Monday, July 25, 2011

MFC Tourney #8 Pickwick Lake, July 22, 2011

I don't know if it was epitome of foolishness, or perhaps the height of overconfidence to fish a lake...for the first a tournament. But, I am in the mix (somehow) for angler of the year, so every point counts on the way to getting the big check of $10 dollars (which pays next year's dues!)

First thing I did was look at last year's results. Out of the 8 or so boats, the winner had 14 pounds and there were 3 other sacks over 11.5 pounds! That was impressive, to say the least. The FLW tour was also on Pickwick, ironically out of the same launch, McFarland Park, which is just down river from the Wilson Dam.

With the old Stratos still unproven, I asked Josh if we could take the Bullet. He said that if I would tow it, he would buy the gas for the boat. Not a BAD deal....

And since Aubree loves the Bullet:

The days leading up to the tournament, I tried to find a topo map in local stores. Apparently every FLW tour member, every beat-the-pros, and every other fisherman in the world needed a map, and it took 3 stops to find one. Once I had it in hand, we studied it in depth. We didn't want to run too far, as the tournament was at night, and the lake can be very treacherous. We picked out two areas. First, the area just below Wilson Dam, and the other was the up river point of 7 Mile Island.

I figured this was going to be a Zach Taylor "Crank your way to victory" kind of day, so I bought two new Lew's Speed Spool 5.4:1 reels. You can read about my review here:

We followed the stream of vinyle wrapped boats until we got to the park, unloaded the Bullet and blasted off.

Here is a cool video of us running to the Wilson Dam:

So, we ran to the dam and fished here:

There were soo many small mouth! They were practically jumping in the boat...but just not biting our lines! Talk about frustrating! There was just too much REAL bait to eat and we couldn't interest them in it, other than a few short strikes.

So, we ran down to 7 Mile Island.
We had expected it to fish like Hobb's Island on Wheeler, and we were more correct than either of us thought! Although the point didn't produce any fish, we thought about it, and realized that the "smaller" side of the island( smaller distance between the shore and the island) would have more current, and was probable the better choice to fish. We fished the rip rap banks without a hit, but as we passed it, we noticed the depth shoot from 18 feet to 3 feet, even though we were 20 yards off the bank.But I wasn't hitting bottom with a crankbait. Upon observation, we realized that there was an underwater rock ledge that shot from 18 feet to 3 feet. We scooted off of it and back into deeper water, choosing to concentrate on this, rather than the island itself. Almost immediately, it paid dividends. Josh hooked a fish, and while it wasn't small, I didn't bother with the net. It was a good thing, as I had a hit! It jumped, and we had a good one on! I had snagged it on the Strike King 6XD in Powder Blue

It hit as I crawled it through the rocks with my new Lew's Speed Spool.

Every time I brought it through those rocks, I had a hit. The problem was, that was 1 out of every 3 casts, as the massive bill on the 6XD would get hung. I swapped to a Series 3

That made all the difference. From 8pm-9pm we caught fish after fish, both large and small mouth! However, I seemed to be missing the big fish. I was getting hits from them, and they would either jump and throw the hook, or lose it at the boat. It seemed the big fish weren't getting stuck on the tiny hooks on the series 3. And they are small! But every time I threw the 6XD, I got hung, and that was the end of that spot.

We took a break and decided to eat dinner. That turned out to be a mistake, as a boat moved in on top of the spot. That usually isn't a big deal, as most people drift, just like we did. So, we motored upriver, above them. They didn't seem to like that, and they whistled and shined lights at us. It wasn't that we were too close to them as much as they had decided they weren't going to drift. That's their prerogative, of course, and we made the mistake of getting off a spot.

Bad news got worse, as our big fish died on us, not for a lack of trying. We tried a few more places without any luck, other than bad luck, as we lost at least 50 dollars in baits between us. I even went to throwing a shaky head! That's how slow it got!

