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 me...so 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 too...as 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 arsenal...fishing 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 success....so 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 busy..as 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 slip..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 fishing....fishing 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 it...so 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 seconds....it 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"..who...by 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!