Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Tough Conditions!

In an attempt to prefish for tomorrow's Wildcat Tournament, I brought the boat with me to work. I planned on putting in at the Army Recreation area on Redstone Arsenal. It has a small, but nice, ramp with nice docks. After all the rain the last few days, I knew it would be muddy. I was hoping that the high water would push the fish real shallow. Usually the fish will run (or swim?) shallow to take advantage of feeding ground they obviously can't usually get to. This would give me the opportunity to fish wood cover, which I rarely get to do on Guntersville. I have been wanting to work on my jig and plastic throwing, as I don't use them often.

Dad didn't want to fish and Josh had hockey practice. I called up my Buddy TJ, who work in composites on contract with NASA. We have had several graduate classes together and we hang out when we can. He has fished with me several times and usually does better than me..LOL!  I offered him the back deck and he agreed to meet me at the ramp. Immediately, we were awestruck by how high the water really was. It was over the fixed dock by about 6 inches and was almost completely over the rip-rap banks. The water was almost brown. If the water level had been close to average, I might have decided not to fish, but with the water up and a visible current in the channel, I thought it was worth the try. The water was so far up that the ramp was almost submerged and the tailgate of the truck was almost in the water before the boat slid off the trailer.

I wanted to fish the cove that the ramp is in, so we started out casting around the points, up shallow over the rip-rap. It might have been TJ's first cast, but he snagged a NICE fish. It ran right at him and he couldn't keep up to it. The fist shook loose. We spent a few minutes probing and I wanted to try a new method my friend Bertus had told me about. We sat just inside the current, threw out a spinner bait into it, and let the current pull it around the bend. Great tactic. Just didn't work.
I worked a citrus crank bait around the shore with no results. So, I thought we would fish down the bank with my favorite search weapon...the old crankbait. In the dingy water, I elected to use a bright bait with a quick diving profile. So, I grabbed the old Norman N-series.
I trolled us out to the current...and away we went. The current was really ripping. So much so that the Minn Kota Maxxum 70lb thrust trolling motor, on high, would only keep us still in the current.
To make matters worse, there was a cross wind that would blow us toward the bank. It must have been a sustained 15mph wind. If I had to fight the wind, the current over took us. If I ignored the wind, we got blown against rocks and trees (which we did). I did some calculations. If we just drifted at 10 yards from the bank, we averaged one cast every 15 yards. That's no way to search for fish!

The only thing I could do was try to maneuver into eddys. But the current created such a low pressure zone behind the structure, that it would suck the boat into the banks! At least we could sit still against the bank. So we fished every eddy we could find. I found that the fish seemed to be doing the opposite of what I thought they would do (go figure) we marked fish by the hundreds on the Hummingbird 798 sidescan
But, trying to stay on that spot was impossible. Had the current not been bad, we could have picked apart the structure that was holding the fish. I had seen them there before, but just hadn't really paid attention. Sidescan showed large boulders in 22 feet of water. Any other time, its about 17 feet in depth which is reachable with a deep diving crankbait, say...a DD22. But not in this current with the water this high. We zipped down that stretch without a hit.

I fired the motor up and ran us above the launch cove to the upper rip rap bank. On the bank is a secondary ramp, which I assume is for kayaks. First or second cast, hooked a good one. I saw him flash right at the boat. A solid 2.5lb fish. He shook off....somehow. I normally don't have that problem with my fiberglass cranking stick. Next cast, snagged some one's old line. Ugg. But as I fished it in, I noticed that it was attached to a lure in a tree. SCORE!

We zipped down the bank again.  I decided that I was done fighting the current, so we ran down river to the NASA/Army docks ,which are setup for large barges. We cut the motor right in front of a little creek that flowed into the river. Had the river not been up, I never would have noticed this little gold mine. It just looked like a hole in the woods any other time. But now it was a prime staging point. First cast, caught a NICE spot. First one of the year.
As  I boated it, TJ snagged one! First real double of the year! It was a beast!

We floated down to where I REALLY wanted to be, which was the up river point of the cove. There is a huge boulder in 14 feet of water that always holds fish. We got about one cast apiece before we were whisked down river. I got on the trolling motor and eased us out of the current. What I didn't expect were the bank fishermenn. Sure, at night, there are almost Always folks fishing this cover. I know holds alot of fish! there were two dudes sitting on the boulder I wanted to fish. So, we fished alot of other USUALLY productive areas. When we got to the barge tie up, we chatted with an elderly black fellow. He hadn't been doing real well. TJ started snagging white bass and we asked if the gentlemen wanted them. naturally, he did. So, we passed off 3-4 decent white bass to him.

The temperature started to plummet and I knew our chances were slim. So, we ran upriver and called it a day. Any day on the water is a good day. Any day you catch fish is a good day. It's always a good day when you can drive 5 minutes from your office and catch fish!