Monday, April 18, 2016

Fishing Report for Pickwick 4/16/16

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For some reason, I thought I had fished Pickwick in February, but apparently I was wrong. Apparently it was actually December. Brad and I fished it several times during a month of near record highs. You can find the reports by reading my last blog post from Pickwick by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/23/2015

It just so happened that none of our kids had ballgames this Saturday. So, Alyse and I hatched a plan to head to Florence and fish together in my NASA club tournament. We had done well together on Pickwick in the past. We really wanted to go up that Friday afternoon, prefish, and spend the night in Florence. That didn't happen, as the two boys both had games on Friday night. 

So, we had to drive from Hazel Green to Florence. Let me tell ya, it's a haul! 

Luckily, the club had decided on a later blast off time, for which I can take credit for. I had noted that the Fishlife Big Bass Battle was on Pickwick. Little did I know that it was actually to be held at another ramp across the river. While I didn't suggest times or vote, it was my information that persuaded the club to start at 7.

So, you can imagine my surprise when we pulled into McFarland and NO ONE was there. And yes, some of my club members let me know how they felt, especially some of the better smallmouth fishermen in the club. Though the vast majority were perfectly ok with starting late and getting some extra sleep. 

I had already noted that there was to be no current and there would be a high pressure system in the area. That would kill any bite on the upper end of the river. Add in the other tournaments going on in the area and it added up to a no-go for the upper end of the lake. That was counterpointed by a howling wind that was supposed to be 14 MPH gusts but felt more like 15-20 MPH sustained winds.

At blastoff, everyone went up. I went straight across. My feeling was that I should be able to get at least a few bites on the bluffs. Specifically, I wanted to get Alyse her first smallmouth and those bluffs were the best way I knew how. 

It didn't take long for her to catch her very first smallmouth. And, it was small. And mean! She nearly threw the poor fish when it started biting her! 
We couldn't muster any more bites, so I decided to make the switch to largemouth. We went to fishing laydowns on rip rap, specifically some that I have won a tournament way back when. That produced two drum and one decent largemouth. 

However, the wind was absolutely brutal. Between the high skies, high wind, high pressure, and low current, I decided to go to the worm sooner than later, specifically on a stretch that had produced a lot of bites in another tournament Josh and I fished two years ago. On that stretch, bites were plentiful but size was not. When we did get big bites, we lost them. I was convinced that I had grown enough as a fisherman that I wouldn't let that happen.

Specifically, I would be flipping a worm on heavier line with a heavier hook and on a baitcaster. I have transitioned from a spinning reel to a 6'6'' medium rod using 12 pound Seguar InvizX. On that I use a PTL Sick Stick or a PTL 7" Tickler rigged on a XXX Pea Head. 

On the first lay down I bagged a keeper. Then, we caught another fish on a Speedtrap. 

Then we had to cover water to the next lay down. 

On the way, I head Alyse's windpants rustling and I turn around to see her fighting a fish. I jumped off the deck and grabbed the net about the time the fish surfaced. The five pound fish tail walked and shook its big head, throwing the speedtrap at Alyse's face, She was heartbroken, as that would the second time in her life she has hooked into that kind of fish and seen it get off.

So, I wasn't too hard on her. I just gave her two bits of advice: say something when you have a fish on. Always keep the rod tip down and away from the fish. She had it up and pointed back at the bass.

On a day like today I knew that was going to sink us. But, what else can you do? 

I decided to go with my initial gut instinct from the second I saw the current predictions. I decided to run way down river, which I had avoided because Alyse doesn't like to go too fast for too long.

We ran down to within sight of the Natchez Trace bridge and fish for smallmouth grouped up on pea gravel beds or rip rap points. 

The first spot didn't pan out and instead of cranking the big motor up, I decided to just fish the do-nothing bank. 

That's when Alyse yelped to get the net! 

Though she had this fish hooked good, and I could see it had both sets of treble hooks, I let her fight the fish while giving her instruction. 

We boated a very nice smallmouth. 

She finished the limit just minutes later and then culled with another good largemouth.

The only thing she was doing different than I was throwing behind the boat and bringing the bait downriver. Once I started doing the same, I caught another smallie that culled our last squeaker fish. 

We had around one hour left when we tried to refish that same stretch. But, we found no takers. 

Heading up to McFarland, we caught another five or six small largemouth in the last 30 minutes, but none helped.

