Monday, August 29, 2011

MFC Tournament #10- Guntersville/Waterfront August 27th

If there is one problem in fishing in a very competitive and very good fishing club, is that being in the lead position doesn't award you the ability to slack. Quite the opposite. It is more effort to stay on top. In our club, with the current points system, you almost have to fish EVERY tournament. Otherwise, a win by the right guy could knock you out.

Saturday was looking like a lost cause. Aubree had a soccer game at 8am. Alyse had an all day work function. So, if I did fish, dad couldn't fish with me as he would be watching the kids. Not to mention that the boat continues to develop old age problems. I mulled it over with Alyse and dad. I explained how missing a tournament this late in the season would doom my Angler of the Year hopes. Even if I didn't win, the points for showing up would be enough to keep me in it.

Surprisingly, I was supported by both. We made some choices and calls. I would go as a non-boater, which would allow me to keep from getting stranded by the boat, but also allow me to get home faster to alleviate stresses on everyone.

As luck would have it, there were more non-boaters than boaters, and I drew out. Meaning, I didn't have a partner. I had told Josh I was going as a non-boater, so he had made plans with Emily, his soon to be wife (and owner of the Bullet!). So, I called Bertus. we call him Bertus because his first name is also Josh. Bertus is an accomplished fisherman, to say the least. He agreed to fish with me..although his boat was busted. So, we were back to using my boat. Maybe this hodge-podge effort would pay off. Maybe we would get stranded, sink the boat, and not catch a fish. You just never know in that boat.

Friday night, I fired it up and made sure it would run. Indeed it did. I charged the batteries, restrung reels, did all my little tricks (see an upcoming blog post) to get ready.

Picked him up Saturday, got some Hardees, and we drove to Waterfront while we talked it over. He had some luck at BB Comer. That's a long run from Waterfront. Like, 20-25 minutes. It would take the old gas hawg stratos every DROP of fuel to get there and back. But, I was willing to risk it, so I filled both tanks.

We put the boat in the water and prepared for blast off. We idled out to the buoys. The bilge pump kicked on. Not unusual, really. Every 30 minutes or so, a slow leak will trip the pumps. But the boat had been in the water a matter of minutes! And it pumped. And pumped. An pumped some more. I opened the cowl, expecting to find that the plug had fallen out, since I KNEW that I had put it in the night before. Instead, I found that the livewell pump was pumping water in the boat. The hard feed line had busted. It was confusing because the pumps weren't even on! Apparently, they don't have valves and instead, use the 3 feet of head from the livewell to keep them from flooding the boat. Well, now we didn't have that 3 feet and she was steadily filling up!

We ran back to the dock, Bertus jumped out, got the Denali and we trailered the boat. We pulled back up to Waterfront grocery. Luckily, they had spare PVC pieces and I was able to cobble together something that would stop the leak. We lost the ability to use the front livewell, but I never use it anyway.

Now we were an hour behind. And that hour was an important one, since we knew it was going to be HOT!

With a boat that could start sinking at anytime, we decided it unwise to run to BB Comer. Instead, we ran upriver to a spot that Bertus had chosen (and swore me to secrecy, although I know why it is a fantastic spot). 3 casts in, we bagged a NICE fish on a C-rigged 10 inch worm. It turned out to be big fish of the day at 3.XX pounds. We had a few bites, but no real takers. The spot we were fishing was a nice hump that came out of 16 feet of water to 7 feet and had stumps on it. Big ones.

Another boat came into the area, and low and behold...stopped about 20 yards from us. Not really out of realm of possibility, as all the good spots are known by good fisherman. But then these guys trolled right on top of us! Like, 5 yards. We bit the bullet and fished anyway. The wind was howling at 20+ miles per hour! We couldn't keep the boat on the spot. Eventually they left, as did we...without another bite.

We hopped a few more spots without a bit of luck. Like, none.

After we ran through his spots, we ran to Mink Creek. We couldn't catch anything in the back of Mink, so we fished the two islands in front of Mink.

Using a 10 inch worm, T-Rigged, we were able to get on a good bite. We caught 6 fish in about an hour, but we had to skim a lot of grass lines to get them. After one full pass, we had 2 more measuring fish and several that didn't measure. That left us with 3 measuring fish. It was 11am, 2 hours until weigh in.

No problem, we thought. We will just make another run. Nothing. Not a bite.

In a last ditch effort, we ran to Preston Island. We went to the very back and started fishing an underwater hump in front of the causeway. I bagged a solid keeper on my first cast. As I reeled him, Bertus was ready with the net. A 5 pound++ fish was following the little keeper! Bertus tossed the net and went after his rods, hoping to entice the monster. But she saw us and vanished.

