Sunday, May 22, 2011

Gopher B.A.S.S. Federation Tournament

Mississippi River Pools 3 and 4, Red Wing, MN

Talk about what I thought was to be polar opposites. Yesterday we were on the Mississippi River Pool 2 and today we find ourselves just 30 or so miles south on Pool 4. Pool 2 I was expecting to be a slug fest and the north side of Pool 4 I was expecting to be a limit grinder, get 5 and you're all good. Unless guys were planning on making the long haul to the south side of Pool 4 and fish the Wabasha area, the catching up in Red Wing can be a challenge.

I'm pretty familiar with the waters on these pools and would probably tend to favor Pool 3 as I've cashed a very rewarding first place paycheck fishing these waters two years ago at a BASSMASTER weekend Series event, though with the extremely high barge traffic this season locking through could be a huge mistake. So instead I focused all my efforts on the north side of Pool 4. Catching smallmouth would again be my forte but they were being overly elusive for me but because of the high water I was finding largemouth and pretty good sized ones at that. I decided I'd stay close to the launch point and basically fish the same style as I had planned on for Pool 2, flipping and pitching laydowns.

After burning up the first hour on tournament morning targeting largemouth, I decided it was time to see if I could better my luck on smallies. This was a great move as I quickly caught my first two within minutes, both on a shakey head with 8lb. Seaguar Invizx fluorocarbon line.

I then ran to a similar area to what I had fished the day prior while on Pool 2. To my surprise I couldn't get bit by any quality largemouth but was able to back off the laydowns and instead work the rock and catch quality smallmouth. This is a perfect example of how you need to fish the moment, all of practice I struggled to catch smallmouth but was able to catch largemouth. This time the largemouth weren't cooperating for me but the smallies were snapping. Feeling like I had to make a move I decided to run to an area that I hadn't practiced in but had past success on one or two lunker smallmouth. The area I'm referring to is a riprap bank that sits off the main river but is protected from the current. I caught a few right away on a Biovex Stangun Spinnerbait and then managed a nice 18" smallie on the shaky head. My very next cast I hooked up again but unfortunately this one didn't stay pegged. It happens but still leaves you feeling a bit empty when you know your right in the mix of things.

In the end I weighed 5 smallmouth for just shy of 10 pounds good enough for 7th place. I was very close and really just needed one good kicker to make a run at back to back victories but in this sport you have to be somewhat satisfied to be in the mix of things. In hindsight my only regret would be to not have stuck it out for a little longer in these areas as my good buddy and team tournament partner Corey Brant won the event and did it by dedicating his entire day to one key stretch. You live to learn I guess.

Up next I got lots of guide trips on the books and if anyone is interested in booking please be in touch. The local largemouth are keying in on the spawn and the whack fest's should be on like donkey kong!

See you on the water!!

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Gopher B.A.S.S. Federation Tournament

Mississippi River Pool 2, St. Paul Park, MN

With Bri and I's upcoming plans to move south, the preparation has found myself on the outside of the hardcore Minnesota bass fishing scene looking in. It's honestly a tough pill to swallow but is setting the stage for big things and truly preparing me to be able to chase my life long dreams on the big stages all across the U.S.

I told myself that I was going to use this time to go back to the chalk board and remaster the basics and develop more skill that will be necessary to compete with the big boys. One way to do this was to go back to the grass roots of bass fishing and fish with the same individuals that I first cut my teeth with, the Gopher Bassmasters. These guys are some of the best sticks in the state and doing well here says a lot about your fishing ability.

The first tournament of the year was on Saturday and was on a venue that I'm very fond of, the Mississippi River Pool 2. This body of water suites my strengths very well. There's a lot of main river smallies as well as backwater largemouth.

For the most part, practice was a success though it was different than I had expected. I usually tend to favor the smallmouth on this pool but because of the delayed Spring and the very high water, getting the smallies to cooperate was a huge challenge. I knew they were getting close to grouping up and preparing to spawn but consistency was a big deal.

