Monday, March 19, 2012

MFC tournament #2, Logan-Martin 3/17/12

MAN...Had I been looking forward to fishing this tournament. It's like a mini-vacation!

Last year, Josh and I fished this tournament and had a great time. We came down Friday afternoon and prefished for about an hour, then fished the tournament the next day. We did ok. I BELIEVE we had around 6-7 pounds on a tough day.

So, we repeated the process again this year. The first thing I noticed as we put the Bullet in the water was how low the water was. Even though it was 80 degrees, technically, it's still winter and therefore, at winter pool. According to Alabama Power, it was 5.25 feet below full pool. As we left out, we realized that last time we were here, we were skimming over underwater humps...which were now out of water. We fished some of the spots that we fished last fall without much success. So, we pulled out the Topo Map and started looking for spawn transition spots then went off to find them. What we found on the map were creek channels sweeping next to out of water, underwater humps.

I couldn't catch a cold...although I did have ONE good hit.
I was thumping an XCalibur square bill off of stumps in about 6 feet of water...specifically around some man-made crappie attractors.

A fish laid into the lure, and I gave it a good sweeping hook set. He pulled back on I pulled back on him. And then he REALLY pulled. He stripped line from the reel like nothing I have hooked into in fresh water save for hybrid stripe bass. The speed that this thing swam at was incredible. It had to be Huge fish. And smart it made for the first crappie pile it could find, tangled me up, and snapped the line. That was about the only bite I had, as I stuck to power fishing only...which turns out...was a mistake.

Josh caught a NICE spot on the Bama Rig

Then, he had a BIG blow up on a Lucky Craft Sammy. Luckily he didn't hook it.

on the way into the ramp, we stopped at a hump on the main lake channel. Josh was throwing a shakey head and bagged several fish and had lots of bites. Now, if you read much of my posts, you KNOW that I don't throw plastics much. I don't mean finesse..I mean, plastics...period. A shakey head is the LAST weapon in my arsenal. I mean, if I were a soldier and I had an with the sissy stick would be the proverbial last bullet in the gun....that I would use to end my misery. But...I can't argue with I started throwing it. And I had bites. Lots of them. But I had SO little experience with it, that I couldn't stick the fish. This isn't something that has crept up on me. This is something that I KNEW I had to improve upon. I didn't even OWN a sissy stick until a month ago. The last few years have been fairly good to me...and even on TOUGH days, power fishing has gotten me a limit. But THIS year has been different. I have fished a lot more different lakes already, and there have been days that I didn't catch a fish at all, so I HAVE to make this a weapon I can wield. So, no luck on it...although it was working.....hint. hint.

I think Josh caught 6 fish total that afternoon. But we were able to figure out that the NUMBERS of fish were sitting on creek channels wrapping around under water humps that were now out of water. But the bigger fish were on the flat side of the humps.

So, Josh and I put the boat on the trailer and decided to have a boys night out in Pell City...whoop whoop!

So, we went and got some Mexican food. Had a good beer. And went back to the hotel...HAHA! We poured over the map and located more of those creek channels sweeping next to the humps. Now, I don't want to make more of our abilities than actually exist, but I will say that Josh and I do our due diligence on map study. We spend about an hour to 2 hours per tournament mapping out the day. So, with the spots circled, we hit the sack.

We expected the ramp to be it always is...and it turns out that, once again, there was a 150 boat tournament and we found ourselves in line to get in. Wasn't a problem, though. I dumped Josh in the drink, collected my phone, keys, and gun and shoved them in my pull over pocket. I don't believe on boarding the boat with anything in your hands because you might slip. And when you drop things. Well, the joke was on me. I slipped. Something fell out of my pocket and fell right in the water. Josh heard it and said "gun, keys, or phone?" I felt around. It was my phone.

