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Our NASA club had a tournament coming up out of Ingalls. But, I didn't have any desire to fish it. I have a tournament on Pickwick coming up this coming weekend and then one on Logan-Martin the very next. Plus, we didn't have a travel tournament this weekend, which meant I could get a lot of honey-dos done.
But, as it happened, we had a need for another boater so that all of the non-boaters could fish. As the club president, I felt obligated to make sure that happened, so I volunteered. I drew my partner, got in touch with him, and decided to take off Friday to fish.
Now, as most of you are aware, the Elites were on Wheeler the weekend before. I wanted to see if I could piece together a trip based upon what info I could find from that tournament.
In truth, I decided to stay around Decatur, not wanting to spend any gas money. I brought along my friend Wyatt, who has been asking me to take him out and show him some stuff.
Well, I showed him how to not catch fish. We spent most of the day fishing shallow, whether it was flipping or top water. Couldn't get anything to sniff at topwater and the grass wasn't grown enough to be a factor.
By the end of the day I was just happy to show him some techniques for locating ledge fish and fishing for them, which did result in a few fish for me. He didn't get a bite all day and that really bothered me. But like I told him, you can't make them bite.
That afternoon, I called Josh. He would be fishing against me, but we would try and help each other. After explaining to him how I had fished all of Decatur and how it was now dead to me, we decided it would be better for me to run down river and fish some new water.
If nothing else, I could run to first creek and fish some areas that I KNEW held fish from the week before. Sure, it was a run, but I could split it with my non-boater.
Well, funny thing happened. 4AM rolled around, no partner. 415 and I called him. Nothing. So, I called back and left a voicemail telling him I was hitting the road and to meet me at Ingalls. Few minutes later, he called back to let me know that he wasn't coming.
Awesome. So, I would be by myself. I'm not exactly a loner and I hate fishing along. I never catch anything by myself. Don't ask me why. Things only got worse when I got to Ingalls and saw the amount of boats in line. Luckily, Josh had my back and dunked me.
To start the day, I ran a few miles down river and began fishing Mallard creek, which BTW, has a LOT of ducks. There was a ton of bait in the area as well as gar. But, couldn't get any bass to hit. I worked the outside point, the island in the middle of the creek and even moved further back. In the back I did find better grass which was flippable, but between the lack of immediate action and the low expectations of the day, I decided to do what I should have done all along: run further down river and fish bluffs.
Keep in mind that I was now fishing areas that I had never even been to. So, I used the GPS to look for areas that I might find fish in a pattern that I would know. I followed the main river channel but found that short of Elk River, it only swung close to the bank in one small stretch which looked to be about 300 yards long. I sure wasn't running down to the Elk on my own dime.
Before I left, I called Josh. They had two fish, total, which they had caught around Decatur. So, I knew that I was making the right decisions in terms of eliminating water.
I found the stretch of bluffs, but sure enough, there were boats all over it. I pulled up on a section between two boats and gave them plenty of room. At this point I had whittled my baits down to two or three: a Strike King 3XD, a PTL 7" Tickler, and a Luhr-Jensen Speedtrap.
I fished every section with the cranks and would flip the worm on the laydowns. The first three laydowns resulted in bites, but only one would hook up. It was a smallmouth that I knew was close to 15" long. Looked around for my Golden Rule. Nowhere to be found. So, I kept it and figured I could meet up with Josh later and measure it.
Every laydown held a fish, but many times they wouldn't really hit it. Instead, they would thump it and let it fall. I figured many were bedding fish, which would be GREAT if I could get them to hold on.
Between the laydowns I came to a shallow cove. A fish slammed the 3XD and I boated another smallie that was close to the line. Next cast, boated a really nice largemouth, but he was immediately bleeding profusely and I knew he wouldn't make it.
I worked that spot pretty hard thinking I could get more bites, but it didn't produce. I continued down the bank where I filled out a limit quickly. From then on, the only thing I could catch were short smallmouth. I probably caught around five or six more short fish that didn't help me.
Around 11AM I had two fish in a row come off a laydown and eat the Tickler. One came out of the brush and spit the worm at me. The other one got to the boat, ran between the bow and the trolling motor, looped around, and popped the worm free. Neither fish were big, but they were bigger than the two smallies.
Then the wind showed up, which made it impossible to fish the shaky head. The crankbait bite completely died. For a moment I noted how much bait and fish I was marking under the boat which was sitting in 13 feet. I thought about throwing a 6XD but found it hard to chance my pattern, even if it had quit producing. In hindsight, I should have thrown it, based upon the reports I have from other fishermen.
When I got to the ramp, I measured my two smallmouth. Both were slightly short so I threw them back. The big largemouth died, which would be a deduction. Josh and his partner weighed in over 10 pounds to take the win, including a 4.5 pound largemouth. I took 3rd and I am embarrassed to even mention how much they weighed. I caught around 10 fish with the vast majority of them on the 3XD in powder blue back.
It was a very tough day and I was very glad it was over. I took the dead fish home and friend it for my middle kid who has been begging for fresh fish. Of course, he didn't eat it. Par for the course.