Wednesday, June 23, 2010

End of the Season!

I can’t believe the season is over! I’m relieved to have some time off now, but I know that in a couple of weeks I am going to be ready to get back at it again. Good thing I’m fishing the PAA tournaments this year. I will be fishing Lake Cherokee in a few weeks, so that will give me just enough time to relax and enjoy being in a home that doesn’t have wheels on it! So, to recap on the season, it didn’t go as well as I had hoped, but it could have been a lot worse! We did good financially speaking, and I made my 10th Classic! But, no matter what, if you don’t end up in contention for AOY, you always finish the season feeling like you could have done better. Regardless, I am thrilled to know that I will be fishing the Classic in 2011. Ultimately, making the Classic is what all of us on the Elite Series strive to achieve.

Here is how things went down in Oklahoma:
On the first day of practice (which was on the river) I had a great day. At least 20 keeper bites that probably would have gone 15 lbs. I was excited, to say the least.

On day 2 of practice (still on the river) the water had risen about 5 feet from where it was the previous day. Despite the drastically different conditions, I managed to scratch out about 7 or 8 keeper bites that would have went 13 to 15 lbs. Then, at about 3:30 that afternoon the rug got pulled out from under me. A text message from Trip told us that we were no longer going to be fishing on the river due to unsafe conditions. I was a little upset, since I had really found some good fish in practice, but he made the call he had to make. So, I got myself ready to go fish Ft. Gibson, and start all over again.

On day 3 of practice I found that it really helped that I had fished there before! Things were tough, and tricky to figure out. I fished the lake like I would fish Grand Lake, which kind of helped me out. I got dialed in on some shallower fish, and caught them up in creeks on a shallow crank.

On the first day of the tournament I caught about 12 or 13 lbs in 30 minutes off of my first spot. I found this spot in practice, and didn’t really know what all was there, so I spent some time expanding on my area. All in all I caught about 25 keepers that day, and culled up to a little over 16 lbs by the end of the day. I was feeling pretty good, and sitting in 14th place.

On the second day of the tournament I tried to do the same thing as the first day, but something had changed and I didn’t put my first keeper in the boat until 8:30. Once I got the fish going, I was able to catch them. I didn’t get on them as good, and my weight was a few pounds lower than the day before, but I was still feeling alright. I dropped to something like 21st place, but I figured I had everything locked up and would be able to sneak my way up into the 12 cut the next day.

On the third day, I didn’t put my first keeper in the box until 10:00. The only thing I knew to do was to stick with it, and wait for the fish to turn on, but it never panned out. I ended up heading to a back-up spot a lost a 4 lber but caught another fish that measured. I was patient, and really just hunkered down and willed myself to believe that my fish would turn on for me, but they never did. My spots were inconsistent and unreliable, but I made the best that I could out of it. I got a $10,000 check, finished 33rd in AOY, and made the classic. I made myself a new rule that day too: If I don’t catch a fish in an hour on one spot, it’s time to move on. Some might consider me a veteran of the sport, but I still learn new things and figure new stuff out every tournament!

Now I am going to be focused on the Classic. Some of the reasons I work so hard to make sure I make it to the classic is that it is a fairly level playing field that provides a lot of momentum for the preceding season, we get good sponsor support for participating, and everyone is guaranteed a pay check. It’s 8 months away and I’m already looking forward to it! Right now there is some uncertainty about fishing in the New Orleans area, but we will make the most of it and I am definitely going to get down there sometime before deer season to do some scouting!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Kentucky Lake

It seems like every tournament is a learning experience. And at Kentucky Lake I learned that when you got fishing biting, catch every single one you can, because it’s not going to last forever! Practice was pretty discouraging as one by one my favorite spots from year’s past failed to produce. It was tough to get on any offshore bite during practice because of the weather, so I loaded up the boat and towed it from Paris to the dam so I could fish up there without having to endure the rough ride. Once I started fishing up-lake, things started to go a little better. I found some good offshore humps that produced lots of fish. In practice I caught several doubles while cranking, and lots of 5 lb + fish. My strategy in practice was to put my Lowrance Side Scan to work while I idled over likely areas looking for hard bottom spots with fish on or around it. I found 5 such spots in practice, and come tournament time only 1 of those 5 spots produced for me! That’s how much those fish were moving around on us out there.

