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After our last outing at the Ditto Landing Wildcat two weeks ago, both Josh and I were pretty bummed. We had gotten used to losing, but it seemed that we were consistently making the wrong decisions. We went to the dam and the winning bags were caught down river. We went downriver and the winning bags came from the dam. You can read about our last few trips here:
We did manage to catch some fish, but it came from doing some things we hadn't done in years: junk fishing.
As we have strive to become better tournament fishermen, we have tried to use logic to dictate where we would go and what we would do. We tried to focus on doing things that the average fishermen won't do....focus on off-shore structure and current breaks. However, it simply hasn't worked this year. Instead, what was working was fishing hard placements, that is, man-made concrete and rock structures, down river. Years ago, we would really concentrate on these type things and fish fairly shallow, which is how the average fishermen fish. And, though we dedicated only about 30 minutes to it, we did manage to catch a few fish. That was a far cry from what we had experienced trying to fish off shore.
Last week, I didn't text Josh and he didn't text me about fishing. Neither one of us were interested in getting smoked.
But, after having dinner Wednesday night (and winning trivia!) we decided that we would employ what we had learned....go back to junk fishing.
At blast off, we were one of only two boats that headed down river. Our first stop was a rip rap bank that extends about 100 yards. It has a very nice ledge and features a large dock and little-used ramp. It has always been good for a fish or two. Again, not a place you want to pound for 3 hours, but one you can fish for 15 minutes and catch a few fish before moving on.
I bagged a fish on a Sammy within the first few casts, but we didn't have any more bites until we entered the final 20 yards of bank. Josh has spied a group of fish sitting on a rock pile in 15 feet of water just off the dock. He cast behind the boat and caught a short fish.
We moved further down river to the NASA barge docks. Nothing on the rip rap other than a few rock fish that snagged us.
We moved up the bank to fish the extreme end of the rip rap. On the end of the rip rap was a laydown that has been there for years. I have frequently caught fish off the edges of it, but I have (until this year) been uncomfortable in flipping into it.
Josh was at the front of the boat, so he had the first cast in to the tree. He felt a bite, set the hook, and the 1-ounce tungsten flew so closed to my head that the line actually stuck between my ear and head.
Ok. Missed one fish. So what.
I was flipping a PTL 7" Tickler on a Triple X Pea head on 10-pound line with my spinning reel. I worked the bait over some limbs and felt a fish pick it up. I waited until the line began to move and I snapped the hook. The fish came out from under the limb, opened its mouth, and let the bait go. It was a solid 2 pound fish....the type you need to win this 3 hour tournament.
Again, no big deal. Everyone misses fish.
As I was thread the Tickler back on the Triple X Pea head, Josh set the hook into another fish. He worked it around to the other side of the boat. It was another 2 pound fish. As he started to boat swing it, the fish opened its mouth and the bait came flying out.
As he retied, I made another cast.
Another fish picked it up. I waited. And waited. And waited.
I set the hook and the hook up seemed solid. The fish came to the boat, made a jump, and tossed the bait.
In 2.5 minutes, we had quality bites that would have netted us around 7 pounds. You can see the video above.
We decided to give the spot a rest and made a run further down river. We stopped at another hard placement, this one a pump house. Josh proceeded to catch 6-7 fish, though only 2 of them measured. In the meantime, I managed to break off and proceed to pout.
We headed back up river and stopped at a mouth of one of the creeks because Josh had marked a ton of bait that was being stalked by several suspicious looking arches.
On his first cast, a nice keeper slammed his crankbait right at the boat. On my next cast, I bagged a keeper on the tickler on a magnum shaky head.
Now we had 4.
We had around 30 minutes to fish so we tried the lay down.
First cast, I flipped up a keeper. We had a limit. But, a small 5-6 pound limit. Last week's winning bag was 18 pounds...so....yeah.
We ran back for weigh in. Winning bag was 11 pounds. Big fish was a 4.50 smallie. 2nd place was 6 pounds. We had one of only 2 limits. That landed us in 3rd.
But, it was hard to ignore the fact that we had enough bites to get 2nd instead of 3rd. Who knows? Maybe one of those misses was a 4 pounder? Maybe we could have won it.
It isn't the first time this year we haven't fished clean. In fact, we have done an amazing job of getting in position to win, but missed the bites. I think back to the Wilson tournament a few weeks ago.
We are finding the fish and getting the bites. Now if we can just get them in the boat.