Tuesday, June 21, 2011

B.B.S. Tournament Cullen Chain June 19th

Oh Man, where do I start.

I really thought this tournament was lining up just right for me to do really well and it almost did. We blasted off around a quarter to 7AM in calm overcast conditions with a slight fog and drizzle. We were 2nd boat out and 2nd boat to reach the channel from Lower Cullen to Middle Cullen. The boat that was in front of us didn't quite take the right path into the channel and ran aground. We passed them and were first into Middle. On the way up to Upper Cullen the boat that got stuck bypassed us about half way down the lake and they were first into the Upper Lake. We were 2nd into the Upper Lake channel. While we just got under way in the Upper lake, we watched the non-boater in the other boat catch a fish.

We headed straight to our starting area and there were two boats not in the tournament in the general area, but they were not up in the thick junk that we wanted to fish. Our starting area was moderately thick to thick pencil reeds with some pads and a little bit of rice and some other submergent weeds. I started off throwing a black Horny Toad in the seriously overcast conditions. I was the first to get a strike but it didn't get the Toad. I threw back and it took it again and it was a bass. I got it about half way back to the boat when it buried in the reeds and got off. This experience would happen far to often. After throwing the Horny Toad for a while and not getting anymore bites I switched up to a blue/black Berkley Havoc Lane's Grass Pig. I think I missed one bite on that before I put the first fish of the morning in the boat. It was a nice 15" bass. As I was putting on the culling tag my boater went to turn on the livewell pump and got nothing. Not Good! My boaters Ranger is a tiller boat with one big livewell and a baitwell. The baitwell pump was working so I put the fish in there.

We kept working the area and I had a 16.5" take the Grass Pig right by the boat. It helps if you don't have to fight a fish through the reeds. We moved out of our initial area and I think I caught a pike and missed a few bites. On one of the misses I threw back with a black/blue Lake Fork Craw Tube. The fish picked it up, but I pooched the hookset and it was gone. We got to an area where there was more rice laying down in the reeds and the wind was at our back, so I started throwing the Horny Toad again. I had a pike bite off most of the legs on my Horny Toad, but I continued to fish the bait without the legs. I had a bite from a good fish, 16 inch class at least (it jumped so I saw it). I got it about half way back to the boat and it buried me in the reeds and got off. I was miffed; It's one thing to have the fish bury you right away and get off, but quite another to have them moving towards you well and then get off. As we moved along the Horny Toad provided a 14.75", 14.5", before I lost the one with no legs. I put another Toad on and got a 14.25", and 12.5" and I got the limit monkey off my back. I also put these last couple of fish in the big livewell and had to use an ice cream bucket to scoop in water. The first cull came quick with a 14". At this point I think my boater only had one bass in the boat and had missed a few bites as well. I think he got his first fish on a blue/black Grass Pig that I gave him.

I think it was shortly after that 14" that we made a move to a deep reed bed in the lake where we had a double in pre-fish. In the deep reed bed my boater landed a small keeper and I caught a nice pike. After about an hour of that we headed back to our starting area. I upgraded with 15, but I can't remember what I caught it on. I think I caught a fish or two that didn't help as well as a pike or two. We got into an area that we didn't hit on our first pass that looked really good. I was bringing the Horny Toad in when either a big bass or dogfish purposed hard on the Toad. I laid the wood, but it buried me instantly and was gone. If that wasn't a dogfish, it was a game changer and I was quite bummed by missing it. A little ways down I got a bass that didn't help and another nice pike.

We made a run back to the deep reed bed and I pulled a 15.5" on a blue/black Craw Tube and also caught a couple that didn't help me. We worked this reed area, longer this time. After pulling out a backlash for about 15 minutes, my boater landed one that just barely made the 12 inch minimum size.

For a 3rd time we went back to our starting area, but we started a little farther South than we ever had. I put on a bubblegum Grass Pig and started throwing that. There were some really thick reeds, so I started throwing a brown Ish's Phat Frog and had a fish swirl on it fairly close to the boat. I threw back with the Craw Tube. On about the 4th pitch the fish picked it up and I laid the wood. It was a nice 16" class bass. I almost had it in when it jumped and spit the hook. I was like, What?!!!! GRRRRRRRRRRR! A little later on I made a long cast throwing the Phat frog up past the reeds into some shallow pads when I had a blow up and brought in a 16" into the boat. Those double hooked hollow body frogs are great for keeping a bass pegged if they choke it. In addition it helps when you can hook up where the cover isn't as dense and get them moving at you, at least usually. Today I was losing fish I had moving to me all to frequently. I had a few more swirls on the Ish's Phat Frog and a couple of bites on the bubblegum Pig that I couldn't convert. It was around this time that I noticed one of my fish was in trouble and I spent a while trying to revive it, but that was a waste of time. A couple of other fish started showing signs of distress, so I had to work for a while putting fresher water in the well.

