Tuesday, March 17, 2015

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 3/16/15

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Not having a boat is tough. Let me rephrase: not having a boat after having a boat is tough. You never know how nice it is to be able to fish on your own terms until you don't have the ability. Luckily, I have lots of friends who I can fish with. This Saturday, one of the clubs I fish in is having a tournament in Wilson lake. To most people, Wilson is kinda like a fly-over state. It is located between Guntersville and Pickwick (with Wheeler in between, but Wheeler is still sorta relevant). Though I think highly of Wilson, and so do many other, most clubs put it on the schedule just to add some variety. As a result, most people fish it just to "check the box" on their way to Angler of the Year aspirations. 

Having family land on Wilson, I have fished it fairly often. Not nearly as much as Guntersville and Wheeler, but usually 5 times a year. As a result,  I have had some stellar trips, including many tournament wins. I know some good areas. 

My thoughts on Wilson? Well, without  going into a 10-page diatribe, I will sum it up as easily as possible. Wilson is a very short lake. Aside from a slight bend at mid-lake, you would be able to see from dam to dam.  There aren't a lot of creeks in it, though there are a good many cuts and draws. Along the main lake is almost entirely bluff wall. The creek channels, cuts, and draws, stay fairly deep, all the way to the banks, where it shallows up quickly. Flats are fairly far and few in between. As a result, Wilson fishes small.  To fish Wilson, and be consistent, you need to be a versatile fisherman. Wilson, for the most part, is a fairly deep lake, and as a result, the fish are constantly moving in transition, especially this time of year. You can always fish the dam, but that's a very popular spot this time of year. If you don't want to go that route, you are left to find fish with your electronics. Granted, I see a lot of people fishing shallow. I guess there are always fish shallow, but, again, consistency is the key. 

Let me put out a disclaimer that I am not going to give a lot away....today. That's for two-fold reasons. First, my partner asked me not to. Secondly, we sorta kinda figured out some stuff, and since I know several of my competitors read this blog, I don't want to tip them off. Yes, I am aware this is a bit of a departure for me. And, if this was any other lake, I probably wouldn't hesitate to give everyone the low down. Alas, this is a fly-over lake that no one takes the time to learn. And, I have taken the time and put in work on it. So, forgive me if I am a little hesitant to throw out my little nuggets. Come next Monday, I will let you all in. 

Next disclaimer: That doesn't mean that I found the motherlode. We didn't. We went looking for a pattern and some locations. I have several key areas that have always held fish. The issue with them, and Wilson itself, is that the ability for the fish to transition from 25 feet to 2 feet from day to day means that bait selection is THE KEY on this lake. You can flip for the same fish today that you caught on a deep diving crankbait the day before. And, I mean the EXACT SAME FISH. We found a pattern. The locations...well....no so much. Maybe I shouldn't be too hard on myself. Every single one of the spots I knew held fish...still held fish. 

Ok, so the water temp was in the mid-50s. I expect it to warm up significantly with the sunshine and rain over the next few days. Don't be surprised by 60 degree temps by Saturday. 

So, we started off fishing main river bluffs, as Brad had seen some lucky before.  While he led with crank baits and other power baits, I followed him up with a PowerTeam Lures Bull head jig in Susky Slayer backed by a Craw D'oeurve in Delta Destroyer. With the water cold and muddy, I wanted the fish to bite, and hold on. So, I doused the trailer in Hog Tonic. 

Within the first 5 casts, I watched my line zip to the side. There is no telling just how long the fish had been swimming with the jig. I checked for weight on the end, then slammed the rod back. The fight lasted about 2 seconds before the fish spit it out. I guess that was a wakeup call. Jig fishing is sorta new to me, and I admit that the finer aspects of jig fishing are sometimes lost on me. Notably, that you have to watch the line just as much as you feel it. If it weren't for the Hog Tonic making the fish hold on as long as it did, I might never had even known I had a hit. 

Without another hit on the jig, I picked up a square bill and tossed it around. Over the next hour, I had multiple fish slap at the square bill without hooking up. I was considering a color change until one actually hit it with some gusto. It wasn't terribly big, but it was something. In the meantime, Brad had landed 2 largemouth and a smallmouth off the main river bluffs. But, we had to run a lot of bluffs to get those few bites. 

I guess you could call that a pattern, of sorts. But 5 fish in 3 hours while hitting every bluff in sight wasn't exactly what we wanted to nail down as a game plan. 

We decided to move off the main lake and into some of the major creeks. Though we had seen few boats on the main lake, Shoals Creek was covered up with boats. We decided that we didn't want to spend too much time there, though we did catch a few 2-2.5 pounders on main creek channels adjacent to shallows. 

Moving up the lake, nearly to the dam, we found some other main creek channels that produced fish. Again, I don't want to give information away just yet, but it was the bait that did the damage, not the areas.

Brad was able to catch several quality fish, including this nice 4 pounder. 

Meanwhile, I decided to try something that I hadn't tried in a LONG time. I picked up the Bama rig. I bet it's been 2 or 3 years since I caught a fish on it. I finally had a quality bite that I thought was THE ONE. I fought it and fought it until it rolled on me. Then, I knew. I admit that it was a gorgeous blue cat. But, blue cats weren't what we were after. Brad suggested that I hold onto it and sell it. 

