Horseshoe Chain, Cold Spring, MN
This entry is a hard one for me to write about, so much that I felt I needed to wait until some of my feelings inside developed and digested before I wrote it out. I realize that I write this blog for the public to view but first and foremost it’s a personal diary for me, something that I’ll be able to refer back to and remember both the good and bad trials in my pursuit of professional bass fishing. To some, these entries may not seem like much more than me promoting myself for personal gain. To me, these entries are the product of mine and my families hard work and dedication to a sport I cherish and love more than almost anything else in the world.
Going into this tournament, this venue was one I was excited for since I first saw it was included on the tour schedule. I had never even been on the chain before but from what I had heard, I knew it would fit my style better than any other body of water we were going to be fishing all year. First off, it’s a river system and this section of the Sauk River houses both smallmouth and largemouth bass. The chain is known for it’s stained water and abundance of shallow cover that lines it’s banks. It also has an abundance of rock, some of which is out deeper forming nice structure and others up shallow mostly in the form of riprap banks.
There was also some added pressure because of poor performance’s in the first three stops I needed to win this event to qualify for the post season Tournament of Champions held on Lake Minnetonka were a brand new, fully loaded Ranger bass boat was on the line. Being a part of this post season event meant a lot to me, in fact it was the sole reason I chose the Silverado over other tournament trails. I consider Lake Minnetonka my home water and the opportunity to win a new boat there would mean the world to me.
Throughout practice I was able to build some confidence in multiple different areas targeting largemouth but was concerned by the lack of smallmouth catching. It wasn’t until my final day of practice that I really put in the effort on locating some brown fish. This was partly on purpose because this year smallmouth have really burnt me in the Silverado. Usually I prefer to chase them but after getting punked by them in the last two stops, I wasn’t exactly eager to count on them in a tournament that had so much on the line.
I was able to get my Am partner Lance out for the final day of practice and in the morning we ran around so I could show him what I was planning to fish the next day so he’d have a good idea of what to expect. Every now and then we’d stop and fish some new water and try to find a couple more things that could give us that push and assist in a much needed win. On one of these such stops, Lance fired a spinnerbait and wouldn’t you know it he catches an easy 5 pound smallie. I turned around and fired my crankbait to the same area and landed a solid 2 1/2 pound smallie. This was an extra shot of confidence because this spot was out of the way and I was very confident not many people knew it existed. This way I could leave it until later in the day and hopefully make a few key culls once my largemouth bite slowed down a bit.
I ran a few more areas that I thought may hold some smallies and was able to catch a few, nothing huge but worth the stop. I had found a couple riprap areas and a few deep rock spots as well.
After a late boat draw, I started on a spot that transitioned from riprap to sand. After a few casts with a crankbait I put the first fish in the box, a 15″ largemouth. I then ran some of my spots were I had pulled on some fish and couldn’t buy a bite. After a couple hours with only 1 bass in the box I decided it was time to get to the smallies and see if they were going to actually cooperate with me.
I approached my first spot and noticed it was getting pounded by the wind. I made a few casts with the crankbait and caught 2 keeper largemouth’s right away, only going about 13″ each. I switch to a carolina rig and after a few short strikes I landed a quality 3 pound smallmouth. A cast later and Lance boats a 2 pound smallmouth. Everything was rolling in the right direction when I got another bite, I set the hook and instantly knew I was in trouble as there was to much slack left in the line and before I could adjust I watched a doozer smallmouth jump 3 feet in the air and throw my bait. That hurt but I was able to somewhat shrug it off and after a few more casts with no takers I decided it was time to head out and let that area simmer.
My next area was a riprap bank and it only took three casts with my crankbait and I was hooked up with a huge 4 plus pound smallie. I noticed right away I only had her with the back treble and did an excellent job thumb spooling her and when she was wore down we went in with the net and somehow managed to get the front treble caught in the net and in no time the smallie sprung loose. Ouch, that one really hurt and after visually watching two real nice fish get away I couldn’t help but feel it mentally. I knew this chain of lakes was going to fish tough and that big bites had to be capitalized on and I couldn’t help but have that awful feeling in my stomach.
Still I tried to stay positive but as the day wore on my bite got worse and worse and I couldn’t seem to get a single largemouth to bite. I decided to go back to my riprap spot and after a few casts again hooked up with a bruiser of a smallmouth and after a very short fight wouldn’t you guess, she got off. I checked my crankbait and was just ill when I saw that one of the hooks on the back treble bent out. Insane!
Now still one bass short of a limit, I went into full out panic mode. I knew I was still in it but really wanted to get a limit and after about an hour I finally boated our limit fish on a 3/8 oz. Tru Tungsten Jig. The 13″ largemouth came on a laydown in about 2 feet of water and after fishing the rest of that bank with no more bites I decided I better head to one last spot before time ran out and hope for a hail mary.
After a few casts with a crankbait God himself answered and again I was hooked up with another 4 plus pound smallmouth. I worked liked crazy to keep that fish on and just as the net came in it was like deja vu, the net caught the treble on my crankbait and before my eyes I watched yet another bruiser come off at the boat. I truly felt like I was going to vomit. It was the most disheartening feeling I have ever had in all my days of bass fishing. I knew that I had the tournament all but won and some how managed to throw it all away.
This way of thinking came to a quick reality when I arrived at weigh in and found that most the field failed to come in with limits. I weighed in a limit of bass for 10.2 pounds and took a disappointing 16th place, 5 pounds shy of the winning weight.
I’ve had dropped fish cost me money in tournaments and possibly even a win or two, but never have I had it so obvious to myself and in such a big event. I knew what I had to accomplish and put myself in position to do just that, just to finish in such a gut wrenching way. Sure I left 8 grand on the table and even worse left what could have been my spot in the TOC, but none of that hurt as much as the feeling of knowing what I had to do, being right there and watching it all vanish. In my little world, I’m sure it’s the equivalent of fumbling the football on the goal line with only seconds left in the end of the fourth quarter, with a trip to the Super Bowl on the line.
I waited for all these thoughts to calm in my head before writing this because I now have a better appreciation for the outcome. Sure it eats me like none other but it’s all part of the game and may not even be the last time it happens. This is probably one of the reasons I fish competitively instead of for the simple fun of it. I’m definitely not the only one that can say they had it and then lost it, in fact everyone of my idols in the sport can say the same. Instead of sitting and feeling bad for myself and my misfortune, I’ll instead use this as a motivator. I proved to myself that I could have and maybe even should have won this event, with just a little luck or better execution I could have done exactly what I set out to do against the best Minnesota has to offer.
With all this said, I want to send out a special congratulations to my very good friend and team tournament partner Ryan Brant for besting the field and notching his first big win. I always said to him for the past 3 years we’ve been fishing together, if I can’t win it, I hope he does. Well congrats man, you deserve it! Hat’s off Brant!