My boater switched to a yellowish white Sizmic Toad and nailed a couple of fish, including a nice fish that was quite a bit bigger than anything I had. I switched the bubblegum pig to a albino Big Bite Baits Cane Thumper because the color and size were close to that Sizmic Toad and got a pike and couple of bass that didn't help. At this point in the day it was still cloudy, but it had warmed up into the mid 70's and my boater thought it would be good for our fish if we got out of the shallow warming water and got some water from out deeper in the lake. I think we hit the deeper reeds one more time then left the Upper Lake.

When we stopped in the Middle Lake I went back on water duty, but didn't check the bait well which was on automatic. That mistake allowed another one of my fish to get distressed and eventually expire. Anyway we were fishing down a reed lined point with a steep drop off. I tossed out a bluegill Megabass Pop Max and got a 14" that didn't help. I think my boater might have pulled a fish that helped him off this spot. We hit another point and that was when I noticed I had a second fish in trouble. Nothing at that point and with a little less than an hour left to go, we headed to the lower lake.

We got into the lower lake and there was a boat on the spot my boater wanted to go, so we hit another deep cabbage weed point and weedline. I started throwing the "Drag Stripper" Paycheck Baits Repo Man I got my big fish in pre-fish on. I was hoping this might be the bait to pull up a big smallmouth. I had a couple of swirls from seemed like a smaller fish, but didn't hook up. As we were working down the weedline I had a good bass that would have culled take a shot at the Repo Man, but it didn't hook up and it didn't come back for seconds. GRRRRRRRR! My boater landed a fish that was another good cull.

With about 10 minutes to go before check in, we closed her down and went to head in but the motor wouldn't start. Fortunately another tournament boat was close and came over. We were about a 1/4 mile from check in. My boater had some special hook ups for jumping the between batteries in the boat, but he couldn't find it. The other boat gave us their jumper cables and my boater worked furiously to get his batteries connected. He did and the motor started and we got back with pretty much, no time to spare.

The story doesn't end here, however. We got the boat pulled out of the water and started bagging our fish. There were 4 fish in the bait well, 3 of which had expired, two of which were mine. I handed my boaters dead fish to him, but somehow it registered with me that it was a 3rd expired fish for me. When I weighed my fish I said there were 3 alive instead of 4. When I dumped the fish in the lake and only had two dead one's to take back with me, I realized my mistake. At that point my weight was in the book and I was out of luck. Ouch!

My weight before dead fish penalties was 11lbs 6ozs. Each dead fish is a 2oz penalty, so my official weight was 11lbs even. Third Place (last to "get wood") was 11lbs 2ozs. Even if I would not have screwed up by an extra 2ozs, I would have lost on the big fish tie breaker as my biggest fish was a modest 2-4. However another angler had 11-1, so I dropped an extra place in the standings to 5th out of 26 guys fishing. If it were not for another guys dead fish penalty I would have dropped to 6th. Everyone caught their limit and 11 of us were stacked between 11-2 and 10-1. 2 Bags were less than 8lbs. My boater came in 13th with 10-1 (1 dead fish) and his big fish was only 2-15; I thought it was a 3lber for sure.

Analysis- What can I say? Had I had a bit better luck I probably would have won the tournament as the winning weight was only 12-13, although the winner was fishing thick junk too (we fished some of the same water) and I would assume he dumped a fish or two that would have helped his bag as well.

For the second tournament in a row my fish had to be post-spawners that were on the skinny side. Going in to weigh in I figured I had right about 12lbs. Frankly I'm surprised my fish weighed even less than at Platte/Sullivan because my average length here was a bit better (in fact it was one full inch more in total) and the fish didn't seem thin to me. Still I can't complain to much. I screwed up on that extra dead fish and losing fish in pencil reeds is just an unfortunate fact of life, but some of the fish I missed were really bad breaks.

