Monday, June 29, 2015

Fishing Report for Guntersville 6/27/15

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And the struggle....continues. Seriously, I don't really understand why the "best bass fishing lake in the country" continues to be so hard for me to succeed on. I mean, I suck. I get it. But, I have had drastic growth on every other lake in 2015. Guntersville? Nah. The backslide continues. No, I am for real. I am regressing on this lake. The past 3 years have been absolutely dreadful. 

I guess it's time to reevaluate some things. But, yall don't want to hear about that. 

So, we had a club tournament out of Bucky Howe park in Guntersville this past weekend.  I was pretty excited about it, all things considered, because it meant ledge fishing. Between the ability to understand what we are seeing (we think...) on our graphs, dedication to off shore fishing, and a little luck, we (both Josh, Brad, and I) have built a solid amount of confidence in ledge fishing, whether that means cranking them as fast as we can, or throwing magnum shaky heads on a slow day. Now, most of that we can directly attribute to learning how to use our units (uh-huh-huh-huh). After all, it's easy to have confidence in techniques when you KNOW you are around fish. You can read about that here:

After all, magnum shaky head fishing has been my go-to technique this year...a little something that many people don't do...and with a bait no one around here is using. You can read about that below.

Magnum Shaky Heads: The Answer to Finesse Fishing in High Wind and Current

You may recall that it was only last year that we made the dedication to fish the ledges, and it began to pay off for us...netting us our first 20 pound bag during a tournament. 

Having built that confidence, we have put those skills to work on every other TVA lake we have fished in 2015 and you can see some of the payout in these fishing reports from earlier this year.

Ok, had enough clicking yet? Let's talk about the tournament. 

The weather was setting up simply PERFECT for this tournament. The water temps on Friday before the tournament had reached 90 degrees and there hadn't been rain in awhile. Friday night and Saturday morning brought a wealth of rain. We expected the water to be chilled off significantly and for TVA to run some current. The weather reports said that after morning showers, the clouds would be gone and replaced by sunshine. As far as we were concerned, we SHOULD be able to hit topwater early and scare up a limit before pushing to the ledges once the sun came up. The cool water and current should fire up the lethargic fish. The water temps at blast off was 84. 

At blast off, we ran into Allreds to a small pocket in the back that we had found a lot of success with fish in number on topwater. This pocket featured a winding creek channel that skirted a small island before cutting behind the island and running to the back. Off of that cut was a nice grassy flat. That flat, specifically the 6 foot edge, has held fish the last few years. With a creek channel that was probably holding fish in the hot weather, the flat offered a great place for the fish to push up to once the water cooled. And, we knew there were always fish on the flat already.

So, we went to work with a variety of topwater or subsurface baits. We worked the middle of the flat without a hit before following the flat to where it met the bank on the opposite side of the creek channel. I went to work with two baits. Around the edges I used a Lucky Craft Sammy and on the grass (even to the edge), a Spro Frog. The Sammy is and has been a solid produced for me each and every year, whereas the frog is a technique that is among my favs, but hasn't produced in the last year. 

While popping a Spro frog over scattered grass, I set the hook into a fish. Now, typically, if the fish doesn't completely miss it or if I set the hook and the frog doesn't automatically come to the surface, that fish is mine. After a brief fight, the fish made a terrific jump and managed to toss the hooks. The fish wasn't huge, but it was clearly measuring and would have been a terrific start to the day.

Upon retrieving, I noticed that I had made a great hook set, to the point that the plastic frog had been pulled all the way up the line and off the hooks. That fish was either very smart or very lucky.

Though I didn't get that fish in, it triggered a quick flurry on Josh's next cast. As he retrieved his spinnerbait, he saw he had 4 bass following it. Making another cast and a slight adjustment to the retrieve netted a keeper fish. 

I followed that with two more 14.5 inch fish on the same Spro frog before he bookended it with another keeper fish on the spinnerbait. After 45 minutes, we had 2 measuring fish...should have had 1 more....and 2 shorts. That wasn't a bad start.

