Monday, May 26, 2008

Minnesota Bass Opener - Big Bag Challenge

Minnesota Bass Opener 20+ Challenge, MN Opening Weekend Celebration Challenge, Minnesota Opener Big Bass Challenge, these were just some of the many names that buddy Rich Lindgren and I came up with for the prestigious title to our day on the water. Being that we are both very competitive tournament anglers, it was only necessary for us to come up with some sort of challenge. We decided that instead of making it a head to head competition that we would take on Mother Nature as a team. The challenge was a testy one at that. We set a very lofty goal of our top five bass for a total weight of 20 lbs. We set our sight at a small South metro lake that has a reputation of coughing up some real lunkers.

We arrived at the boat ramp at about 8 a.m. and decided to run some shallow water. Being that it has been a very cold Spring we figured the bass would be in a nice pre spawn mode or possibly even sitting on beds. This posed a nice challenge because living in Minnesota we both don't get to many opportunities to practice catching fish on beds. Usually the spawn is pretty much wrapped up by the time bass opener comes around. After a few casts of a spinnerbait with no success I switched to a weightless texas rigged 4" Bass Pro Shops Tube (Clear), and and started pitching it to any open spots between the thick vegetation. We came across a bed that was sitting behind a boulder. I quickly skipped my tube to the bed and instantly got bit. Unfortunately on the hook set my fluorocarbon leader snapped right at the knot. I decided that I was going to try to use a different set up for the day. Almost always I would throw a weightless tube on a casting outfit, especially when around vegetation, but I thought I would try something new. I see a lot of guys do this and thought maybe I should see for myself what, if any, the benefit was. So far, I see none. Rich spotted the fish that broke my line and commented on how big it was. As I retied my line, Rich took a couple cracks at it with no success. We decided to fish on and come back later in the day. We were on a time crunch and were only giving ourselves 6 hours to boat 20 pounds. No time to mess around on a 4 pounder with a sore lip.

We continued to move water, staying very shallow. We saw a lot of nice bass cruising but quickly found out that if we saw the fish it was to late to catch them. They were very skiddish. We came to a tiny inlet and Rich quickly boated another keeper that went about 2 lbs. Nice fish but not what we needed to fulfill our task at hand. Just after he threw the fish in the livewell he set on a real nice fish, only to loose her at the boat. We definitely were making this hard on ourselves. We knew we were on the right pattern to boat some big ones, but were not going to get there fishing the way we were.

As we continued on, we quickly put together a limit of fish weighing about 9 pounds. Rich was catching his on a 4" Lake Fork Tackle Ring Fry (Green Pumpkin) and I was getting mine on the same Bass Pro Shops Tube. I cast my tube to a nice laydown and as I was quickly reeling in to make another cast a big bass exploded on the bait, missing all together. Rich seeing this quickly pitched the Ring Fry to the ripples and next thing you know has a nice 4 pound fish! Now things are starting to look up. That was perfect team work and we were going to need that kind of action to push the scales past 20. Shortly after that I caught a nice one out of the lily pads that went about 3 pounds. The pads lead to a nice point that met up with all sorts of different vegetation like milfoil, cabbage, pads, and scum. My experience tells me that these types of places hold nice numbers of fish. The good thing was I was right on, the bad thing was I hooked and lost four nice fish in a row. Needless to say this ended my spinning rod extravaganza! I think that the spinning rod is a good bet in open water or rocky areas, but it just proved to not have the muscle in the weeds. I switched to a G Loomis 7' MH IMX casting rod, paired with a Shimano Curado BSF reel, and 15 pound Seaguar Fluorocarbon Line. I also made the change to a texas rigged Lake Fork Ring Fry (Green Pumpkin) and added a Tru Tungsten Force Bead (Black) for just a little added weight. First cast with the new set up and I added another nice 3 pounder to the livewell. You live to learn!

