Thursday, December 28, 2017

Deer Hunting Christmas 2017

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Try as I might, I haven't been able to get my kids interested in bass fishing as much as I'd like. I admit that I am not a great "fun fisherman." In my quest to get better as a tournament angler, I have lost some of that charm. 

You can imagine my surprise when suddenly all three kids are interested in deer hunting. To me, I would think it would be the other way around. Bass fishing can be done in pleasant weather and it's typically a lot more action-packed. Obviously, you can go days without seeing the first deer and in many of those days, the weather can be downright awful. 

But, when the kids ask to go, you gotta take them, right? Of course, we had to separate into shifts as three kids didn't fit in the shooting houses, even as nice and large as they are. 

For the second time in the last few years, I had a shot when I had the kids with me. This time it was my two older kids. And, like last time, I likely rushed the shot and I probably shouldn't have done that considering it was bordering on 300 yards. The doe just stared at me and I racked another round, presented with another golden opportunity. This one missed as well and I didn't bother to shoot again as I had taken my time on the second shot and realized the gun must be off. 

The next day, I took Aubree and we did some sighting in. Sure enough, the gun was 6 inches low at just 75 yards. We remedied that and it was time to hit the woods. 
First trip, I took Aubree, the oldest. We were able to see a big four point and a couple of smaller deer, but no bucks or does worth shooting, much to her chagrin. Over the next few days, she begged and begged me to go, but it was the boys' turn next. I went to the store, got them snacks and drinks and warned them NOT to drink it all and NOT to fight. Well, you can guess what happened! 



On the next trip, we again saw the 4-pointer and it was awesome for the boys to get to watch him. I didn't see my first buck for probably three or four years of hunting! They got so excited that their movement scared him away. I couldn't be mad. They were really enjoying themselves.  As darkness moved upon us, we were presented with several does, but each of them had a faun with them and I thought it would be bad form to shoot them, especially with the boys with me. 

But, an opportunity presented itself in the form of an injured deer limping across the field. It was nearing dusk and I didn't have much time to put the binoculars on the deer to see what kind it was. In the end, I made a judgement call that no matter if it was a buck or doe, I needed to put the deer out of its misery as it was limping badly. I warned the boys and pulled the trigger. The deer went down and the boys witnessed their first kill. It ended up being a small buck that had a front shoulder completely out of place. The boys didn't mind. They were very excited! 

A few days went by and my dad killed a really nice buck. Work had been slow and I was looking at an afternoon of sitting in the office, at home or perhaps hunting. The issue with hunting was that the wind was pretty bad. In my experience, high wind is normally a killer for deer hunting. It throws off multiple senses for the deer and they stay hunkered down.

I texted my dad and he said that the rut was on and that it would easily cover up the wind, as far as the bucks were concerned. I took his word and, besides, what did I have to lose? 

Since the kids were with my mom, I knew this was the best opportunity for me to get a good buck. But, after the first hour, the only deer I had seen was a little spike that I have seen several other times. However, knowing that the rut was on, this was the perfect chance to use him as bait for a bigger deer. I broke out the grunt call and began grunting, as long as he was in the field. 

He made two complete laps of the field and every 15 minutes, I would make some grunts. Around 4:45, movement caught my eye and it was the last place I expected to see a deer. For at my back, just yards away, was the Flint River. A set of deer had crossed the river and were now just on my side of the tree line. One was obviously a buck, so I picked up the binocs. At first glance, it looked like a big six. 

























Though his antlers stood outside his ears ( a club rule), a six pointer didn't meet the agenda. But, upon further review, he did have a set of brow tines that made him an eight. I took the shot and the deer dropped.

It ended up being a gorgeous young buck. He wasn't a monster, but he will be mighty tasty! Now it's time to find a giant! 


Monday, December 18, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/16/17

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It doesn't feel like it had been two weeks since Brad and I made the trip to Pickwick for a few hours. Alas, it has been. Funny thing is, looking at the pictures of our last trip, I am wearing jeans and a t-shirt. That's not quite the clothing selection I had on this past Friday. It was 22 degrees on the drive from my house to McFarland and about 25 when we dunked Big Booty Judy. 

On our last trip, we didn't get to fish until about 830 or 9 and had to leave around 1. It took the better part of the trip to find any fish. In fact, we had to search for nearly two hours to get our first bite. Using jerkbaits, we found fish on a small stretch of bluffs. We hammered down on them and caught a fair amount of fish before we had to leave. Surprisingly, no big fish and no smallies. Go read that report by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/1/17


Still, it was a good day. So, we decided not to reinvent the wheel and go right to where we had been catching. Ok, that's a lie. It was so cold that when Brad asked "where we gonna start" I dropped the trolling motor inside of McFarland and said "right about here." Shoot, I wasn't gonna run ANYWHERE in 25 degrees if it wasn't tournament day. 

