Tuesday, August 25, 2015

12-Mile Lake Revenge

This past weekend my bass club, the Tri-County Bass Club had a tournament at 12-Mile lake near Creston, Iowa.  I have only fished one other club event this year, but I was looking forward to this one for a specific reason.  Back in April I participated in a tournament at the same lake and only managed one keeper.  It burns me  every time I think about it so I wanted revenge.
It is always fun to fish tournaments in the club, it's a group of guys that are great to hang around, and they are very competitive.  It is a fun atmosphere, however it is all business on tournament day.  I knew I had to be at my best to compete with this group as most of them put a day of practice on the lake Saturday.  I chose to hit a lake in the near vicinity to see the recent conditions and the mood of the bass on Saturday and devise a plan for the tournament on Sunday.  My strategy worked well as the bass were in the same mood at 12-mile as they were on the smaller lake I fished on Saturday.
My plan was to stay shallow and fish quickly around cover, weeds or laydown logs.  The day started fast as I had my 3 bass limit only 24 minutes into the tournament.  I was able to cull up two of the smaller keepers by 7am and my plan was working well.  The wind decided to whip down the lake for most of the day at about 20-mph.  It was so refreshing to know that my Minn Kota Fortrex 101 trolling motor would not run out of power and whenever I needed to stop and fish an area thoroughly I would just drop the Minn Kota Talons.  Yes, 20+ mph winds and the Talons kept me still, yet again they continue to amaze me.  While fishing for a few hours in the morning with keepers the coming aboard using a swimjig with an Optimum Baits Double Diamond trailer it became a battle to catch a bigger fish.  I slung my Quantum EXO rod and reel combo for about 7 hours that day and am glad that the combo is so light yet powerful enough to haul in fish after fish around the cover.  As time passed, I assumed that most anglers were having similar success and the bass decided to eat up on this particular day.  I was able to catch 11 keepers that day and my weight for the best three was 7.79 pounds.  That was good enough for 5th place and only 0.03 pounds away from 3rd place.  It was a good finish and I was able to get a little revenge on 12-Mile Lake.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

It's not ALWAYS about catching fish

A recent trip with my kids reminded me that every trip out fishing doesn't have to be about catching fish.  Sure it can make things much better, but they had other things on their minds this day.  We took the boat over to Otter Creek Lake in search of Yellow Bass, which are a blast to catch.  After catching a few fish each though, the kids turned this fishing trip into a fun trip.  For whatever reason their focus turned to the fish in the livewell, the minnow bucket, snacks and their cold drinks.  They were enjoying the warm August day on a lake, and I was too...isn't that what it is all about anyway???  It sure is, sometimes I just have to have my kids remind of this.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Dead of Summer Bass Fishing

Every year when August rolls around my bass brain says it's time to switch gears to a finesse style of fishing.  My favorite approach is a shakey head bait.  My choice of plastic is a 4-inch finesse Hot Rod Baits worm.  Another great presentation is a drop-shot rig.  I prefer a small straight worm for this presentation.  Both work well in the heat of the summer when all else fails.
As pictured I rig this with a Quantum Tour Tactical Medium/Hvy Spinning rod (6ft 10in) spooled up with a Kinetic size 20 reel.  This combo is balanced very well and is very sensitive with enough backbone to haul in heavy bass.  The combo along with the finesse baits make it a perfect fit for the dog days of summer.  I have had some great luck lately fishing deeper drop-offs near shallow points and flats.  Deeper is better, however you must pay attention to the thermocline, if you see that there is no reason to fish below it as the fish will most likely not be in a feeding mood.
Experimenting with colors, finding that "right spot" while using the proper rod/reel setup you will continue to catch during these tough hot days of summer.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series Recap

There are many bass tournaments scattered around the state of Iowa.  Some are simply a tournament where anyone can show up, pay the entry fee and go fishing that day for cash and prizes.  Those events are fun and I have joined in on those types of events for years.  There are also dozens of bass clubs around the state that offer tournaments to fish,however you must be a member to fish those tournaments.  I created the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series with the best of both of those types of tournaments.  The bass series is limited to 20 teams that pay up front for the years' tournaments.  Every event you fish against the same team members, it feels like a club, yet you have all the advantages of the open tournament field by choosing your partner and cashing in when you find the right bass.  I must admit, I did create this circuit like the professional circuit of the BASS corporation, which I feel is the most elite group of anglers in the world.  It takes courage to pay for the entire year and fish schedule that may have a lake or river pool that you aren't real comfortable fishing.  The 19 teams that have fished this circuit the past two years are an elite group of anglers in Iowa.

The series has consisted of 3 events the past few seasons.  Each team must sign up for all 3 and pay the $300 before the first event.  This gets them in all three events which pay the top 5 teams at each event, all 3 big bass payouts and the Team of the Year bonus money.  $500 to the top team and $300 to the Runner-Ups, nothing to sneeze at that is for sure.  This year the schedule began in April at 12-Mile lake in southwestern Iowa.  The next stop was Pool 10 of the Mississippi River in northeast Iowa, and finally Lake Belva Deer in July located in southwestern Iowa.  It is always interesting to see who comes out on top of each event, and this year we had 3 different winners at the events, and 16 teams out of the 19 got paid along the way.