With only a couple hours to go we were sitting pretty good. We had roughly 5 fish for 14 pounds. We continued to catch fish, culling maybe an ounce here and there and then Rich catches a good 'un that was roughly 5 pounds. She was definitely all spawned out but had the mouth of a six pound fish. That was a good cull. Now we were sitting at roughly 17 pounds and were itching to blast a big one and exceed our mark. Further down the stretch and I boated another three pounder to cull away our last two pound fish. Sitting with roughly 18 pounds we decided to hit the main lake and throw some bigger baits for a giant. I started throwing a Basstrix Paddle Tail Tube (Yellow Perch) and a Sumo Frog (Black). Rich busted out a Tru Tungsten Swimbait (Bluegill) and a Ima Shakr Crankbait (Matte Bluegill). To be honest the first 20 minutes were spent admiring the action of the TT Swimbait. It's AWESOME! It even does a 180 when stopped. After we finally got back on track Rich caught a couple on the Ima and I caught one on the Sumo Frog. No takers on the swimbaits. Our total weight was 18.4 pounds. Not a bad sack at all. We were on BIG bite away from hitting that huge goal.

Josh Douglas Rich Lindgren
**From left to right: Myself and Rich with some of our bigger ones

So far this year has been a great one. I have been doing a lot of fishing preparing for upcoming tournaments and have also been staying busy guiding. I will be spending all this weekend practicing for the upcoming Weekend Series tournament held at the Le Homme Dieu Chain of Lakes in Alexandria, MN. I will give a full report of my practice and tournament results as soon as I get back. Here are some pictures showing off some of the giants starting out an already awesome season. If interested in going out on a fully guided bass trip please feel free to contact me

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Mobile Marine Pros "Servicing All Your Boating Needs"

Mobile Marine ProsAs you may have read on an earlier post I had an unfortunate run in with a wing dam on the Mississippi River earlier in the month fishing the St. Jude Bass Classic. It was obvious the prop was shot and that I had a pretty nice chunk of the fiberglass missing from the back, and not to mention a broken skag. What I wasn't sure about was whether my prop shaft was bent. If it was that would lead to a whole lot more repairs that I was hoping I wouldn't have to open the wallet for. I was put in contact with Joe from Mobile Marine Pros. I was able to schedule an appointment for the SAME DAY and best of all he came to my house to inspect the boat. With the price of gas these days it is real nice to not have to load up the boat and haul it to some shop just to have to leave it there until whenever they can find time to get to it. I can not be with out my boat during the season and the guys at Mobile Marine Pros definitely understand that. After inspection it turned out my prop shaft was perfectly fine and we scheduled an appointment to have the fiberglass patched up.

I was so impressed with the convenience, affordability and quality of service that I thought I would share their information:

Mobile Marine Pros

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Gopher B.A.S.S. Federation Club Tournament

Deer Lake, St. Croix Falls, WI

Ahh....Good ol' Deer Lake. Let's just say that I had zero confidence going into this tournament. I had prefished this lake twice and had really no problem catching fish, the problem was catching one that was over 14 inches. As I stated earlier, Wisconsin state law says that a bass must be 14" minimum to keep or in our case even put in the livewell. Trust me, admitting over the internet that in two practice days (eight hours total between the two days) that I couldn't catch a bass over 14" is self degrading on it's own, but I'll let the truth be known.

When John Haynes and I went out to practice we were met with a real bad cold front and lots of wind. We were able to locate small fish on some pretty nice weedy shallow flats. It's obvious that the bigger fish are going to spawn there, but it's just a matter of when. We also spent some time fishing deep points and humps with no success. The one good thing was that 5 minutes before I had to load up my boat on the second practice day, I hooked what seemed to be a real nice fish. I was in about ten foot of water on a nice drop that went from that shallow flat to deeper water. I was using a texas rigged 6" Amp Lures Mimi straight tail hand poured worm (Green Pumpkin), with a 1/16 oz Tru Tungsten sinker pegged about 16" up the line. Unfortunately for me after a pretty nice fight the fish got off. The one good thing though is it was minimum 3.5 pounds. That gave me just a little confidence for the tournament. I figured that I was in the right area and that the bigger fish were staging on those drops in front of the spawning flat. With the weather forecasting 70 degree days and 55 degree nights I figured at worst they would still be staged there or even better that they would have moved up onto the shallow flats and would be putting on their feed bags.

Well wouldn't you know that at tournament time we were met with another post front, high skies, cold temps and a nice stiff wind. I still figured the bass would be on that drop and right away we headed to that location. After about an hour with no bites we moved up onto the flat and I caught a couple small ones again under the 14" mark. After wasting nothing but time we decided to go try our luck on the other side of the lake. During practice we had found this certain bay to be very productive with the little fish and figured we should be able to at least stick a couple 14 inchers. I mean come on a 14" bass isn't that big. It isn't like I'm asking for a five pounder or anything! We arrived in our bay and found that there were numerous other bass boats from the tourney fishing in there. We decided to give it a try anyway. Wouldn't you know, again we had no problem catching fish but what does a guy have to do to get it over 14"? I was catching them like crazy on a texas rigged Reaction Innovations 4" Flirt with a pegged 1/16 oz. Tru Tungsten sinker.

