These fish were right on the break down to 18 feet. 

After catching 20 in the first hour, we had a new issue arise. What looked like a dad and his two sons came down from the parking lot to bank fish. Mind you, the spot we were catching fish upon was tiny, despite fishing a long, long stretch of rip-rap that was accessible to the bank fishermen. Yet, even as Josh fought the 40,000 CFS current, they guys stepped even with the boat and proceeded to cast five different bottom bouncers. Some were behind the boat and some were ahead and even one right at us.

Initially, we asked where they wanted to fish so we could position ourselves to accommodate them. Either they couldn't understand us, or they didn't care. Try as we might, we hung their lines over and over. We politely asked them not to cast at both the front and the back, but to pick one. They didn't comply. 

It became a losing situation and we decided to move. We did find fish at every spot we stopped at that was similar to our initial spot, but nothing like the bite after bite. 

We tried to return to the spot, but the bank fishermen were still on the spot and we left them along.

We were surprised to find that our 6.80 was good enough for 3rd place. Of course, we also found out that the three pounder we lost would have put us in 2nd. And, we had to wonder if we could have beat the 10 pound sack had we been able to fish the spot all night.

It was our best day on the river this summer that resulted in around 20 fish, none of them over two pounds. Still, it was a lot of fun, though it did cost me a rod and Josh 4 Strike King cranks. The water was very stained and this current should make any current break money.