Monday, June 8, 2015

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing 6/5/15

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We had a club tournament out of Ditto on Friday night, and despite the moaning and groaning about fishing the upper end of Wheeler, we had a pretty good turnout. I'm not going to debate that the upper end of the river can be tough to fish. And, even when it isn't tough, finding sizable fish can be nearly impossible. 

I've fished enough wildcats out of Ditto to know that you can usually go for a limit or go for a big fish, but you can rarely do both. There are more 12 inch fish in that 15 mile stretch than drops of water, it seems. Fish over 4 pounds? Few. 

It's been an interesting couple of years fishing that section. I guess it was around 2011 when we had a lot of success in cashing checks. Getting a limit was easy. Culling up to 5 decent fish was easy. And, every once in awhile, we found a kicker to go with it. When we I don't think we fished any in 2012. We fished a few times in 2013. 2014 was the year of the kicker fish. Every week it seemed that we boated a slob of a fish, but we could not get another measuring fish to save our lives. 2015 has been the opposite. We've been able to catch limits, but good fish are impossible to find. But, we aren't the only people that have had the trouble. 

Most times, if you have a limit and they AREN'T all 12 inch'll probably cash a check. 

We hardly ever run to the dam on the Thursday night Wildcats. With only a 3 hour window to fish, we don't feel like spending a third of it running back and forth. But, since we had from 5-12, we figured we would make the ride. It worked last time we made the run. While we didn't win 1st, we came in 2nd with a SOLID 13 pound bag anchored with a 4.5 pound smallie. 

You can read about that trip here:

MFC Tournament: Wheeler Lake/Ditto Night 8/23/13

Well, we figured we would try and repeat that same pattern. Specifically, there was one spot that we had caught the big smallmouth and one spot where we had caught the rest of our keepers. 

I was pretty excited because TVA had been pulling a fair amount of current, and then the rain moved in. I was pretty certain the dam bite would be hot. 35,000 CFS is the minimum you need. With nearly 50...and maybe another ramp up to 60, we figured it could be awesome. 

It quit raining shortly before blastoff and it got REAL humid. That wasn't going to deter us! Off we went....and only one other boat went upriver with us.

Because there was only one boat that went up, I made a snap judgement to stop at an off-shore rock pile to see if we could catch a fish or two real quick. It would only take a second.

So, 15 minutes later we didn't have a fish, so we headed up to the dam. It wasn't like we would have to fight anyone for a spot, right?

Sure enough, the only club boat that went upriver was sitting on the exact spot we wanted to fish first. This spot is real small, like, only about a 10 yard stretch. I haven't graphed it yet, but I think the smallies get in a small rock off-shoot that breaks the current. Anyway, no big deal. Maybe they would fish it quick. In the meantime, we idled around looking for off-shore rock piles and stuff. With Josh just now having a new Lowerance unit, we can really check things out.  We have gotten a lot better at relying on our fish finders and don't feel like we have to pick up a rod until we find someting worth fishing. Also, I like to think we are getting better about reading them, and you can see our growth from it.

Dialing in Your Humminbird Sonar / Down Imaging / Side Scan Unit

We'd find some structure and many times it would have arches on it. But, we couldn't get them to bite. A few lost cranks, spoons, and shaky heads later, we would move to another off shore bit of structure. No big deal, right?

Well, after the 3rd of 4th one, we hadn't had a bite. Not a sniff! Current had ramped down dramatically and our only two spots we had confidence on were both occupied. One with a club member's boat and the other with bank fisherman. We didn't want to disturb either, so we beat the banks between them.

In between those moves, we watched the other boat set the hook on at least 2 fish. UUGGHHH.

It was probably 7:45 before we had our first bite, and we had a flurry of them on a mixture of topwater and crankbaits. But, neither of us could manage to boat the fish! At first it didn't bother us. Most of them were little fish. But, then we started catching the little fish and missing the quality. Eventually we boated 5 fish that didn't measure and we lost all the ones that would measure. It was really frustrating. It was kind of a repeat of the previous weekend on Pickwick where we hadn't fished real clean, either, but we managed to win. 

Instead of learning from that weekend, we had apparently gotten even lazier. Fish after fish came off. And, the daylight got away from us.

The second spot we had confidence in was originally occupied by a lot of bank fisherman. As the night wore on, the area started clearing out. But, there was still a couple who were fishing the money stretch of a rip rap bank. We didn't want to be rude, so we fished other places until they eventually left around 9:30 or so.

We were awarded a significant boost of confidence as the fish were biting just as they had 2 years ago. We were throwing magnum shaky heads with big worms...myself the 7" Tickler from PTL, which you can find here for ubber cheap. 

You can also read about how we have been whacking the fish on this setup in my blog post below. 

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

Starting around 10:15, we started getting regular bites. But, the same things that plagued us earlier continued to plague us late. We were losing fish on plastics....something that isn't a regular occurrence. And, if I wasn't losing fish, I was losing my baits. We were fishing around 15 feet deep rocks and it was pretty common to have that Triple X Pea Head from PTL to get in between those rocks. 

But, we scratched up a limit, which is usually 90% of the battle on that lake. Though we lost a lot of fish, we didn't lose any that were game changing, but we had a sneaking suspicion that out of the 8 boats that were fishing with us, someone would find a good 4 pounder....maybe a 5 pounder. And, that would prob be enough to knock out a small limit. 

At 11:30 we started the big motor for the 30 minute ride back to Ditto. And that's when we realized that the fog had rolled in on us. We couldn't see anything. But, we had the GPS and Josh does a good job at making sure to stay right in the middle of the buoys so that the track line is always safe. We can just follow it. 

Now, we just wanted to avoid getting smacked in the face by a bat, which happened to him last time. 

I'll save you the drama. We made it back safely. 

So, we get to weigh in. A couple of boats struck out. A few had some really small limits. We had a little over 7 pounds, which is typically enough to cash a check.

The guys who had been fishing the area we wanted to fish had a really nice bag...over 13 pounds....and no fish over 5, if I recall. Just a really nice sack of fish. That would explain why they stayed there all night....and I don't blame them. I can't wait to graph that area. There is something special about it, for sure. 

The next boat only had 1 fish to weigh in. That's usually not a surprise. The river can be tough. That's when a 6.5 pound slob came out of the bag and my eyes about bulged out. 

Poor guy (friend of mine) had his dreams dashed, though, when a 7.3 river monster came out of the next boat's bag. 

In the span of 5 minutes I saw the two nicest fish I've seen weighed in at Ditto. They were gorgeous. Though I have never caught anything of that magnitude on Wheeler, I was really proud of the guys....even felt like I caught them. It made losing not hurt so bad.....cause losing with 7.25 to someone with 7.45 sucks. Bad. And I've been there. Losing to someone who caught a single fish bigger than your whole sack....that ain't too bad.

Anyway, it we missed out on 3rd by a little over a pound. I AM fairly miffed about that, because had we fished clean, we would have gotten 3rd. That's what we get. Always something work on! 

But, in making lemonade, I'll say this: Between the spots we graphed and the spots we have consistently caught fish on...I don't feel so bad about running to the dam on the Thursday night wildcats.