The spot went quiet. We figured we would let the spot sit and we hopped over to a hump just a short drive away. 

The hump was covered with busting fish and we were graphing a ton of bait. Upon closer inspection (and about 100 futile casts with a Sammy), we figured out that we were seeing skipjack. 

After fishing that hump out, we went back to the spot where we had caught our first fish. Nothing. Not a nibble...even when we slowed down with plastics.

That's about the the time the bottom dropped out...again. Boy, am I thankful I bought a nice rainsuit. I purchased the H20 XPRESS setup earlier this year. You can read my review of it here:

And, I wasn't just thankful for it's rain proof abilities....cause it seemed that every time I put it on, the rain stopped! 

Looking around for answers, I remembered that there was a spot on an adjacent bank about 100 yards away where I have an on-going feud with a monster bass. For the last 2 years, there is a big momma that likes to live by this one laydown tree that hates a Lucky Craft Sammy. I mean...HATES it. She hits it so hard that it flies about 20 feet in the air (it seems). This has happened no less than 3 times.

I was determined to get her today, especially now that it has become a trend.

I would make as accurate a cast up to the shore line as I could, avoiding the grass (which the Sammy ALWAYS finds) and worked it slowly parallel to the lay down.

Then, I did the one thing you do to make SURE you get bit on topwater.

I looked away.

Only out of the corner of my eye did I see the fish explode on the Sammy. In my defense, this fish wasn't a bass. How do I know, if I wasn't watching? Well, because it was long and thick.
A monstrous fish.  And, I can't catch big fish this it was obviously a carp. Don't tell me otherwise, it will just hurt my feelings.

After that, we tried the first spot for the 3rd time...again with no results. Odd. We were pretty certain there were more fish there, but decided it was best to push to the ledges. After all, it was nearing lunchtime.

We ran from Allreds to the 430 bridge. Found some fish on the ledges there. The only thing I caught was the marker buoy, which I am not a perfect 3/3. If the marker buoy goes in the water, I will catch it. Be warned.

We moved up towards Seibold and graphed ledges we had marked the night before during some map study. Plenty of ledges. Plenty of bait balls. No structure and nothing that looked like bass. Eventually we found two spots, each about 50 yards from the other, which looked extremely promising. What I mean is, structure on the ledges, bait in the channel, and fish either laying on the bottom at the ledge transition. However, none of them were in a stacked "attack" formation, which, in retrospect, should have been caused to keep moving. But, we had 2 total measuring fish and only about 3 hours before weigh in time and we hadn't had a bite in about an hour. So, out came the cranks and C-rigs.


We moved to the next ledge which looked even more promising.


Considering that we had hit 3 ledges which exhibited all the things we THOUGHT we needed for a ledge bite without so much as a sniff, we made the decision to go back shallow....this time in Seibold. Similar to the story about the big momma, I have another local fish or two in the back of Seibold that all seem to be in the exact same place, year to year.

Lo and behold, someone else was already fishing it! NO WAY!

Luckily, they were beating the grass next to the bank instead of the floating duckweed/grass mix, which has been where I have found fish with a frog and flipping. And, as luck would have it, they were also leaving.

So, we pulled in and began a mix of presentations. On the approach, I would cast the Sammy around the edges. As we got closer, I would throw the frog. And, when we got on top of one, Josh would flip it while I began casting at the next mound of duckweed.

The typical areas that I have caught fish are the weed edges on either side of a drainage ditch. Nothing. At the hour mark, we had to make a decision: hope that topwater would land us a few stragglers, or start hitting the ledges again and hope to find a school.

While discussing this, I started badmouthing the lake and how much I hated it. I was retrieving my frog around the back edge of a weed bed when a fish choked the frog. I didn't quite see it...cause I was bust cussing the lake. But, the explosion couldn't be missed. No issue with getting this one. She hammered it. I swung it aboard. It easily measured, but it wasn't a giant....nor even a fish that we could hope to build a good limit with. But, it was fish #3.