Without any more luck, we got on some matter grass and started throwing frogs, hoping for a blow up that would net us a kicker fish. We had a TON of lazy hits. But not a single one managed to get it in the mouth.

Disappointed, we ran back to the ramp one fish short. Now, normally I would say that if I had it rough, MOST people would too. The problem is that we don't have MOST people in our club. We have good fisherman. However, Bertus is about as good as they get. With both of us struggling, I knew everyone else would too. But, it would only take a good fish and a small limit to beat us.

As luck would have it, that wasn't the case. We lucked out and took home 1st and big fish with only 4 fish and an 8.XX pound bag. I still don't know what to think of that. One of my worst days. Winning is great, but catching fish is SO much better.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

NATA Night Tournament on Pickwick, August 19th 2011

I was asked to fish with the vice president of NATA (North Alabama Tournament Anglers)

The two of use have been communicating alot over the last few months. Scott is several years younger than I, but he has as much love (prob more) for fishing than I do. He went to Sparkman High School, as did I , and is friends with my sister in law.

After months of simply sharing ideas and stories, the two of us partnered up in this tournament. I admit that, had I not been roped into being the president of MFC, I would have joined NATA...and I still may. It's a big club and they are very competitive. Anyway, on to the fishing!

The water was 83 degrees and at 6pm they were pulling 56,000 cubic feet a second. That's a good amount of current. The visibility was low at about 1-2 feet.

The two of us arrived early, launched the Triton, and started doing a little practicing before the 6pm blast off. We didn't get into many fish, although we did catch SOME. What I did learn was that the spots I had found a few weeks before still had fish on least the one or two I had caught. Now, aside from one short fish, I caught some good chunk fish.

Since Scott is the tourny director and VP, we had to blast off last. Which meant, naturally, we didn't get to go to the places we wanted to get to. Namely, down river at 7 Mile Island. Instead, we went back upriver towards the dam. Naturally, the dam was covered up, and why not? The last couple of tournaments held out of McFarland had been won at the dam. And not just 1st place...but all the paying places. Not wanted sloppy seconds, we hit some other spots that we thought might be worth fishing. Namely, some rocky shoal type areas, which were adjacent to 18 feet of water with big boulders coming up a few feet under the surface. I had a couple of hits on a Strike King 6XD

But, as they hit from behind those rocks, they would get in the current and pull loose. Aggravating. But not uncommon. In the more shallow areas, I would swap the the XCalibur square bill

The 9 dollar crank bait met it's untimely end, however, when I smacked it off the cowl of the motor, shattering the bill. Ugg.

After a few hours of futility, the sun went down on us. If you have read any of my other posts regarding night tournys, you know that I have yet to stumble upon this magic night fishing magic. Quite the opposite, really, as I have only caught 2 fish after dark, in both tournaments. Well, not to spoil it for you, but that's the same result. At least I had 3 other fish before dark.

So, we went back down river, trying to get on the spot that I had found weeks before.

Once again, someone was on it. So, we trolled across the channel to this little cove that I spotted.

I casted the first time to the upriver point, and as I cranked the 6XD down, it hung up! But, it hung up about 20 yards off the bank. As we retrieved it, the depth finder showed the depth shoot up from 18 feet to two feet. The point was very narrow too. I couldn't get to the bait and I broke it off. Instead of tying a new one on, I picked up the shaky head (GASP!) and cast it on the point. It hit bottom and I bounced it a few times. A fish picked it up and I hammered it. I was rewarded with a nice 3 pounder.

We fished that point pretty hard, then drifted down river a good bit, with no luck, despite some nasty looking lay down trees.

Finally, the last boat left the spot we wanted, so we trolled over. I picked up the C-rig with a big work tied on. I noticed that the lower was a lot lower than the few weeks ago. So low, that those rock piles which had been 2 feet below the surface were now breaking the surface.

I walked the C-rig down the rock pile. Felt a fish pick it up and surge to deep water. I set the hook Initially, I thought it was just a small fish. But it made a second surge that pulled drag. We netted a nice 3 pound small mouth!

We fished the rocks hard, and I had bite after bite, but the fish were picking it up and spitting it out. Aggravating!

At the weigh in, I didn't even bother weighing the fish..embarrassed at the lack of ability that I showed. Luckily, I wasn't alone. I only saw 3-4 full sacks weighed in out of the 17 boats. However, there was a good 12 pound sack in the mix as well as a 5.5 pound smallie. What a beast!

It was another good experience and I didn't get skunked. I was able to fish with someone new and I can't wait to do it again.

