Monday, April 27, 2009

Setting Sights on Okoboji

This weekend I will be heading down to Iowa to compete in this year's Okoboji Open, an annual team tournament held on Lake Okoboji. Teaming up with me for this event is my good buddy Ryan Brant. Being that neither one of us has any experience on this body of water we decided to head down for a little pre practice and get and idea of what this lake is all about. Lake Okoboji is actually a chain of lakes located in northwestern Iowa and is known for it's good population of both largemouth and smallmouth bass. West Okoboji is made up of deep rocky structure, while East Okoboji and other lakes in the chain are far more murky and shallow.

Last weekend Ryan and I where met with some very difficult weather that made fishing a little on the tough side. We did manage to catch a couple quality bass though and have a pretty good idea of what we need to do to catch a good sack of money earning fish. The key now is to locate enough of these quality areas to help insure us the fish needed to cash a check.

Over the last few weeks I have managed to get out a few times to Pool 2 on the Mississippi River to do some fun fishing but also prepare for an upcoming club tournament that will be held there in the middle of May. I was really excited when this stretch of the mighty Miss was selected because I had never been there and I knew it held an excellent population of both largemouth and smallmouth bass. Better yet, it's only a 15 minute drive from the front door of my house to the boat ramp. I've been able to locate some good fish, but some days are far better than others. I'm starting to figure out that's just how the river works. I figure if I spend some extra time fishing this stretch of river it will help me get an even better idea of how bass operate on other pools further south. Hopefully this added knowledge will help me to another successful year competing in the Bassmaster Weekend Series MN/WI Division, held solely on none other than the Mississippi River.

Well all for now, I have a lot to get done before I leave town to fish Iowa's Big O. Wish us luck!

Friday, April 10, 2009

Grand Lake, Vinita, Oklahoma

I recently got home from a trip to Oklahoma's, Grand Lake. This was my third time there in the past three years and I have to admit my expectations where real high. Every trip I take to this lake seems to getter better and better and this year couldn't have followed suit any more perfectly. I was joined by a bunch of good buddies Cris Campbell, Jamie Short, and Ryan Brant. Also we were met by two more friends who tugged their Ranger over from Colorado, Chris Beddow and Brandon Jensen.

The first day we awoke to balmy and cloudy weather. When we launched I instantly noticed the water temp in the low 50's and the water wasn't nearly as dirty as last year. Ryan and I started by working from the back of the cove out to the main lake, it didn't take but a few casts and I stuck my first bass, weighing just shy of 5 pounds. Awesome! After catching a couple more good sized fish, Ryan joined in the party by boating a solid 5 1/2. What a nice fish! We where quickly developing a pattern, before we got here the water temp was pushing 60 degrees and the bass where getting prepared to spawn. A cold front moved through the area and knocked the water temp back down, which in return pushed the bass back into a holding pattern, just waiting to move up and spawn. We where able to find most fish off drops in 8 - 15 foot of water, close to spawning areas. Shallow fish where few and far between and high winds kept us off a good majority of the main lake. On our way back in to the cabin, Ryan and I where pretty pumped about the remainder of the trip. We where on fish and good quality ones at that. I decided I would try the same spot that I caught the 5 pounder in the morning. I tossed a 1/2 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig (Peanut Butter and Jelly) to the ledge and as soon as it hit bottom I noticed my line running off to one side. I set the hook and was instantly stopped dead in my tracks, the fight was on and after a not so graceful landing I had a awesome Grand Lake toad in the boat. She weighed in at an astonishing 7 lbs. 13 oz. and after a few pictures I released her back unharmed for another angler to one day enjoy.

Campbell and Shorty also had a good day but found success a little differently than we did. They caught some good ones by cranking Norman crankbaits on secondary points. They said they seemed to hit on the stop and after looking at the proof on Jamie's camera, you could guess that I would have a similar crankbait tied on as well.

The next day the forecast called for a stormy front with lots of rain and much cooler temps. Ryan and I started by following the same pattern that worked so well the day before. We caught a lot of fish but better yet the overall quality was a little better than the day before. Surely we didn't catch any more 7 pounders but pretty much everything was a solid keeper with a few real nice ones as well. The best part was we really got dialed in our pattern and were able to look on our map and jump from spot to spot knowing which areas had the most potential for quality fish.

After the front moved through it left us with cool temps in the 50's and low 60's and bright bluebird skies. It was nice to enjoy the sun after a long Minnesota winter but the fishing got tougher. We still found success with jigs like the Tacklesmith Bronzeback Football Jig, but we also had to employ the skakey head to just barely catch keepers. Ryan and I both had the spinning gear and light line in our hand's for a good majority of the trip. I found success going back and forth between an 1/8 oz. Reaction Innovations Screwed Up Jighead with a 4" Zoom Brush Hog, on a 7' medium heavy action Carrot Stix spinning rod, with a Shimano Sustain and 8lb. Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon and a 1/4 oz. Reaction Innovations Screwed Up Jighead, with a Amp Lures 6" Mimi shakey worm, with a 7'1" medium action G Loomis GLX spinning rod, Shimano Sustain and 10 lb. Gamma Edge Fluorocarbon.

Campbell and Shorty also had to slow down their techniques, they started really catching them good by following our same pattern but instead tossing Berkley Chigger Craws on 1/2 oz. Picasso Shake Down Jigs.

All in all it was a great trip. "Flipping Jigs and Drinkin' Beers" was the motto of the week. We fished hard all day and kicked back at night. I enjoy fishing more than anything, but between guiding, tournament practice, and the tournaments themselves, it's very rare to have a stress free, relaxing and just plain fun trip like this. Although believe me, I can't wait for the next major tournament to come to Grand. Where do I sign up?

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