While Brad wracked up on one specific bait, I struggled while throwing a plethora of other baits that had produced. When I was satisfied that his bait was THE bait, I decided to start throwing it. I was finally awarded with a fish after struggling for nearly 5 hours from bite to bite. By the end of the day, we had caught a scant 10 fish, but the best 5 would have been 13 pounds. That's not going to be enough to win, but we weren't interested in killing them today. We wanted a gameplan. What's that gameplan? Well, I'm not ready to say. What I will say is this: I fully expect half the field to run to Wheeler dam to fish for smallies. Is that a good plan? Yep. Absolutely. We know that several quality fish were caught there yesterday. There are always quality fish there, including some magnum smallies, which is what you need to win a tournament. However, the dam, from my experience, fishes EXTREMELY small. Though this tournament won't be very big, the dam bite can't accommodate 10 boats, which is what I expect to be there. In full disclosure, there is 1 good rock pile at the dam that consistently holds a winning bag of fish. It's up to the boat that makes it there first, and who decides to grind it out, who will win. To do that, they must also deal with the elements, namely the insane amount of current that will be generated. There were 5 flood gates open yesterday and there is a lot of rain in the forecast. By Saturday, there may be even more gates open. For all I know, there may be so much current that it will be unfishable. I have seen it that way before. 

I expect 1 boat to have 18 pounds of fish from the dam, come Saturday. Ultimately, that will be the winning bag. That being said, there is a good chance that the dam may not be fishable, or that 10 boats will be sharing the winning bag, or that the fish don't bite at all. 

Which is why we will not be doing that. My plan is to cover water in the major creeks. We have a pretty specific plan, which I will talk about next week....if we win...or lose. One of those will happen, right?  Either it will be educational or humorous. 

My greatest fear is that the nice weather of the next few days in combination with the rain is going to push the fish back out of their current positions. It is likely to happen, so we will have to be versatile and we will definitely have to rely on our electronics. 

Ok, so who is ready for story time? Cause I got one to tell!

It was late in the afternoon and we were really dialing in our pattern, such as it was. We had moved to a new spot and were implementing "the plan." Brad caught the nice fish you see listed above. It was a nice 4 pounder and we were beginning to understand what was going on. We were going to pick up and move to another similar spot and try it again when we saw a guy waving at us. He yelled that his motor was out and wanted to know if we would help.

Of course we would help. What did he need?  He needed a tow. Well, Brad and I looked at each other. We knew he saw us catch a nice fish. I would think that a fisherman would be considerate when asking for a tow and say "hey, take your time." But this guy was in a hurry. So, we stowed our stuff and motored over to him.

How far did he need to go? He named some place, but neither of us knew where it was. So, he said "It's about half a mile."

No big deal.

At the 2 mile mark, Brad turned around and asked how much further. The guy said "around the next point." We didn't immediately see another point, so we kept going.

At the 4 mile mark, Brad stopped the boat and said "ok dude. You said half a mile. It's been over 4. Where are we going?" The guy pointed to the next point down, another solid mile. He said "you see that big boat dock with the white top?" Well, barely. It was a long way away. But, we had already gone this far.

We made it to the spot he had said. As I was unhooking the line from Brad's boat, the guy said "It's actually in the back of the pocket. Can you take me back there?"

Well, we already had a bad vibe from the guy. And, we had already wasted over an hour of our time and a lot of gas. So, I asked if his trolling motor worked. He said, "Yeah. Why?" I told him, "good. Cause you are going to need it from here."

We went on to tell him that we didn't want his money. We were happy to help, but the dishonesty was very aggravating. We would have towed him regardless, but knowing what we were into would have been helpful.

I don't like thinking the worst of people, but either this guy was extremely inconsiderate, or he was going to try to rob us. In fact, one of the sketchiest parts of the whole deal was that as we neared his destination, he got a paddle out of the locker, despite the fact that he had a working trolling motor. Additionally, he says he was a local. And, he had a phone...which he talked on several times. Why couldn't he call a friend?

Moral of the story is this: don't base your charity on the amount of effort it is going to take you, but know and understand the expectations up front. The Bible teaches us not to question our charity, but simply to give it. It tells us to walk 2 miles when asked to walk 1. It wasn't my place to question why he was on the other end of the lake with motor problems. Or why he couldn't call for help. Or why he couldn't have us tow him to the nearest marina. We are instructed to give help without question. Neither of us wanted his money. We would have helped regardless, even though it was inconvenient. But, it would have been better knowing what we were in for.

Also, always be aware of your situation. "Just a little bit further" is one of the oldest con games out there, and it can get you into serious trouble. We were aware that this guy was sketchy from the beginning. Most everyone, myself and Brad included, would ask for help working on the motor before asking for a tow. And, we would have considered other options, like towing us to the nearest marina...which there was one nearby. Could he just have been an inconsiderate person on hard times? Sure. Most likely, that was the case. But he could have been some guy who saw two young greenhorns that he could take advantage of.