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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:
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 it...to help each other.