Finally it’s here. When I saw this tournament on the 2008 schedule, it ended up being the deciding factor for fishing this entire series. The weather has been starting to change over from summer to fall. The leaves are changing, the weeds are dying, the water temp along with the air temp is starting to descend, and the bass are leaving their summer haunts and starting to put on their feed bags in preparation for the upcoming winter. Being that “Tonka” is close to my house, I was able to get out there a few times and prefish. The first thing I noticed was that the water had quickly dipped into the high 60’s and that the emergent vegetation was starting to back track already. I started by fishing some of my deeper summer areas that had been going good for me months and even weeks earlier. I was catching fish but the size changed from 3, 4, and 5 pounders to 1 and 2 pounders. Worst yet, at times, I wasn’t even getting any bites off the structure. I decided right away that these fish were not going to do it for me and began searching for new water for bigger bites.
The day before the tournament, I had found some real good water that had both abundance and quality size. I felt even more confident because I had found some deeper water and some shallow water that were both holding the fish needed to do real well in this tournament. I planned to start focusing shallow and if for some reason the bite slowed I could still put together a good fish out on some of the deeper weeds. I figured this would end up being a junk fishing tournament for me, and I prepared by lining up about 15 or 16 rods ready to go for what ever the day could bring.
Day one of the tournament and I was in the last flight to take off. I was hoping for an early take off as I had a few “solo fish” spots that I wanted to get to right away. It is sort of like sight fishing. I had a few very quality fish that I had pulled on in practice and was very careful not to hook. Being that they were hiding up in some shallow cover be it boat docks, a clump of pads/milfoil, tree laydown, stump or reed patch, I figured that there was a good chance that fish would still be there the morning of the tournament and I wanted to be the first one to them.
I started on a small riprap edge and managed to miss one on my first cast. I headed to a stump that was previously holding a good fish and flipped my jig to it. Almost instantaneously my line started running off to the side and I set the hook….missed again. Frustrated, I continued on with no bites.
After about an hour or so I caught my first keeper, a small 14″ largemouth that fell for Swim Jig by Davis (Green Pumpkin). I headed for another riprap shoreline and put two more in the boat. I arrived at a good stretch of boat docks and quickly managed to throw together a quick limit of fish on a 3/8 oz. tru Tungsten Jig. I went back to one of my “solo fish” spots to see if this time anyone was home and instantly was awarded with a solid 4 lb. largie.
At about 11:30, I decided to leave my better areas and head out to some of my backup areas. Being that I had a good limit and that I was only one or two good culls away from a real nice limit, I decided to save my fish for day two. I figured that I could definitely make at least one more good cull, in not two or three, and not risk burning any more good size fish from the water I would go all or nothing from tomorrow. Well, things don’t always go as planned and I never made another cull. I weighed in at 11.91 pounds and sat in 13th place. I was a little disappointed in my decision making, looking back, it’s easy to say now that I should have given it a little longer and try to get my bag up in the 14 or 15 lb. range before heading out. Although because I left so early I knew that I had the potential to sack a HUGE bag the next day and instead I set my sights on doing just that.
Day two, I drew boat number 11, in the first flight. I drew Dalon Schmidt, and he was sitting in third place on the non boater side. So needless to say we were both looking for big days. At take off I headed straight for a very small milfoil clump that had been producing in practice and managed to swing a solid two pounder in the boat. After a few more pitches to the milfoil I headed over to that same stump that I missed on yesterday, and this time I set on a quality three pounder. I pitched back to the stump and again caught another one but it was only about 13 inches. With three down and two to go, I headed over to a nearby boat slip and managed to fill my limit, with one of them being well over four pounds.
On my way through a long no wake zone, I noticed the wind was pounding in on some reeds and decided to start chunking and 3/8 oz. Amp Lures Musashi Spinnerbait (Sweetfish), and was able to cull out one of my dinks for another three pounders.
I headed out another riprap stretch and started flippin’ my Tru Tungsten Jig (Fall Craw), along the steep edges of the rocky shoreline. I caught a couple of shorts and then hooked up with another good three pounder just to have it come off at the boat. In my mind you shouldn’t loose a fish when you stick them with a jig. If you hook up they should get in the boat. I was only a hour or two into the tournament, and already had a good bag but that one stung a bit. I fished some pads and docks with nothing. At least nothing for me, my non boater Dalon, couldn’t say the same. He had two 12 inch dinks in the boat, when we came across this weed infested jet ski lift. I pitched my jig in there first with no prevail, and then Dalon placed a perfect skip under there with a 7″ YUM Dinger and out came a giant 5 to 6 pound largemouth. Unbelievable! He wouldn’t eat the jig but took down the senko with no hesitation at all. Of course I wish I had hooked up with that one but it goes to show you that sometimes you need to offer the fish a few different presentations to trigger a strike and if it wasn’t for Dalon’s perfect skip there would have been no bite at all. Dalon is a real good stick and a great guy to have in the boat with you. I truly couldn’t have been happier for him. That put us both with a good limit. I managed to make one more good cull and then time ran out.
Back at weigh in, the buzz, was that over all, the bite was a lot tougher for people and that worked out for both Dalon and myself. I managed to weigh in with a good bag of 15.90 pounds, and with a total two day weight of 27.81, I walked away with seventh place and a five hundred dollar check. Dalon won the non boater side with a good day two bag, anchored down with a hefty 5.6 pound lunker, which was also big bass of the whole tournament. Congrats Dalon!
I managed to finish in second place in the Angler of the Year race. Which is awesome being that this was my first year fishing this series. Next up is the BASSMASTER Weekend Series Regional Championship on Kentucky Lake, near the border on TN and KY. I’ll give a full preview on that shortly. Until then I’m spending a little time fun fishing for Fall smallies and hanging with my lovely wife Bri.