We went into the ramp early, with a good sack, minus one smaller fish. As luck would have it, I culled it with a good fish which I caught on my swimbaits!

We started the weigh in promptly at 2am. It took 13 to win, and although our 10 wasn't enough, it was enough weight for second. But, because of the dead fish, we had to take 3rd. that sucked, but considering that neither of us had ever been to Pickwick, especially at night, we couldn't complain!

I can't wait to get back to Pickwick and get back on the smallie/largemouth mix!

Review for Lew's Speed Spool 5.4:1 reels

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****Updated 2/13/13****

It's been a year and a half since I bought these two reels. I lost one in the bottom of Wilson Lake, but I am still chunking the other. After a year and a half, not much has changed except the price. Prices on these have gone up by $40 almost everywhere, which puts them right at the dollar figure of the Citica. Now, at the time, Citica didn't offer any other gear ratio other than 6.2:1, which put this reel in it's own class for cranking. That has changed now. While the reel is a great reel, it doesn't cast nearly as far as the Citica, not by a long shot. It's still a very tight reel that I really enjoy. It has definitely held up to miles and miles of cranking. But, considering the new price, you have a tough decision to make on whether you should buy a Citica or a Lew's. It still excels with larger crank baits. In fact, I'd venture to say that it is better for controlling a Stike King 6XD. It struggles with smaller cranks.


Months ago...February, I believe, Bertus was at Goosepond in Guntersville and saw a new line of reels. Lew's had just come out with a new reel for 2011 and the price was just right for him to buy one and try. At $85 dollars, new, it was $40 dollars cheaper than a Shimano Citica E, which has been my personal favorite.

Here is the Lew's :

Here are the specs:
TS1S 9+1 5.4:1 23 120/12 14 lbs. 8.3 oz.

Now, granted, I have all Citica's in the 6.2:1 ratio ,so the specs are not really apples to apples. But, I needed a 5.4:1 for crank baits. Having a slow ratio crankin' reel would allow me to get the bait down to the depth and then crawl it along, easily deflecting it off rocks. The fast ratio reels, in my opinion, are harder to make go slower than to make a lower gear go faster.

Anyway, the opportunity to purchase a few of these reels came up a few days ago. I bought two. Now, I didn't pay full price, but I paid pretty close to it.

So, I fished them for the first time on Pickwick, where I used them almost exclusively. On one, I fished a Strike King Model 3 crank on a 7 foot fiberglass rod. On the other I fished a Strike King 6XD on a 7'11 fiberglass rod.

The first thing I can say is that the texture on them is perfect. It has a rubber type coating which prevents slipping. That's something the Citica's don't have, and I have had problems with in the past.

The size was perfect, and my hands fit perfectly around them.

The cast was OK. Now, I admit that I am VERY conservative on my cast control. I set my reels up so that I can cast with the flick of a wrist instead of hauling on it. So, the range seemed to be limited, but that may have been because I had it set real tight.

The retrieve was very good. As you will read in my Pickwick post, I had to fish these from 3 feet to 18 feet within 2 feet, then over a rock pile from 18 to 3 feet, then back down to 18 feet. This made it a constant speed change. Slow to Fast. Fast to a crawl. Crawl to lightspeed. The reel handled it perfectly.

I had ZERO backlashes on the reels.

For the price, they simply can't be beat. I was always saying the same thing about the Citica's...but now you can get a comparable reel for $40 less.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Thursday Night Wildcat, Ditto Landing July 7th

Whew. Been a busy week and a half! Just got back from the beach and had a blast! I'm sure my wife documented the trip, or will, on her blog:

Anyways, before we went on the trip, I fished the Wildcat tournament. Since Josh  bought his Bullet (which I have yet to fish out of), I assumed he wanted to fish with his friend Anthony. So, I asked Bertus if he wanted to fish with me. Of course, Bertus is a much better fisherman than I, and Josh, for that matter....why hadn't I asked him to fish sooner! We made a 20 dollar side bet with Josh and Anthony.

