Monday, March 14, 2011

Big Pigs!

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Deer season has been over for about a month now, which means that my father has been interested in fishing for about a month. The problem is, the weather has been pretty crappy on the days that he has wanted to fish. Although willing to sit still for 5 hours at a time, in an uncomfortable tree stand, in the cold and rain (sometimes snow), he is unwilling to fish in the same weather. To each his own, I guess, but I always thought that constant motion keeps you more comfortable.....

But I digress. We have been wanting to hit the water for about two weeks, but the rain has just been torrential. You have to remember, that even when the rain quits, the high water mark isn't for another 24 hours, and even THEN, the mud prevails for days...even weeks! This early in the season, a cold front can dump enough cold rain to drop the water temperature by 5 degrees. Although the weather had been beautiful for 3 or four days, we put off a fishing trip to give the water some recovery time.

So, after church yesterday (3-13-11), we loaded up to hit Guntersville...the Big G. Aubree had been begging to go fishing, and this seemed like a good opportunity to bring her. Not only does she enjoy the fishing, but she is usually a good luck charm. 2 out of my 3 biggest fish have been caught with her in the boat.

Of course, nothing with an older boat is easy. After our victory a few weeks ago, we discovered that the trailer jack had come apart. Now it doesn't telescope, forcing us to lift it up manually. Furthermore, I noticed that the main power switch was turned on. I charged the batter for a few minutes, but had doubts, so I decided to throw an extra battery in the boat. Finally, we were on the way.

We passed Honeycomb, which had a parking lot FULL of boats, and as we pulled into Seibold, we could see dozens of boats fishing the flats and humps. The water was definitely stained, but it didn't seem that high.We put the boat in, and i turned the switch to start the motor. Click. Just like I expected. Dead battery. Guess that extra battery was going to pay off. It isn't new for me to spend time under the cowl of the boat. In fact, I don't think I have fished a tournament without having to work on the boat. Sigh. With the Big Bass Splash coming up, I can only dream of winning that boat. Even if I don't care for Legend boats.

Ok. Got the motor going. I wanted to start working on my gameplan for Big Bass Splash, which is the 26th-27th.
Last year, almost to the day, Josh and I discovered a little tweak to a gameplan that I had been using for weeks. There is a HUGE flat out of Seibold (Im not going to say anything more until after the tournament, although nobody reads this). We found a 4-6 foot contour line which snaked around the shore, about 75 yards offshore. We threw modified swimbaits and had one of the best days ever. I will post about it later. Anyway, the flat has some humps, and is adjacent to the channel.

With the water as muddy as it was(1 foot visibility) and chilled off (53 degrees) I opted for one of my other proven powerbait methods. I went to the Xcaliber XR75 One Knocker in Royal red. While most people prefer the Rayburn Red, I find that the Royal red offers more of a visible spectrum than the Rayburn. Rayburn is a bright red with gold trim. Royal transitions from yellow on the belly to orange, to red, to purple. I feel like, with the water as it is, it can filter certain colors, but not others. I don't know WHAT colors, but it's better to present a variety. As I have said before, almost EVERY rattle bait has 6 or so rattles. The fish can hear them coming. That means that once they learn what that sound is, to get out of the way. The one knocker is a single tungsten rattle. Im not saying no one uses it....but it is about 10 dollars a lure. There isn't a single lure I own that calls in big fish.

We burned down that contour line without a nibble. Not really a surprise. I didn't think the big females were pulled up on the spawning flats yet, but I did expect the males to be there. We swapped sides of the huge slough. Dad spotted a waypoint on the depthfinder that I had added last year. It is a big hump on the side of a creek channel. It dips down to 12 feet and comes up to 2 feet in a hurry. It also has a nice hard bottom, shells and packed clay. I let the XR fall all the way to the bottom. Then I would jerk it up and let it flutter back down. I would drag it across the bottom. Remember, it is shaped like a minnow, but that doesn't mean it can't mimic something crawfish. After all, the fish can't see it in the stained water, but they can FEEL how it moves. You know how a crawfish moves? That's what I was mimicking.

It felt like a stump. Except the line moved. At first it felt like a solid 4 pounder. But the closer it got to the boat, the bigger it got. At the last few yards ( I hadn't seen it yet), it started running deep, which is more like a drum or catfish. Neither would surprise me. In fact, I had just told dad that I thought it was a trashfish when it boiled to the surface. A monster! If Iconelli screams "Monster!" over a four pounder, he would have been in the drink over this one. Dad dipped it and we had a trophy in the boat.

Now I had a serious conundrum on my hands. This fish is big enough to mount. It wasn't fattened up yet, which I would have liked...but it was still a pig. Do I take it home? Now, I know what conservationist types will say....I also know that fish like this are rare. I guess I am spoiled, lucky, or have caught some really nice fish...but people go their whole lives without a beast like this. The other factor is, although remote, catching this fish in two weeks would pay out cash at Big Bass Splash. I don't know how much, but at least 2 grand. Yeah. Yeah. Catch the same fish twice? Silly, huh? Well, I have done it. And on a monster fish to boot. Well, pictures are worth a thousand words, so we took some pictures and I revived the fish, watching her swim away. Oh, for this to be two weeks from now! At least I know where she is.

Dad isn't much of a power fisherman like me. He doesn't like crankbaits. But, after this, he became a believer. He started throwing one of his 3 rattle baits. About 30 minutes later, lightening struck twice. He was using a more limber rod than I, so he had a fight on his hands. Where I was using a Magnum crank bait rod with 50lb braid, he was using a tiny graphite rod with.....whatever line he had (which broke TWICE later that day!) After a good fight, we dipped this fish.

Two MASSIVE fish in one day. In one HOUR! I know it was even harder for him not to keep that fish....but I talked him down from sticking it in the livewell. Partly out of conservation. Partly out of greed :-)

At this point, I knew the bite was tough. I always try to get Aubree to catch some fish. After all, kids grow to love fishing for the success, not from the boredom. I made up my mind then, that no matter HOW big the next fish was, she would reel it in.

The wish was granted about an hour later, and little Aubree...5 years old....holding a 8 foot rod.....reeled in her first 4+!

I LOVE the watergun, pink tackle box, and pink worms!

We cut the day short, opting to end with success. You just can't argue with 20 pounds in 3 fish!