We placed 3rd, just ounces out of second. First place was around 11.5 pounds, but 5 pounds of that came from a very nice largemouth, similar to the size we lost. In all, we caught around 15 fish but only had one with real size, which we lost. Having that fish would have won the day.

But, winning and losing aren't nearly as important as saying that I won a check with my wife as my backboater. Additionally, she caught all but one of the measuring fish including her first smallies! 

And, she only lost one lure, my last Texas Red Diamond Speedtrap, which she threw two or three trees deep and I couldn't retrieve it. Amazon had my back though, as apparently a backlogged order went through and we received an email as we left McFarland saying that my order had shipped....a Red Texas Diamond speed trap. 

Thursday, April 7, 2016

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/7/16

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Wife had the day off, as she will be working all weekend and them some. I was planning on fishing the Ditto Landing wildcat. 

BBBBBUUUTTT my partner bailed on me. I already had the boat at work so I asked Alyse if she wanted to get out for a few hours. Of course she did! So, we put in at the Army Rec area. I had planned on fishing the NASA barge canal, as I had found a bunch of fish a few days ago on my lunch break, just bank fishing. 

Naturally, the skies are high today, being post frontal. The wind was whipping and despite having rain several times over the last few weeks, the water was lower than it had been just days ago.

That stretch of the river had solid 3 foot rollers that were whitecapping and the wind was blowing right at the barge canal.

So, after only a few minutes, I headed back up river and around one bend where the wind lied down, ever so slightly. 

Having a lot of luck fishing laydowns on Wilson this past Saturday, I decided to give that a try. 

I was throwing a wacky rigger PTL Sick Stick while she was throwing a PTL Sick Stick on a shakey head. But, she didn't like the action of the rod, as it didn't have enough back bone to set the hook. While she did bring one bass in, she lost many more. So, I traded off with her.

We spotted a new laydown that looked only a few weeks old. It had fallen on an old laydown, creating quite the logjam.

I was essentially flipping the shakey head into crooks in the log jam.This resulted in one smaller fish. 

As I kept flipping, a fish thumped the shakey head instead of pecking at it. I set the hook but knew immediately I was in for a ride.

The fish surged to the surface and Alyse screamed with delight like a little girl. She asked if I needed the net, but for some stupid reason I was like "Nah, I got it. No big deal."

She exclaimed that I was nuts and dug it out of the locker. The toad swam around branches, getting tangled up. But, I was patient and let her swim free before edging her closer to the boat.

The hardest thing to do was to turn away from the fish in order to control the nose of the boat, which I was using to keep us out of more branches.

Several minutes later, we netted this monster. 

Believe it or not, that one laydown held more than just that fish. In fact, it held several more magnum sized fish. While we did catch some small spots on the outside, the mommas were in the laydown on hard cover, specifically on log jams. We managed to get hung up after setting the hook on several. That has to be one of the most painful things....feeling that thump and the fight for about two seconds as one wraps you up. After all, the big ones don't get big cause they are dumb.

Anyway, if you get out on Wheeler, just know that the water is still really low, though the color is good. The wind is whipping and makes life tough. I would concentrate on laydowns that reach the first break, specifically those extending to 20 foot or more. 

We ended up catching only around 5 in the short time we were out, but we had many more to the boat, but just didn't have the hooks in them, as it was tough to get a good hookset while they were in the brush.  

Monday, April 4, 2016

Fishing Report for Wilson 4/2/16

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If conditions for Friday's prefishing trip were "iffy," then one might call the conditions for Saturday's tournament "nope." In case you missed it, here is the prefishing info we compiled.

I think it was fair to say that Brad, Josh, and I (completing against each other) had low expectations for the day. It sure wasn't going to be another 20 pound sack kind of day, but we figured it would take 12 to win. And, we figured it would come down to our three boats. 

That isn't to say we didn't think the rest of the club wasn't a factor. Quite the opposite. There are some great fishermen in the club, but none that really have the intel on Wilson like we do. 

All three of us drew partners, with whom we explained that, while we were competing against each other, we would also be helping. 

Turns out, we all REALLY needed that.

I began at a new spot we had found the day before. I began throwing the A-rig, just looking for big bites. I was fairly certain that we would be getting limited bites. 