That actually paid off pretty quick as I fished the barge tie-ups, specifically the eddy line, with a PTL Sick Stick on a shakey head. A fun fight led to this super chunky spotted bass which is probably my biggest of the year.

The next cast, another fish jumped on the line and I started getting really excited that I had found a pile of fish. Alas, it was a drum. 

We moved to some other community hole areas without a bite before moving to the bluffs where we had success. Throwing a Smithwhick Perfect Ten jerkbait resulted in fish after fish. However, they weren't very big and they were all spots. Nothing wrong with that, but eventually we wanted to find the brownies. 

We continued down the bluffs before Brad caught this chunk on the jerkbait.

I followed that up later with this nice largemouth.
We noticed that the bigger fish were all alone. We would catch five to seven smaller fish but would find a bigger once close to, but not directly with, the pile of smaller fish.

After awhile, the sun came out and the jerkbait bite began to decline. We would still catch some, but I began to notice that I wasn't marking bait on the straight bluffs. We can upon a slopping bluff that extended pretty far into the river. Instead of a straight drop to 14-18 feet, it tapered off slowly. I also began to mark fish. So, I pushed the boat out and picked up the trust Strike King 6XD. It might also have something to do with the fact that I bounced my Rogue off a rock and came back with half the bait. 

And then I went to town. This 50 yard stretch of sloping bluff held a ton of fish and Brad and I must have caught 10-15 from the exact same cast. But, like all things, it went away. Likely because we caught them all.

With the day coming to an end, we decided to go back to the area that seemed to be holding better fish, however sporadic they may have been. I had a suspicion, based upon this tapering bluff area, that I may have been sitting on top of the fish.

So while he tossed the jerkbait, I threw the 6XD parallel to the bluffs. This resulted in a couple of 2.5 pound fish, just no big ones. Eventually, I did get that big one to load up and as I fought the fish, I could tell this was a big smallie.

Sure enough, I got a great shot at a massive brown fish about the time she threw the crankbait. That fish would have boosted our sack to around 17.5 pounds and put us around 30 fish for the day. Not a bad winter's day fishing trip! 

Monday, December 4, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/1/17

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It's hard to believe that it has been three weeks since I had been fishing, but man....has it been busy! Between the Thanksgiving holiday, work and football, I haven't had much time to get out and fish. It's a shame, too, because I needed one solid trip to break last year's mark of 283 fish. You can read about my Fish of 2017 here. I needed just 12 to break the mark. 

Friday was looking like a beautiful day. Highs in the mid-60s without wind and not a cloud in the sky. Of course, that's NOT good if you are looking to catch some smallies. We had been seeing some of the Basswhacker Guide Service guys WRECKING the fish. They were doing it on Wheeler, Wilson and Pickwick.

Brad and I decided we would get out and we went with Pickwick as we believed the versatility of the lake would allow us to find some fish, even if the weather wasn't optimal for smallie fishing. To us, Wilson was too dependent on the Wheeler dam current and Wheeler lake was so far down that we just didn't have faith that we could catch fish with such low water levels. 

Of course, the extra drive meant we would be on the water a good bit less and we wouldn't actually be on the water until around 9:30. 

So, based on what we had been reading, we went to work on the bluffs across from McFarland with a combination of Bama rigs and jerkbaits. No such luck, even when we covered several miles. 

I also noticed that I wasn't marking any bait or fish. In addition, a look at the TVA app showed that there was only 32,000 CFS being pushed through Wilson dam, which is about half of what you REALLY want to get the smallies biting. 

That's a bad sign. And, we didn't get bit for around the first three hours. THREE HOURS! 

That included making some moves to areas that we have consistently caught fish on over the last few years. We made it as far down river as the end of Seven Mile Island before sitting down to really contemplate what we should do. Obviously, our experience was hurting us, so we decided to fish all new water.

We picked a stretch of bluffs that were just a touch different than what we normally fish. We normally fish straight cliff bluffs. We targeted rocky bluffs this time around and in an area I've never fished.

First one bite on the jerkbait with a solid two pound largemouth. Then another. Then another. In a 100 yard stretch we had caught around seven fish, five on the jerkbait and two on the A-rig. Most of them were small, but we had a solid little limit going.

We went back down the stretch and only caught two fish, but both were in the three pound range. 

Moving on to another stretch, we caught a few more fish. Then a straight bluff without a bite. Then down a rocky bluff were we caught more fish.

Soon, we had a pattern, but we ran out of time. 

In the end, we caught around 17-20 (Brad corrected me on Facebook when I said 20-25). The best five would have gone between 13-15 pounds. Strangely, they were all largemouth and spots. Not a single smallie! It really wasn't a surprise. There wasn't any current, high skies, and no wind. 

A Smithwick Rouge MD jerkbait did the vast majority of the damage with the A-rig kicking in another 3 fish. 

