Monday, April 17, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/15/17

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In my opinion, there is no better way to prepare for a tournament than to fish a tournament. I know that's probably circular reasoning. Let me specify: there is no better way to prepare for an important tournament than fishing one....not so important. Pros do it all the time. It's the perfect way to approach practice without treating it like practice. Sure, it might pad the fruit jar a little more, but it's a very effective way to learn what the fish are doing in a competitive environment.

Our NASA club had a tournament this weekend which was out of Wheeler on First Creek. Next week, we have an Army Cargo Club tournament, which is our bigger club. We would almost certainly be prefishing Saturday, anyway, so we might as well approach it as a dress rehearsal. 

Up until Friday afternoon, I didn't have a partner. Brad did some begging to his wife and obtained a kitchen pass. That sure beat fishing alone! 

In the past few years, practice vs tournament day has been a bug-a-boo on the lower end of Wheeler. We have caught some phenomenal fish in practice, but come tournament day, we couldn't catch any size. 

You can check out the report from the last two years of this tournament and compare.

We were determined to add some spots to our gameplan Saturday. But, of course, we wanted to catch a few at our old spots, just to make sure we were competitive. It has been our experience that you should have at least five spots that you have confidence on. While we had five spots that we had learned over the past two years, all five spots were almost identical, even if they were spread over three miles of river. Experience had said that the size of fish caught off of these spots was the lone difference between them all. One spot seemed to hold at least one big fish every trip while the others would at least provide numbers. One very important thing was common between them all. When the sun came up, they all quit producing. 

It didn't take long to get on the board as I began fan casting across this main river point. While cranking across the shallow flat, I missed three consecutive fish, something that shouldn't be possible with two treble hooks. That was all forgotten, at least momentarily, when I hoisted my first fish of the day, a tank of a smallmouth.

As I went back to casting, I missed several other fish, all of which were in the same class as the one I had just boated. I got good looks at all of these fish as they threw the bait at me. At first, I believed they were just short strikes, but Brad suggested that I take a look at my hooks.

Sure enough, my back hook had two bent prongs and my front hook was less than razor sharp. With the sun beginning to creep up, I tied on a bait that Brad had, as I didn't have any more of the particular crank I was using. That seemed to solve the issue of short strikes as we both landed fish and filled our limit.

Admittedly, everything wasn't so smooth as I managed to make a cast that was about six inches too long, resulting in me having to take a swim to retrieve Brad's bait. Luckily, the water was around 75 and the sun was hot. 

About 8AM, we swapped over from moving baits to shakey heads. We both alternated between the PowerTeam Lures 5" Sick Stick and the 7" Tickler. As previous years had shown us, bites weren't hard to come by, at least for about an hour. At one point, I caught fish on five straight casts, but the size began to plummet. Leaving main river points, we began to fish up the sides of the bluffs. 

Bites were far and few in between with most of the fish being males. 

That wasn't to say there weren't fireworks. I caught two blue cats on the shakey head. For a team looking for just one big bite, the thumps I had on the PTL Pea Heads and worms were just momentary elation.

Eventually, we were forced to expand to new areas, though we should have done it much sooner. Unfortunately, we spent four hours looking for one good bite, as we had two fish that were really solid and three that were dinks. We figured that we really only needed one more big bite to sew things up.

But all the while, I was thinking about the fish I had missed earlier that day. I hoped it wouldn't hurt us, but I also knew that the ten pounds we had weren't going to cut it, no matter how big the club. 

Indeed, it wasn't enough to win, but it was enough to take second and big fish. That being said, the three fish that I saw were enough to take us to at least 13 pounds, which has a realistic chance at getting a check. 

In an effort to understand why the fish quit biting, I took a look at TVA's website. According the lake levels, the discharge from Guntersville was relatively low, in the 11,000 to 17,000 CFS range. The discharge from Wheeler dam was fairly consistent with this flow out of Guntersville until noon. At noon, the discharge doubles, meaning that there was twice as much water being lost as gained. In layman's terms, they began dropping the water level. This is consistent with our fishing success. 

It should also me mentioned that there was a massive Good Friday tournament as well as the Home Builders Association tournament. This is approximately 250 total boats, at least. That assuredly had something to do with the bite on Saturday. 

In the end, we caught around 15 fish with most coming on worms, though another five or so came on plugs.