Why? Well, the skies were high, the wind was out of the south, which meant that NOWHERE on the lake would be safe. Specifically, there would be no slowing down to finesse fish. And, as we found out pretty quickly, the combination of current and high wind from the day before had muddied the main river significantly. There was little to no visibility on the main river, which was especially troubling for all of us, as that was our game plan. 

First spot produced no fish. 

Neither did the second. 

Next thing I knew, it was 10AM and I hadn't had a bite. 

I made the phone call to Brad. One fish off a bluff, completely random. 

Called Josh. Nothing on the rig, but worming had produced four fish quick, none of them with size.

I decided to head back into Shoals, as it had produced the day before and I have a lot of history in there. Nope. Chocolate milk, even the cuts. Turned around and left.  

An hour and three or four spots later, I called Brad again. This time, he had some better news. He had a limit, which had come from fishing swimbaits on wood in a long creek. The water color was terrific and the wind wouldn't bother me. He suggested I go down the very stretch he had picked up four fish in 30 minutes upon. 

So, I met up with him and he showed me the stretch. I decided to throw the rig on the wood. It produced a fish almost immediately. But, to my dismay, it also produced three or four followers, who simply wouldn't hit the bait. That included a nice 3 pound smallie that followed it to the boat.

I ran the stretch again, getting no more fish. Then, I went back to a spot where I new fish would be, though I would have to worm it.

Throwing a magnum shakey head with a 7" PTL Tickler, a fish quickly picked up the worm and ran with it. I reeled down and popped it. The fish fought back and I was delighted, yet scared to death, to see that it was a nice smallmouth. Jack, my partner, hopped off the back deck to get the net, but managed to get snagged by an errant hook. As he fought the hook, I fought the fish, which jumped over and over. 

Jack had the net and the fish managed to evade and escape again and again. Luckily, the Seguar InvizX, PTL XXX Pea Head and H2O XPRESS Ethos rod did their jobs and we netted our first keeper of the day, a NICE smallmouth. 

For more on Magnum Shakey Heading, read the link below:

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

So, we had two fish. Brad had a small limit. Josh had four. We had an hour to go. That's a long way to a respectable finish, which was about all I was looking for at this point. 

My main river bite was dead as a doornail. Shoals creek was a tall glass of Yoohoo. 

Called Josh. He was still getting bites on the worm, just not measuring fish. Well, I would take my chances on that. I crossed the river towards the creek he had been fishing and found a stretch where  the wind was blocked. The stretch had exactly three laydowns. 

That left me about 45 minutes to scratch up 3 fish, four if you considered that the other fish I had was...questionable. 

Things looked good, as I could see bait flipping and occasionally see a fish flash inside the laydown. 

I backed the boat off another five yards, deciding to fish the top of the laydown, which was in the creek channel, about 23 feet deep. 

After fighting off some pecks, I finally sank the hook into a fish. With some help from Jack, we boated fish number three of the day, a decent 2 pound largemouth. Following that, a short smallmouth that I jerked clear across the boat. 

The pecking began again, as fish would headbutt the bait, but refused to take it. I moved down the bank to the next laydown. I missed a fish, just setting the hook too early. But, Jack (now having tied on a PTL XXX Pea Head and a 7" Tickler) set the hook into a fish, who immediately wrapped itself around the laydown. Having some good Costa's with 580P lenses, I could see the fish. Jack could not. So, I gave him the play by play, telling him to keep tension on the line. I maneuvered the boat next to the fish and waited until the fish swam back around the limb, away from the boat. When it did, I netted number four: a pound and a half largemouth. But, I wasn't picky. 

What was interesting was the fish swimming along side Jack's fish. It told me that there were more than enough fish to make our limit, if we could make it work. I left that laydown for no other reason than to come back in a little while. 

I boat flipped fish five, but knew I had a fish I had to get rid of. We had just five minutes to go. I asked Jack to go ahead and set his stuff down and get seated. If it could be done, I was going to do it and we would have to take off. 

Weigh in at 2:15 and it stood at 2:12 when I felt the thump of a fish. This one got enough of the 7" tickler and I boat flipped her. She went right in the live well, the big motor fired up, and we attempted to cross the river with 3 and 4 foot rollers,

We arrived just in time, though I lost my last Auburn hat on the way, but I wasn't turning around to get it. 