I instead focused my energy on largemouth and found an ideal backwater slough that I felt would be the ticket with winning this event. The largemouth bass in this area were preparing to spawn. During practice I was able to catch a few off beds with relative ease but with the weekend weather forecast calling for non stop rain and thunderstorms I knew sight fishing would be more than difficult so I instead planned to fish these key backwater areas very slowly and pay extra special attention to my line so that I could detect the very subtle bites.

Tournament morning I was one of the last boats to take off but because of my new Evinrude ETEC H.O. I was one of the first to get back to my key areas. I quickly was able to put together a limit within the first couple hours, because of the low light conditions I wasn't having to much success flipping the trees so instead I fan casted these areas with a hand tied 1/4 oz. swim jig and was rewarded very quickly. Once I had a decent limit put together I reverted back to flipping but keeping an open mind I instead started catching better bass by flipping the main shoreline where there was an abundance of grass, wood and most importantly rock shoreline. This was very key to have the three types of cover as the bass where spawning in these areas and I had to pay very close attention to my line as detecting these bites was extremely difficult. My main weapon of choice for this tactic was a Reaction Innovation Sweet Beaver with a pegged 1/4 oz. Eagle Claw Lazer Tungsten Weight and most importantly a 4/0 Trokar Magworm Hook. The Trokar hook was seriously a difference maker as the fish were not eating the bait they were simply trying to move the bait from the beds and then would spit it out and the sharpness and the over-sized hook would assure that they fish got stuck and stuck well. I went with 15lb Seaguar Red Label Fluorocarbon which seemed to be a perfect compromise between finesse and power.

Towards the end of the day the pressure really started to get to this area and I decided to take the last hour and try my luck on some smallies. This proved to be a very good decision as I was able to cull twice on two smallies around the 18" mark.

I weighed in 3 largemouth and 2 smallmouth for an impressive bag of 17.33 pounds and claimed the top spot at the first event of the season! It felt good to notch another victory but it felt even better knowing that I developed a game plan and stuck to it all day, trusted my instincts and kept my head under control the entire day. Something I've set out to master this season before throwing down in the years to come.

Tomorrow Pool 4!!! I can't wait!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Okoboji Open

Lake Okoboji, Okoboji, IA

Tournament season is finally upon us yet if you went strictly by the outside temperature and the ridiculous weather we've been having, you'd feel as if it were still the heart of winter. I'm not complaining, simply just sharing facts, as long as the water isn't frozen I'll be happily wetting a line.

I was excited to get in on this years Okoboji Open, the past years Ryan Brant and I had found some success down there. Two years ago we took second in our debut showing and last year Ryan and his good buddy fished the same bite and again found themselves in second place. The only place to go from here is to finally claim the top spot and no better time than now. Maybe the third time's the charm?

Unfortunately for the both of us we were unable to get in much practice time. With only having one day we decided to search out new water to go with our already successful pattern and hopefully get enough bites throughout the day to put together a winning sack. The practice though proved to be a challenge and finding quality water wasn't coming as easily as we had hoped. In fact, really we only found one maybe two areas that could possibly pump out a keeper and if we were really lucky would cough up a good one.

Game day didn't go as planned to say the least. The take off temp was hovering around 30 and with the 20 to 40 mile per hour winds the wind chill was at a staggering 23 degrees. We really struggled in our primary areas as the water temp shot way down over night and was completely effected by the harsh winds. Our hope was that the area would warm as the afternoon sun came out but since the temps never came up enough and the high winds were very persistence the water temp didn't cooperate. The areas never produced and though we did manage a few descent fish we were never able to fill a limit. A tough pill to swallow considering we banged out three good ones in a matter of twenty minutes. We both managed to leave a couple good bites swimming and in the end was on the outside looking in.

It was easy to find our mistakes, the largest being fishing off of memory. Bottom line our previous check cashing areas hadn't yet become ripe and are still a couple weeks from maturing. The late spring season has everything set back a bit and we didn't do a good enough adjusting to that. We also left a few out there and in a tough tournament where you don't have a lot to work with bites are key and need to get in the livewell. The result was a very disappointing 23rd place finish and to be honest it wouldn't mattered if we finished 50th, 23rd or 2nd, we came to win it and weren't even close. We'll chalk it up to a lesson learned and use it as motivation for bigger and badder tournaments ahead.

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