Josh noted that the lake must like the dirty talk. No problem there. I have plenty of bad words for this lake. So, I laid back into her. And, critical to the process, I quit looking at the bait.

Boom. #4.

Still not a fish we needed. But, by this point, we knew that we weren't going to win. We just wanted to weigh in a limit.

A little tangent here, but that's one of the things I really wanted to work on this year. In the past, I have been able to catch big fish but unable to catch a limit. I want to get more consistent at weighing in 5 fish, even if it means losing. You will always be in contention if you are catching numbers (BFZ's opinion, of course).

So, since we had 2 fish from this spot and another flipping bite that nearly resulted in me getting brained by a 1-ounce weight, we went back through the spot. Not a bite.

We figured out that topwater was obviously the key bait....but the real key was fresh water. We had never had 2 bites in the same place. So, we packed up and headed to the very back of Seibold where we caught fish one time (that seems to be a growing trend on this lake).

About the time Josh made the comment that fresh water MUST be the key, he set the hook on a decent fish. And, like the key to fresh water, the other key was to not be paying attention. He had heard the splash, but assumed it was from the popping frog. It was only when he felt the tug and saw his line darting to the side that he realized he might need to set the hook. By then, the cash was out of the water and throwing the frog at the boat.

I was sure that was our last chance to get a limit, considering it was 12:48 and weigh in was 5 miles away and in 22 minutes.

But, we put the first key to work. The trolling motor went on high and we covered a lot of water really fast.

It paid off! Josh bagged #5 and we hit it hard.

On the homestretch before the 431 bridge, we were cruising as fast as the Bullet would go when my raincoat went out of my hands and into the drink! We made a U-turn and managed to recover it. But, as I stretched over the side of the boat with my T-Rex arms, I felt something pop in my side and an amazing amount of pain.

It's not a rib, I am pretty sure...but it sure hurts...still!

Weigh in was pretty much what I expected. It had been tough on everyone, but everyone had caught fish. There were only 3 limits weighed in, ours being one of them. But, at wasn't going to beat anything...much less a 4 fish bag caught by John and his son (whom I fish with a lot) that featured a nice 5 and a half pound kicker. The 4 edged us out of 3rd by 0.30 pounds. Second was 11.0X and the winning bag was 16 pounds.

While talking to the winners, we discussed how we had just KNOWN the ledge bite would be key. But, the lack of sun most of the day must have kept them inactive, as well as the overall lack of current. In fact, they had let in 10,000 CFS through Nickajack while not letting out a single drop from Guntersville. Volume goes up, velocity goes fluid dynamics tells me.

That being said, the winners HAD made the ledge bite work for them, but it turned on after 12...about the time the sun finally peaked out....and about the time we had considered going back to the ledges, but had instead stayed with the shallow bite.

The winners had plugged away at the ledges all day with no results, only to catch the limit in the final minutes of the day.

John had 1 fish until 12 as well, but a shallow bite had turned on for them just as it had for us. Except they had found a kicker.

I hate losing, but we did manage to make it work and get a limit. At least we are thinking analytically. In the past, we probably would have fished shallow...but for the wrong reasons. We probably wouldn't have figured out the clean water key. But, then again, we probably wouldn't have spent hours fishing who knows.

The silver lining on this day was that I was 5-6 on fish that hit the frog. As many of you know, frog fishing has a very high miss probability. I would venture to say that it is typically around 50% for an experienced frog fisherman and closer to 25% for everyone else. Being able to get hooks into every fish that hit the frog AND boat 5 of the 6 was probably an all-time high. It's probably even more impressive considering that 2014 was the worst frog year for me and, according to my Fish of 2014 Page, I only caught a single fish all year on a frog. That isn't because of misses, but because they wouldn't hit it.

On the downside, this is the first time that I haven't placed in 2 consecutive club tournaments....ever. And that hurts.