If this sounds like whining it is: It really bites when your best bag of the year is only good enough to be equal with your worst finish place wise of the season. The boys caught em' good in this one. New Baxter Bass Snatcher Club tournament record for average size of bags weighed (13.20lbs).
Here's how the day went.
Conditions: Mix of sun and clouds with overcast for the last couple of hours. Light winds. Cool in the morning warming up to the mid to high 70's.
Play by Play: The plan to start the day was to hit some docks that I pulled a 3+lber off of one of them in pre-fish. These docks had reeds around them that were sometimes thick and sometimes sparse. In one of the sparse area's I made a cast up by some weeds that were in the reeds and I had a pick up on my bubblegum Zoom Super Fluke, which turned out to be a 15.5" largie. In another thick area of reeds I had a fish which I'm 90% sure was a pike smack a white Berkley Havoc Grass Pig. The docks were a bust and we soon headed off to a weedline spot.
Right away at the weedline I brought in a nice 15.25" bass on a rusty Craw Tonka Tackle Halo Craw Tube. I was off to a pretty good start. As we were working our way down my boater Chuck got his first fish, which was in the same general size range of my two. I got bit off by a pike and decided to try a little lighter weight on my Texas rig Craw Tube. I got a 13.25" on that. Chuck also got another fish. With the calm to light ripple I decided to try a Berkley Frenzy Popper. That wasn't happening and while I was fooling around with that, Chuck caught his best fish of the day. Pretty soon Chuck was encouraging me, mocking me really, to keep throwing the topwater. Eventually I put down the topwater and tried a crankbait, as Chuck brought in a couple more fish. Eventually I did get back to the Crawtube but didn't get any more bites in this area.
After we fished through the area 3 times, we headed off to try some more docks, which was a bust. Eventually we got into some reeds where I think Chuck picked up his limit fish and one that went back and I got a 14.5" bass on a "big sexy" Mad Maxx Frog.
I think our next stop was Chuck's honey hole from the last club tournament on Fish Hook. I think Chuck got a rock bass. Next we headed to another weedline where I think got bit off so I changed to a black/red fleck Lake Fork Crawtube with which I had gotten some good fish in pre-fish. I stayed with the lighter bullet sinker. I got a 13.5" bass and a pike. We headed back to the first weedline we hit and I got a pike and maybe Chuck picked up a bass or two. We talked to one of the club boats, which was up working the reeds and Mark said it was slow, but he had a limit.
Next thing we did was go to the reeds. I threw a frog while Chuck threw a jig and maybe a Crawtube as well. We worked the reeds for quite a while and I don't remember if Chuck got a fish or not. I think he might have missed a bite or two. We got to an area where there was an open pocket back in the reeds and Chuck asked me if I wanted to go back in there. I said why not and so we did. I made a cast toward the far end of the pocket and a fish just lit up Mad Maxx. It jumped and we saw it was a big fish. I got it in and it had choked the frog. Here she is:
Chuck thought it might go 5. I measured it and it was something over 19 inches, but I'm not sure how long as the measuring board ended at 18inches. Turns out the fish only went 4-5, but this fish was huge for me and probably bumped me 5-7 places in the standings. That was it in those reeds.
It was sunny out so we went and re-tried the 2nd set of docks, but that was a bust again. We went back and re-hit a weedline spot that we had trouble getting on the first time because of another tournament boat. I pulled up a pike on the Crawtube and then Chuck landed several bass most of which didn't help him, but would have helped me. I think I got a 13" that didn't help me. Eventually we got up on this point and pitched into the holes in the grass that we could see, Chuck got a couple more that didn't help him.
It started to cloud up and we headed to either a marina or resort of something where there were 2 docks with lots of boats. On the very last boat on the 1st dock Chuck pulled a fish and I got a 14" on the bubblegum Super Fluke which culled the 13.25". I don't think we got anything on the 2nd dock.
