Friday, May 26, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing Wildcat 5/25/17

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These posts are always the hardest to make. Oh, you know, the ones where you admit that you don't know what you are doing and you can't catch fish? Yep. Those.

The good news for yall is, this will be relatively short. 

With both the boys done with baseball, my Thursdays have freed up. Ok, so I have to admit that they really aren't freed up. In order for me to be freed up, my wife has to make them all to my daughters softball practices in Athens. I'm sure that is a bit of a headache, so allow me to thank her publicly (doubtful that she will read this). 

Josh had asked me a few weeks ago if I wanted to start fishing the Ditto wildcats again. Well, heck yea! What's better than a Thursday night fishing trip for a few hours? Well, I guess the answer would be a "thursday night catching trip", but I digress.

We were both really hungry to do well because we had done so well in this tournament for two years when we had just started out fishing but have been unable to do anything in the past five years. 

So, we met up with the boys, paid our entry fee, and blasted off. We had decided that the relatively high flow (50,000 CFS) would be perfect for a dam bite, so we made the trip. We started just downriver of the dam to fish some creek points. Wouldn't you know it, we caught a three pounder within the first five minutes. 

Of course, the old brain started recalling how these tournaments typically go: you either catch a big one quick and spend the rest of the time just trying to find four more OR you catch a ton of short fish and spend all night looking for that kicker. Rarely do the two options combine. When they do, you typically win. However, I would take my chances with the former any day. 

Of course, the evening shaped up just as expected. While Josh could get occasional bites on topwater, none hooked up. He lost one at the boat on a crank. Meanwhile, I had one single bite all evening, which did make it to the boat. It came on a swimjig backed by a PTL Swinging Hammer swimbait. We had two fish for around five pounds. 

We hopped around between the dam, the wingwalls, the rip-rap, and some nearby points but simply could not get bit, even though I spent the vast majority of the time finessing a PTL 7" Tickler on a shakey head. The only thing I managed to do was get hung up and lose about five. 

In the end, we had just the two fish and, to be frank, that was about one keeper away from a check. There was a solid 12 pound sack of mixed brownies and bucket heads (though I believe they only had four fish?) and little else in the way of good bags. I believe second was seven and change. 

However, it isn't nearly as bad as it sounds...though it was pretty bad. We had a good day. We didn't lose any expensive lures and we got to hang out with some good dudes.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fishing Report for Logan-Martin 5/20-21/2017

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Logan-Martin has been, by far, the most fun lake each year we have fished it. Now, we only fish it once a year, but we circle it every single year in February when the scheduled is put out. The first two years, I fished it with Josh. Last year, I fished with Brad and we decided to team up again. 

While I've cashed a check in every event we've had on Logan-Martin, it's been more about the experience than the money. We would fish Friday and Saturday and every trip, we would catch a TON of fish including some magnum Coosa river spotted bass. You can read about my first three trips to Logan-Martin by clicking the links below.

As you may notice when reading those three articles, the key to winning (or at least separating yourself from the pack) is to catch largemouth. Sure, you can catch a TON of spots, but rarely are you going to catch one or two over three. Conversely, if you can catch largemouth, even an average largemouth is going to be larger than a big spot. The key last year was catch a limit of good spots and then go to the grass for largemouth. We upgraded three times late last year with largemouth caught on a frog or a swim jig.

So, Brad and I got down to Lakeside Marina around 930 on Friday afternoon. When we dunked the boat, we noticed a plethora of grass growing along the banks of the far side of the creek. Without even firing the big motor up. I pulled out my extra heavy rod with a Spro frog tied on and went to it.

Down the first stretch of grass, I caught four decent largemouth, though none over three pounds. Three were on a frog and the fourth came on the edge of a grass line with a PTL 7" Tickler in Kitchen Sink. 

Trying to add to the pattern, specifically by finding those spots, we began to fish some areas I have had found success on in the past. This included fishing offshore rock piles, boat docks, and sea walls with a collection of baits, but specifically shakey heads with the Ticker and the 5" Sick Stick as well as a few different top water baits like a buzz bait.

We found virtually no success from the hours of 10AM to 5PM. Truly, other than a quick double of short spots that we picked up with shakey heads, we didn't have a single bite until late that afternoon. 

