Monday, April 4, 2011

Wildcat Tournament #1, March 31st 2011

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Some of my favorite trips in 2010 were the Thursday night Wildcat Tournaments out of Ditto Landing on Tennessee River. You have something to look forward to all day at work, you blastoff at 5pm and weigh in is 830. If you win, terrific! If not, its still a good time because you didn't pay alot or invest a lot of time. Plus, since you can choose your own partner, there is always great camaraderie!

I missed the first tournament last week. Your kids are always more important, and Aubree had a game. So, Josh and I and were itching to compete! Because most of last years competitors went upriver, and the old Stratos is so slow, Josh and I starting thinking about fishing downriver. In particular, the Army Rec area, NASA barge docks, and the Triana area. Now, this is a pretty far run....longer than most people would invest to prefish. But, being a NASA engineer, I have access to both of these....literally minutes from my office. So, to prefish, I don't even have to fire up the big motor. If you recall, I prefished on the previous Tuesday without much success. That was ok. We know the fish will be there...eventually...but with the weather turmoil, the fish aren't in a hurry to pile in to the specific spots. Starting on that Tuesday, a cold front blew in, and Josh and I both knew that these spots might not be on fire yet. But that was better than going to places we had yet to fish this year.

A few hours before the tournament, I held the Marshall Fishing Club meeting for our tournament this coming Saturday. While speaking to Mark, one of the members, we were poking around the boat and he noticed that the prop on the boat was loose. The prop not was also loose. Upon inspection, we noticed the shear pin to keep the nut from backing off was completely gone. Terrific. Nothing like working on your boat at the ramp just to get it in the water. It was sure better than the alternative. The first time I threw the motor in reverse, the prop would become an UFO...under water flying object. HAHA!

So, with that fixed, Josh picked up, and the boat running and in the water, we blasted off down river. Not surprisingly, there were only a few boats in the tourney, and they were all headed up river. I couldn't say I blamed them. Normally, I wouldn't run full-tilt, as gas mileage becomes a major factor in winning, since the winnings are only around 100 dollars, split 2 ways. That cuts the victory pot A LOT, when you subtract out 30 dollars for gas. But, with limited day light, we decided that the time on the water was more important that the gas money. Off we went. The old boat was MOVING! The GPS recorded 59 mph, another new best. I am not that excited. Quite the opposite. There is an old saying: Motors run the best before they blow. Oh well. Can't do anything about that.

So, we ran down to the NASA barge docks. Actually, it was a little creek channel close to it. We sat in the river channel, throwing into the creek channel. Not takers. We threw into the flooded trees and bushes with no luck. As the current, which was still substantial, pushed us against the bank, something stirred underneath the bank. I couldn't tell what it was, aside that it was mammalian and didn't like my being that close to it. I THOUGHT about throwing a lure up there so I could get it to move around, but Josh warned me that I might not like what I caught.

However, as we floated away from it, we discovered a pattern! There is a "line" in the water, created from the differences between the slack water eddy and the current. If we sat downriver, against the bank, cast up that line, and retrieved either a spinner bait or a crankbait as slowly as possible, we could pick up hits as the lures bounced off the rocks.  I was throwing a Norman Lil' N.
However, most of the hits were fish slapping the lure. It didn't surprise me that it happened. The water was still muddy and 12 degrees cooler than it had been a week before. I quickly changed the front hook to a red number 2 hook. The first fish I caught was a short fish and I couldn't even tell that I had a fish on until it was close to the bank. This wasn't just because it was small, but because it was lethargic AND  I was dragging the crank bait against closely stacked rocks. However, a couple of casts later,  I caught a nice spot. Josh backed up my catch with a NICE white bass. Too bad those don't count. :-(

Off of that spot, we caught 5 or so fish, only one that was unquestionable. In fact, I am pretty sure we threw back at least 2 that WOULD have measured...thought they wouldn't have helped us much.

The only thing I caught the  rest of the day was trees. I was using my lipless crank bait rod, which is 7'11 and extremely heavy and long. I couldn't get the touch on the bait and it showed, as I had one or two lost, and one broken bill.

In retrospect, we should have followed the old adage "Never leave fish". But we did, and we never did catch any reasonable fish, although I did pick up on 14 inch fish late in the day. The final tally was 4 measuring fish for 5 pounds. Although we did throw back a couple that COULD have measured. That weight was mid-pack. 8 pounds won it, with a few ounces separated 1st and 2nd. 3rd was around 6 pounds.

Losing stinks, but the spots we are fishing will heat up in the next few weeks. Can't wait!