Monday, September 20, 2010

Denny's Super 30 Shootout

Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata, MN

Two for two! Corey, Ryan and myself again manage to make the Denny's Super 30 Shootout this year and a bit more convincing than the year prior. Last year was our first year fishing the Denny's and somehow made a late season push and snuck in the backdoor taking the final spot and rode that to a 3rd place finish in the Shootout. This year consistency was on our side and we rode it to a 9th place overall seeding. We never made it rain but we never got blown out either, in fact we were really only one fish out of the high end paychecks in all but maybe one tourney.

Hopefully this would be our time to shine and up for the task was Corey and myself. The bite had been tough in the days leading up to today though practice we managed enough good bites to think we were on them well enough.

Unfortunately for the two of us things started out slow and worse yet, it never really got better. I broke off on two that probably would have helped and did manage to catch a couple good ones but we never really got the bites we needed to even come close.

In the end, we finished in 12th place, a far cry from what was needed to win. By far Corey and I's worse day on Tonka all year. Even if I could have a mulligan, I still don't know what I would have done differently. Probably nothing. We were around good fish but sometimes things just don't pan out. It's frustrating but Tonka overall was very good to us this year and we're really looking forward to our third year, we're figuring this beast out and catching them all seasons. Hopefully we can notch our first Denny's win in 2011!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Denny's Super 30

Lake Minnetonka, Wayzata, MN

Going into this event Corey and I found ourselves in a very good spot, we were sitting 8th overall in the points and today was the last event before the end of the year shootout. The top 14 qualify for postseason play and we had a pretty good lead over the 15th place team so barring some catastrophic setback, we were pretty confident we were in. Though of course we wanted more, we really wanted to claim our first Denny's win and throughout practice we got enough bites to give us that extra shot of confidence.

Tournament morning started slow but we managed a small limit relatively easy. Early afternoon things got a bit better when I was able to boat three close to three pound largemouth and Corey really gave us a shot when he yanked a 3 pound and an almost 5 pound largemouth.

Now with still about roughly four hours to go we were sitting with around 20 pounds but still had three babies (12") in the boat. Still 4 hours on Tonka to cull out 3 rats? Easy! Right? Well I don't think we ever made another cull the rest of the day. Signs of a tough day, I guess.

We weighed in with just shy of 20 pounds good enough for 10th place and finished in 9th overall in the team of the year standings. Hopefully our bite gets a bit better before the Shootout next week!

Even more importantly, I'd like to wish my beautiful wife Bri a Happy Anniversary! 5 awesome years of marriage to the most perfect wife in the world. Besides how many women understand when their man fishes a bass tournament on their anniversary? Just one of the many reasons she's the best! Love you Baby!

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Silverado Pro Tour

Horseshoe Chain, Cold Spring, MN

This entry is a hard one for me to write about, so much that I felt I needed to wait until some of my feelings inside developed and digested before I wrote it out. I realize that I write this blog for the public to view but first and foremost it's a personal diary for me, something that I'll be able to refer back to and remember both the good and bad trials in my pursuit of professional bass fishing. To some, these entries may not seem like much more than me promoting myself for personal gain. To me, these entries are the product of mine and my families hard work and dedication to a sport I cherish and love more than almost anything else in the world.

Going into this tournament, this venue was one I was excited for since I first saw it was included on the tour schedule. I had never even been on the chain before but from what I had heard, I knew it would fit my style better than any other body of water we were going to be fishing all year. First off, it's a river system and this section of the Sauk River houses both smallmouth and largemouth bass. The chain is known for it's stained water and abundance of shallow cover that lines it's banks. It also has an abundance of rock, some of which is out deeper forming nice structure and others up shallow mostly in the form of riprap banks.

There was also some added pressure because of poor performance's in the first three stops I needed to win this event to qualify for the post season Tournament of Champions held on Lake Minnetonka were a brand new, fully loaded Ranger bass boat was on the line. Being a part of this post season event meant a lot to me, in fact it was the sole reason I chose the Silverado over other tournament trails. I consider Lake Minnetonka my home water and the opportunity to win a new boat there would mean the world to me.