The lone top water bite I had came on a strange and completely random cast across a point where I had seen shad skipping. A very, very nice largemouth swirled the buzzbait and  I failed to set the hook because I believed the fish had missed it. The largemouth shook off the black Strike King buzzbait, but we didn't let it bother us, as we didn't really want to catch four and five pounders in practice anyway. 

Around dark, we began to find success as fish that had been sitting on main creek channel ledges moved shallow. These channels were all within 10 yards of the bank. These fish came from 18-20 feet to feed and we began to get bit reliably. We also caught this....

We went back to the grass to check it and on one of the very first casts, I caught another frog fish, making it five largemouth. 

As we put the boat on the trailer, a local man was casting off the dock. He asked how we did. I told him we struggled to get 10 pounds and they were all in the grass. He remarked that he had caught seven largemouth from the dock, all by flipping a worm into the local grass.

We decided that our game plan would be to start on the spot we started on the previous year. The fish had been tight to a seawall and a combination of buzzbaits had produced a very, very fast limit of spots. 

The next morning, we found that there were over 300 bass boats fishing two different tournaments. We had to use another ramp and we blasted off early to avoid the rush....or so we thought. Turned out, the high school tournament left well before safe light and we found a boat sitting on our spot already. That's the luck of the draw and all, but frustrating. 

Bouncing around, we didn't have the first keeper at 10AM. We had to fish behind a boat or two everywhere we went. So, we decided to go where the rest wouldn't: 20 miles up river. Josh had fished a section of ledges last year and sent me the coordinates. We made the run, though we stopped on a set of rock piles I had fished in years passed. This did get the stink off the boat as Brad caught a couple of short fish on a shakey head, but all of them were short. 

Meanwhile, I had some nice fish blow up on a Lucky Craft Gunfish, but none found the hooks.

Eventually we made the run. Sure enough, there weren't many boats. I guess that was for a good reason. While finding bait and fish was no problem, catching them was. We simply could not get bit. 

Brad had an idea that the fish may be in the center of the smaller creeks off the main channel. That would make sense. I had experienced spots getting low in the creeks during winter months in order to hug the warmth. Getting away from the 87 degree surface temps sure made sense. 

And, catching a nice spot on the first cast sure didn't hurt. Over the next few hours, we did catch four measuring fish off this pattern. This issue? After catching one very quickly, we would spend an hour trying to find another bite, which never came.

The time began to run short on us and we returned down river. After hitting a few spots with no luck, we decided that we would spend the last 30 minutes fishing grass, just hoping that maybe we could catch a kicker and perhaps cull this tiny spot we had.

Sure enough, I got the bite we needed.
We went to weigh in with full knowledge that we weren't going to win with this tiny sack of fish. And, we were correct. 

Now, the interesting thing is, we were a lot closer than we thought. First place was around 7.50. Second place was less than 5 ounces than that. Us? How about a 7.40. That's right. The difference between first and third was less than .10 of a pound. After all that struggling and fighting, we were right there. 

Perhaps the most amazing thing is, we had the biggest spot of the day, a 1.92. That alone shows how tough Logan-Martin was this past weekend, at least for us out of towners. 

I really, really wish we had devoted a bit more time to the the grass. All things considered, all of our bigger fish (Save Brad's bigger spot) were caught on a frog. We only caught around 15-20 fish over the two days and the top five were all largemouth caught on a frog and all within a few hundred yards of the ramp. Could we have fished grass and not gotten another bite? Sure. But one thing is FOR SURE. One more frog bite and we would have won. 

That's the way it goes. One thing is for certain, I won't hex myself next time by telling people how easy Logan-Martin is to fish! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Fishing Report Pickwick 5/4/17

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I think we all know that Mother Nature can make fish do some crazy things. Yes, I know that "my bite died"  or "the fish moved" are some favorite lines for losers at the scales. I, myself, have rolled my eyes many times when I've heard such excuses. 

That's probably why it pains me so much to have said those very words when I was weighing in my fish on Saturday. Don't misunderstand. I had a respectable bag at around 12 pounds. Between my dad and I, we caught around 50 fish. But, none of that was what I was expecting when I wrapped up my prefishing on Wednesday, which included a small club tournament. You can read about last week's tournament by clicking the link below.

