Lake Okoboji, Spirit Lake, IA
Finally the first tournament of the 2009 season! The forecast called for higher temps in the mid 60’s along with plenty of sun. Ryan and I got on the water early on Saturday and started in some of the areas that we had caught fish the weekend before. We had decided that we where going to target pre spawn largemouth and had a few areas we thought would produce some solid keepers. We also made the commitment to not burn any fish by actually hooking them. Sometimes this is easier said than done. Although it may have proved very successful. I made three casts and got three real quality bites and where able to shake all of them off without actually hooking any of them.
After a quick start, we staring moving around and dissecting similar areas, again finding a lot of nice bites. For the most part we where targeting transitioning largemouths that where moving back toward the shallow flats to spawn. The odd part was that we where getting bit all morning but couldn’t buy a bite after 10:30. I’m not exaggerating either, literally that was it, just like an on/off switch. So around 2:00 in the afternoon we decided it was best to get off the water and get an early start on preparing our tackle and making a game plan for the next day. We decided that we where going to live or die in our few areas we had that we knew held quality keepers. This time of year big bass are all bunched up and if a guy can figure out a way to get them to bite, a big stringer can rack up relatively quickly.
At take off we headed straight for our most productive area and quickly discovered that we weren’t the only one’s who where going to be starting there. In fact we actually ended up sharing the area with 4 or 5 other boats, which just made us work even harder and since the bite seemed to fade in the early afternoon, we found it even more crucial to put together a quick limit.
It just goes to show that a good game plan can really go along way, because I manged to catch a 3 1/2 pounder within the first half hour of fishing and it got even better when I stuck a jig into the mouth of a quality 4 1/2 pound largemouth just 20 minutes later.
After making the first set of rounds we decided to go back through the area and work it a little more slow and thorough. That again played into our hands when I added a nice 2 1/2 pounder on a swim jig. Shortly after, Ryan gets in the action and boats a solid 3 pounder on a hand tied Ryan Brant custom tungsten jig.
It was about 10:30 and the fishing was really starting to get tough. We where one shy of a limit and bites where getting few and far between. When we did manage to get a bite they where all to short to keep and I was starting to get a bit nervous. I knew that the bite was only going to get tougher as the skies got higher and really knew we had to get that crucial limit fish into the livewell. Feeling the pressure, Ryan and I decided it was time to make a move. We headed for another area that proved pretty productive in practice. We came to a nice dropoff that fell from two feet to eight and formed a perfect drop just before a subtle shallow flat. I pitched my jig to the drop and instantly set on a nice largemouth, she rolled once for me and then come off. Before I could get overly disappointed I pitched right back to the drop and set again this time on a short fish. Now pretty determined I made another pitch to the same location and managed to catch a squeaker of a 15″ largemouth, just long enough though to round out a nice limit. Then wouldn’t you guess? We where never able to catch another keeper big enough to cull for the next four hours. Ryan did have a couple real good bites but neither managed to make it in the boat.
We weighed in at 15.38 pounds and held the lead until the last boat in the tourney knocked us off with a winning weight of over 19 pounds. A tough pill to swallow but second place finish is a very strong showing for our first time fishing there. We also managed to cash a nice paycheck to hopefully jump start an awesome season.
With the first tourney of the year in the books, my anticipation level for the rest of the season is through the roof! Like I said before it has been way to long of a winter and I don’t want to have to tough through many more of them. Bri and I are really looking forward to moving to the Nashville, TN area sometime in the very near future and our starting to make plans to get our house ready to be put on the market. Hopefully if all goes well and things manage to fall into place we will be making the move in the next year or two. Until then though I have a lot I’m looking to accomplish here, starting with strong showings in both the Silverado Tour and Bassmaster Weekend Series. Practice starts now for the Weekend Series held just across the border in Wisconsin on Pool 4 of the Mississippi River. Traditionally I haven’t done all that well fishing this stretch of river in the Spring but I’m hoping to change all that and I think some extra practice days will be very beneficial for me to find some quality areas that hold good fish.
I’d also like to congratulate Dave Ham and John Fairbanks on their impressive win this year at the Okoboji Open. I really thought we had won this one until you guys strolled up and smacked us all! Nice limit guys!