Throughout practice I was able to build some confidence in multiple different areas targeting largemouth but was concerned by the lack of smallmouth catching. It wasn't until my final day of practice that I really put in the effort on locating some brown fish. This was partly on purpose because this year smallmouth have really burnt me in the Silverado. Usually I prefer to chase them but after getting punked by them in the last two stops, I wasn't exactly eager to count on them in a tournament that had so much on the line.

I was able to get my Am partner Lance out for the final day of practice and in the morning we ran around so I could show him what I was planning to fish the next day so he'd have a good idea of what to expect. Every now and then we'd stop and fish some new water and try to find a couple more things that could give us that push and assist in a much needed win. On one of these such stops, Lance fired a spinnerbait and wouldn't you know it he catches an easy 5 pound smallie. I turned around and fired my crankbait to the same area and landed a solid 2 1/2 pound smallie. This was an extra shot of confidence because this spot was out of the way and I was very confident not many people knew it existed. This way I could leave it until later in the day and hopefully make a few key culls once my largemouth bite slowed down a bit.

I ran a few more areas that I thought may hold some smallies and was able to catch a few, nothing huge but worth the stop. I had found a couple riprap areas and a few deep rock spots as well.

After a late boat draw, I started on a spot that transitioned from riprap to sand. After a few casts with a crankbait I put the first fish in the box, a 15" largemouth. I then ran some of my spots were I had pulled on some fish and couldn't buy a bite. After a couple hours with only 1 bass in the box I decided it was time to get to the smallies and see if they were going to actually cooperate with me.

I approached my first spot and noticed it was getting pounded by the wind. I made a few casts with the crankbait and caught 2 keeper largemouth's right away, only going about 13" each. I switch to a carolina rig and after a few short strikes I landed a quality 3 pound smallmouth. A cast later and Lance boats a 2 pound smallmouth. Everything was rolling in the right direction when I got another bite, I set the hook and instantly knew I was in trouble as there was to much slack left in the line and before I could adjust I watched a doozer smallmouth jump 3 feet in the air and throw my bait. That hurt but I was able to somewhat shrug it off and after a few more casts with no takers I decided it was time to head out and let that area simmer.

My next area was a riprap bank and it only took three casts with my crankbait and I was hooked up with a huge 4 plus pound smallie. I noticed right away I only had her with the back treble and did an excellent job thumb spooling her and when she was wore down we went in with the net and somehow managed to get the front treble caught in the net and in no time the smallie sprung loose. Ouch, that one really hurt and after visually watching two real nice fish get away I couldn't help but feel it mentally. I knew this chain of lakes was going to fish tough and that big bites had to be capitalized on and I couldn't help but have that awful feeling in my stomach.

Still I tried to stay positive but as the day wore on my bite got worse and worse and I couldn't seem to get a single largemouth to bite. I decided to go back to my riprap spot and after a few casts again hooked up with a bruiser of a smallmouth and after a very short fight wouldn't you guess, she got off. I checked my crankbait and was just ill when I saw that one of the hooks on the back treble bent out. Insane!

Now still one bass short of a limit, I went into full out panic mode. I knew I was still in it but really wanted to get a limit and after about an hour I finally boated our limit fish on a 3/8 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig. The 13" largemouth came on a laydown in about 2 feet of water and after fishing the rest of that bank with no more bites I decided I better head to one last spot before time ran out and hope for a hail mary.

After a few casts with a crankbait God himself answered and again I was hooked up with another 4 plus pound smallmouth. I worked liked crazy to keep that fish on and just as the net came in it was like deja vu, the net caught the treble on my crankbait and before my eyes I watched yet another bruiser come off at the boat. I truly felt like I was going to vomit. It was the most disheartening feeling I have ever had in all my days of bass fishing. I knew that I had the tournament all but won and some how managed to throw it all away.

This way of thinking came to a quick reality when I arrived at weigh in and found that most the field failed to come in with limits. I weighed in a limit of bass for 10.2 pounds and took a disappointing 16th place, 5 pounds shy of the winning weight.

I've had dropped fish cost me money in tournaments and possibly even a win or two, but never have I had it so obvious to myself and in such a big event. I knew what I had to accomplish and put myself in position to do just that, just to finish in such a gut wrenching way. Sure I left 8 grand on the table and even worse left what could have been my spot in the TOC, but none of that hurt as much as the feeling of knowing what I had to do, being right there and watching it all vanish. In my little world, I'm sure it's the equivalent of fumbling the football on the goal line with only seconds left in the end of the fourth quarter, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.