Sure, I lost last week but $40 was a small price to pay to learn the lessons I learned. In particular, I learned that doing what no one else is doing can bite you sometimes. While it has done me solid in the past, grinding it out in 30MPH winds and 125,000 CFS got me nothing but a butt-whipping as my 10 pounds was almost half of the 18 pounds the winner weighed.

On Wednesday, Brad and I put in at McFarland and attempted to put the info I had recieved to the test. We went shallow, fishing behind the series of current breaks that began around the end of Seven Mile Island with a combination of texas rigged PowerTeam Lure's 6" Gator and assorted top water. While the top water wasn't hot with the fish, I still caught my first frog fish of the year, so there's that. 

What was hot was that lizard bite. We would get on the downriver side of every island or break in that island and there was at least one three pound fish waiting in every eddy. All we had to do was toss it up into that eddy, drag it down the line, and one would pounce on it. In the end, we had 15 pounds by catching around 30 fish. None of them were over four pounds. We left early and I really thought I could hit 20 pounds. There was no shortage of four pound fish and I just knew there had to be some big fish somewhere. My plan was to work this pattern until the sun got up and then flip the grass for a big momma. 15 pounds was a certainty and 20 pounds was two good fish away.

Now, I conveniently ignored a few things. First, that a cold front was moving in that would drop temperatures by 30 degrees. Secondly, TVA was going to halve the current. Lastly, the water level was going to drop two feet. 

So Saturday rolled around and I was happy to be taking my dad fishing. He hasn't been fishing much in the last few years and I was excited to tell him that not only was I on fish, but we were going to catch him with his favorite technique and lure. 

We ran down to the very end of Seven Mile and get to casting. I caught one on my first cast, but it wasn't in the eddy, it was out on the ledge. Still, I figured maybe the fish followed the bait. But then I realized something: there was no eddy. In fact, there was no current what so ever. Still, I beat the backside of several of the islands and didn't get a bite. 

I moved to the spot where I had caught the most fish and the best quality. This was an island on the little river side of Seven Mile.  Same thing. No current and a lot of water color. More importantly, no bites.

I flipped a lot of grass along with throwing a spinnerbait along the grass lines and frogging the stretches. Nothing. 

The morning came and went and we didn't have the first measuring fish and really hadn't had but a few bites. All of the bites had come from the ledge side of the islands. It took me far to long to come to the conclusion. The combination of weather and water conditions had moved the fish on the ledges. I knew this from equal parts experience that morning, guessing, and about 20 minutes of staring at my depth finder, which practically screamed "there's a school on this ledge!"

We weren't getting bit on the lizard, so I turned to dad and said "I'm going to do something I said I wouldn't do today. In fact, I just about took all this stuff out of the boat." I pulled out my 6-6 medium heavy rod with a 3/8ths ounce shakey head and a Powerteam Lures 7" Tickler

And then it was game on. 

Fish after fish after fish after fish. I had three different stretches were I caught five fish on five casts. There was only one issue: none of them measured. Not a one. 

I dug back in the rod locker for the other rod I said I wouldn't use all day: my AKRods custom cranking rod. Swapping to the Strike King 6XD provided the change we needed immediately. I quickly boated a quartet of measuring fish. None of them big, but at least it was a start. I thought we would surely find a bigger bite eventually. 

That just wasn't the case and after catching almost 40 fish off that one spot, I decided we had to mix it up. I headed down river to where Alyse and I caught some nice fish last week. I told my dad that we would likely get one chance at catching a big fish and it would be a magnum smallie. I angled the boat so that I could dredge the ledge and began drifting. 

Sure enough, I got that bite I needed. I was fighting this pig of a smallie who refused to jump.....until she got to the net. And there the crank went. 

I didn't get any more bites on that strip of rip-rap that faced into the current. We went back to the ledge, caught a few more.

That's when the wind showed up and I knew I didn't want to run back to McFarland when it got worse. In fact, it was bad enough as it was so we pulled up and headed upriver. 

I caught our fifth fish and biggest of the day while drifting down the Seven Mile Island rip rap. We never culled though we did continue to catch fish up until the point that the rollers grew from two feet to five feet in height. We decided to come in early as fighting the 30MPH sustained wind wasn't very fun. 