Monday, November 20, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler 11/17/17

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Last week was soooo gooood and word was that the fish were still biting. Early in the week, Josh and I had planned to fish the Gray's Outdoors tournament (you can fish Wheeler/Wilson/Pickwick). But, weather started looking really, really bad so they canceled it. 

But, I was so excited about fishing that I was COMPELLED TO FISH. Not only did I want to catch more fish, but I needed to get Big Booty Judy out. Really, the only option was going Friday to Ditto. My buddy Naaman agreed to fish with me. You may recall that we went out the week before and had a really, really good day catching solid 2.5 pound spots. You can read that report below.


Anyways, it was cold with the water temps diving into the 50s. But, current was ripping, so we figured we had a chance to get on a pile of fish. We recognized that, like last week, we may have to hunt for them for awhile.

We started out fishing some areas that we had been catching fish. A fish here, a fish there, but never more than one fish. That had been pretty common last week. We caught fish everywhere we went but it wasn't until around 11 when we found them piled up, up by the dam. 

The only thing the fish would bite was a jerkbait. I was throwing the Smithwick Rouge and it would get bit fairly often. But, despite moving around and catching a fish here or there, we didn't catch anything over about a pound.

We covered water from the Flint river to Ditto and never found a pile, but ended up catching around 15. Only two fish came on baits that were not jerk baits. 

If you are out searching for fish, here are some thoughts:

The cool temps and dropping water levels are forcing the fish to back off to the main channel break (I think). We continued to fish the 13-14 foot break but we were not marking fish like we had been after the warm spell last week. 

It is certainly possible that they may be in the backs of creeks, but as you probably know, there aren't any of those where we fished. 

We did mark big groups of bait and fish on major contour changes like the upper point of Hobb's island, especially around the gravel pit. Same story, though. We would get bit the first cast and then wouldn't get another bite. 

At least the boat was running good!

Monday, November 13, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing 11/10/17

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Part of being and adult (and father of three) is being unable to drop what you are doing to go fishing. Even on holidays, as last Friday was, it takes some serious work to arrange things to work out. But, Josh and I were able to get things arranged so that we could get an afternoon of fishing in. Now, with him having to arrange kid care and me trying to makes sure my three couldn't burn the house down, it meant we couldn't go anywhere other than Ditto.

That's ok. Reports had been good that both numbers, size, and type of fish were being caught. Both Josh, our friend Naaman, and several other associates had sent reports back that the fishing was superb. Most reported that 12 pound bags were easy to come by and that mixed bags up to 18 pounds were being caught. 

So, we figured we would give it a go. 

We were on the water around noon and decided to fish current breaks local to the marina. Fishing a combination of A-rig and jerk baits, we were able to catch ones and twos at every stop we made. But, there was no size and the bites weren't very plentiful.

Elsewhere, our buddy Naaman was reporting great success on the same lures, so obviously we weren't fishing the right things. There weren't a lot of boats on the water, but there were enough that all the obvious current breaks were getting fished, or had been fished.

A quick look at the TVA App told us that TVA was pulling 70K CFS out of Guntersville dam. That should be more than enough to make for a good dam bite and both of us hoped we could find some smallies. 

We made the run up to the dam and began fishing the wing walls and rip-rap around the dam. Again, we could get a bite here and there, but nothing consistent. The best thing we caught was a gentleman's rod. He had accidentally thrown it in the water (quite funny to have seen in person) and couldn't reach it. We fished it out for him.

We moved down to the other side of the damn and couldn't get any bites, despite finding fish grouped up really tight.

Moving down to the ramp, we caught two or three short fish off of the wing wall of the ramp. I happened to look down at the Lowerance unit and see a pile of golf balls under the boat. There seemed to be around 7 or 10 fish laying on the bottom right under us, right on the current break line.

Josh let the boat drift back about 10 yards and that made all the difference. 

Throwing a combination of jigs and shakey heads, we boated 7-10 2.5 pound spots and several smallmouth. None of the smallmouth were very big, but it was fun to catch! 

Eventually, the bites tapered from every cast to one bite every 15 minutes, so we began to move down river. 

We covered a few other spots, but, again, just one fish at a time.

Eventually, we tried the 431 bridge with jerkbaits the last 10 minutes of day light. 

Man, that was an exciting few minutes! Every cast, for both of us, we caught a fish. 

On the day, we caught around 20 fish with our best five going around 12 pounds. None of the fish went over 3 pounds. Naaman had several nice fish on the day and probably caught the same amount as both Josh and I. 

This time of year, you have to really cover water to find the fish, but when you do, you can catch a lot in a very short amount of time. Add into the equation that most outdoorsmen are in their deer stands and you have the opportunity to catch a lot of fish! Really, you only need an A-rig, a jerkbait, and jig or shakeyhead. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 10/28/17

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It's been tough to find time to fish the last month or so, between travel softball and MORE travel softball.  In fact, we had a scheduled tournament for this weekend as well, but it was the NASA club's Classic and is the last regularly scheduled tournament of the year. 