With only a 4 hours to go in the tournament I decided to go hit some docks. We pulled into a nice stretch close to where I had lost that bigger one during practice. I figured with the sun getting brighter later in the day the bass would hold under the docks. On the very first dock I had a nice bite and missed. Second dock, same thing. Then on the third dock, I had a great bite, set the hook into what finally felt like a real nice fish, she bullnosed, wrapped me around the dock post and was gone. That hurt. We fished out the rest of the docks on that stretch with no success. The only good thing that came from that was the fact that we found fish and they could be caught under boat docks. We decided to go into a real small bay that had a few nice pontoon boats and was loaded with docks. On the very first dock I finally caught a nice one on a 1/4 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig (Watermelon) with a 2.75" Gander Mountain Chunk (Green Pumpkin). I headed down to the next dock and pitched the jig all around the dock. A few pitches and I got another nice bite, I set the hook hard and my 20 lb. Fluorocarbon snapped inside my reel. Are you serious! That has happened to me only a few times in my life and now it happens during the last hour of a tournament. I guess that is just the way the day was going to go.

At the end of the day I found myself weighing in one fish for 2.5 pounds. Oddly enough still good enough for a ninth place finish out of 22 boats. I guess it was a tough bite for everyone, 16 people either caught one fish or blanked completely. Ryan Brant won the tournament with four fish and a total weight of 9 pounds. On the ride home I couldn't help but think of what could have been had I landed a few of those nicer fish. The fact that I didn't fish well at all mixed with a tough bite and I guess I ended up right where I should be. I have some real big tournaments coming up, one of which is the BASSMASTER Weekend Series on the Le Homme Dieu chain of lakes. I plan on using this as motivation to do real well there and the rest of the season. From here on out it's fishing, fishing, fishing! I have a lot of homework to do to prepare myself for the upcoming season and one thing I know for certain is you can't expect to do well if you don't give the effort. There will always be bad days on the water, but with the right frame of mind, I can definitely out number my bad days with good ones!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Gopher B.A.S.S. Federation Club Tournament

Bone Lake, Luck, WI

Today was the first tournament of the 2008 Gopher Bassmaster B.A.S.S. Federation season. Our first tournament was held on Bone Lake in Luck, WI. Bone is known for it's excellent muskie fishing but also has a very good bass population as well. I had prefished this lake on Wednesday with new Gopher member Matt and we did pretty well. I had found an area that was holding some nice fish around the three pound range holding up under boat docks. I was pitching a 3/8 oz Tru Tungsten Jig (Green Pumpkin Brown), with a 2.75" Yum Chunk (Green Pumpkin) into all the small areas within the dock. After setting on a few nice ones I continued to run that area and pulled on what felt to be some real quality fish. I tried to get this pattern to hold up all over the luck but only managed to get minimal success. It was something about this area, I'm thinking it had a lot to do with that it was on a semi flat with some nice early vegetation coming up, but more importantly the bottom was made up of pea gravel. We also were able to find a couple nice early weedlines that were holding fish, although none that we caught were over 15 inches, however there were numbers of fish holding up there.

Right at take off I decided I would go straight to my set of decks. It didn't take two skips and I set on pretty nice 15 1/2 inch largemouth. Decision time. Tournament rules in the state of Wisconsin is that a bass has to be at least 14" to keep and there is no culling allowed. Which meant I had to gamble. Throw the bass back and gamble that I'll catch bigger and possibly risk catching not another one? I opted to put the first one in the box and get the skunk out of the boat. Two flips later and I set the hook on what appeared to be a HOG! 10 seconds later and a nice 40" muskie surfaced from under a dock. Pretty cool but not the right kind. He was still fun though. As the morning went on I was having no problem catching bass, the only problem was their size. Since I was catching so many I kept throwing them back banking on that I was going to catch some bigger ones. I even threw back one that was just over 16". As noon passed I started to get antsy and started keeping anything over 14" to make sure I still came in with a nice limit.