I am already thinking about what the 2016 Hot Rod Baits Bass Series might look like.  I know from all the interest and the unique format that there will probably be once again a near full field, if not a full field of 20 teams on the series next year.  I do know for sure, as long as there are dedicated anglers, bass to be caught and sunrises to see, the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series will continue to the THE circuit in the state to be involved in.   www.hotrodbaits.com

Monday, July 13, 2015

Brushy Creek Lake 4-Man Tournament

Just a small sampling of the boats ready for the start of the event.
For the past 11 years I have helped my bass club, the Tri-County Bass Club run a 4-man tournament at Brushy Creek.  This was an idea I had back in 2005 when I saw the neighboring state of Minnesota conducting similar events.  I am always looking for fun and new things to do with my passion of fishing, so spawned the 4-Man event held at Brushy Creek.  In 2005 that event brought in 7 teams or 14 boats, an average sized tournament for the state of Iowa.  In the past we have seen 24 teams or 48 boats participate, and the last 4 years have averaged about 19 teams or 38 boats.  It also brings in anglers from Nebraska, Minnesota and Illinois.  This is one of the biggest, if not the biggest tournament in the state of Iowa this year.  I, along with the Tri-County Bass Club are pretty proud of that fact.  Needless to say a lot of planning goes into an event like this before the event takes place.  Many club members also play a crucial role in getting this event going and making sure the event is fair and takes good care of the bass at the weigh-in.  I would like to publicly thank Don Henry for the hours of work behind the scene he does each year, Dave Jordan and Doug Chaloupek for helping each year with boat inspections and weigh-ins, and finally Brad Rozendaal who does a fantastic job at being the weigh master at several of these past events.  As a group we make sure every angler that enters these events has a fair and equal shot at collecting prize money.  Speaking of that, with a $200 per team entry fee, the club handed out almost $3,000 to the top 4 teams and big bass winners.  We also strive to get the bass weighed in quickly and back in the lake with little time out of the livewell.  All in all there wasn't one hiccup at the event this year, except for the slow fishing.

Fishing at Brushy Creek Lake has slowed down for the past couple of years.  No one really knows why this is occurring, however being one of the deepest and busiest bass lakes in the state probably doesn't help it at all.  That is one reason why it is extremely important to handle your fish with care and make sure your tournament organizations are doing the same.

The team I participate on each year has stayed constant that past several years; Doug Chaloupek, Dave Jordan, Don Henry and myself, all from Marshalltown.  We have a great time with each other, and even though we are there to "work" the event we don't let that get in the way of fishing too much.  This year the team collected 6 keeper bass, Dave and Doug did the most work with 5 keepers and we finished in 3rd place.  It wasn't a great day of fishing, rather slow for both boats but I guess we did enough to earn a top spot and a nice payday.  It was tough on most anglers, only a local team caught more than 6 keeper bass which got them the win.  Brushy Creek can be a great lake, and I hope the slow fishing is not a sign of what is ahead for this lake.  It's a great Iowa treasure and I hope everyone does their part to keep it that way.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Tournament Director and Angler

This past weekend marked the 2nd stop in the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series.  This is a circuit that I designed, organized and with the help of some friends run throughout the year.  My partner for these adventures is Brian Bowles.  This event took us to Harper's Ferry in the north end of Pool 10 on the Mississippi River.  With all the tournament organizing and communication wrapped up it was time to focus on fishing for the weekend.
Brian and I covered a lot of water in Pool 10 on Friday, however we didn't like what we saw, only a few small keeper largemouth bass.  We decided that we should focus in on some areas that treated me well last weekend up a pool in #9.  Our practice showed us that there were definitely the right kinds of bass biting in that pool amid the areas we tried.  We decided to test ourselves and go to Pool 9 to fish the tournament on the following day.  This however, means that you must go through a lock two times during the competition day...which is always a risk.
The actual fishing was slow on Sunday, and we knew that it would be.  Most teams that were talking after Saturday only commented on how slow the bite was or even non-existent.  We knew that if we could get 6 keepers (the tournament limit) that we would be just fine.  We started the day off on the main channel (after about a 1.5 hour fog delay) and caught one on a Hot Rod Baits Tube.  We then followed our plan to fish some backwater areas of Pool 9.  It was a repeat, Texas-rigged tubes were working, however this time two keeper largemouth came into the boat.  It was really nice to be able to put the Minn Kota Talons down and work over every piece of wood and weed bed.  Our time was running out, as three barges were headed south to go through the same lock that we had to get through and make it back for the 2pm weigh-in.  We had 3 keepers, but that wasn't going to do much for us, so we gambled and made our way to another backwater area that was full of weeds and hopefully bass.  I quickly hooked up on our largest bass for the day on an Optimum Baits Furbit Frog.  Brian added keeper #5 flipping a River Minnow tube from Hot Rod Baits.  We had five keepers and we knew we had to get going to make the lock before the last barge that afternoon.
We made our south towards the lock and went by the barge that we had to beat, no problems, we were feeling pretty good.  However, I made the dreaded call that no bass angler really wants to make.  As we got close to lock, a barge was there and making its way through.  It was about 12:30 and lack master said that it would be 1.5 hours until the lock would be free for us to go through.  This was the worse news we could have heard.  We sat discussed trying to make sense of it, but we couldn't.  We did everything we could, practiced hard, had the areas to catch some quality fish, and now it was all for nothing.  We probably wouldn't even get through the lock until after 2pm, ruining our tough, but great day of fishing.
Brian and I sat in the boat for well over an hour, and normally this would just give us an opportunity to chit-chat about things...but very little was said.  I called a friend int eh tournament to have him set up the weigh-in materials and told him I didn't know when we might be back.  We put all our Quantum rod and reels away and just sat, disappointment doesn't really describe the feeling we had, we knew it was a risk, and we knew we had to go that one last area to try and upgrade our total, so fate just wasn't lined up for us...UNTIL at about 1:44 the lock and
dam horn sounded.
We looked at each other knowing that the horn was signaling the barge to go south.  We thought we had a slight chance...and then the doors opened for us!  We, along with another pontoon (who most likely though we were crazy as we were clapping the process on) quickly made our way into the lock and the doors closed behind us, I watched the seconds tick by on my GPS, both our hearts pounding.  The doors opened at 1:54pm and we made it back to the weigh-in with 2 minutes to spare, it was quite a ride on Mississippi River that day!!!  Oh, and our 5 keeper bass earned us a 3rd place finish with a nice payday!  For the second weekend in a row the river was very tough, but in the end very kind to me and my partners.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Tri-County Bass Club event at Pool 9