Of course, we pulled Smith lake out of the hat, the one lake I haven't been on since February. Now, the good news is, that was a really, really good tournament for us. The bad news is, it was February. Here is that report.

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 2/18/17


And, add in some absolutely nasty weather and a cold front moving in around 9AM that day....

....I really considered not fishing at all and just going to the softball tournament. But, Brad and I drew out so that we could fish together. I decided I would drive to Smith Lake park so that I could leave directly for the softball tournament. 

I polled some of the local guys on a Smith Lake Bass Tournaments facebook page and they gave me a little info. They also said "don't fish that end of the lake." Well, thing is.....it's a free tournament and the money wasn't quite worth driving too far. So, we decided to use the techniques they had told us, but fish the places we knew.

It was cold (in the 40s) and raining at blast-off. We started on a nearby main lake point. Brad was throwing a white buzzbait and I a chrome and black Rapalla DT-10. This paid off quickly with a nice chunky over spot. Then, nothing.

We moved to the next point and Brad was tossing the white buzzbait around a boat ramp and a fish slurped it. After a fight, we boated a NICE four-plus pound spot. 

We quickly found out a couple of things:

First, they only wanted the buzzbait. 

Second, there was only one active fish per point. 

So, when we would move to a new point, we would get one bite. Sometimes it would stick. Most of the time it wouldn't. Brad was getting the vast majority of the bites, but they weren't hooking up. Meanwhile, I tried to alternate baits in attempt to find something they would bite. I had some short strikes on a jig, shakey head, and a drop shot. But, none of them connected.

We would move spots and eventually we had three overs and one under that I had caught on a buzzbait. 

But, when the rain died and the cold front descended, the bite died. The lone bite we had after 9AM came on a PTL 7" tickler, but it was a slot fish that had to be thrown back.

We went to weigh in with just 4 fish: three overs and one under. We knew the chances were that we would have the big fish of the day and any time you have that big fish, you have a real shot to win. Of course, we didn't have a limit and we did have a tiny under. 

So, the pucker began when the best fisherman of the club unloaded five clones for around 7.5 pounds. However, it was the under that put us just above that mark and we walked away with the win by the skin of our teeth. 

It wasn't a fun day. The fish had absolute lock jaw even though we found at least three spots that were holding bass. We would find them close to the bottom on the first major drop of main lake points, always adjacent to some bait balls. Nothing could convince them to bite, from spoons to jigs, to drop shot. 

But, winning is winning. That's about all you can say about catching five fish all day. 

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson 10/9/17

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I know not everyone was fortunate enough to have the day off Monday, but those of us that are federal workers did. Josh and I and our friend Naaman wanted to go fishing, but the question was where. 

I am sure that you all have read about my last tournament on Guntersville, which was just days before. If you didn't, you can click the link below and see how I caught a 7.12 pig. 


However, Guntersville had been pounded to death over the last two weeks and none of us really though we could catch any numbers, much less any size. So, we looked at the weather. The weather was looking just like it had a few weeks ago when the last round of hurricanes came through and Brad and I caught some massive smallies.  Read that report here:


So, we loaded up Big Booty Judy (now with a really nice sound system) and headed to Safety Harbor.
There was a fair amount of flow, around 25,000 and it seemed the right generators were turned on. We began fishing the normal eddies but we couldn't get bit. I found it a little more difficult to concentrate and run the trolling motor with three people in the boat, as there were baits flying everywhere.

Josh was throwing a Bull Shad when he yelled that he had a fish. He didn't yell initially because the fish was big, but because it is hard to hear. But, when he saw the fish, he started yelling for the net.

This fish was a lot larger than he had thought and it wasn't a brownie as we had expected. 

It was a really, really good start.

It's too bad that we couldn't get consistent bites. In fact, other than about five short smallies that we hooked up with, the fish were really, really stingy. Some of that is likely because the current had kicked up and I imagine the fish had moved from their normal haunts. 

We did get into a huge pile of white bass and stripes that alleviated our boredom.  

It was about this time that I noticed I had a really, really bad headache. In retrospect, it coincided with the pressure change ahead of the weather. For some reason, it didn't turn the fish on, either.

We moved away from fishing current and started hitting bluffs. There was no shortage of bait, but no bites. 

We then moved to docks, which is where we began to at least get bit. We caught several measuring fish by flipping docks, but only did this pattern for around 20 minutes before we had to leave. We did the most work with jigs backed with creature baits. 

In all, the fishing was very, very tough despite what looked like terrific conditions. 

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Fishing Report for Guntersville 10/7/17

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Been almost three weeks since I checked in with everyone. Our last trip was the last regular tournament of the year for NASA, which was on Wilson. Go check it out.


That meant that our club Classic was up and Guntersville was drawn (eye-roll). But, I don't give up. I was going to put in the time. So, Brad and I got out the week before to do some prefishing. 