We didn't have enough for a check. In fact, it took 18 pounds to win, though the weights dropped dramatically. I was ounces out of third place with my 11 and change. I sure wish I knew what everyone else was doing.

But, in the end, me and dad had a great day and losing a little bit of cash.,.....a rod.....a reel.....a whole pack of Trokar hooks, 20 shaky heads and two letters off my boat, was well worth the trip! 

This is the face you make when dad slips and falls onto your rod and snaps it. I'm just glad he's ok. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 4/29/2017

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I have several cliches that I could probably use to describe this past Saturday's tournament on Pickwick. I'll try not to do that because I don't believe in using cliches. 

Ok. So, I'll use one: "All things must come to an end." 

I was on a pretty solid streak of either earning a check or at least having a competitive day in tournaments. In addition, my wife was fishing this club tournament with my on Pickwick and we have done really, really well together. In fact, I don't think we have ever fished a club tournament and not gotten a check.

All of that ended. But don't feel bad for me. We caught a TON of fish, just not enough big ones. 

Maybe I should have prefished. That seems to me important to me. A lot of people are either just better fishermen than I or just luckier. 'Cause I just can't seem to be able to show up and catch fish. 

But, prefishing wasn't in the cards this week because the TVA has been running an asinine amount of current. In fact, they had requested that boaters stay off the water entirely. The water level was up several feet and there was a minimum of 130,000 CFS being pushed through Wilson dam. Due to concerns about flooding around McFarland, we moved our club tournament to Pride Landing. 

Sweet. That would save me some gas, I thought. 

My plan was to fish emerging grass as I had done last year which resulted in a very nice bag of fish for me and Alyse. You can read about that day by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Pickwick 6/18/16

But, I hadn't considering a few things. First, the fact that the water was four feet high would mean that there would be no topped out grass or even sub-surface grass. That wrecked my plans for throwing a chatterbait and a Bullshad. 

Second, that amount of current would likely sweep away any grass on the ledges. 

Last, the rising water would put a lot of new structure under the water, perfect for flipping bushes for largemouth.

But, no, I went to fish grass on the eldges. Mistake. 

That doesn't mean that we didn't catch anything. After my first two spots didn't pan out, Alyse recommended we fish some wind-swept rip-rap. In short order, she bagged a solid 3.75 pound largemouth and had another identical fish come unbuttoned. I managed just one short fish on a PowerTeam Lures 7" Tickler

We moved back up river to a similar wind-swept stretch of rip-rap. Alyse struck quickly with several short smallies on a Strike King Series 3 crank. After one pass, we had caught five or six fish but all were short. 

A second trip down repeated the same results and Alyse finally asked if I was marking any fish. We were sitting in between 18 and 20 feet and casting very, very shallow. I admitted that I hadn't even looked at the graph but that the amount of short fish told me that maybe we were catching fry guarders instead of the big mommas. 

So, I pushed the boat out a little bit and angled it so that I could throw a 6XD while she continued to throw the series three. This resulted in two measuring fish immediately. One was a very nice smallmouth and one was a measuring spot. 

Alyse and I continued to get hits but all the measuring fish we hooked for the rest of the day came unbuttoned. We continued this pattern all day hoping to finish out the limit as we thought it was a tough day for everyone and 12 pounds may win. In between the measuring fish were tons of short fish. We caught a lot of 14 inch fish that just didn't measure. There is no doubt we were on a pile of mixed largemouth, smallmouth, and spots. Just couldn't get the big ones to bit, even when I slowed down and threw a C-rig. 

In the end, we only had three measuring fish. That wasn't enough to be anywhere near the top and I believe I may have finished in dead last, something I am NOT used to doing. 

What was more surprising to me was that everyone else didn't seem to have nearly as tough a day as we did and I am not referring to fighting the current and the oppressive wind. I believe nearly every boat weighed in at least 12 pounds with the winner sacking up 17!  

Oh well. My wife caught her new personal best and we caught a lot of fish! I just wish I hadn't had to pay an entry fee to do it! 

In the end, I only blame myself as I made life as difficult as I could have possibly done. I decided to fish swift current and high wind because I didn't want to do what I believed everyone else was going to do. Truthfully, after failing to limit out quickly, I really should have gone shallow.