Sunday, September 28, 2008

BASSMASTER Weekend Series State Championship

Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata, MN

Finally it's here. When I saw this tournament on the 2008 schedule, it ended up being the deciding factor for fishing this entire series. The weather has been starting to change over from summer to fall. The leaves are changing, the weeds are dying, the water temp along with the air temp is starting to descend, and the bass are leaving their summer haunts and starting to put on their feed bags in preparation for the upcoming winter. Being that "Tonka" is close to my house, I was able to get out there a few times and prefish. The first thing I noticed was that the water had quickly dipped into the high 60's and that the emergent vegetation was starting to back track already. I started by fishing some of my deeper summer areas that had been going good for me months and even weeks earlier. I was catching fish but the size changed from 3, 4, and 5 pounders to 1 and 2 pounders. Worst yet, at times, I wasn't even getting any bites off the structure. I decided right away that these fish were not going to do it for me and began searching for new water for bigger bites.

The day before the tournament, I had found some real good water that had both abundance and quality size. I felt even more confident because I had found some deeper water and some shallow water that were both holding the fish needed to do real well in this tournament. I planned to start focusing shallow and if for some reason the bite slowed I could still put together a good fish out on some of the deeper weeds. I figured this would end up being a junk fishing tournament for me, and I prepared by lining up about 15 or 16 rods ready to go for what ever the day could bring.

Day one of the tournament and I was in the last flight to take off. I was hoping for an early take off as I had a few "solo fish" spots that I wanted to get to right away. It is sort of like sight fishing. I had a few very quality fish that I had pulled on in practice and was very careful not to hook. Being that they were hiding up in some shallow cover be it boat docks, a clump of pads/milfoil, tree laydown, stump or reed patch, I figured that there was a good chance that fish would still be there the morning of the tournament and I wanted to be the first one to them.
I started on a small riprap edge and managed to miss one on my first cast. I headed to a stump that was previously holding a good fish and flipped my jig to it. Almost instantaneously my line started running off to the side and I set the hook....missed again. Frustrated, I continued on with no bites.

After about an hour or so I caught my first keeper, a small 14" largemouth that fell for Swim Jig by Davis (Green Pumpkin). I headed for another riprap shoreline and put two more in the boat. I arrived at a good stretch of boat docks and quickly managed to throw together a quick limit of fish on a 3/8 oz. tru Tungsten Jig. I went back to one of my "solo fish" spots to see if this time anyone was home and instantly was awarded with a solid 4 lb. largie.

At about 11:30, I decided to leave my better areas and head out to some of my backup areas. Being that I had a good limit and that I was only one or two good culls away from a real nice limit, I decided to save my fish for day two. I figured that I could definitely make at least one more good cull, in not two or three, and not risk burning any more good size fish from the water I would go all or nothing from tomorrow. Well, things don't always go as planned and I never made another cull. I weighed in at 11.91 pounds and sat in 13th place. I was a little disappointed in my decision making, looking back, it's easy to say now that I should have given it a little longer and try to get my bag up in the 14 or 15 lb. range before heading out. Although because I left so early I knew that I had the potential to sack a HUGE bag the next day and instead I set my sights on doing just that.

Day two, I drew boat number 11, in the first flight. I drew Dalon Schmidt, and he was sitting in third place on the non boater side. So needless to say we were both looking for big days. At take off I headed straight for a very small milfoil clump that had been producing in practice and managed to swing a solid two pounder in the boat. After a few more pitches to the milfoil I headed over to that same stump that I missed on yesterday, and this time I set on a quality three pounder. I pitched back to the stump and again caught another one but it was only about 13 inches. With three down and two to go, I headed over to a nearby boat slip and managed to fill my limit, with one of them being well over four pounds.

On my way through a long no wake zone, I noticed the wind was pounding in on some reeds and decided to start chunking and 3/8 oz. Amp Lures Musashi Spinnerbait (Sweetfish), and was able to cull out one of my dinks for another three pounders.