Since the club was going to use Goose Pond Bait and Grill, we put in there. Since we hadn't fished Guntersville since our 3rd place finish in June, we decided to just put the trolling motor down and start fishing. You can read about that week of fishing here:

Report for Guntersville 6/1 and 6/3 2017


We began to talk and realized that we had caught five pound fish on every lake except Guntersville, which was truly astounding, considering how the lake is known (rightfully so) for its massive fish and number of them. Of course, Brad pointed out that I had caught a fiver on the G, but it had come on fishing deep cranks on a bluff. I responded that it didn't count.

We began fishing shallow grass near Goose Pond with frogs and buzzbaits. This resulted in a nice three pounder on a Spro Poppin' Frog for me and a lost five pounder-plus for Brad, though we were glad to have shaken it off. We ended up with around 10 blow ups in a small spot, which was far more than any mat has provided for us in the last few years.

We moved around a good bit that day, but the amount of rain and wind had decimated the mats. I was able to catch a fair amount of short fish on a PTL Swinging Hammer, fishing it as a jerkbait in the blown out mats. Location didn't seem to matter as I caught them in three or more places. 

I left for the beach for a week but Brad was able to fish the Friday before. When he reported in initially, the numbers weren't good. He had caught only a few fish, but had found a very small area where he caught two fish really fast.

Now, typically, two fish wouldn't get you excited, but when he showed me the picture, I was sold. We didn't think there would be another seven pounder the next day, but typically fish school by size. 



The best news was, it wasn't a frog bite and that was good because the Spro tournament was the same day as our Classic. In fact, with a bit of a genius move, Brad had listened to some of the guides and decided to fish deep grass lines. 

The next morning, we went to our shallow grass spot and caught a few fish including one measuring and several shorts. We quickly moved to our next spot where we went to work with big worms. We would throw it shallow into the grass and work it through the scattered grass, down the ledge. The bites started immediately and I caught a nice spotted bass and Brad caught a short fish.

That's when the bite happened. When this fish bit, I knew it was the one. Working a big fish on a 6-6 medium heavy with 10-pound line isn't something for the faint of heart, especially when you see the fish is so big she can't jump. I loosened the drag and we fought the fish for the better part of ten minutes while trying to be discreet as there was another boat in the area who had already seen us catch one fish.

Brad finally netted the beast and we finally had that big bite. 

Of course, that comes at a price. The nearby boat moved within a cast length of us and began throwing a bama rig all around which resulted in a four pounder for them quickly. Good for them and all, I guess. 

As it turned out, we really needed that four pounder. We didn't catch another measuring fish though we did put another ten to 15 fish in the boat. 

The story was similar for everyone at weigh in. They caught short fish, if they caught any at all. Only two limits were weighed in and neither broke the 13 pound mark. Our three fish went 11 and change with the fish being a 7.12. That was the big fish of the day and of the year. It is the personal best for me in terms of tournament fishing by over a pound. It's the largest fish I have caught since 2011. I have to really hand it to my partner for putting it together. After fishing the G for a couple of years without a big bite, he was able to put two 7s in the boat in 24 hours. 

Monday, September 18, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/15-16/17

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I was pleasantly surprised at the amount of readers I had on last week's post. In case you didn't read it, click the link and see how Brad and I braved hurricane Irma and caught some toads on Wilson. It's received 830 hits, so yall must have liked what you read! I appreciate that! 

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/12/17


So, the reason we went out wasn't just because it was the perfect conditions for smallmouth, though it  certainly that. We also had a club tournament on Saturday and we wanted to be prepared. 

But, we also knew that the conditions would be polar opposites from Tuesday to Saturday, which is why we went out Friday as well.

Man, things couldn't have been anymore different. First, there was no current. TVA held the current at under 10,000 CFS, so we didn't even bother going to the dam. In fact, judging by prediction for Saturday, we needed to plan NOT to fish the dam at all.

With that said, we headed into Shoal Creek, where we have had a ton of success in the past, but not the last few years, for some strange reason. The idea was to find some topwater fish, at least early. With our experience this time of year, especially with no current, catching them early was key. 

Alas, the fish were not on board with that. I guess that shouldn't be a surprise because they haven't wanted topwater all year. It's crazy to think that I caught more topwater fish in March than in September, but I digress. 

We did, however, mark some fish on ledges and were able to catch two very quickly on finesse baits. Neither were very big, each weighing under two pounds. But the quickness of these bites told us to leave them for tomorrow. Both bites came in 20 feet or more of water. 

We then ran across the river to a similar spot in McCarren creek. This resulted in a single bite from a largemouth, but several stripe were caught. This bite didn't come in the same 20 foot depth, but it was the deepest part of the creek. Running to similar spots resulted in nothing. We ended the day fairly early, having boated no good fish nor numbers. We did have one spot that we had confidence in, but we worried about being able to get on it, due to another large tournament coming out of Lock 6 the next morning.

