Monday, April 24, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/22/2017

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It's been an odd, but good, two weeks on Wheeler. Let me's been a profitable two weeks on Wheeler. No, that's not right, either. Ok. So, in terms of TOURNAMENT FISHING, it's been a good two weeks, I guess?

Maybe I should just tell you how it how it's all come together to get me and Brad a second place finish last week and a first place finish this week, despite never really whacking the fish. 

Starting almost two weeks ago, Brad and I began prefshing for our two club tournaments. The smaller of the club would be first, so we already had one our mind that it was a "throw away" tournament. That is, if we won, great. If we lost, at least gather some useful info. 

Starting two years ago, Brad and I had found fish in practice, catching at least one fish over four pounds in each and every trip. In two or three trips, we would exceed 15 pounds, sometimes even hitting 20 pounds. Again, the key words were in practice. Come tournament day, the same thing happened essentially each time. We could catch fish, just no big bites. Most days, that meant a finish outside the money. One occasion, culling up ounces managed to cash a decent check. 

Just for fun, check out the previous two year's April tournaments. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/23/16

Ok, so last Saturday, Brad and I cashed a second place check with big fish. We didn't really learn anything new, despite trying to build on the previous two years. What we did set in stone was that the big smallies were roaming shallow during the first 10 to 20 minutes of the day. We would catch fish on Strike King top water baits. The story of that day wasn't what we caught, but what we didn't. I had enough topwater bites in the first few minutes to have sacked up about 16 pounds of fish. I had three other fish on the hooks that were the same quality as the big fish, but I didn't get them in the boat.

But I didn't. You can read that report by clicking the link below.

I took solace in knowing that I had left the fish there for the bigger club tournament and I really felt like the first 20 minutes could be special.....if I fished clean. But what would we do after the sun came up? Our practice that week, including the previous two years of experience, had told us that the females went deep and the males stayed either shallow or hugged the main channel ledge. 

Ok, so for those of you wanting to know where were were need to really pay attention to that last three words. We were fishing main river points on the main river ledge, but only on one side of the river. Additionally, none of these were major creek points. 

We could essentially catch all the males we wanted to, including the occasional 15" smallmouth, spots, and largemouth. But there was no size among them. 

Knowing that, we spent the middle of last week venturing out and fishing different stuff including a mid-week trip to Ingall's in Decatur where we fished nothing but grass. The only thing to report was that I kicked my Samsung into the water at Ingall's, so if you find an S5 in a white case sitting on the bottom in nine feet of water, well, it's mine. 

Still, even without getting a bite in Decatur, we really felt that the winning bite would be in the grass, even if we managed to get some solid bites early on topwater on those points. That meant looking around Mallard Creek. I'm not claiming to be an expert at anything fishing related, but I will take my chances in grass, especially non-hydrilla, against anyone.

So, Friday afternoon, I rigged up for a combination of deep points and shallow grass. That meant one top water rod, one shakey head rod, and several heavy, fast action rods with braid. 

All that is well and good, but Mother Nature rules all. In this case, she gave us exactly 20 minutes of morning bite before a very nasty storm rolled through the area. Brad and I spent that 20 minutes as best we could and it gave us two of our five keepers on the day, including our big fish. But the entire time, both of us were looking west and our brains were never in the moment. So, the very thing I said I had to do, I didn't do. I didn't fish clean and that meant missing multiple keepers.

The storm brewed on top of us and we decided to run east to Mallard. However, the wind, rain, and rollers kept us from truly outrunning the storm and we found ourselves trapped in Mallard with the bridge in the back as our only shelter as lightening popped. As we hid under there, we ran into some fellow club members whom I consider the best team in the club. They were coming out of the back of the creek as we were coming in. We met under the bridge. They told us they had a limit fishing grass. 

So, when the weather cleared, we went at the grass ourselves, but after an hour of fishing swim jigs, spinnerbaits, and several other techniques, we hadn't a bite. We decided to run back down river to our deeper points.

That resulted in several short fish, a few lost opportunities, and one keeper. At noon, we decided we would take our chances back in the grass as using shakey heads with PowerTeam Lure's Sick Stick and 7" Tickler was not resulting in the bites we needed. 

The later hours of the tournament began creeping by and we still hadn't had a hit in the grass. I could not understand what the other guys were doing that we were not. We tried a multitude of tried and true techniques to get that grass bite, but nothing. 

What I hadn't tried was a frog. Silly, I know. But I also had been called silly for throwing top water on those points this early in the year and it had resulted in plenty of catches thus far. And, the truth is...I have been catching top water fish for over a month. It wasn't really about the top water aspect as much as it was where I could throw it. The swim jig and the spinnerbait couldn't reach the deep, dirty back of the bank where the flotsam and the cat tails resided. 

I chunked a Spro frog all the way to the bank, which seemed like it was 75 yards from where the boat floated. A fish boiled at it and knocked it side ways. I couldn't get it to come back for a repeat bite so I reeled it in, cast it all the way to the bank and slid it into the water when the fish swirled it. I waited until I couldn't see the frog, reeled down, and set the hook. But, I set the hook at the exact moment the fish jumped, leading to a five foot tail walk that ended with the frog coming back at me. In the meantime, the extra juice of the hookset added to her jump gave plenty of air time to see the five-plus pounder go flying back in the drink. 

It was now 1:15 and we had three fish, none over four pounds and a twenty five minute ride to the ramp that did not include the 15 extra minutes to troll out to where the depth was enough to run the big motor. We both kind of knew the score. That was probably it. Hey, I had accepted it. Like I said in February on Smith, it's entirely possible that you might not find fish, no matter how hard you prefish.

On the way out, Brad spotted something that caught his attention: a rip rap bank against the Mallard Creek channel. It wasn't that it looked that interesting, just that after miles of similar banks in Mallard, this one was unique. Being unique was something that we had discussed all afternoon, or rather the lack of uniqueness in the area that may lead to a pile of fish. 

So, as we trolled by, the two of us picked up worms and began probing the bank. My first fast resulted in a very small keeper, but it was number five. Seconds later, Brad noticed his line running to the side and attempted to set the hook on a fish, but the three pounder threw the worm. That was really just perfect, I thought. In the last hour of a very tough day, I had lost a five and he had lost a three that likely would win the tournament. 

Keep your head down. Make another cast. 

As the worm dropped vertically, I found a collection of rocks at the bottom of the creek channel. A fish pecked it. Pecked it again. Then picked it up. I set the hook and fought the fish, which jumped and tail walked, but I had a solid top-of-the-mouth hookset. Brad netted the solid three pound chunk. 

With half my 5" Sick Stick hanging by a thread, I tossed the fish in the box and tossed the worm right back out to the exact same spot.

It was 1:33 when I made that last cast and only two hops of the shakey head into that cast when another fish picked up the bait. I slammed back the 6'6" medium rod and worked another three pound chunk aboard. We threw down our rods, threw the smallest fish back in the drink and hammered down on the Mercury. 

It wasn't a winning sack, it  was barely 10 pounds, but we didn't care. We went from the dumps to a respectable finish, something we could smile about in the weigh-in line. Who knows? Maybe it would get third? 

And, wouldn't you know, was enough to win!