Monday, August 22, 2016

Fishing Report for Wheeler 8/19/16

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Many people have asked "are you not fishing?"  It's true that I haven't posted any fishing reports in, well, a month. But, it's for a good reason. No, it isn't because I haven't been fishing. I kinda wish I had that excuse. Truth is, I have been fishing just as much as normal, but I haven't been catching anything. 

Now, it's also true that I have been on Wheeler, which, as the FLW stated, is the stingiest lake on the Tennessee River. But, I also had two tough trips on Wilson that I did report. 

Starting with that trip, there has been a very, very dry period. I fished some Ditto wildcats and was essentially blanked for a few weeks (truth be told, I DID catch fish, but didn't weight in a measuring limit the entire time). Then, I decided to prefish for a few wildcats. That didn't help, either. Not only did I get blanked while prefishing, I got blanked during the tournaments. Over the last month, I have averaged catching around three fish a trip and that includes short fish. 

So, you can imagine just how much I looked forward to this passed weekend's tournament out of Ingall's on Wheeler. Our Calcutta pot (for a fish over six pounds) stands at over $1,000 and I have to back pay for any tournament I skip, so Brad and I figured we were in it to win it, even if we didn't think there was any chance there would be a six pound fish caught. 

Prefishing started the Friday, a week and a day before the tournament. Josh and our friend Anthony fished the Decatur area for several hours, but didn't have a sniff. That next day, Brad and a friend were able to get several hours in fishing out of First Creek. In the four hour trip, they caught 15 fish including a 4.5 and 3.5 smallmouth. The three best fish would have gone around 9 pounds, which we figured would be perfect. 

The following Tuesday, I fished for two hours after work, concentrating on shallow grass lines in the Decatur area. Though I did manage to catch a couple of fish, none of them were over two pounds. All of the fish I caught were on a Spro frog. But, between my and Josh's trips. I was fairly certain that Decatur would not provide the winning fish, even if 90% of the club stayed in the Decatur area. 

The day before the tournament, Brad and I put in at First Creek. We decided to completely ignore the one spot he had found success, which was a main river point where the fish had been actively schooling. We decided to test the same pattern (if you can call chasing schoolers with top water a pattern). 

Not only were there never more than one active fish busting shad on the surface, but that active fish could not have been less interested in our collection of top water baits. We caught exactly one fish.

Not very encouraging, to say the least. Yet, we had a decision to make. Where did we feel like we had the best chance to catch a winning sack? Wheeler has been tough on absolutely everyone. There just haven't been any fish caught. My feeling was that most of the club would stay within 2 miles of Ingall's simply because they didn't want to spend the gas money.  Instead, they would almost certainly junk fish and hope for the best. 

Not that I was against fishing Decatur, because Josh and I have had a ton of success flipping grass line in Decatur. But, it would only take one other boat to fish the same area and the spot would be dead. Add in the fact that both Josh and I had tested the same area within the week and the prospects weren't very good.

What has been good to Brad and I have been smallies around 1st Creek. You can read about some of those trips by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/23/16

Fishing Report for Wheeler Lake 4/25/15

His last trip seemed to confirm that good smallies were living there year round. We were willing to make that trip and gamble. Turns out, only two other boats were willing to do the same thing. 

It took exactly 20 minutes to make the run to 1st Creek while doing 60 MPH. 

As we pulled up on the point, we could see active fish, but they were extremely scattered and they would not stay on the surface for more than about three seconds. We tossed a variety of baits at them including Sammys, Pop-Rs and even soft jerk baits. The fish would not touch the Sammy but would occasionally hit the Pop-R. However, they would not get hooked. It wasn't "slapping" as you might typically see. It was a hard hit, but the fish would not eat it. I assume they were headbutting the bait in order to stun it. Time after time, they would hit my Pop-R but wouldn't get hooked.

In the meantime, I would throw a PTL JP Hammershad, which is a soft jerkbait. I was throwing it on a spinning reel with 10 pound braid. I was getting hits, but for some reason, the knot kept breaking. It turns out, the wacky rig hooks I was using feature an eye that isn't completely closed. The line was fraying due to the constant back and forth motion of the jerk. 

After struggling with the top water, we picked up jigs. On both of our first cast, we caught a keeper fish. However, the fish would not touch the jig, nor worm, nor C-rig for the next four hours. We changed depths and boat positions. Nothing seemed to work. 

Though we had dedicated ourselves to fishing this one spot for the whole day, if needed, we rapidly got to the point where it was obvious the winning sack wasn't coming from there.

We began fishing some other patterns that had worked in the spring. This included shallow cuts on the main river. 

The first small cut we fished resulted in an explosion. A big fish destroyed my Pop-R. After a good fight, we netted our big fish of the day, a 3.42 largemouth. But, we were a long way from five fish still and only had two hours to figure it out.

The next set of shallow cuts resulted in nothing more than a few bream which were caught on top water. Brad continued to throw a sammy while I threw the Pop-R.

We came to the first deeper cut which was about 50 yards deep and had log jams in the back. One back-to-back-to-back casts, I had hits on the Pop-R. However, the fish continued to short strike it. That was until a smallmouth killed the bait while leaping two feet in the air. This one came to the boat. Not a giant smallmouth, but a nice keeper. At this point, Brad ditched the sammy and went to a Pop-R. He boated the fifth keeper just seconds later. 

The moves paid off as each of the next three cuts held between three and four smallmouth. Suddenly, we had gone from absolutely no pattern to a rock-solid one. We needed shallow cuts between 50 and 75 yards deep in at least 8 feet of water with submerged timber and log jams. Most importantly, we needed shade.

 The issue was that all the fish were 14.75 inch smallmouth. While larger than the two largemouth we had caught first, they were illegal to keep. We kept plugging away. Along the way, I managed to hook every log of every log jam. Of course, it didn't help that the smallies wanted the bait right at the log jams. So, it was either cast right to it and maybe get bit, maybe get hooked or not get bites. I know it got on Brad's nerves cause it got on mine. If it could be hooked, I hooked it! 

Then the sun came out and the bite completely died. 

At 1:30, we made the 20 minute run to Decatur, just barely missing a massive storm that brewed behind us. The issue was that it arrived right at weigh in. 

We weighed in a five fish limit that included two nice smallmouth for 9.35, missing first place by .98 of a pound. Our friend Brian came in third thanks to the big fish of the day, a beautiful 4.34 smallie caught early on (and not on our end of the lake!). In all, we caught around 12 bass and around 5 bluegill, perch, and sunfish. 

It was terrific to get back into the winner's circle of this club, which features some very fine fishermen. Brad and I hadn't cashed a check since the second tournament of the season, where we destroyed the fish on Wilson back in March. 

While I am proud of Brad and I for figuring it out, I am most proud that our two boat team has cashed a check in all but one of the club tournaments. That being said, with the .98 differential between us and first, I can't help but think about all the fish I missed. Were any of them huge fish? No. But at least two were decent fish that might have put us over the hump. 

But, they say that's what separates competitors. Some are happy just to be there in the spotlight. Some get in the truck thinking about what they could have done better and what they will do next time. 

Or, maybe I am incapable of just being happy. Who knows. 

We have one more club tournament before the Classic. And, well, guess what. It's on the G. However, the Calcutta rolled again meaning that the big fish of the tournament, no matter how big it is, will pay out over a grand. So, guess I better get back on Guntersville. (UGH).