On day 1 of the tournament I caught almost 19 lbs on a Bomber Fat Free Shad and a football jig. On day 2 I caught a 4 lb smallie followed by a 3 lb smallie right off the bat, which was weird considering I hadn’t boated any smallmouths the entire week. I continued through the rotation of my spots and couldn’t buy another keeper bite. So, at 10 a.m. I ran up to my spot by the dam. I knew there were fish on the spot because I could see them on my Side Scan, but when I threw my Fat Free Shad through them I got nothing. Then I picked up my football jig and still nothing. But when I threw the War Eagle Twin Spin Jig at them, it was like they had never seen a lure before! After I wore them out with the Twin Spin I picked up a Spoon. First cast I lay into a huge fish. Huge fish turned out to be a giant freshwater drum! I was so disappointed and frustrated at the amount of time I put into that fish! I shrugged it off, and fired my spoon back out into the school. Same deal again, I lay into a huge fish that isn’t even acting like a bass. I kind of got lazy with this fish because I figured it was another drum, but when I got the fish boat side I saw that it was a huge largemouth! Got her in the boat and she went 6-11! Glad I didn’t let that fish come unbuttoned! After that, I was catching fish on the spoon almost every other cast. This is where my day 2 dilemma comes in to play. One of my smallmouths that I caught in the morning was belly up, and the other one was headed in the same direction. I had a decision to make: Either stay and try to cull out some of my other fish, or leave so I could weigh in early and save any other fish that might have been on the downward spiral and save the rest of the school on that spot. I opted to leave and weighed in at 2 p.m. I weighed in 22 lbs.

On day 3 the fish had vanished from my magic spot. I didn’t know what to do. I figured that the overcast conditions had shutoff the offshore bite, and turned on the shallow bite. So at about 10 a.m. I headed towards the bank and assaulted them with a frog. I caught 4 keepers in a fairly short amount of time on the frog. After I had 4 in the box, I ran back out to my offshore spot and never came up with another keeper bite. I ended my day there wishing I would have caught more of them on day 2. Just a few more pounds would have put me in the top 12, and fishing on the final day.

But, I achieved my goal of a top 30 finish, and now I just have to go to work in Oklahoma. I have it figured that I need at least a top 40 finish in Oklahoma to make it to the Classic. I just have to keep the intensity and fish hard. Hopefully this one will go better, as I’ll be fishing more my strengths.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Back on the Tennessee River

We arrived at Guntersville on Memorial Day and spent the evening with the Howell and Martens’ families. We had a great dinner and we all enjoyed ourselves. On Tuesday and Wednesday I fished Guntersville to try and refocus myself for the rest of the season. I was happy to shake off the Clark’s Hill event with some solid ledge fishing on Guntersville. The fishing was great and I discovered a new lure: the War Eagle Twin Spin Jig. It’s basically a football jig with blades on it, and I can’t wait to put it to work on Kentucky Lake! On Wednesday night we went to the “Bat Cave” with the Howell and Lane families. Words don’t do this justice! It’s a cave on the lake where thousands upon thousands of bats reside. And after sunset 60,000 bats come pouring out of the cave all at once! It was crazy, and it was a unique way to spend time with family and friends. There were some biologists there working on an annual study of the bat population who told us that the bats are being decimated by a rapidly spreading disease. I’m glad we got to enjoy it while we could, and if you’re ever in the area be sure you check it out as well.

We left Guntersville on Thursday and headed upriver to Paris Tennessee. But before we got to Paris we stopped at Dave Ramsey’s Financial Peace Plaza in Nashville and got to meet Dave Ramsey! I am a big fan of his, and it was very exciting to shake his hand and meet him. We watched him do his show, and got to indulge in free Starbuck’s cappuccinos and gourmet desserts. It was quite the place, and a very cool experience for sure.

I got to be a part of the Triton Owner’s Tournament over the weekend. That’s always a cool deal, and it’s great to meet all the people that fish the tournament. However, the best part was watching all of the big bags come across the weigh-in scales. There were some 25 lb. bags caught, and big bass was around 8 lbs. I am so excited to get to work on the lake so I can have my chance to wreck ‘em.

My main focus now is to make two top 50 cuts so I can get a check. I need to work hard so I can make it to the classic, but I really want to put a “W” on my resume this season. I hope that all my hard work will pay off. I have been looking forward to the last two events of the season, so I can’t wait to see how they pan out.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

A Chance to Slow Down

When we left Clark’s Hill we headed down to Biloxi to spend some time with family. We had a fun vacation without the hassles of tournament preparation. I hadn’t been down there since the Katrina catastrophe, and even though a lot has been rebuilt, our time down there made me realize just how severe the damage was. Everyone has done their best to move on, but the empty building foundations are a reminder of what happened. We didn’t see any oil spill damage down there, but did notice that a lot of people were taking precautions for the inevitable. We really hope that the Biloxi area will be spared, but if it does happen, the people down there are tough and resilient and will find a way to get through it.

While we were in Biloxi we got to do a little saltwater fishing. Mason, who is now absolutely obsessed with fishing, got to fish from the piers a little bit. But the most fun fishing Mason and I had was on a charter boat with my Dad, brother in law, and niece catching sharks! We probably caught 50 sharks, and they were all the perfect size. We caught them on flipping rods, and it was a blast. The rest of the week we spent relaxing and having quality family time.

We got to Lake Guntersville on Memorial day and plan on fishing the next couple of days down here. Going to get some rest in so I can get ready for 2 more stressful weeks. Practice for the KY Lake event starts on Sunday, this way we can have a day off to travel to Oklahoma for the final event of the year. I’m really hoping that this week on Guntersville will help get me in the right frame of mind to do some damage at KY Lake.