This is probably the ONLY time that I wiped my brow and went "WHEW!". I have an original iPhone 3G. It's slow. My contract on it is long since up and Alyse has been asking me to get a new phone FOREVER! Now, the problem was that I couldn't call my club members and link up with them, so Josh and I trolled around in the dark...boat to boat...looking for the NASA club members. Finally, we gave up and started fishing. We ran to the first hump, where Josh had caught that nice spot and missed another good one. With our backs to the main lake, it was a long flat on the right of the hump, and the creek channel hugged the left side of the hump on it's way back into the slew. I was throwing the bama rig and had a SOLID hit. Pulled it in and we had a solid chunkie spot. Josh was throwing a crank and had one hook up. We got it to the boat and as I got the net dipped, Josh tried to turn it, and it shook loose. We watched the 3 pound spot swim away. We thought that maybe we had them fired up, but they showed us that we didn't know anything about fishing and the spot dried up.

We gave up on the spot and went to the next hump and had the same luck. We had made up our mind that if we hit two humps without luck, we would fish an intermediate spot. Something LIKE the humps, but also a shallow flat imitating the backs of a creek. Again, nothing. So, we eliminated water and went to the next type of the back of creeks. Josh made a change and started throwing a natural color Bandit crank with a "thumbnail" bill, which would give it the deflection of a square bill and the depth of a regular bill. On the way to the back of the creek, he started fishing boat docks. He boated our second keeper on the crank. Made another cast and had our 4th. On the next boat dock about 10 yards away, he boated a non-keeper. So, I searched for a crank similar and tied on my Spro "Little John".

I made the remark to Josh:
"Man, I LOVE this lure....I can't tell you the last time I threw it. I bet it's been 2 years." He agreed. We talked about how this lure is just SICK on Wheeler...and yet we haven't thrown it in a long time. The VERY FIRST cast, I bagged a keeper. We were up to 5, although we had two fish that were REALLY small and we had no kickers. Next cast, short fish. Two casts later, another short. We decided that either we had caught all the good fish, or we needed to let the spot rest. So, we idled back so far in the pocket that we were kicking up mud. The area looked perfect for a spawning flat. There were stumps everywhere. So, I started throwing the bama rig. Low and behold, I caught a stump. josh was already cussing me...because I get hung up a lot. One of the lessons I have learned about bass fishing is...if you want to catch MORE fish, you have to take MORE chances. So, I throw into areas that most people may not chance. Which means, I get caught a LOT. Now...I admit...for some STRANGE reason, Josh doesn't get caught up as much as I. Must be that he is still better than I. I will go with that.

So, he got on the trolling motor to go fetch my lure, but we soon were grounded in the shallow water...30 yards short. So, I had a choice. Get in the water and wade out to the lure or eat another 40+ dollars worth of bait. Well...loosing a cell phone was bad enough, so in I went. The water was about 3 feet deep...which means it was chest level for me...HAHA! All I could think about were those scenes from "Mudcats" with the snapping turtles and snakes and whatnot. Makes me shiver just thinking about it. But, nothing bit me and I retrieved my lure. WHEW!

So, went back through those docks and Josh boated one that culled our small 5th. What a GREAT feeling. We were now culling on what was otherwise a tough day, well, at least for us.

It was 12:15. We had 1 hour and 45 minutes. There was another hump that we had circled the night before. While the humps hadn't provided us the fish we thought we should see, we decided to fish this one since we hadn't been to it yet. So, we ran to it. Of course, there was another boat on we did the courteous thing and watched which way they were fishing it and we went the opposite way. After a few casts, we watched the other boat bag two solid keepers. But, we noticed that, once again, we had concentrated on the shallow side of the humps instead of the creek side. The boat finally packed up and left, so we maneuvered to the deep side. Like I had said earlier, the numbers the day before were on the deep side. So, we figured that numbers of small fish were better than no big fish.

Josh caught a few short fish on the shakey head, so I heaved a huge sigh of frustration and picked up the sissy stick. We were sitting in 15-20 feet of water and throwing to 2, then walking it down the drop. Immediately, I started having hits. Almost every cast. But, I was a novice at throwing this thing and I missed fish after fish after fish. FINALLY I stuck one. And I knew right away I had a monster. I backed the drag WAAAAAYYY down. After a 5 minute fight, we pulled a LONG spot into the boat. While it wasn't fat, it was long. We figured it was 3.5 to 4 pounds. Meaning that it was probably the biggest spot I had ever caught (3lbs 6 ounces). that culled the last small fish. I retied the shakey head and went back to it.