Next Bass Snatcher Tournament: Le Homme Dieu on July 16th
I think I am going to try and get in on the Fishers of Men Club Twin
Cities Tournament for bass on Sylvia/Twin on July 9th. Sylvia/Twin is the lake I learned to fish on.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Bass Snatcher Cullen Chain Tournament Preview

I have a good feeling about this tournament. I've got a boater who seems to have a good feel for the lakes and I think it will fish in ways I like to fish and am comfortable fishing. I haven't talked with my boater since our pre-fish and he did get out one more time, so I don't know his exact game plan at this point. But there will be plenty of time to discuss that on the way to the lake in the morning.

Weather looks like it will be on the favorable side for most of the morning. We may get wet, we may not, but it should be overcast and overcast is good for clear water.

Here are my 7 set ups
Dock Rod- Bubblegum Super Fluke 6'3" St. Croix Avid(spinning) 10lb smoke Fireline
Craw Tube Rod- 7' Heavy St. Croix Avid 20lb Vicious Flouro
Dippers (looking to throw mostly Havoc Grass Pigs)- 7'3" MH Excel Bass 40lb Power Pro
Ish's Phat Frog (or other hollow body frogs)- 7'3" MH St. Croix Avid 40lb Power Pro
Horny Toad Rod- 7'3" MH St. Croix Avid 40lb Power Pro
Light Craw Tube Exposed Hook- GLoomis 783C GLX 17lb Gama Co-Poly
Topwater and Chatter Jig Rod- GLoomis 783C IMX 14lb Fireline Smoke

I have opted not to carry a swim jig/spinnerbait rod. However, I do have spinnerbaits in the tackle bag.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Cullen Chain Pre-Fish

Next Sunday is my 2nd Baxter Bass Snatcher tournament of the year being held on the Cullen Chain near Nisswa MN. I had the good fortune to draw Bill Bailey for my boater as he has a good history with these lakes. Bill was kind enough to agree to take me out for a day of fishing, so I could get a feel for these lakes that I had never seen before. I am extremely glad Bill took me out, because in a lot of ways it wasn't what I expected.

The Cullen Chain has pretty good to excellent water clarity and has diverse aquatic vegetation, but seemingly none of the troublesome invasive weeds. I really like the Chain as it has elements of Sylvia/Twin and Platte/Sullivan. Bill has a smaller boat so we are able to fish in all 3 lakes. I don't think guys with bigger boats can get into the upper most lake because of a narrow culvert with little headroom. Getting out of the lower most lake where we will launch is also a challenge. Bill had to get out of the boat this morning because we didn't take the right approach into the boat channel and ran aground.

I was pleasantly surprised by the fish size we discovered, although my first fish of the day didn't show it.

Shortly after this fish, I watched a 3lb+ largie engulf my lure. I couldn't make up my mind if I wanted to set the hook or not because I got such a good look at the fish as did Bill. I think the fish kind of stuck itself and I had it on for a few seconds before it got off. I got another good take shortly after that.

Next we went to a weedline and I experimented with a bait, but that was a bust. After that we ran to the Upper Lake, which turned into a pike fest for me. Bill had a follow from a big dogfish. I tried to catch it, but just spooked it. A little later on we were getting close to one of the clubs more mercurial club members and we saw him catch a fish. I thought it was a nice bass, but he told us it was a dogfish. I'm not sure I believe that.

Anyway we found some productive water and ended our time in the upper lake with a quality double. This was my fish (I think it was probably 16).

Next we went back to the middle lake. It was cloudy with a light breeze and I thought in that clear water topwater might go, so I started throwing a Paycheck Baits Repo Man. We fished some good looking stuff without so much as a sniff for either us, but I just kept chucking the topwater. Eventually I was rewarded with this 18"+ pig that just annihilated the Repo Man.

It was awesome. I knew it was a big fish immediately because it tail walked then jumped a couple of times. I was worried it was going to bury me in the weeds and get off, but it was hooked well and I was able to pull it out of the salad. Man I was jacked after this fish.

We fished a little while longer and I added one more quality bass to my day on something that not get any play on tournament day, but the color will.

Overall it was a very successful pre-fish. I was impressed with the size we discovered and it's a fun lake to fish with lots of options. My boater Bill is probably going to get out for one more trip.