I waited for all these thoughts to calm in my head before writing this because I now have a better appreciation for the outcome. Sure it eats me like none other but it's all part of the game and may not even be the last time it happens. This is probably one of the reasons I fish competitively instead of for the simple fun of it. I'm definitely not the only one that can say they had it and then lost it, in fact everyone of my idols in the sport can say the same. Instead of sitting and feeling bad for myself and my misfortune, I'll instead use this as a motivator. I proved to myself that I could have and maybe even should have won this event, with just a little luck or better execution I could have done exactly what I set out to do against the best Minnesota has to offer.

With all this said, I want to send out a special congratulations to my very good friend and team tournament partner Ryan Brant for besting the field and notching his first big win. I always said to him for the past 3 years we've been fishing together, if I can't win it, I hope he does. Well congrats man, you deserve it! Hat's off Brant!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Smashing 'Em!

The past couple weeks between tournaments, I've been out putting in work doing guide trips and testing new sponsor products. One of my favorite things to do when out doing this is to practice and sharpen my skills. There's a few examples of this and I'm a firm believer that anything I can do to better myself and my fishing will eventually payoff when the money's on the line.

One is always to be looking for new water. This has got to be one, if not the best way to become a better fisherman. This is a skill that the best have and it shows by continued success at the scales. Bottom line is fish move and you need to be able to move with them. Sure we all have spots that seem to always produce no matter the time of year but that's very rare. Usually you need to be able to follow the fish as they transition through the seasons. Every time I'm on the water I attempt to find something new or learn something about what the fish are relating to. Even if the lake your on isn't a big tournament lake, it teaches you to always keep an open mind and how to fish different types of water.

This brings me to my next point. When I'm out on the water and I'm not practicing for a tournament, I try to use baits and styles of retrieve that I don't have much confidence in. Sometimes I'll use baits that I do have confidence in to find fish holding areas but then try to switch baits and see if I can trigger them to bite. This is what builds confidence in new tactics and makes me more of a well rounded angler.

The past week or so I've had the opportunity to do just that and let me tell you the end reward is far more satisfying then accomplishing the norm. Recently I had a guide trip, I had decided I would meet the client in the city he was staying and fish a lake that is right within minutes of his hotel room.

I had been to this lake before but very rarely ever this time of year and if I was we basically just threw frogs at all the abundant vegetation that makes up this lake. This is a solid pattern on this body of water but it is also the most obvious.

I had been getting bit on lakes in the area fishing deeper and thought that if I could find some nice deep structure I could provide some awesome fishing for my client. I was very happy when after about a whole 5 minutes of Humminbird Side Imaging work along with studying my Navionics Mapping Chip, I located a nice point that had some scattered hard bottom along with some patchy weeds. The target area itself sat in about 14 feet of water. On my first cast with a hand tied 1/2 oz. Picasso Football Jig I landed a chunky 5.6 pound largemouth bass. Awesome!

My client and I went about 4 for 4 each on consecutive casts after that both catching bass no smaller than 3 pounds. Already a good trip and we haven't been on the water for more than 15 minutes!

I continued this pattern around the lake and located 6 or 7 different spots that all had some of these similarities and also had the same end result. We boated giant after giant in what finished out as one of the best outings I had all year. No joke, we boated a 6 pounder, multiple 5 and 4 pounders and our fair share of 3's. In fact, I don't think we caught but 1 that went under 3 and all came on some of my favorite baits, a football jig and an Outkast Tackle jigworm. The kicker was we ended up spending about 2 hours frog fishing the slop without a single blow up. Huh? Things to think about.

Leaving I was obviously excited. I had provided an awesome experience for someone and also got to jack up on some toads. Even better I had challenged myself to find something new and the result was overly rewarding. Still though the competitor in me wanted more so 5 days later I was right back there with a buddy to do some sponsor photos with the many big bass that where available for the picking.

My confidence level was through the roof, I mean these fish were really making it easy on me. I was throwing baits that I have nothing but confidence on, in areas that gave me more confidence then I knew what to do with. We only had 4 hours to fish as my buddy had to be to the Minneapolis Airport by noon. 4 hours? No problem!