Chuck remembered a reed and slop spot so we headed there next. We worked ourselves into the inside edge of the reeds and then there was a little open area before a big field of pads started. As we worked along Chuck fished the reeds with a jig or a frog and I threw my frog to the pads. Chuck pulled a fish out of the reeds, so I started working them too. I made a cast and something moved, so I just worked the frog in place for about a minute. Just as I was about to reel it in, a fish sucked in the frog and it was a 14.5". I couldn't remember if I wrote down my last cull or not, so I wasn't sure which was my smallest fish. I pulled out the two proper colored ropes and looked at the fish. They looked to be about the same size, so I threw back the one on the yellow cull tag thinking I had indeed forgotten to write down my last cull. I put the new fish in the box, then measured the fish on the orange cull tag, so I could write down the length. I was shocked to discover this fish was only 13.5" and was the one I should have culled out. It's hard to say if this error cost me because I needed 3 more ozs to move up and when I compared the 2 fish, they looked pretty even to me. Should have used Chuck's cull beam to be sure. Anyway Chuck got a good cull out of the reeds on a frog.
I think there was about an hour left and so we headed for the reeds where I had gotten my big one. I had several fish boil on the Mad Maxx, but only 1 took it and that was a small fish that I waterskied on the hookeset and it came off. Unfortunately most of the missed bites couldn't be followed up with another lure as they were at the end of long casts or in reeds to thick for anything but the frog. With about 20 minutes to go we took a 3rd pass on a certain set of docks, but they were worthless again and that was the end of our day.
Results: My 6 fish went 13-7, which put me in 12th place out of 22 anglers, which was actually a bit of a relief when I saw the official standings as I thought I was going to be 13th or 14th. The winning bag was 19-1 and big bass was 5-5. Chuck had 15-7, which only got him 6th Place.
Top 6 Race: In the race for the Top 6 at the end of the year, which was a 3 way race for the final 2 spots going into this tournament (Mark M., Bill L, and I), basically Mark guaranteed he will be there with a 3rd Place finish. I finished 4 spots in front of Bill and both of us tied our worst finishes of the year (we throw the worst tournament out so 5 of 6 count). A surprise was that another guy (Barry M.) moved into the race with his 8th Place Finish. Going into the last tournament I have 5 places on Barry and 6 places on Bill, so my lead more than doubled, but I really blew a chance to effectively close the door.
Analysis- Coming into the tournament I really wanted a Top 8 finish as I had a very good partner draw. I thought a 13lb bag would put me right there. As it turned out Fish Hook produced some of the best fishing the club has ever seen. There were four 13lb bags and mine was the lightest of them. I didn't even finish in the top half of the field. I can't be too disappointed as things could have gone far worse had I not caught the big one I did, but then again with the big fish a more competitive bag was well within reach. Chuck out fished me pretty bad in terms of number of bass caught; It was pretty close to 2-1 if not more.
One thing I'm left to wonder about is going lighter on my Texas Rig sinker with the Crawtube. The change produced a smaller grade of fish then what I got in pre-fish and my biggest Crawtube bass of the day came with the heavier weight. There were also several instances where fish picked up the Crawtube and dropped it quickly and wouldn't pick it back up again. The only fish that did that and picked it up again was a pike. The black red fleck Lake Fork Crawtube that gave me 3 nice bass in pre-fish was a bust, even though light conditions were close to the same. I never did throw a Yum Wooly Bug, which is something that produced 14.5-15.5 bass in pre-fish. I also never threw a jig.
Next Bass Snatcher Tournament: October 1st @Birch (Hackensack)
Wednesday, August 31, 2011
Friday, August 26, 2011
Tomorrow the Bass Snatcher sink our hooks into Fish Hook Lake at Park Rapids MN. It's a good lake and the weather looks favorable with light to moderate wind. Weights should be pretty good. Basically I think we will be doing 3 things. Docks, Reeds, and Weedlines. It isn't the biggest lake in the world and my boater Chuck Steinbauer thinks the fish may be a beat up from the pre-fishing guys were doing. Apparently reports must have been pretty good. It's going to be a long day getting up early with a couple hours in the car to get there and weigh-in isn't until 4PM. Hopefully the bite will be best early while I am physical at my most fresh and alert. Basically I am hoping to have over 13lbs, which will probably be enough for a Top 8 finish. However if I can't get in the Top 8, if I can just beat out 2 particular guys on the day, then I should still be good. Basically there is now a 3 way race for the final 2 spots in the club Top 6 in AOY. If I can get a Top 8 that should really put some pressure on the other two if they don't have good days tomorrow.
