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Follow my Fish of 2014
Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Follow my Fish of 2014
Tournament time has rolled around again for the NASA fishing club. In case you didn't realize it, the weather done turned hot on us! If you follow any of the guides on social media, you read fishing reports, or are other wised "plugged in", then you know the fish have pushed hard to the ledges.
Now, before last year, I was essentially LOST when it came to ledge fishing. I still don't know much, but an afternoon with Basswhacker Guide Service taught me a whole lot. And, apparently, it's taught a LOT of people, seeing how over 4,000 different people have viewed my "How to Ledge Fish Guntersville" blog post. It's got a great video. Go check it out.
Now, that doesn't mean you can't catch fish shallow. It doesn't mean you can't win tournaments shallow. Take, for instance, this tournament way back in early June 2011 where I fished shallow all day and brought home a first place check.
But, I didn't see a measly sub-10 pound check winning this tournament.
Josh and I discussed what we wanted to do. We both knew that we *could* fish shallow all day. We *might* catch them or we might not. But, we decided to use the knowledge we had read and decided we would attempt to hit the ledges. After all, this has been a year of massive growth as tournament fishermen for us. Just see a few examples like:
Now, we have caught ledge fish. But not in any size or quantity. And, many times, it seems that it was luck. But, the week leading up to the tournament, Josh had taken a play from my play book about Dialing in Your Electronics, and tinkered with his unit until he was certain he could find what we were looking for:
- Hard bottom
- Some sort of defining terrain on the bottom(ditches, rocks, switchbacks, any current breaks)
Sounds easy, eh? Well, think again. I 've tried it many times. Even if you find a pile of arches, who says they are bass? Or if they will bite. Or what they will bite when they DO bite. Or WHEN they will bite. Anyway, I rigged up for it, hoping for the best!
Now, if you don't already, go to my Facebook page and "like". It's Best5Zach Outdoors. I give a "play by play" during tournaments, that is, until my phone does. Which happens.
Just to be on the safe side ,we decided to fish shallow really early.
Josh bagged two keeper fish on a white spinner bait. I hooked up with a fish with a Super Spook Jr, but my line broke about 20 yards up the rod. The fish wasn't that big, but I didn't want to loose the lure. Luckily, the fish did me a solid and made a nasty jump a few minutes later and tossed it back at me. We missed fish on back to back casts and then the spot went silent.
It was 8am or so and we weren't getting regular bites. I moved us just upriver from the mouth of Seibold creek to a cove I have a lot of confidence in. The combination of pleasure boats and a nice sustained wind made some great waves. We didn't have any luck in the cove, so we fished out of it and into the next. As we rounded the point, the bites began to pick up on a mixture of the Super Spook and the white spinnerbait, more so the former. At that point, Josh had 2 keepers while I had 3. We finished out a limit and Josh culled us up the first time with a nice fish on a similar top water bait. It was our first NICE fish of 4+ pounds and gave us an instant 1 pound cull from the 15 inch squeaker I had put in the boat earlier. That might have pushed us to 10 or 11 pounds. Mixed in with those fish were a lot of short fish, say, 5 or more. We tried to run that line again without much luck and we quickly pushed out to the next contour line, which I had fished some months back and found to have real nice scattered grass. I threw a Strike King 3 in powder blue back and managed to catch a quick fish. The wind died, as did the bite. Additionally, the overhanging clouds were long gone. One thing was for sure, we weren't going to win while catching these small fish.
Even as little as a year ago, we might have ground out what we knew how to do and hope for the best rather than try something neither of us had success with. With the 11-12 pounds, we decided that we would take our chances and ledge fish.
We idled out to the main channel and ran several hundred yards. We checked several ledges we had marked at the BassMaster Classic. The first one we had marked had definite hard bottom and arches on it. Though we thought we might need to find several more, in the event that these weren't bass OR they were bass that didn't bite, we went ahead and started fishing it.
I went at it with a Strike King 6XD while he bombed a Spro Little John DD. It might have been my second cast, but I had a hit and dragged a small fish to the boat. Both of us had an "Ah-ha!" moment. Like, "did that really happen?" We didn't say it, but we both figured it was luck. He asked me where my point of reference was on my last cast. I pointed out a far lake house. He tossed the DD towards it and had a fish nearly take the rod out of his hand. It fought and he fought back, and he landed a SOLID 4.5 pounder that gave us an instant 3 pound cull.
The fish didn't get fired up like we expected, so we left the spot with 15 pounds or so and went looking for more spots to hit. We found one more, but noticed that several boats were moving in on us. We decided that we should defend the spot we had caught the fish on, just in case. After all, we knew there were fish on it and at least a couple were willing to bite. By the time we got back to our spot, someone was already on it. Though he did fish it for 30 minutes, we didn't see him catch anything. We weren't in a rush and took our time drinking a Gatorade and relaxing. Eventually he did decide to leave and we slid up to the spot.
We threw the cranks for a few more minutes, but all it yielded was a 30 pound drum for me.
We were still marking fish on the fish finder, so we decided to slow down and fish the ledge with soft plastics. I was throwing a PTL Gator while Josh threw a ribbon tale worm. I would throw up to around 10-12 feet and hop the bait down the ledge. I could tell that there were definite areas of rock and definite areas of mud. We would routinely get hung up or catch shells. But, every once in awhile, we got a bite. My first good bite was a solid hook up with a spot. He ran hard at the boat and gave me a great view. It was a solid 3 pound spot that would cull up our small fish. As I fought, he made a jump at the boat and spit the hook. He hit the side of the net and flopped back in.
It wasn't much of a loss, but it irked us. But, we went right back to it.
The bites were slow, one every 30 minutes at this point, which was around 12pm. Josh set the hook into a nice one and the fight was on! We maneuvered this NICE fish from the front to the back to the front. It jumped. It flopped. And eventually it found the net. The fish was in the low 5s and culled up a 2.5 pound fish, putting us in the 17 pound range. We still had 2 2.3 or 3 pound fish that we would like to cull up.
Another 30 minutes of slow hopping plastics along the bottom and I had a tap. I raised the tip and it was heavy. I nailed it, but the fish wasn't there. Not what we needed to happen on a day with 2 bites an hour. Minutes (and casts) later, I had a tap in the same area. I let the fish sit on it, then I hammered it. The fish just sat on the bottom, oblivious that I had hooked her. A terrific fight ensued, similar to the one we had earlier. Josh had some nifty net work and we swung aboard a 5.5 pounder. Another solid cull that gave us a 1.5 pound.
We knew we were flirting with something we hadn't done before....trip the 20 pound mark in a tournament. I know I know...not a big deal for most of you, but it is for us. Seems like we can win on tough days with a few pounds. We can compete on good days, but we can't hit that home run. It was 1:20. We had a 2 minute run to the dock, so we made a handful of casts.
Josh made a late cast and sank the hook into THE fish. The one we needed. We knew it from the second the rod tip dipped. This was the ONE. We fought. She fought back. But we won the battle. Josh boated his tournament record.
We didn't want to make any assumptions that we had it won, but we were so giddy to manage to do something RIGHT for once. We had a game plan. We executed it. We were rewarded.
Turns out, it wasn't enough to win. It took 21.5 to win and we weighed 20.25. The winners had a 8 pounder that ate up two dinks they had.
I'd love to be disjointed, but I'm not. Not even a little. What a great feeling! But, most of all, I have to hand it to my partner. He did an amazing job at getting his electronics dialed in, finding the spot, and getting 3 of the 5 fish in the boat. Fantastic work!