Thursday, June 09, 2011

B.B.S Platte/Sullivan Tournament June 4th

The first Baxter Bass Snatcher Club tournament of the year was held on Platte and Sullivan lakes in Central Minnesota. In case you are not aware Platte/Sullivan have been my home lakes since 2003. I lived on Platte Lake from 2003 to 2005. Previous to this event I had fished 4 bass tournaments on the lake, doing terrible in 2 of them. I can't say that I was feeling any pressure, but I definitely wanted to put in a good finish.

We blasted off in Platte at around a quarter to 8AM and my boater Peter and I headed straight to the "Grumpy Old Man Hole"/ the bridge that separates Platte and Sullivan. We were going to start there and actually waved a couple of boats past us so they could head into Sullivan. I was worried someone would be fishing from shore because there was earlier in the morning, but they were gone. However, there was a boat with a couple of young teenage kids fishing in the general vicinity.

Once we got into the area that I consider money, I had a good hit on a black/blue Strike King Pure Poison with black/blue Berkley Havoc Lane's Craw Fatty trailer. I thought the day was starting out fantastic until I saw it was a nice pike. I think it was shortly after this that Pete landed the first bass of the day. Unfortunately the bass were not stacked up. We ran North quite a ways then came back for a 2nd pass on which Pete landed, what I think was his big bass of the day, a 17+ incher. I think I caught another small pike and I was satisfied it wasn't going to happen, so we headed under the bridge and took off for the Platte River Mouth.

As we were heading toward the river mouth another tournament boat was coming up the SW shore and headed straight for the river. This forced us to take the North shore. Both boats arrived at the river mouth around the same time. I think Pete, I, and Darren, the guy in the front of the other boat, all hooked up around the same time. My fish was a keeper at 13" that I think bit a Big Bite Baits Cane Thumper (dipper) and went in the well (12" minimum). At that point Darren made a bit of a mistake by not holding up and milking the spot. Pete and I slowed down and Darren kept moving on right into the river. We went back over where Darren had just come from and I landed a 13" and 14.25 on a black/blue Lake Fork Craw Tube and Pete brought in a fish too and I think he missed one as well. When we were satisfied the river mouth had nothing else to give we headed into the river as Darren was coming back out. I don't think they got a bite in the river.

We worked quite a ways into the river and I think all we had to show for it was one missed swirl on my purple Berkley Frenzy Popper. Once we got through with what I consider the most productive water. We fired her up and headed in closer to the "dam", which really isn't a dam. We worked the stretch leading to the dam and didn't get a thing. However, once we got close to the dam I fired a cast up by the West wall and had a spawned out 16" blow up on the Frenzy Popper. I then got a 13" and 12.75" behind the dam to fill my limit on the popper. I quickly got my first cull with a 13.25" on the Cane Thumper. I think I also caught a couple that didn't help and maybe Pete got a fish as well. Pete had the idea to go downstream beyond the dam. As we were drifting I put a cast up by shore and a good fish blew up on the Frenzy Popper; It was barely hooked, but I landed the spawned out 17.25" largie.

I think further down the river Pete caught his limit fish and a couple of pike. I got a bass or two that didn't help. We went as far as we could then fired up the big motor to get us back to the dam. There weren't any fish there and we fished our way back up river. As we were fishing water we bypassed the first time down I pulled in a 15.25" and Pete got another good fish that I think was in the 16" class. I think that one might have been the last of our river fish. We fished back out to the mouth were I got a bass that didn't help and I think Pete got bit off. Pete also broke a rod while we were still in the river.

We then started working the flat that I call the PRO. I got a 14.25" on the Cane Thumper and a 14.50" and a few fish that didn't help and maybe a pike or two. Pete was getting an occasional fish as well. We worked our way along the North shore to where the docks start. We had just gone past a dock that was underwater when I saw a fish following the Cane Thumper. I let it drop and a big bass took it, turned and started swimming away. I set the hook and got nothing, my line broke inexplicably. I was more than a little bummed. This was at least a 4lb class fish, if not bigger and I'm 99% sure it was a bass because I got a pretty good look at it.

We worked our way to the East shore, then headed back for a second pass. I think we got a couple fish that didn't help and I broke a rod. Eventually we got to the area where I missed the big one and I threw a bubblegum Zoom Super Fluke. The Fluke disappeared I set the hook, a fish was on for a couple of seconds then gone. I blew it again, although it may or may not have been the big fish it was in the same spot. On the next dock down I pulled a 14.5" from under a pontoon. This would be my last cull of the day.