In summation, here's what we knew: weights and numbers were going to be exceedingly low. Like, to the point where we should expect five bites and we better fish clean and get all five bites into the boat. Again, this was experience talking to us. We had no ambitions of another trip like last year's classic. Wilson can do that, in a heartbeat. She's done it plenty of times. 


Sure enough, we blasted off behind this other tournament but we were able to fish the spot on Shoal creek that we wanted to fish. 

It resulted in a series of quick bites and we landed fish. Again, no topwater bite and we had to really, really feed these fish finesse baits. 

Brad checked the TVA app out of habit and noticed that they had turned current on already. We weren't expecting any until at least noon. So, we made the run to the dam. Initially, the wrong generators were turned on. That wasn't unexpected. Then, they turned the right ones on and we moved into position and got ready to catch them.

But, we got no bites. We typically catch them on deep diving cranks, but that didn't work. So, we threw swimbaits, the next best thing. Still nothing. Everything was right, aside from high skies. 

We knew this was a possibility. Sometimes you have to wait them out. Just stay the course and keep casting. So, we did. And we nearly threw our arms off without catching anything. Not even drum or stripe, which told us that they weren't in the current, or at least where we were fishing.

So, despite telling ourselves we wouldn't move, we moved. It isn't like we moved far. We just left the hard eddies that we typically fished and moved to fishing hard placements like the wing walls of the dam and rockpiles off the current as well as areas further down where the current spreads out.

This allowed us to slow down and throw finesse baits. We never found a pile of fish and we REALLY had to work, but we began to get a bite every 30 minutes. The issue was, all of them were small. I've never caught so many small fish at the dam. Typically, I catch small ones and that allows me to hone in on the big ones. 

Not so on Saturday, as frustrating as it was.

However, when Brad boated this massive smallie late, late, late in the day, we knew a tough day was now on our side. If we weren't getting a lot of bites nor size, even after two trips on the lake that week, the chances of someone else getting them were slim.

That ended up being the truth. We weighed in 12 pounds with second place having just four fish for five pounds. Third place had three fish for three pounds. In fact, you could take every fish caught by the club, add it together and it wouldn't weigh more than our five. That's not bragging on us, that's telling you how tough it was everywhere. 

With that said, I did see a nice bag similar to ours, but without the spread between a five pound smallies and a half pound dink weighed in, in the other club. We saw what they had been doing and it was the same thing we were doing: covering water. Except these guys were drifting further down river, by several hundred yards. 

In the end, it doesn't matter how the day went, if you win. Of course, I wish everyone could catch as much as they want, as long as we catch more. Saturday was more of the same with Wilson, especially this time of year. Like I said on Facebook: Fish hard, fish clean.


 

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/12/17

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First off, let me begin by saying that I am in no way making light of the struggles of our fellow Americans who have dealt with horrible circumstances this past month. I feel for you all. 

Late Monday night, my fellow Redstone Arsenal employees received notice that we would not be coming in to work. It was quite the surprise to all of us, as we weren't supposed to experience really bad weather. True, Monday night we were set to receive some heavy winds and a fair amount of rain, but nothing to close down the Arsenal. 

Despite schools and businesses closing, I couldn't help but stare at the weather predictions. There would be rain and there would be wind, but nothing out of the ordinary. Then I did the wrong thing: I checked the TVA app, which told me that TVA was pushing a lot of current, around 70,000 CFS. Now, I recognized that they were doing that to make sure that the water level would remain constant 24 hours after the rain, but even if they cut that in half, it had the makings of a perfect magnum smallie bite.

Brad and I discussed it, but neither were willing to get up super early, only to find whipping winds and a deluge of rain. I woke up around 6:30, looked outside, and called Brad. Brad was already up. It seemed perfect. 10MPH sustained out of the Northeast, which would be perfect to hide from. 

We got to Wilson and were on the water by 10AM. Unfortunately, TVA had cut the flow down to 19,000.Usually 20K is the bare minimum needed. You may recall that this time of year, last year, that Brad and I had smoked some big bags. You can read about our last 20 pound sack by clicking the link below. 

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/24


The day started off very, very slow. About as slow as the current, I guess you would say. Although I did catch a decent smallie and a chunk of a largemouth on Strike King 6XD, we wouldn't get the numbers of bites we expected.
But, as expected, TVA kicked two more generators on at lunch and that boosted the current to around 45K. It took awhile for the current to make its way down to us, but eventually it did and it activated the fish for about a 30 minute flurry. 

Inside of 30 minutes, Brad and I caught five fish that would weigh 17 pounds. It included three smallies and two largemouth. Additionally, we also lost several fish from combinations of breakoffs and generally messing around. In all, we went hunting for big fish and we found them, just not in the numbers we would like to have found. 