I headed out another riprap stretch and started flippin' my Tru Tungsten Jig (Fall Craw), along the steep edges of the rocky shoreline. I caught a couple of shorts and then hooked up with another good three pounder just to have it come off at the boat. In my mind you shouldn't loose a fish when you stick them with a jig. If you hook up they should get in the boat. I was only a hour or two into the tournament, and already had a good bag but that one stung a bit. I fished some pads and docks with nothing. At least nothing for me, my non boater Dalon, couldn't say the same. He had two 12 inch dinks in the boat, when we came across this weed infested jet ski lift. I pitched my jig in there first with no prevail, and then Dalon placed a perfect skip under there with a 7" YUM Dinger and out came a giant 5 to 6 pound largemouth. Unbelievable! He wouldn't eat the jig but took down the senko with no hesitation at all. Of course I wish I had hooked up with that one but it goes to show you that sometimes you need to offer the fish a few different presentations to trigger a strike and if it wasn't for Dalon's perfect skip there would have been no bite at all. Dalon is a real good stick and a great guy to have in the boat with you. I truly couldn't have been happier for him. That put us both with a good limit. I managed to make one more good cull and then time ran out.

Back at weigh in, the buzz, was that over all, the bite was a lot tougher for people and that worked out for both Dalon and myself. I managed to weigh in with a good bag of 15.90 pounds, and with a total two day weight of 27.81, I walked away with seventh place and a five hundred dollar check. Dalon won the non boater side with a good day two bag, anchored down with a hefty 5.6 pound lunker, which was also big bass of the whole tournament. Congrats Dalon!

I managed to finish in second place in the Angler of the Year race. Which is awesome being that this was my first year fishing this series. Next up is the BASSMASTER Weekend Series Regional Championship on Kentucky Lake, near the border on TN and KY. I'll give a full preview on that shortly. Until then I'm spending a little time fun fishing for Fall smallies and hanging with my lovely wife Bri.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Gopher Bass Fall Classic

Lake Waconia, Waconia, MN

I have been looking forward to this year's Fall Classic for quite a while now. It's a true "just for fun" tournament, that has absolutely no meaning except pure bragging rights and of course a few dollars for the top dogs. The name of the game is that you get randomly paired with another member of the Gopher Bassmasters and compete as a team, trying to best the field with the biggest 6 fish limit. Also every member of Gopher votes for a lake that he would like to fish. The top nominations are put to a random draw, with this years pick being Lake Waconia. There is also no prefishing allowed. This posed to be a little difficult being that I have never been to this lake before.

I drew Cody Seiben, a member of our junior club, but don't let that fool you, this kid's one heck of a good stick, with already an impressive tournament resume under his belt. Lucky for me he had been to this lake a couple times in the past and new of some pretty good areas for us to start.

At take off we headed straight to a shallow weedy flat that we thought had to hold some nice Fall time bass. I started by throwing a 3/8 oz. Amp Lures Killa Buzz (Ninja Black) and was quickly rewarded with a quality 15" largemouth. After a dozen or so more casts with the buzzbait with no more bites I picked up a 3/8 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig (Green Pumpkin/Brown), with a 2.75" Yum Chunk (Green Pumpkin) and started fan casting it across the flat. I managed to catch a couple more bass going about 13-14 inches. Cody was pulling a topwater frog across some floating vegetation, when suddenly he was blown up by a big bass that managed to quickly come unbuttoned. I picked up my Scum Frog (Black) and also started throwing it across the veggies and was awarded with another bass about 13 inches. We tried working some boat docks in the area but nothing was going. I came to a nice wind blown section of reeds that sat right off the end of a point and started swimming my jig threw them and managed to catch two more small bass to fill our limit.

We worked some more boat docks and after again no bites, I decided to head for some deeper water in search of some bigger bass to start the culling game. I found a nice point that had a great weedline full of milfoil and coontail and started throwing both a 3/8 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig and a 1/2 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig on the deep weedline in about 8 - 12 feet. Cody and I both got a couple real quality like bites but were unable to hook up. A little frustrated we left and headed back to our weed flat. This time we pulled back in about 5 feet and started throwing everything but the kitchen sink trying to find some good bites. I was throwing a Biovex Amp Shallow Crank (Bluegill) and an Amp Lures Musashi Spinnerbait (Sweetfish), but only managed to catch a couple short fish. Cody started tossing a jig and quickly set into a good fish but again it managed to come loose. Seeing this I grabbed my Tru Tungsten Jig and quickly set on a nice 14" bass culling out our almost 12 incher. Giving up on the reaction bite I started throwing a 7" Berkley Power Worm (Motor Oil) with a 1/4 oz. Tru Tungsten Slip Sinker (Green Pumpkin), and on the very first catch I hooked up on a real nice bass but my line managed to wrap around the tip of my Carrot Stix and the bass came off. I continued to throw the worm for a good half hour but no more takers.