We tried doubling back one more time, but the big fish spot didn't produce any bites with a craw tube.

We headed back into Platte and fished the GOMH without success. There were some shore anglers who said they caught a few small bass and had lost a nice one. Next we hit up a reed point that is a really good spot. I had a very good bite on the Cane Thumper and it was a good fish, but it buried me in the reed stalks and got off. I was quite disappointed I let that happen because I was using a heavy rod. I did get one bass that didn't help on the craw tube.

Next we headed to Loon Sex Point, which had the wind blowing on it. Pete got a small pike and that was it. Very disappointing. Next we tried working along the North shore of Loon Sex Bay and that was a bust except one fish for Pete. We gave Loon Sex Point another pass with nothing to show for it, then we headed North with about an hour to go. To be honest I was physically beat at this point. We worked ourselves into Platte River Inlet Bay. I got a pike on a spinnerbait and the bass were nowhere to be found. We were in the wind and having trouble with junk fouling our lures. I suggested we make a move West and North and that paid off with a couple of last hour culls for Pete. That turned out to be a very good thing for Pete who had been culling the wrong fish. He did get a good cull up when he figured it out.

As that I was beat I suggested we head in about 10 minutes early to get a good shore spot, which we did.

First thing we weigh is our big fish and when I heard the 17.25" only went 2-10; I was not a happy camper. Then my total weight came to 11lbs 8ozs and I was very disappointed. I figured I had made my goal of getting over 12lbs and coming in short of that on fish that should have gone at least 12 sucked. In the final standings I came in 12th. Pete weighed 13-12 which put him in 7th. As a pair we had the 2nd best combined weight.

Analysis- I'm not gonna say I choked, but I sure had some bad luck that kept me from doing much better. Final bag was 17.25", 16", 15.25", 14.5", 14.5" and 14.25" and somehow that wasn't even close to being over 12lbs, that's sad!!! I've kind of noticed this spring that the bass have not been their usual Platte/Sullivan chunky selves. Breaking my line on that big dog was what really killed me, honestly I just don't understand how it happened. A pike must have frayed up the line really good and I didn't notice.

Platte/Sullivan showed out well taking almost 16 to win (15-15), 8 bags over 13lbs, and 21 limits. Big Bass was 4-06 with I think a total of 4 that were over 4 and another 3 that were up close to 4lbs.

Friday, June 03, 2011

Baxter Bass Snatchers Platte/Sullivan Pre-view

Tomorrow is the day, I hope it is a good one. My pre-fishing results were OK, but I didn't find any secret to big fish. I think my boater and I will catch fish, but I don't think I have anything rock solid in terms of producing fish. I am guessing it's going to take about 14-15lbs to win under the sunny conditions tomorrow, but the fishing could also possibly bust wide open and take closer to 20. I think it will be mostly a late pre-spawn to spawn deal, but sight fishing should be pretty limited do to the stained water clarity. Unless the weeds have really come up in the last two days, I don't think slop will be a factor. Platte/Sullivan are normally a dock and slop deal. Still over the submergent weeds that will be slop soon is sure to give up some fish.

One thing that kind of stinks is the 8AM official start time. For this time of year you would think we would have had a 7AM start time, but the club at the urging of one of our better dock fishermen kept the later time. Usually the club blasts off earlier than the official start time, but usually only by about 15 minutes. My boat blasts off 13th out of 15, which also doesn't help matters in terms of starting where I want too. Who knows, maybe we'll get a little lucky and be able to quickly pick up some easy fish.

Here's How I am rigged to start:
Dock Rod- Bubblegum Zoom Super Fluke 6'3" St. Croix Avid Spinning
Dipper Rod- Big Bite Baits Cane Thumper 7'3" MH St. Croix LTB
Horny Toad Rod- St. Croix 7'3" MH Avid
Creature Bait Rod- Lake Fork Craw Tube 7' H St. Croix Avid
Spinnerbait Rod- 6'10" MH Shimano Crucial
Swim Jig Rod- 6'10" MH Shimano Crucial
Topwater Rod- Paycheck Baits Repo Man 7' MH Shimano Crucial TC4
Chatter Jig/small Topwater- Strike King Pure Poison 6'6" G. Loomis IMX 783C

Final Thoughts- I would really like to catch at least 12lbs and get a Top 10.