I had posted on my Facebook page that this was the perfect weather to catch big smallies and that proved to be true, as you can see from the picture. While we would have loved to have found a six-plus pounder, you can't expect to find those on every trip, especially when you haven't been out in awhile. But, when the weather is nasty and the current is flowing, you have to brave the elements for days like this. I'm not saying to brave 25 MPH winds and 5 foot rollers or anything, but a light wind and misty rain shouldn't keep you from fishing. I've found that the super nice days generally are the worst for fishing and vice-versa. 

It was ironic to see all my friends messaging me, asking why I would dare mess with the weather. Well, the pictures speak for themselves. 

Friday, August 25, 2017

Ditto Wildcat Classic: Day One

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Josh and I qualified for the Ditto Classic, which is a two day event. I've always thought that multi-day events were great for the two of us. Give us enough time on the water and we will find some fish. You may recall that we finally started catching fish two weeks ago out of Ditto. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing 8/10/2017


After weeks of the same old thing, we finally got a decent little limit and cashed a check. Not that we should brag because we had donated plenty and the 20-spot we each got was hardly worth the effort. However, we hadn't caught more than five or six fish a trip and suddenly we were catching 20. Of course, there was a small problem: None of them were worth anything. In fact, we were stretching them to get them to measure. Not literally, but you know what I mean.

We know that the best quality of big fish is at the dam. I don't think anyone would debate that. Your chances of catching a five pounder anywhere else from the 65 bridge to the dam is almost like hitting the powerball. But, there are issues with fishing the dam. Of course,  it is current dependent and it fishes really, really small. And, there is no guarentee that they are going to bite. In a short 3 hour tournament, dedicating 30 minutes of run time to get shut out is tough to deal with.

There was really good current. TVA app said they were pushing 34,000 CFS through Guntersville dam, but they had been holding steady for over 12 hours. In addition, the sky was very high and cloudless. All of this, in my opinion, negated the dam bite and told me it would still be tough. 

So, we had a plan. Logic told us that to have a chance on day two, you have to make it to day two. That means having some sort of limit on day one, even if it is a teeny, tiny one. If we could stay in the top five at the end of day one, we would then decide what we would do. After all, someone is going to catch them, or at least that one buckethead that outweighs someone's limit of dinks. 

So, at blast-off, we did we did last tournament. We dropped the trolling motor, eased our way to the little bitty cut of rip-rap and started grinding. While Josh threw a crank, I alternated between the Strike King 5XD and an Alabama rig with Powerteam Lures Swinging Hammers. Neither of us had a hit, so I picked up my shakey head and began working the 7" Tickler. It didn't take long for that to pay off as a fish thumped it and I set the hook. We worked a solid three pounder aboard. That's the kind of start we wanted to see.

However, we didn't get another fish off of our spot and we began hopping around to some old spots. Unfortunately, none of them produced anything other than the occasional 6-inch dink. 

Moving back down river, we began working rip-rap banks in an effort to cover high probability areas. We stumbled upon one spot that had a laydown sticking into current. Josh bagged two keepers in back to back casts. I had hits on back to back casts, but I was probing a laydown and both times the fish wrapped me up in the brush. Both felt like quality bites. The frustration was pretty high for me because bites had come at a premium and I felt like I was experiencing last weekend's tournament on Wilson all over again. If you recall, I felt like I didn't fish clean enough and it cost us. 

We worked the spot over pretty well without another bite, so we decided to grind our first spot for the last hour.

Again, on back to back casts, I had bites. One was a solid hookup, but the fish threw the tickler. The next, I broke off setting the hook. Frustrated with fishing a shakey head at night, I went to the crank, as did Josh.

We did manage to fill out our limit. Josh caught a nice 2-pounder with 12 minutes left. 

Our expectation was that we would be at the bottom of the board, but we were surprised to find out that multiple boats had already pulled out and called it quits. In the end, we are sitting in 4th and we actually won big fish of the night with a 3lb 3oz largemouth. 

Now, the question is...what do we do now? 

There are several ways to look at this. First, we need to assess the current situation. TVA app says they won't be pulling much today. The weather is mild and there isn't a power demand. There is zero chance of rain for the next few days, so TVA is likely not to pull at all. The sky will be mostly sunny. I honestly don't think the dam is going to be worth fishing, but with all the big fish up there, someone catching just one means we are out of winning this thing. 

In all likelihood, it's just going to be a grind, but I really believe we have two spots that we can catch fish on. Is there another 3-plus somewhere? Cause we gonna need one. Can we win with another 7.70 sack? Anything is possible, but again, it won't take much to knock us out. Do we go to the dam and fish for the one big bite? 

I'd like to hear from yall. 

Monday, August 21, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson 8/19/2017

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I know that the vast majority of you read these reports to the info on catching fish and you aren't terribly interesting in my philosophical thoughts and ideas on bass fishing. So, if you are simply here for the where and how, skip to the bottom. If you want to have a thought provoking conversation (and I hope we will, that's why I have a comments section, so use it), then let's have one.