Monday, August 15, 2011

MFC Tournament, Wilson Lake@Night, August 12th 2011

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Another night tournament on another lake I had never fished. I was excited, and nothing is worse than being at work on a Friday and WAITING for 4pm. The hours seemed to drag and drag. I would check my stuff, recheck, retie, rethink. But the hour finally came and I headed to Josh's house to pick he and the Bullet up. I gotta say, nothing is as sexy as a freshly washed Yukon Denali and a freshly washed Bullet behind it.

We didn't have much of a game plan. TVA wasn't going to be pulling current, the water was fairly stable despite all of the rain earlier in the week. I believe they were pulling between 16-20,000 cubic feet a second. Pretty low amount.  The only thing that really stuck out to us was Shoals Creek. So, we had planned on hitting that first. As we pulled into the ramp, I started hearing a loud grinding noise from the rear of the Denali. I knew what it was immediately. The brake pad was eating the rotor. Great. We were a long way from home to be worried about that. To sum it up, I ended up having to replace the rotor and pad at 7am the next morning, after getting home at 445am so we could go to Auburn's Fan Day.

So, anyway, we dropped the boat in the water, while noticing that another tournament was fishing up. There were two Bullets in the parking lot, including a purple and white one, which was gorgeous. Sorry for the So, as the MFC boats readied for blastoff, a fellow member who was a few feet away in his boat yelled that Josh and I might want to move, as he was heading downriver and to the right. He didn't want to swamp us or hinder us by crossing in front. I chuckled and said: "That's ok, so are we." There was this hilarious moment of realization when he realized we were going where he was going, and we did the same. The light hearted smiles went away, Life jackets were strapped up, hat bills turned around backwards, and "OS" handles grabbed. (If you have to ask what that means.... well, don't ask).

so, the acting tourney director waved us and we both punched it. Now, Josh's boat is a fast boat. Don't get me wrong, but he has the wrong prop for top speed on it, we were loaded down, and he has his engine detuned to increase it's life. Regardless, it will still do around 80. The other club member was in a Ranger than could do 70s. Just for a second, it looked like it was going to be a race. But Josh trimmed it up and we were gone...though not quite far enough.

But, we were so giddy from actually using the boat as it was intended that we bypassed our first stop! We fished one cove down from Shoals Creek and after 15 minutes, we headed back.

 We bypassed the main creek point, electing to come back later. We crossed under the Florence BLVD bridge, fishing as we went. Nothing yet.
The first place we really did something was right past the bridge at this old boat ramp. The ramp was in complete disrepair. Even though we were 20 yards from the shore, the water was 45 feet deep, but jumped to 18 feet. I was throwing a Strike King 6XD in Tennessee shad. I wanted to throw this as the water was still dingy and I wanted the fish to see it, plus, it still had natural colors.

The problem was, I was hanging up in the shallows. A lot. There were big rocks submerged in 6-12 feet of water. It's just part of the game. The new Lew's Speed Spool 5.4:1 ratio bait caster allowed me to burn it down to depth, then crawl it along those rocks. Sometimes you hit those rocks and glanced off, sometimes you stuck. Usually every other cast. So, Josh had a full time job of trolling me to unstick me. As we pulled up close to the spot, I popped the line and the lure came free. A fish CRUSHED it. BAM! We didn't even have time to get the net. I swung him over and we had a NICE fish!

We fished a few more casts there, then moved down to the next secondary point.

We fished around the upstream section and then down into the slough. Josh had a hit on a shaky head, and broke it off as the fish scrubbed it across a log. The fish jumped two, three, four times trying to throw out the hook. It was so close that I could have caught him in the air. I had a set of weak hits on the Lucky Craft Sammy. we fished the down river section and started out of the pocket. I made a cast across the extended point. Again, 18 feet or so with chunk rocks. This time I was more careful to weave the crank in and out of the rocks. I stuck a rock, let it float up a little bit, and then burned the bait. This is a tactic to mimic a bait fish who discovers a bass lurking behind a rock and speeds away, triggering a reaction. Bam. Smash. The fish was on. Josh netted it, and we had another SOLID 3 pounder.

Oh, and before I go further...houses on Wilson. Wow. Apparently there is money over in Florence!

We fished another couple of casts, and I broke off a 6XD. This was the way of things. I would catch a fish on this pattern of fishing the submerged structure, but I would lose a bait for every fish I caught. As I retied, Josh trolled us to the next secondary point. Same song. Different verse. a 3rd NICE fish caught on a 6XD.

And just like that, we had what we figured was 9 pounds. Then the sun went down. Just like on Pickwick, the little bite we had found disappeared. We swapped tactics a few times. We ran all over the lake. And I mean, dam to dam. Nothing.