With 30 minutes remaining, we went back to our opening spot. With clouds gathering overhead, Josh started throwing the Sammy. It paid off as he pulled in another 1.5 to 2 pounder. We had one more smallish fish we wanted to cull. As we went around the backside of the hump, I went back to the shakey head...looking for that kicker.
A few minutes in, I hooked into another one. It FELT bigger than the one before. It surged to deep water, stripping drag.
"GET THE NET!" What a great thing to be saying with just a few minutes left. But, after a few popped off. As in, broke the line. What frustration! But, we felt good with what we had.

We had to fight the crowd of the other tournament "Fishers of Men, North East Alabama" the way...throw a GREAT tournament. I felt pretty cocky about what we had, so as I pulled by the weigh in tent, I listened to the weigh ins. It took 18 pounds to win their tournament. That's a great sack..but the kicker was...the big fish was on that stringer and it was only 4 and a half pounds. That means that, besides that 4 pounder, their other 4 fish averaged about 3.5 pounds apiece! Wow. Suddenly I didn't feel so good about what we had. However, I did feel good that I had the big fish.

We met up with the club and weighed in at 10.20 pounds with a big fish of 3.49 pounds. Not bad not bad. As I started to beam with pride...I saw that it was good for 3rd. 3rd!!!!! And I missed, not only big fish of the tournament...but even big spot!

Our club brought their A-Game today. 1st had 13.67 with a 4.04 pound largemouth and a 3.76 spot! 2nd had 11.54 pounds.

Turns out, 2 out of the 3 teams taking home a check in our little 6 boat tournament would have taken a check in the 150 boat tournament. Josh and I were ounces away from taking one home as well.

So, congrads to our club. You guys showed out. I am proud of them. But I am proud of us as well. Seems like I never quit learning lessons!
1) keep your gun and keys close, but keep your phone closer!
2) when you least expect it, that weak method that you quietly have hidden...will eventually rear up on you.
3) Never. Ever. Underestimate your club members. They will stomp on you in a second!

HAHA! What a great time. Can't wait to go back!

Monday, March 12, 2012

Family Fishing 3/10-11/12

Aubree had softball practice fairly early on Saturday and when she was done, we had a whole day with nothing planned. So, we went and picked up the boat and headed to Wheeler (Army Rec). We headed up to Flint River to find some white bass. I was really hoping that we could find a mess of them and they could both use their new rods that Santa gave them to catch some fish.

However, as soon as we arrived, I dropped the trolling motor and realized that the trolling motor batteries didn't get charged. Suddenly that stiff current became fairly insurmountable. I bet they were pulling 4-5mph current! I couldn't even hide behind the upper river point of Flint River. There was so much flow down river and out of the Flint that it would pull us right along with it. Flustered, I tried to swap batteries around to get a good combination, but 2 out of the 3 were toast. About the time I looked up, the boat was headed for the rip-rap on a solid pace. Fast enough to poke a hole in the boat, so I sprinted back up the walk way to get us away, stepping on Aubree's new rod and snapping it in two...along with her heart. :-(

After about an hour of fighting with the boat,  I decided it was a lost cause, although my wife had been telling me that for 45 minutes. So, instead, we did doughnuts with the boat. I let Griffin drive a good bit, which he loved.

Not being satisfied with this, Sunday afternoon, we headed over the the Publix off of Highway 53 to the land trust. Now, I know that there are some decent fish in there...because I put them there.  I also know that they stocked it. However, it is a young lake...shallow...with no cover. Which makes fishing it a crap shoot. To improve the odds of catching fish, I called my friend TJ and he met us there. It's a good thing too, because he caught the only fish! Even if it WAS a tiny bass.

We made a makeshift stringer and put the fish on there and let Griffin and Aubree play with him, which made their day of course.

A little later, he caught another solid pounder, so I know there are some stocked fish with decent size that haven't been eaten withe big ones I put in.