First things first: my rectifier/regulator has been friend for months. Which means that the motor doesn't recharge the batteries while it's running. It hasn't been a big deal, really. But starting on July 3rd when my wife and I went to Guntersville (for about an hour, and it wasn't worth blogging about), I started having issues getting the boat to start without killing the batteries. I just assumed that I hadn't charged the batteries very well. The next day, the 4th, the boat ran great all day but suddenly the batteries (all 3) died about dark. Again, chalking it up to over use, I put the boat on the trailer. I charged the batteries all week leading up to the tournament. That afternoon, I knew we were in trouble. The first battery wouldn't start the motor, and the second had problems with it. Had Bertus not paid already, I would have said it wasn't worth wasting money.

The current wasn't very heavy and the water was fairly stained. However, we HAD paid and we felt obligated to fish. The boat ran well and we ran to the lower point of Hobb's Island.
It has a long point with some select chunk rock adjacent to the channel. Good smallie spot. The long point itself is about 100 yards long and is less than 5 feet deep in most spots.

I elected to throw crankbaits(go figure). I went with chartreuse/sexy colors in order to get some visibility. Because the area had been fished a lot fht e last few days, I went with a silent square bill made by Xcalibur. My rationale was that the wide wobble would sent a good strong wake, the color would give it visibility, and the lack of rattles wouldn't spook the smarter fish. I hoped to bounce the square bill off the chunk rock. With it being silent, I was hoping to trigger reaction strikes.
For the ledge fishing, I selected a Strike Kind Series 6XD in the same color scheme.

Bertus ran the trolling motor and I ran the back. About 2 casts in, I bounced the XCalibur off a rock and snagged a fish. I worked it to the boat, and it jumped and tossed the bait. AGG!!! This happened the last couple of times I had been to Ditto. I had assumed it was from weak strikes on the back hook and had swapped to a red front hook. Looks like it was still happening! It was a nice bronze back smallie. Not huge, but big enough! And it was fat!

2 casts later, landed a short large mouth on the same bait. Few casts later, a THICK large mouth, although he was about a 15 incher. Bertus stayed with his C-rig, casting to the point and dragging to the ledge. We noticed that his hits were coming on the ledge, even though we were sitting on it. We backed out a bit and I went to the 6XD. We found that the fish were suspended, making it almost impossible for me to catch on the crank bait. I went to the C-rig, had a few bumps, but nothing made it to the boat. The bite died quickly and we elected to fire it up and move to the upper point of Hobb's.....but the batteries wouldn't start the motor. !!@#!$%@$%@!#$!

All we could do was troll. That wasn't all bad, I told Bertus, as we were on the point, and on the other bank was a long rip rap run with a turbine inlet. So, we trolled. And trolled. And trolled. Until we got to the turbine.
As soon as we got there, we noticed bass busting shad on topwater. We went to throwing topwater. I threw a Zell Pop.

We caught a few short real quick, and one keeper. Even though we KNEW there were more fish, we couldn't get them to bite. And why not? There was a TON of hatching baitfish. Can't compete with that. So, with an hour left, we drifted down the rip-rap bank towards Ditto. It was like a Funeral March. Dead motor. 2 fish. And a somber drift.
About 100 yards from the inlet to Ditto, we suddenly started getting bites. One after the other. With 10 minutes left, Bertus single handily filled the livewell! It wasn't a big limit, but it was a limit!

I speed trolled the boat onto the trailer and we weighed in 6 pounds. We weren't going to weigh in at all. After all, if we caught a limit on luck, certainly others would catch monster sacks. But, we weighed in and watched others pack the boats and leave. Others weighed in 4 fish. I'm not going to brag, but We made 4th place. And that ain't too bad. We only lost by a pound, and didn't spend any gas to do it.
Josh and Anthony, however, ran all the way to the dam for 4 fish. But they welshed on their side bet! Double or nothing, they are now saying....

I guess you can't catch fish at 80mph! Until next time!