As the afternoon wore on I decided I would try to work my deeper weedline to see if maybe the bigger ones that I was catching in practice had decided to move out a bit. Again it was quantity over quality though. On the weedline I was having most of my bites come on reaction style baits. I caught a few on a Strike King Red Eye Shad (Bluegill), but most of my fish fell victim to the Amp Lures Midshooter (Bluegill) or a Amp Lures 3/8 oz. Musashi Spinnerbait (Sweetfish). The funny thing was that I also caught another muskie over 40" on the Musashi Spinnerbait as well. And they say the muskie is the fish of 10,000 casts!

At the end of the day I weighed in four fish for 8.7 pounds. Keep in mind the tournament had a four fish limit. My weight was good enough for seventh place. I was definitely hoping to start out the season with a little better finish but all in all I was happy. I fished real well but I just never got the big bites I needed. My next tournament is at Deer Lake, hopefully I'll get those big bites there!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

10th Annual St. Jude Bass Classic - Day 2

Mississippi River Pool 4 & 5, Wabasha, MN

After making all the wrong decisions on Day One of the tournament, Ryan and I decided we would let the weather dictate our pattern for Sunday. If the wind would allow us we would head for Pepin and try to cash in on the good sized smallies that we had patterned in practice. If the wind was blowing and again making Pepin impossible to fish than we would head South to Pool 5 , lock thru and fish for the nice smallies we had found a week earlier in practice and possibly get a nice largemouth to boot.

At take off we decided that with the cold temps (high 30's), the relatively light wind, and the high bluebird skies, that we would once again venture north to Lake Pepin. Decision making is extremely important on this body of water. The winds seem to turn on and off within seconds. Making a decision to either go North to Pepin or South to Pool 5 so critical because there really isn't any turning back. The amount of time it would take to get to our fishing holes on the North end of Pepin is about twenty minutes at 65 mph in perfect conditions. If the wind picks up it could take at least 45 minutes. If you get all the way up there and find that your areas are completely washed out it would take more than and hour to run all the way back down river to Pool 5, lock through the damn, and get to your fishing areas. Than take your drive time back, again through the damn for weigh in, and you can waste at least half of your day driving and not fishing.

We arrived on our spots on Pepin and were pleasantly surprised that are areas were very fishable. The only problem was we couldn't catch anything. We decided to work a couple nice underwater points very slowly, we did get bites but the only fish boated were to small to keep. There is a 14 inch minimum on this stretch of river and I'll tell you they are always 13 1/2 when you really need a fish. After spending half the day on Pepin with no success we decided to head back to the river and fish the backwaters of Pool 4 and try to get a limit of largemouths. WIth only a few hours to go, no fish in the livewell, we arrived in a pretty nice looking area. Ryan got a couple bites early, some that missed and some that broke off. Not really sure whether they were bass or northern pike, it was still incentive enough to continue to fish hard through the area. We were both flippin' light weighted tubes with rattles, 1/8 oz., into the grass around the current. With about 45 minutes to go I finally boated a descent largemouth, about 16 inches. Than two flips later I got bit again, but as luck would have it, the fish came unbuttoned. At this point it didn't surprise me.

Back at weigh in there were teams who did have big sacks and there were a lot of zeros. With the unseasonably cold weather we were having it appears that the smallmouths were still in big groups and if you could find them you could catch them all day. After the weigh in was over it appeared that all the teams that did real well were fishing mild current in the cuts off the main river of Pool 5. That's were the biggest schools of smallies seemed to be staging. After the tournament I couldn't help but think what if we never would have had such luck on Pepin on the last day of practice. We probably never would have headed that way at all. Although that's what I mean when I say decision making is so critical in bass tournaments. Could a, should a , would a, does not cash paychecks, although they are a great learning lessons.

Needless to say after this tournament I can't wait to head out to Wisconsin and start preparing for a couple of club tournaments on Bone and Deer Lake. Happy Fishing!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

10th Annual St. Jude Bass Classic - Day 1

Mississippi River Pools 4 & 5, Wabasha, MN

Talk about a weekend to put behind me. I woke up real early on Friday morning to get down to Wabasha by 6 am and awoke to temps in the mid 30's with sleet. I headed down to the mighty Mississippi and found it was mighty indeed. The waves were starting to pick up on Lake Pepin and the current was blazing on the main river. Historically this time of year I have never done that well on this stretch of the river. Knowing this I made sure to spend an ample amount of time trying to prepare for this event. The weeks before the tournament I spent my time everywhere from the backwater sloughs, the shoots on the main river, and the main river itself. All the while I was never able to put together a confident pattern. Water temps have been extremely cold (40's and very low 50's), so I spent most of my time working areas slow with tubes, jigs, and rattle trap style baits. I never caught many fish during practice and when I did there was no rhyme or reason to why I caught them. They were real scattered.