As for my starting line up:
Dock Rod bubblegum Zoom Super Fluke (spinning)
Topwater & Crank Rod
Slop Frog Rod
As for my starting line up:
Dock Rod bubblegum Zoom Super Fluke (spinning)
Topwater & Crank Rod
Slop Frog Rod
Friday, August 19, 2011
I got out on Thursday August 18th with my boater Chuck Steinbauer to pre-fish Fish Hook Lake in Park Rapids in anticipation of our August 27th Tournament. We hit the water about 7AM, which is an hour before tournament start time. The weather was cloudy and calm in the morning. About 9AM the wind really came up and we had periods of sun and clouds. We went right to Chuck's best spot and he had a bass on in no time but it wasn't that big and on this lake you need size. Chuck was disappointed that the cabbage weed on this spot seemed. We bounced a few spots before getting on something at gave up a few fish. On this spot one of the bass had a crawfish in it's gullet, so I got to see at least one of the crawfish colors. The rest of the day we bounced around and tried a few different things catching a few fish here and there. We didn't really find any good concentrations. Size wasn't bad and these fish are well fed chunks. I caught a total of 11 bass and 1 pike. Only 1 of the bass was under 14 inches. Chuck caught a few more than me, but our best 6 were pretty similar. We got off the water after 4PM, so it was a long day on the water. There is a small chance I will get out and pre-fish one more time, but Chuck almost certainly will.
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
Conditions- Temps started in the high 60's and went up to the low 80's. Sun and light winds.
I believe we blasted off around 10 to 7AM and my boater Paul and I headed upriver. On the way we got passed by 2 or 3 boats. Thankfully none of them were headed to our starting spot. Our starting spot was a fair sized backwater lake with clear water and excellent looking weeds where we had a few bites in pre-fish. We started at the mouth of the lake in the river and worked our way in. It didn't take long and I was casting to the area I had a blow up on my hookless spook during pre-fish. Unfortunately nobody was home. We worked our way North against the East bank in excellent looking rice with pads. After about 20 minutes of working the East bank. I started throwing the big sexy Mad Maxx frog to the West out where there were some small pad clumps with submergent weeds that reached the surface. As I was pulling onto a pad clump I had a fish boil on the frog. When I came off the pads, there was no follow up so I reeled in and cast back to the spot. This time after I came off the pads something hit the frog but didn't take it. I let the frog sit than slowly started working it and this time the fish came up and took down the frog. I got a fairly good hooksett and felt the weight of the fish, but then my frog came flying back at me. I don't know if it was a bass or not, but missing my first bite was not a good way to start the day.
Eventually we started running away from the East bank and started fishing to the West while moving South. Man was this some prime looking water. On one of my casts to this fabulous looking stuff a 18" Largie that went 3lbs 10ozs smashed my rainforest yellow Spro Bronzeye Frog. Man was I glad to have her in the boat. Not only would I not skunk, but I had a quality fish. As we worked our way South and started moving to along out from the South Bank I started throwing a yellow Zoom Horny Toad. On a cast back out to the North to some isolated pads with submergent weeds that were to the surface I had a bass blow up the toad. I set the hook and my telescopic 7'3" St. Croix Avid broke in two at the telescoping point about 9 inches above the reel. Holding just the rod handle with the rest of the rod in the lake, I just continued to crank and was pleasantly surprised when a 14.25" largemouth was still attached to my hook in a mess of weeds. Breaking the rod really sux as it's one of my favorites and they no longer make that model. I had 2 of them, so now only 1 is left.
We worked our way back towards the mouth of the lake and my boater Paul had a blow up on his frog out by the river. The fish didn't get the frog, so I told him to cast back and see if it would hit it again. He cast back and sure enough he had another hit and this time he hooked up. In the process of catching the fish and getting it in the well we drifted out to where the lake mouth met the river. I cast a green pumpkin Lake Fork Craw tube upriver to a small point in the rice and sure enough I had a hit. I laid the wood and brought another 14.25" into the boat. We kind of sat there and worked the area and then started moving up river to the North. I had what I think was a pike flash at my Crawtube, but it didn't get it. Subsequent casts didn't produce any bites. We kept moving North in the river pitching to the rice wall. After doing that and not getting anything in about 20 minutes we switched to the opposite shore which is a big rice island. As we were making our way to the head of the island, I had a bite, but it was a rock bass.