With only ten minutes to go I started aimlessly throwing my Scum Frog to any sort of vegetation that I could see and all off a sudden a real nice bass jumps out at kermit, missing it all together. I put my trolling motor on 100 and got over to the area and started pitching a Berkley Chigger Craw (Black Neon) with a 1/2 oz. Tru Tungsten Flippin' Weight (Black). On the third flip, with only minutes to get back to weigh in, the bass bit, and I flipped in a quality 3 1/2 pound bass into the boat culling out a small 13" bass.

With only minutes to spare, we raced to the weigh in. There were some nice bags weighed in and some not so great, which was expected given there was no pre fishing. The team of Ryan Brant and John Haynes won the tournament with an impressive 6 fish limit weighing 17.82 lbs. Second place went to the team of Dave Cindrich and Jason Elmes with a weight of 15.60, and Cody and I took third place with 13.66 and a much needed pay day!

Next on the agenda is the anxiously awaited BASSMASTER Weekend Series Championship on Lake Minnetonka. This two day event has a lot riding on it. I'm currently sitting in third place in the Angler of the Year points with this one event to go. Also I would like to bank a nice paycheck to take down with me to the Divisional Championship on Kentucky Lake, KY. Not to mention, I spend a lot of time fishing Minnetonka and a good showing would mean a lot to me personally. I'm going against some of Minnesota's best anglers on one of Minnesota's best fisheries, it's setting up to be a great event. I can't wait!!!!

Monday, September 8, 2008

Kairo Douglas: 9/17/2003 - 9/5/2008

Kairo Douglas
9/17/2003 - 9/5/2008

The Rainbow Bridge

When an animal dies that has been especially close to someone here, that pet goes to Rainbow Bridge. There are meadows and hills for all of our special friends so they can run and play together. There is plenty of food and water and sunshine, and our friends are warm and comfortable. All the animals who had been ill and old are restored to health and vigor; those who were hurt or maimed are made whole and strong again, just as we remember them in our dreams of days and times gone by.

The animals are happy and content, except for one small thing: they miss someone very special to them; who had to be left behind. They all run and play together, but the day comes when one suddenly stops and looks into the distance. The bright eyes are intent; the eager body quivers. Suddenly he begins to break away from the group, flying over the green grass, his legs carrying him faster and faster. YOU have been spotted, and when you and your special friend finally meet, you cling together in joyous reunion, never to be parted again. The happy kisses rain upon your face; your hands again caress the beloved head, and you look once more into the trusting eyes of your pet, so long gone from your life but never absent from your heart.

Author Unknown.

Friday, September 5, 2008

MN B.A.S.S Fedration Championship

Mississippi River Pools 4 & 5, Wabasha, MN

I have been anxiously awaiting the start of the Minnesota B.A.S.S. Federation T.O.C. since I saw that it was picked to take place at the Mississippi River, over a year ago. I don't have a lot of experience on this stretch of river, but unlike Spring, I tend to do pretty well this time of year. I made a point to cover a lot of water in the few days we had of practice and be sure to have good stuff in both pools. I was able to find new water that harbored both smallies and largemouths and also found that a lot of the water I had done well on in the past was also still holding good fish. I was real confident heading into the first day and I really felt I had a better than not shot at making the top twelve and qualifying for the Divisional team. This tournament brought a bit of a twist to the table in the fact that it was a no cull style tournament. The state law in Wisconsin states that you may never cull a smaller fish with a larger one and once you establish a fish as a keeper by placing them in your livewell, it has to be weighed in. Since this stretch of river shares water with both Wisconsin and Minnesota that law has to be enforced. Because of that this event was made to be a five fish limit but only the best four would be weighed. That way you could still be able to insure a limit and play a gamble on the fifth fish. Once all five are in the box, there is to be no more fishing. This made things a little tougher but I thought with the size fish I had going in practice that it may actually play out in my favor.

This was a draw style tournament, where partners were randomly selected. All 150 participants were fishing for the same goal, making the top twelve and moving on to Divisional's, and getting a shot at competing in the BASSMASTER Classic. Each person is allowed four hours on the trolling motor to run their water. This was one reason why I made sure to cover a lot of water in practice, so no matter where I was fishing, I would have an idea of what would work in that area.