What's a lesson worth to you? Can you put a dollar amount on getting schooled? I can. $80 dollars. While I am not hurting for $80, donating money to your local club or wildcat hurts, even if it's just your pride. But I try to look at things for more than the dollars and cents. Rather, for dollars to sense.

What do I mean? 

Let's cut to the chase. 

Our club was on Wilson Lake this past weekend. You all know how I feel about Wilson. I have had the vast majority of my success and virtually all of my best bags (for what they are, I know) on Wilson. It's versatile in both techniques presented and what you can catch. The lake may be a ten minute run from end to end but it has some of the best large and smallmouth fishing on the Tennessee river. 

While I have had success for over 5 years on Wilson, I have really just started to learn the intricacies of this lake. Specifically, I am speaking about fishing this time of year. 

So I didn't practice any for this tournament. Why? Mostly because I took one trip 2 weeks before and didn't catch anything of value. Mostly because with the water temps and time of year, I knew that to have a legitimate chance to win, you have to fish the dam. While you MAY be able to catch some large fish elsewhere on the lake, you are essentially just looking for a limit and hoping to hit a hail mary. The dam, on the other hand, has the greatest concentration of big fish, but it means hoping for current and contending with that current as well as any other fishermen up there. 

But, this was a three fish tournament, which is about the number of bites I'd expect at the dam. TVA was predicting a 34,000 CFS average, which is a solid number. However, this time of year, TVA won't turn up the juice until around noon or one. Up until that time, they won't generate any current. I also know that on weekends, if there isn't' a demand on the system, they are just as likely NOT to turn on the turbines at all. I was fairly nervous about committing to the dam because Saturday, we had a mild-ish summer. 

Still, we had a plan. Get shallow early and fish some grass with topwater for a quick limit. Then, starting around 10, we would get in line at the dam and grind. We would commit to winning there, no matter what. 

We blasted off and headed to Shoal Creek which has the greatest concentration of grass. Josh began with a buzzbait and I used a Whopper Plopper because I wanted a hybrid bait that would combine buzzbait action with a top water walking plug.

Josh began getting hits immediately, but the fish refused to commit to it. In all, he had five hits but none made it to the boat. I didn't have a single hit on the Plopper. 

The sun rose and the bites stopped. We headed to a deep water point that Josh had caught several fish over three the previous week. Fishing shakey heads with PTL 7" Ticklers, he caught a two pounder. Meanwhile, I could not get fish to connect and when I did get two bites, but broke off on the hookset.

So let me stop there and say this: this time of year, you cannot miss fish. You just can't do it. You must do whatever you can to ensure success, whether that is triple checking knots, constant worrying over weak spots in your line, or letting fish eat your bait. 

We moved to the dam and found ourselves the sole bass boat there. Number nine and ten generators were running, but current was a paltry 13K. Josh fished a crank and I fished a PTL Swinging Hammer. This resulted in lots of drum, but no bass. 

Eventually, one of the best fishermen (and prob the best one on this lake) in our club came up to the dam. He fished for 30 minutes and left, which made me extremely nervous because he knows what he is doing. Eventually we abandoned the dam and ran to some bluffs. It was 11 now and we decided we needed a limit now. 

While we fished the bluffs (around 1230), we heard the siren begin to wail, signifying another turbine was being spun up. In retrospect, we should have quit what we were doing and gone back to the dam. 

Eventually, we put some intel (thanks, Wyatt. I owe you) I had to work and ran to McCarren Creek where we fished the middle of some pockets. After going hours without bites, we boated a trio of fish in the first five minutes. However, only one measured, though we both lost measuring fish. It's ironic that we lost fish because the other partner was currently fighting a fish, after going hours without a bite. 

With about 10 minutes to go, I finally boated a keeper on a C-rig. So, at least we had a limit. 

Naturally, we didn't win. But, the aforementioned fisherman DID win, but not at the dam. Second place, however, was caught at the dam by a good friend of mine. In talking with him, he informed me that exactly what I said would happen, did happen. 

When the siren went off and the current kicked out of number 11 turbine, the fish started biting. When they heard the siren, they got in position. In a matter of minutes, they put together a 10.5 pound limit with a 5.30 kicker in three fish. A very, very solid sack. It was the first time they had cashed a check in this club and I was very proud and happy to see them do it.

However, it meant that I had shared the winning pattern with someone, who had enough faith in me to stick to it, though I didn't have enough faith in myself. And that hurts, a lot. It was an $80 lesson but I believe it will ultimately prove to be priceless.

It's one thing if you haven't been practicing and you don't really have a lake pegged to call an audible or punt on a game plan. It's another when you have fished it a lot and you KNOW how the lake acts this time of year. 

We read magazines all the time about "trust your instincts" and "don't be afraid to try something new" or "call audibles." What you never read about (at least I haven't) is "listen and trust your experience and stick with a game plan you believe in."