At the head of the island we met another club boat and they only had 1 bass at that point. We moved up river aways and fished the West rice line down to up river of another backwater. Once we got about 25 yards past the mouth of the backwater, we fired up the big motor to run back to the mouth. We had a couple of bites in this backwater in prefish. Even though there was baitfish activity, we didn't have any luck and we headed out after covering about 50 yards.
We went back to our starting spot and basically ran the exact same loop. We got into the same general area where I had lost that first fish, but the boat was now West of the isolated pad clumps. I was throwing a white Zoom Horny Toad and had a bite in close to the boat. The fish pulled on the Toad but didn't hook up. I pitched the toad back into a weed opening and let it sink. As I was kind of working the Toad in place, something came and took the Toad. I set the hook, but didn't hook up and the Toad was pretty ripped up. Probably a pike, but who knows. I quickly got the Toad re-rigged and threw back into the weed opening. Nothing. We worked through the great looking stuff and as we were working off the South bank. I caught a pike casting out to isolated pads just like with my 2nd bass. Just a bit after I got the pike, Paul caught a small bass.
Eventually we worked our way back out to the mouth. We were sitting in the mouth when I had a bite. I had the fish on long enough to see it was a pike before it got off. I was pitching into the rice right behind the boat, when I saw my line jump. I thought for sure it would be a bass, but I pulled out about an 16 inch pike.
Next we headed to the spot where another boat started on the East side of the rice island we fished before. Another club boat was working the East bank on the channel of the river. They had 2 fish and 1 fish. One of the guys said he had caught 5 or maybe it was 6 species of fish. We worked our way up the East bank of the island, so we were casting West. I had a bite, but came up empty on the hooksett. I pitched the Crawtube back to the spot and it hit it again. This time I hooked up. Dogfish!!! As I was playing it next to the boat and it got off. Up river a little ways I got snagged and had to break off. I started pitching a small Gander Mountain green with multicolored fleck beaver. As we got up toward the head of the island I had a hit and set the hook. The tails of my beaver were gone. I tried pitching back to the spot tailless but didn't get anything. At the top of the Island we were able to talk with the boat we met at the top of the island before as these guys were working up the West side of the river. I think they had 2 fish a piece and had lost some fish.
There was about an hour and a half left at this point and as it seemed the main river rice just wasn't being productive so we headed up to Little Rabbit Lake. As we were taking the channel in, another club boat followed right in behind us. They were sitting at 4 and 0 with the 4 being smallies that they went way up river for in the morning. They started fishing a point and so we went to the next point down the lake. I had re-rigged a green pumpkin Crawtube and started throwing that. As we worked the point I got a few bites, including one that was very promising, but every hooksett came up empty. After we got around the point we moved to another weedline. It was pretty dead until we got to another little point. I had a bite and set the hook catching yet another little pike. With about 10 minutes left to fish we went and hit some slop, which was fruitless.
We got back with about 5 minutes to spare.
Results- My 3 bass went 6lbs 9ozs, but I had a 2oz dead fish penalty. Without the penalty I would have been 10th, but I dropped to 11th out of 24. 11th Place wasn't a bad finish as I placed ahead of all 3 guys that I am in competition with for the final two spots in Top 6 for the end of the year standings race.
The winning bag of 18lbs came from way up river and consisted of 5 smalls and 1 Larry. The 2nd (16-8) and 3rd Place (16-7) anglers reportedly stayed in Rice Lake and just whacked the snot out em' on weedlines with Crawtubes. 5 limits were caught, which is actually pretty good and there were 3 bags with 5 fish and 2 bags with 4. I was the only 3 fish bag, 8 guys had 2 fish, 3 guys had 1, and there were 2skunks. 6 of the Top 10 anglers came from the same 3 boats.
Analysis- I knew going in this one was probably going to be tough and every fish was critical. Losing that first bite in the morning was unfortunate, but it might not have even been a bass. I may have had the bites to get a limit, but probably not. The fish dying on me was just bad luck as it was a bleeder. Actually my big fish was also a bleeder that I didn't think was going to make it, but at the end of the day that fish was in great shape. I wish we would have had more time in Little Rabbit as a limit came out of there. I also found myself wishing I had a Zoom Super Fluke to try in the weed pockets of the lake where we caught our fish. After I broke the rod, I put a Horny Toad on my dipper rod. I could have put the dipper on my Herb's Dilly rod, but as it was I didn't throw a dipper at all.