All in all, a great way to spend an hour on a lazy Sunday. Most of all, I am just thankful that my kids have the patience to fish and that TJ caught a few for them to see.

Oh, and for those wondering, I upgraded Aubree's rod that was broken to a real 1-piece 6'6'' rod. Even upgraded the reel. It was a single handed Zebco, which I modded with a Shimano Citica double handle...because I don't believe in leaving ANYTHING factory!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Fishing Report for Guntersville 3/4/12

Early yesterday, even before we started fishing, I made the comment to Josh that I wondered if my lack of success this year was because I wasn't willing to adapt to the changing day to day circumstances of fishing. the only time I turned a bad day into a decent day this year was during the NATA open. Well, read on folks. Learn ya something.

Yes, yes. I know it was Sunday. And believe me, I felt real bad about not going to church. But, I don't get a lot calls to ask me to go fishing.

Josh and I decided to have a little fish off with Bertus and Jim. Recall last time that this happened, they stuck it to us. I also had had terrible luck so far this year. In fact, the most fish I caught in one day was during the NATA open, and that wasn't many. Sure, we caught 19 pounds for a solid (and non-winning) weight....but we didn't tear them up. The other days, I had blanked. That's right. I had 3 straight trips to the G with either 1 or none caught. Terrible. I was discouraged. Heck,  I still am!

We put in at Goose Pond and immediately fished the back of goose Pond, which had some decently clear and warm water. No luck. And that was the order of the day, really. Josh did catch some of the shortest bass I have seen on Guntersville. I didn't have a bite.

We ran as far upriver as Jones Creek, finding some awesome looking areas, but nothing. The wind was howling like crazy, so we couldn't slow down to fish with finesse baits.

On the way out of Jones Creek, we decided to try one more area, about 3 feet deep with hard bottom and lilly pads. We had found great success in the past by fishing super shallow with the Alabama Rig.

It wasn't the first cast...maybe the second, and Josh hung one. Before the words were out of his mouth, I had one SMASH mine. We horsed them in. Solid chunks. At least we had 2 measuring fish. I believe Josh had caught 4 dinks before that. Double your pleasure. Double your fun.

We made another cast after we threw them in the live well, but we immediately noticed that while we were in the same depth water, there were no pads. We pulled up and motored further up the stretch. We fished about 100 yards of that stretch without a hit, but as soon as we got back to that area, I snagged another one. Very next cast, pulled in another fish. Both measured. Now we had 4. the wind pushed us past the area, so we motored back up. Again, the same upriver stretch didn't produce, but as soon as we entered the right spot, both of us snagged the same time. Neither measured.

One more trip down the same spot, but not a hit. It was odd. We knew they were don't have two doubles and back-to-backers in the same 20 yard stretch.

"Ah, I think we are too shallow". Josh said. Apparently, he was watching the GPS and noticed that the track we were currently on was too shallow as compared to the track we had been taking. We motored back out, pushed deeper, and were immediately rewarded. His fish measured and mine didn't. But we had 5. Which was infinitely better than where we were an hour ago. All the fish caught were in a 20 yard circle that was slightly different visually than the surrounding area. What was different? Don't know. But we do know they were all buck bass. They sure like something about that area.

Best five went 13.2. Not a banner day. Not even close. Bertus reported a similar weight as well. We caught 13 or so (8 for Josh and 5 for me, I believe). All but one were one the Bama rig. My Bama rig was rigged with one Money Minnow and 4 of my custom swimbaits, as found here:

And Money Minnow:

The fish alternated between the Money Minnow and the custom baits.

My last cast of the day, however, I slung off my Bama Rig. Yup. 15 dollar lure. 5 dollars in hooks. 20 dollars in baits. Gone. So, word of advice, retie your line...even braid...every once in awhile. Ugg....

Maybe I learned something. I don't know. It's tough to judge. We didn't do anything terribly different than what we had been doing the rest of the day. I guess you could say that, if it ain't working, don't force it. Go looking somewhere else. And even if they aren't biting at one small spot, it doesn't mean they aren't 20 yards away, all bunched up and hungry.

Still waiting for that multiple fish hook-up on the Bama rig. I don't think it exists....