Day one I drew Nate, from Range Bassmasters, and we both agreed to take my boat for day one. We drew boat number 39 and was first boat out in the third flight. Right at take off we headed straight for the dam and was greeted with a barge. Knowing this would take a while we ran some water that was close, killed some time and after a good hour headed back to the dam. After locking threw, I noticed my boat wasn't spitting any water and my heat gauge was quickly rising. As I began to take off to head to my honey hole, my boat instantly started beeping that it was way to hot and my gauge was going through the roof. Not the start I was looking for. For the next two hours we sat there trying to get the boat to work and was completely unsuccessful. We got on the phone with the tournament director and he sent a car down to pick up my partner so he could go back and get my truck and trailer, so we could tow it back and get into Nate's boat and try to fish for a miracle. After wasting hours and hours we were finally back on the water with a very limited time to catch some fish. With not enough time to head back to my water we fished some stuff that was close by. We both caught some short fish going a bout 13 or so inches, not big enough to cross the 14" line and also managed to miss a couple. Way to quickly time ran out and we both put up a big zero for day one. I was very disappointed to say the least. Back at weigh in, I was made aware by the boys at Mobile Marine Pros that my engine was fixed. They drove all the way down from the Cities to fix my boat to make sure I was on the water the next day. The reason for the break down was a broken impeller key, that would not allow the impeller to spin and pull water through the engine, resulting in overheating. Tough break but all part of the game.

Going into day two, I knew I had no real shot at making the top twelve, instead I put my focus on helping my team, the Gopher Bassmasters and going for the big fish pot, and I also have to admit that I still held out little hope of a Tiger like comeback. I drew Steve from Zumbro Valley Bassmasters and after not having a great first day he agreed to go with me to my water that I was unable to fish the day before. At launch we were held up more than three hours because of fog. Right before we were about to finally take of, I received a call from my wife Bri, that our four year old rottweiller, Kairo, had just took a major turn for the worse. Kairo was diagnosed with Lymphoma cancer about a month prior and wasn't expected to be around much longer. Hearing news like this shattered me. Kairo is much more than just a dog to me, he's my best friend and a son. I knew I had to fish and Bri told me that I just had to go out there, give it my best, and hurry home so I could be with him and the family.

Finally at about 10:15, we took off and I headed straight for the lock, and again was forced to wait for another barge locking through. After about an hour and a half we were through the lock and had arrived in my best area. I didn't take long and I caught a 16" largemouth on a texas rigged Berkley Chigger Craw (black neon) and a 1/2 oz. pegged Tru Tungsten Flippin' Weight (black). After a minute of contemplating, I decided to throw the fish back. I figured I had absolutely nothing to loose. I was working some deep emerged vegetation (pads, arrowhead, elephant ear, and cane). I power fished a Scum Frog (Black) and then would slow it down with the Chigger Craw. I managed to miss a couple good bites and also let a couple bush me in the thick weeds. Then I got one of my best bites yet, and set into a nice fish going all of four pounds, and some how managed to snap my G Loomis GLX in half and eventually lost the fish. Man, let me tell you........ahh never mind, I'll keep this blog clean!

After brushing that one off, Steve and I finally started boating some bass. This time I played more for the team and my sanity and started putting all eligible bass in the livewell. I caught a couple 14.5 inchers and another 16 inch. Then I caught a good 3 pounder. With about five minutes to go before we had to leave for our long ride back to weigh in, I hooked up with another good one about 17 inches but a bit skinny. We luckily made it through the dam without a hitch and had a good ten minutes to make it back to weigh in, when wouldn't you guess, I blew the powerhead in my engine. Are you serious? Some how, Steve and I made it back to the weigh in with only seconds to spare. Steve weighed in at an impressive four fish for 8.06 pounds, and I with 8.63 pounds. Not bad for only getting two or so hours to fish. It was one of the stronger bags brought in that day, but with a zero the first day, I finished with a very disappointing 79th place. I really felt I had a chance to not only qualify for Divisional's but maybe even win the whole thing. I know boat issues are part of the game, but it doesn't make it any less frustrating.

As soon as my boat is back in action, I will be right back at it, looking for some revenge at the BASSMASTER Weekend Series two day event on Lake Minnetonka.

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