By 10pm, I had given up on anything but a black spinnerbait. I tied on a Strike King Midnight Special

To make a long story short, I caught a fish pretty early on the spinner bait, but it was a small mouth, which have a larger limit size at 14 inches. Largemouth are 12 inches, and while it was clearly 13 inches, we had to throw it back. Dang. A few hours later, I bagged another largemouth which did measure. Both of these fish were caught by lifting the spinnerbait, letting it flutter down, and dragging it.

We desperately tried to catch a 5th fish. We knew we would have it sewn up if we could just find a scrapper! To no avail. We motored in.

As we were running in, we noticed just how many pleasure craft were STILL out partying at 2am! We passed one in particular which appeared to be a party barge of girls who were singing K$sha. All you could hear was:
"This place about to bloww oww oww ow ow owwwwww" AHAHA!

As we motored up to the dock, I spotted a dead fish. Then another. Then another. There must have been 2 DOZEN dead fish! Even some NICE ones! Don't get me wrong. I have killed some fish. I killed one that nigh...but I did my best, and it was the only one in the club!

End rant. So, we weighed in. Didn't win, but we took 2nd with 11 pounds even, losing by a few ounces despite only weighing in 4 fish. It was a blast. I really like that lake!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Hanging with Griffin! August 7th, 2011

Wow! It seems like forever since I posted. Looking at the last post, which was the Pickwick tourny, it has been WEEKS. That isn't to say that I haven't been fishing. I have....but I haven't done any good. Well, I have been out once, and struck out. Zip. It has been FOREVER since I was blanked.....anywhere!

That really put a bad taste in my mouth, not just for Guntersville (where I struck out), but for fishing ANYWHERE in this heat. For example, the trip in question, Dad and I went to Guntersville a few Saturdays ago. We fished from 6-8:30. He caught a fish. One. I didn't have a hit. As you can see, we packed it up after 2 hours and came home.

I guess the silver lining in all of that was that we verified that the boat was working. Awfully expensive way to find that out.

With all the things going on right now like softball, kids sports, etc, it has been hard to find the time to fish. I have tried to squeeze it in a few times, without luck. But, this Sunday, things shifted around and we had some time, even though Aubree was out of town with my mom in Macon checking out Indian mounds and waterfalls.

Griffin had been asking to go fishing forever. Every time he saw a boat, or my fishing rods, he would start spouting: "Go fish? Catch fish? Ride boat?"

Now, remember that he is two. Tough to reason with him. He doesn't understand schedules. But, we got a lunch together, hooked up and drove to the Arsenal launch. We put in about 10am, which was a bit late for good fishing, but I didn't really mind. I wasn't there to fish. I was there to spend time with the family. Now, if I got some casts in, all the better.

After a good soaking in the water, I ran us just up river to some rip rap. I had eyed it before and filed it away. It is a great spot to fish on the wildcat tourneys. Not many people run down river, and those that do go to a handful of spots. This is a VERY small spot, but has all the intangibles. It has rip rap banks. I has a little pea gravel flat in the draw of it from being a field drainage. It has lay downs. It drops from 3 feet to 18 feet.

I had decided that I would start practicing using a shaky head, which is a football head weighted hook that you use a variety of plastic baits on...though normally a small worm.

What's the reason, you may ask? Well, I am a power fisherman. I like to cover a lot of ground with crank baits, swimbaits, and top water. The shaky head is a proven method for catching fish when it gets tough...which has been my downfall. At this point, I have been lucky enough to catch GOOD fish when it's tough. But some days, even the big ones don't want a big free meal. These are the days I completely strike out. A shaky head works almost anywhere. You just have to take your time to use it. And, in most cases, wade through the small fish.

On one of my first casts, I threw into a laydown just on the point of the area I was fishing. I was used to the current taking it downriver, but I noticed the line going up river! I snatched it and jerked the fish completely out of the water! HAHA!

So, I quickly obtained the goal. I caught a fish for Griffin.

I won't lie. I fished a little more, all without catching another fish. That was ok. Like I said, I was there to take the family (Minus Aubree) out. We ate lunch in the pavilion in the rec area, and went back out for a few more minutes. Since I knew that I prob wouldn't catch any more fish in this heat, I put the one fish I did catch in the live well. Griffin watched him the entire time! I won't lie, I did the SAME thing when I was younger.

But, the more we ran around, the more obvious it became obvious that Griffin wasn't going to make it much longer, and soon we discovered that he had fallen asleep in Alyse's arms while driving. So, we made him a bed.

As we got ready to pull the boat out, I pulled the fish out of the livewell and held him so Griffin could see him. As usual, he wouldn't hold him. So, I said "Give him a by by kiss!", which Griffin had no problem with. Except that he flopped out of my hand and tail smacked Griffin about 5 times! Whoops!