Having sold the Skeeter a few months ago has left me at the mercy of my many great fishing buddies. Luckily, I have a lot of them, so if I REALLY want to go fishing, I can normally make that happen....even if I have to make some not-so-subtle solicitations.
One of those came this past Friday. I had been in Utah on business, watching rockets blow up (that's a GOOD thing), and when I got home I was ready to fish. After all, February typically marks the beginning of the tournament year. My friend Brian, whom I had fished and played softball against, made a comment on the book of faces that he was going to go flipping for smallies on Guntersville. He had me at "flipping", as you may recall I named this technique in my New Year's Resolutions as the technique I *HAD* to master. Then, there was that "smallies on Guntersville" bit. I was ubber intrigued. So, I asked if he didn't mind taking me along. Luckily for me, he didn't mind at all.
Over the next hour, we talked about what I needed to rig up with. I was at a complete loss for what I needed to do to prepare. He said we would be flipping jigs and cranking. Well, one of those I am pretty good at. The other....eh....it's a work in progress. So, I rigged up a medium heavy action rod with 17lb Segaur AbrazX flouro (thank goodness I buy in bulk! If you don't, go read WHY YOU SHOULD). On that, I rigged up a PowerTeam Lures 3/8th's ounce Bull Nose Jig in watermelon red flake backed by a PTL Diesel Craw in the same color.
There are been a very warm day that Friday which had followed several days of brutally cold weather. It appeared that Saturday would be a perfect day to find the fish active. Additionally, the weather was supposed to be nice that day, though it would be post frontal which meant high skies and potentially high winds as well. Some of these things are good. Some of them are very very bad, notably the high skies. But, I needed some Vitamin S in my life and Saturday promised to provide that.
On the drive to meet Brian, I couldn't help but notice the temperature outside was a balmy 25 degrees, despite the sun having been up for 2 hours. Not quite the warming trend we had hoped for. By 8 AM, we were in the water and headed to catch some fish.
I was tossing a custom painted jerkbait from Frog Junky Lures. I had promised James, the owner, that I was going to get him some pictures. But the fish weren't biting it, nor anything else we threw at them. So Brian slid us up the point on the inside of an island by about 50 yards. We graphed a ton of fish sitting off the first hard break on the creek channel of this island, sitting on the bottom in 23 feet. Since the jerkbait wouldn't reach, I went to one of my favorite lures in all of creation, the Strike King 6XD in Powder Blue Back.
That seemed to do the trick. I was able to go on a solid tear of catching stripes and whites. While that is definitely fun, it wasn't the bass we came to catch. Since the fish were sitting on the bottom, I picked up the PTL jig and went to work. Brian employed the ole Tennessee River Hop, which is when the fisherman pops the jig every few seconds off the bottom. It is a trade secret in the south, especially on TVA lakes such as Guntersville, Wheeler, and Pickwick. I am not as comfortable as he with the jig, so I stuck to the one technique that HAS worked (albeit, not very often)...which is dragging.
As I hopped the jig down the first big break on the creek channel, a fish SMASHED it. A good hook set and a small fight later, I had bagged a solid spot. A few minutes later, a nice sized striper hit the jig, which AMZAINGLY, I hooked up and swung in the boat. The next few hours, we alternated between catching whites on cranks, or trying to pick up spots on jigs. The whites and stripers would hit the jig almost every cast, if we let it sit on the bottom. But, we couldn't hook up with them. Every once in awhile, we would manage to catch another spot. Brian was able to get a decent spot on a Bama rig, even.
But the spot and the striper ground to a halt around lunch time. Ironically, that was about the time it was warm enough to crank the big motor and make a run.
We ran to a stretch of main river which was covered by rip rap. Brian stated that this long stretch of bank regularly produced nice smallies. After covering a good bit of water, we realized that it was indeed a slow day, so we better hook up with any bites we did get.
At least twice I had a fish headbutt the jig. Both times the fish nearly took the rod out of my hands. But, when I slammed the rod back, nothing was there. It was frustrating to know I was missing some big fish.
Eventually we got to the end of the rip rap, but Brian pointed to a small cutout on the bank which had a submerged lay down. He explained that there was ALWAYS a smallie in there.
I made the first pitch into the laydown without a bite on the drop. So, I pulled it back in and made a second pitch. This time, I let the jig soak for a second before hopping it. As it settled back, a fish pounded the jig. I set the hook and the fish pulled back. I quickly told Brian I had a winner on the line. He dropped his rod and fished out a nice 4 pound smallie...exactly what we came to catch. And, it was exactly where he thought it was.
We fished a while longer, but I had to get on the road for a family function. While the action wasn't what we hoped, we caught a good number of fish and we bagged a magnum smallie, just as we hoped.
I can't wait to get out there and try it again. Not only was it fun, but it makes me get better at techniques.