I took my buddy to the first spot and gave him the quick rundown, handed him a Picasso Football Jig and told him the technique. I thought I'd just sit back, tie up a couple rods that I was going to need for an upcoming tournament and get ready with the camera. After about 1o minutes with nothing I decided it was time to get up and show him how it's done. Nothing. Not a bite. OK, OK hold up here. This is a fluke, I mean they were jumping in the boat days ago here, they gotta be at the next spot.

Well after about 2 hours without a bite, my confidence went way down and the new word to describe me would be embarrassed and humbled. Maybe now it's time to revert back to old faithful and get to the slop with ole' Kermie.

After about another hour of no bites, no hook sets and just a whole lot of talking, I figured we needed to get back out to the main lake, they had to be there now. We worked all these spots on the way back to the boat ramp and continued to throw the jigworm and football jigs and couldn't buy a bite. Now I was going from the outing of the year to the first skunk in the past 3 years! Unbelievable!!

On our very last stop, which was also our very first stop this morning, I was accepting defeat. I mean I couldn't get a bite on spots that where holding giant sacks just days ago and I was throwing baits that I had nothing but confidence throwing. As I was putting my rods and tackle away I saw my new bag of Biovex Deep Runner Crankbaits. This ate at me even worse because I was hoping to get to use these and catch a few nice bass with them so I could send some quality pictures back to Biovex.

Deep cranking is not a strong suit for me, in fact it's probably the worst technique in my repertoire. I just never had much success with it and really never tried to hard to make it work. Just always kind of had the impression that if they'll bite a deep crankbait, they'll definitely bite my jig, carolina rig or worse case a shakey head. Even though I knew this was a invalid and biased opinion some habits are just to hard to break.

With only 10 minutes left before we had to load up and bail out, I decided to tie one up and see how they run. They are a brand new bait released by Biovex and look absolutely amazing, I'm sure they run even better than they look. I took my first cast and had to make just a slight tweak to the line tie and had it running perfect. The bait got down quick and ran nice and tight without to much drag which results in less fatigue to the angler. It took me another cast or two to find the hard spot and about on my third cast I was grinding the plug into the bottom right through the strike zone. Just as I was thinking how cool it would be to one day find this crankin' bite and 'WHAM", my rod loads up on a giant 5+ pound largemouth. That was insane and extremely addicting! I was grinding the Deep Runner over the rocks and the fish just inhaled the bait.

After a couple pictures I released the fish and was immediately overwhelmed with happiness because that was probably the first true deep crank lunker bass I've ever caught. I thought I may have activated the school and maybe now I could catch another one and we both started throwing our football jigs and Carolina Rigs, and yet again, nothing. Just then I started thinking it must have been just one solo fish that happened to show up right as my plug came ripping through. Curious I picked up the crankbait and chucked it back across the point and wouldn't you know it, as soon as it hit the bottom I was instantly whacked and again boated another lunker going an easy 4 pounds. On my next 5 casts with the Biovex Deep Runner I went 4 for 5, all going over 3 pounds. Now if that's not an eye opener I don't know what is!

Unfortunately for the both of us we had to get off the water but again similar to 5 days ago when I was leaving this lake I had a smile on my face. Sure we struggled hard, really hard for 95% of our outing, but the last 5% will never be forgotten. One, I now have a ton of confidence in a bait that before just got tucked into the bottom of my boat and two, found that it can be a better option than good old faithful. Those fish didn't just show up that last 10 mnutes, they were there the whole time and just had no interest in what I had to offer. They were on a reaction bite and wasn't fooled by the old ball and chain or by dragging a big jig. Again, even though I knew this to be true, I mean there's a reason crankers like Kevin VanDam have made millions on top of millions throwing this bait, sometimes the only way to truly buy into it is to actually accomplish it. Good for me, once again I had reason to have a smile on my face! There is no such thing as perfect, but hard nosed preparation will get you the closest thing to it.

Up next I'm outta town practicing for the last stop of the Silverado Pro Tour held on the Horseshoe Chain of Lakes near St. Cloud, MN. You think I'll have a Biovex Deep Runner tied on?

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