Every boat but Josh had a limit, which he came in with four. Every limit pushed over nine pounds. While that weight isn't impressive, it WAS impressive that everyone managed to catch fish, despite the conditions. To my amazement, only one big fish was caught: a 5.05 largemouth that went one to win the tournament with a total weight of 11.91. Brad came in with 9.42, just 0.05 more than me at 9.37. Both of us would have been beaten but the 9.48 sack, if that angler hadn't had a dead fish, which dropped him from second to fourth. OUCH! 

But, Brad and I managed to get 2nd and 3rd, despite having all of our intel not matter. I do have to thank Josh for the intel on worming laydowns in that creek. I hate that he missed out on placing and cashing a check. It's hard to win off of someone else's info, but that's why we trade help each other. 

Fishing Report for Wilson 4/1/16

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Our NASA club voted to move the tournament from last weekend to this past weekend in order to get more boats involved. That was good and bad news for me. Bad news is, it moved the tournament even further from the pattern that Brad and I had when we sacked 20 pounds in our other club tournament. You can read about that in the link below.

Fishing Report for Wilson 3/19/16

I guess that worse news was that this club employed a draw, so Brad and I couldn't fish together. Nor could Josh and I or Brad and Josh. So, we decided that we would do our best to be competitive and still maintain our teamwork approach.

In fact, though we would be fishing against each other, Brad and I prefished Friday, the day before the tournament. We wanted to find some new spots to add to our growing collection. 

The pattern the past tournament had been cuts on either the main river or major creeks that were short in depth, but offered shallow water. We threw a collection of baits from the Luhr-Jensen speed trap to PowerTeam lures swimbaits. In all honesty, the swimbaits did the vast majority of the work and Brad threw them all day. I tried to keep the fish honest by presenting different baits, but they really weren't interested.

Current was predicted to be in the 20,000, but recent rain had bumped that to 60,000 CFS. Water temps had dropped on the main river to 58 degrees. We figured that the fish might push back off the spawning areas, but the current and overcast skies should provide a good bite. 

We began by heading down river and fishing an all new area. The spot produced just two small largemouth. One on a swimbait for Brad and one on a Strike King 6XD. To be honest, that fish seemed completely random, as I had cranked the handle maybe twice before the fish hit it. It was a decent 3.5 pounder, though. 

We moved to another shallow pocket that we have consistently caught fish on over the last year. Though there was bait in the area, there were no bass feeding. Additionally, the wind was howling from the south, buffering us on the north side. 

Before we left, we decided to fish a new area that was right next to a spot we consistently fish. The spot has never offered up a lot of big fish, but almost always a couple of keepers. Brad bagged a short smallmouth on the stretch as we moved into the new area. 

This new area was similar to what we were looking for: it was a shallow depth pocket, shallow in the back, but offering a rapid depth change. The only difference was that this one was man-made. 

As Brad drug the swimbait over that transition from shallow to a 24 foot depth, a fish took the bait. Initially, we both thought it was a small fish because of how light the bite and fight was. And, it hit almost at the boat. Typically, those type of bites nearly take the rod out of your hand. 

But, the fish that surfaced wasn't a small fish. It was the biggest largemouth that I have seen hooked, in person. I went to lip it with both hands. Think about that for a second. Both hands. But, Brad said to get the net. I looked around. No net. 

So, he starts screaming "GET THE NET!" 
And I'm like "WHERE'S THE NET?!?!?! IT'S GONE!"

See, I didn't realize that he had put it up about 30 minutes before. Brad notices  that the fish is barely hooked, so he dives down to grab the fish. The fish is pinned to the boat, but shakes it head and the hook comes free. Brad DIVES IN THE WATER to get this fish. I grab the back pocket of his jeans to keep the rest of him from going in. In the process, the rod breaks in half....and so does Brad's heart. 

We sat there for 15 minutes. 

We moved into Shoal's Creek, but found it extremely muddy. Almost to the point of turning around. But, we noticed that the cuts had clean water. 

As we have done in the past, we would push the boat against one side of the cut and cast to the other, frequently at docks. This resulted in several more fish including  this nice 5 pounder, which doesn't get a lot of love, considering the size of the fish Brad lost earlier
The only hit I got was while I was on the phone with the school nurse telling my one of my kids had thrown up. I really hope I didn't say anything bad as the fish got to the boat and threw the swimbait. 

In all, we caught a mere 10 fish. Of the ones we got in the boat, we had around 15-16 pounds in the best five. If we had the big fish (IF) we would have been pushed to the 23 pound mark. Think about that. 

Make sure to check back, as I will have a full report for the tournament.