Where to begin.....
It's easy to chalk this one up to "lessons learned." Indeed, many lessons were learned during this tournament. Part of me says, "hey, so you didn't win. Don't take it so serious! It's just fishing! Plus, you caught a TON of fish!" but the competitor in me says "boy, did you screw THAT up."
So, let's go back in time a little. Last month (granted...it was a MONTH ago) I was fortunate enough to fish with several great guides during the Alabama Mountain Lakes Media Days.
Now, a week ago, I was telling my club that I WOULD be fishing the dam area. And I WOULD bring a nice sack of smallies. It didn't matter if it took all day, I was going to grind it out.
Then, I was able to prefish this past Monday with my wife. That story is here. Long story short, I spent a little time fishing the dam area without a bite. Went down river to a few largemouth holes that I know and was able to catch quality largemouth.
So, with this very limited data set, I decided that if the small mouth bite wasn't on...I would let the club try and grind out a limit on smallies while I went and caught largemouth. I honestly think I do that very well. When bites are tough, I seem to always do well. I had bragged all week that we would have a good limit by lunch and would enjoy lunch at the River Bottom Grille. Good plan, huh?
A few things that I knew, but didn't consider until it was too late: 1) I needed the sun to be out for my largemouth bite to be on. 2)the worse the weather, the better the smallmouth bite.
The weather was overcast, chilly, and rainy....pretty much all day.
So, we ran down river to a stretch that I caught good fish on last year during this tournament by swimming a PowerTeam Lures Gator through brush in 14 feet of water.
We started out throwing Zell-Pops around brush. Josh caught a short fish on about the first cast. The fish tangled him right in to the brush pile..so we...very excitedly to catch on that quick....buzzed over to the brush....only to find it was a tiny little bass. But, the current ripped us through the stretch that normally holds fish for me. We decided that we would hunt for a current break as that largemouth would almost undoubtedly like that more. So, we ran down river just a stretch to a section of rip rap that was on the main river, but out of the current because of on extended point.
We decided that we would go ahead and downsize in order to try and get a limit. Josh threw a shakey head while I threw a wacky rigged PowerTeam Lures 5" Sick Stick
It didn't take long to start catching fish. We were able to boat 4 keepers on one run down the 100 yard stretch of rip-rap. Things were looking up! Granted, they were all squeakers...but still!
So, we ran back up to the head end. On my first cast, I cast to a nice lay down, let it fall, and when I took up the slack, I hung in to a nice fish. He was already running to open water, so I didn't have time to lean back in to the hook set. Just apply pressure and keep up. It was going to be a decent limit fish. At least something as a starting point. And then it jumped and tossed the worm on to the back deck of the boat. We got a REAL good look at it. It was a solid 3 pound fish.
I reeled it back in, fired the Sick Stick to the same spot, and sure enough, a fish picked it up and ran with it again. I did the exact same thing. Didn't snatch it. The fish spit the worm out.
That was pretty much how the morning went for us.
We caught all the small fish. All of them. We screwed around and lost a lot of quality fish. Some we broke off. Some we didn't set the hook. At one point, we were catching a fish every 3 minutes, according to the GoPro. But, they were all small. So small, that I ended up turning it off until we could start catching quality fish. In fact, I turned the GoPro off at 9am and never turned it back on. So, take the video with a grain of salt.
We worked the same stretch of rip rap 3 times. Each trip, we caught around 5 fish. But, the size stayed small. We decided to move just down river to another stretch of rip rap. The wind picked up, as did the rain. It made it hard to finesse fish, so we started throwing crank baits. I was throwing a Strike King Series 3.
And, as the rain poured down, we poured the fish in the boat. One after the other. But...small. All of them ridiculously right at the 12 inch limit. Don't get me wrong. It was a lot of fun. It's too bad I didn't get it on video....errr...I did...except that motor was pointed down because we were in shallow water...so all you could see was the back deck! HAHA!
To sum up the day, we were fishing a nice flat at the marina where I have caught fish every time I have been there. Catching a 12 inch fish should be no problem. We caught an 11 and 3/4 large, several whites, and a skip jack. Josh made the remark..."all we need is 1 12 inch fish" and he hooked up on one RIGHT THEN. It was a bass. It was over 12 inches. But it was brown. If you didn't know, the new size limit for smallmouth is 15 inches.
Weigh in came and we watched a 19 pound bag of smallies weighed in for 1st place, followed by a 12 pound mixed bag. Both from the dam. Right where I knew I should have been. Ok, so I admit that 19 pounds is a hoss of a sack that I probably couldn't have matched. Now, I could have made 12 pounds. But, again, I wouldn't get my feelings hurt. After all, I made the decision to go hunting a largemouth limit on a smallmouth lake. What pains me the most is that we missed 3rd my mere ounces....ounces that I lost Personally. Especially that nice kicker fish. I know....things happen. Fishing is all about the fish we didn't get in. I can live with 1 here and there. But Josh broke off 3 fish that we can remember. I missed at least 3 good bites.
So, there it is. What would I have done differently? Well, obviously, I would have fished the dam. I know how. I have caught good fish. And, although my data point from Monday said that the fish weren't biting, I never referenced it again my other data. Monday was high skys and sun. It was post frontal. I didn't fish peak hours. I didn't even fish the good water.
Really, though, I am not going to fault myself too much for that. I made a call. I went with a largemouth bite. And had I done well, I would have cashed a check. The problem is, we didn't convert when we had the chance. I don't know why. Loosing fish isn't something Josh and I do very often. Really, the story of the day was...after the 2nd pass of catching dinks, we SHOULD have abandoned the small baits in skinny water. We should have tried deeper or tried elsewhere. We spent half a day catching the heck out of small fish that didn't do us any good.
Both of us got in the truck and begrudgingly shook hands and said "hey, it was fun! we caught a lot of fish. It's ok!". But both of us were thinking the same thing. We are too competitive to take home a participation trophy.
Anyways. Mad props to my club members. A 19 pound bag is SOLID! I'm ready for revenge on Pickwick. I was already plotting my return.
OK, so a little laugher here. The best thing to happen to Josh and I was when we lost a bottle of PTL Hog Tonic spray while running down the river. We SOMEHOW managed to find it floating. That was our hightlight!
Furthermore, this was the first tournament I have fished out of the new to me Skeeter. Boy, does it fish out good! And, I got a ton of compliments at the ramp on how hot of a boat it is! Thanks Uncle Jeff!
...And also...when you gut tells you what to do...FREAKIN' LISTEN!