So once I arrived to Wabasha on Friday morning I decided since I wasn't having any luck on the main river that I would spend the majority of the day fishing Pool 4, mainly Lake Pepin. After running lots of water, my tournament partner Ryan and I were able to put together the best pattern yet! We were concentrating on small points and underwater points, as well as marina's and we were throwing jerkbaits with some nice success. I was throwing a Lucky Craft Pointer (chartreuse Shad) and Ryan was throwing a Husky Jerk, the biggest one I caught was just over four pounds. We decide instead of fishing and actually hooking the fish we would search for good looking water and waypoint our spots to my Lowrance units so we could more efficiently run our water during the actual tournament. After doing this we decided to check a couple of backup spots and get of the water so we could fill up the boat, register, and get our tackle ready for the next day. Our main plan was to attack Pepin in the morning, get our limit of smallmouth and then head to the river and look for a couple nice kicker fish in the afternoon, once the backwater warmed up a bit.

Little did we know we woke up Saturday morning to a horrible cold front, lots of rain and heavy winds. Being that we were both inexperienced on this body of water we decided to stick to our game plan. That would end up being our biggest mistake. Once we hit the mouth of Lake Pepin we were met with four foot rollers, not the most ideal conditions when we needed to get about twenty miles up lake. Lake Pepin is a monster in the fact that when the wind is howling there is no place to hide to get out of it. We arrived to our first and best area and saw that it was completely washed out. We attempted to fish it but only beat ourselves up in the process. The water was coming over the bow of the boat, and the trolling motor kept coming out of the water so we were mainly at the mercy of the waves. Luckily for us as I worked on just controlling the boat Ryan was able to catch a nice three pound smallmouth.

After wasting way to much time on the lake, with only one fish in the livewell we decided to head to the river. We hit one of our better spots we had in the river and Ryan flips a 4 pound largemouth into the boat! That was huge! With three hours to go all we have to do is get a few more bites and we should be doing real well. When it rains it pours. My trolling motor batteries started to die. After spending so much time on the lake dealing with those massive waves I hardly had any juice left. Which meant we had to get out of the current to insure we could continue to fish. We fished some marinas with no success and then decided to check some of the way backwater areas where the current should be minimal and the water temps should be rising. Getting to these backwater areas can be hazardous though. This time of year the river is in a flood stage and you never really know what's safe and what's not. A lot of times you just need to get up on plane and say a prayer. Well remember when I said it when it rains it pours? Well after getting all the way back there, not catching any keepers, we had to make it back to weigh in. With 15 minutes to go I was idling out from under a bridge and CRUNCH, I hit some rocks. Not good. Can this day be any better? After weighing in on day one we were at 7.16 pounds and way out of contention. It was either hit or miss for the rest of the field as well. Either you had a HUGE sack or you were in the bottom looking way up. After loading up my boat we checked out the damage, broke of a chunk of the skag, bent back to blades on the prop, and cracked some of the fiberglass on the bottom of the boat. Hopefully all is still in tact with my prop shaft and lower unit.

After the weigh in we attended the benefit dinner put on at Slippery's bar and grill, and also listened to a benefit put on by the St. Jude organization. I can't tell how touching it really was. I quickly realized how lucky I am to be able to do what I enjoy and there are kids out there that may never get that chance. It puts a guy in his place in a quick hurry and I remembered exactly why I was there. It was great to hear how our donations go out to help thousands of kids, so that God willing one day they will get the opportunity to case their dreams. Going to bed that night everything didn't seem so bad. The boat will be fixed, hopefully the fishing will be better, but we were all fishing for a great cause and that's all that really matters.

Ryan and I were able to raise over $1,900 dollars for the St. Jude's Children Hospital, and together as a group the tournament brought in over $120,000 dollars. I would like to thank everyone who donated to such a wonderful cause! Check back soon as I will update our second day of the tournament.

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