Deer Lake, St. Croix Falls, WI
Ahh….Good ol’ Deer Lake. Let’s just say that I had zero confidence going into this tournament. I had prefished this lake twice and had really no problem catching fish, the problem was catching one that was over 14 inches. As I stated earlier, Wisconsin state law says that a bass must be 14″ minimum to keep or in our case even put in the livewell. Trust me, admitting over the internet that in two practice days (eight hours total between the two days) that I couldn’t catch a bass over 14″ is self degrading on it’s own, but I’ll let the truth be known.
When John Haynes and I went out to practice we were met with a real bad cold front and lots of wind. We were able to locate small fish on some pretty nice weedy shallow flats. It’s obvious that the bigger fish are going to spawn there, but it’s just a matter of when. We also spent some time fishing deep points and humps with no success. The one good thing was that 5 minutes before I had to load up my boat on the second practice day, I hooked what seemed to be a real nice fish. I was in about ten foot of water on a nice drop that went from that shallow flat to deeper water. I was using a texas rigged 6″ Amp Lures Mimi straight tail hand poured worm (Green Pumpkin), with a 1/16 oz Tru Tungsten sinker pegged about 16″ up the line. Unfortunately for me after a pretty nice fight the fish got off. The one good thing though is it was minimum 3.5 pounds. That gave me just a little confidence for the tournament. I figured that I was in the right area and that the bigger fish were staging on those drops in front of the spawning flat. With the weather forecasting 70 degree days and 55 degree nights I figured at worst they would still be staged there or even better that they would have moved up onto the shallow flats and would be putting on their feed bags.
Well wouldn’t you know that at tournament time we were met with another post front, high skies, cold temps and a nice stiff wind. I still figured the bass would be on that drop and right away we headed to that location. After about an hour with no bites we moved up onto the flat and I caught a couple small ones again under the 14″ mark. After wasting nothing but time we decided to go try our luck on the other side of the lake. During practice we had found this certain bay to be very productive with the little fish and figured we should be able to at least stick a couple 14 inchers. I mean come on a 14″ bass isn’t that big. It isn’t like I’m asking for a five pounder or anything! We arrived in our bay and found that there were numerous other bass boats from the tourney fishing in there. We decided to give it a try anyway. Wouldn’t you know, again we had no problem catching fish but what does a guy have to do to get it over 14″? I was catching them like crazy on a texas rigged Reaction Innovations 4″ Flirt with a pegged 1/16 oz. Tru Tungsten sinker.
With only a 4 hours to go in the tournament I decided to go hit some docks. We pulled into a nice stretch close to where I had lost that bigger one during practice. I figured with the sun getting brighter later in the day the bass would hold under the docks. On the very first dock I had a nice bite and missed. Second dock, same thing. Then on the third dock, I had a great bite, set the hook into what finally felt like a real nice fish, she bullnosed, wrapped me around the dock post and was gone. That hurt. We fished out the rest of the docks on that stretch with no success. The only good thing that came from that was the fact that we found fish and they could be caught under boat docks. We decided to go into a real small bay that had a few nice pontoon boats and was loaded with docks. On the very first dock I finally caught a nice one on a 1/4 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig (Watermelon) with a 2.75″ Gander Mountain Chunk (Green Pumpkin). I headed down to the next dock and pitched the jig all around the dock. A few pitches and I got another nice bite, I set the hook hard and my 20 lb. Fluorocarbon snapped inside my reel. Are you serious! That has happened to me only a few times in my life and now it happens during the last hour of a tournament. I guess that is just the way the day was going to go.
At the end of the day I found myself weighing in one fish for 2.5 pounds. Oddly enough still good enough for a ninth place finish out of 22 boats. I guess it was a tough bite for everyone, 16 people either caught one fish or blanked completely. Ryan Brant won the tournament with four fish and a total weight of 9 pounds. On the ride home I couldn’t help but think of what could have been had I landed a few of those nicer fish. The fact that I didn’t fish well at all mixed with a tough bite and I guess I ended up right where I should be. I have some real big tournaments coming up, one of which is the BASSMASTER Weekend Series on the Le Homme Dieu chain of lakes. I plan on using this as motivation to do real well there and the rest of the season. From here on out it’s fishing, fishing, fishing! I have a lot of homework to do to prepare myself for the upcoming season and one thing I know for certain is you can’t expect to do well if you don’t give the effort. There will always be bad days on the water, but with the right frame of mind, I can definitely out number my bad days with good ones!