This past weekend I was able to participate in a club event at my favorite water, Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.  These club tournaments are some of my favorites to fish because all the competitors are my friends.  Fishing against one another is one thing, but the hanging out after the tournaments chit chatting about various things really makes the trip more enjoyable.
This particular bass club has a random draw for partners.  There is no such thing as a bad draw in our club, but I was fortunate to draw Don Henry, we fish together quite often throughout the year and we both were looking forward to the journey north.  Don and I left Thursday evening so we would have the complete day on Friday to practice and look around the pool.  Tournament day were Saturday and Sunday, so using our time wisely was key for us finding different areas.
SATURDAY:
We had decided to start in some backwater areas of Pool 9, however with the water above 10.0 feet current seemed to be flowing almost everywhere.  We located some clean water and had some keeper bites (14-inches on the Mississippi River) on Friday so we thought we could get a few to start the day.  We sure did, slinging swimjigs with a Quantum EXO combo is one of my favorite things to do at the river, and the bass were hitting them hard this day in the shallow weeds.  We were having fun and even took a few seconds to snap a "double keeper" selfie!  These two fish were caught with the Minn Kota TALONS down so we could make long casts in the clear waters.  While we started the day with swimjig, my saving grace for the weekend was the Optimum Baits FURBIT frog.  This caught me my largest fish on Saturday and numerous other key fish over the weekend.  This frog has so many great things about it that help anglers catch more fish in the weeds than any other frog out there.  To name just a few, it has 6/O hooks, the weight in under the hook, giving it a huge hook-up ratio and the life like legs are second to none.  These frogs have been a key for me in so many tournaments throughout the years that most of my competition and friends just have to buy them too!  I finished the first day with a 5  bass limit and Don had 2 keepers.  This put me in the lead after day one, and Don was still in the hunt.
SUNDAY:
Quantum high speed Smoke Reels with 7 foot medium/heavy Quantum Rods, 50-pound braided line and Optimum Baits Furbit Frogs
Day two of the event started with rain, wind and cooler temperatures as well as the river continued to drop about 3-4 inches a day.  All these factors were making the fishing tough, and limits at a premium.  Mine was the only one of the first day.  We decided to start in the same areas as we did on Saturday.  Things were much slower, but the swimjig and Optimum frog once again got me 3 keepers in the boat in the first few hours.  Don was sitting with only one, and it was time to make a big change in our strategy.  Either the fish we were catching in the weeds were gone due to the dropping water, the weather changes or fishing pressure we knew we had to forget about them.  We moved on to some main river current where we found some fish on Friday.  It is a stretch of main channel that I visit often while on Pool 9.  It has heavy current and normally has baitfish present.  It was a risk that I was willing to take and it paid off.  We immediately started to catch fish on spinnerbaits fishing the main channel.  I was able to fill my limit pretty quickly and then Don took over the boat.  Once again the TALONS were anchored down several times in the main channel current.  Each and every time I use the shallow water anchoring system I am impressed.  The heavy current was no match for the TALONS on this day and allowed us to stay where we wanted and not waste time going backwards in the strong current.  With just a few minutes left of the tournament Don connected on his fifth keeper of the day too, a joyous moment no doubt.  The weigh-in concluded and left me with in first place as I was the angler to have 10 keepers over the 2-day event, and Don finished with 7 keepers and in second place by over 4 pounds.  It was a frustrating but rewarding weekend for me.  I was unable to find fish over the 2-pound mark, however when keepers were as rare as gold nuggets catching 10 of them was the rewarding part.