Tuesday, September 30, 2014

2014 Angler of the Year

A couple of bass that helped me clinch my
7th Tri-County Bass club Anlger of the Year

This past weekend was the finale of bass tournaments for me in 2014.  It was the final event of the Tri-County Bass Club season.  Back in March I made the decision to fish the entire schedule and set a goal for myself to win Angler of the Year.  I hadn't fished many tournaments in the club the past three years, focusing on other events, but I really missed the friends that I have made in the Tri-County Club.  I really enjoyed the tournaments this year and each venue brought on a different challenge from the bass.  
The last event at Pool 9 was no different.  This part of the river is my favorite place to fish for bass.  I had been looking forward to it the whole year.  Going into the last event, I was the overall points leader in the club for Angler of the Year.  I decided to really "swing for the fence" during my practice day on Friday.  We covered a lot of water in northern part of the pool, and found where a few bass were hanging out.  I didn't feel real comfortable with what we caught, but didn't fish one area of the pool that is known to always have a few bass in it during the fall months.  We did check out the water quality there and it was nice, also seeing about 30 boats panfishing on a Friday told me all I needed to know...there were a lot of fish starting to use this backwater area of Pool 9.  Instead of playing it safe, I went to the southern part of the pool in search of some big smallmouth bass on the first day of competition.  That plan never really came together.  I only weighed in 4 keeper bass out of the possible 5 and only one weighed more than two pounds.  It was not what I was hoping for.
Before I even made it back to our motel room, I decided to head to the "old stomping grounds" and play it safe on the second day.  It was the right move to make, and my partner and I both had a limit of 5 bass within a few hours.  It was steady catching throughout the day, and a great way to end the year.
Looking back at this event and all the other times I have competed in tournaments it still amazes me how well my equipment treats me.  My Quantum rods and reels once again have amazed me this year.  They are so durable, and you can quickly tune the reels in to cast a mile if needed.  The life-like swimbaits and unbeatable frogs from Optimum Baits and all the soft plastics from Hot Rod Baits caught almost all of my fish this year.  The confidence I have in these baits are amazing, and they clearly catch fish!
 I ended up in 4th place for the event, but was crowned the Angler of the Year by quite a margin.  Something I set my mind to a long time ago, and I am very proud that I can say I am 7-time Angler of the Year in the Tri-County Bass Club!

I am fortunate to have a reliable Ranger Boat, Yamaha motor and my trustworthy Minn Kota trolling motor.


Saturday, September 20, 2014

September Fun

September is always the beginning to the end of the open-water fishing season.  Bass tournaments are winding down and my brain starts to think about ice fishing.  The past two weekends I spent some time with friends chasing bass at area lakes.  I love fishing bass tournaments, but there is something about just going "Fishing".  Those of you that fish tournaments know where I''m coming from.  Every second of every tournament counts.  It is a rush all day long to try to accomplish the goal of winning the event.  At times, this motivation takes the place of the enjoyment of nature and the act of fishing.  Between tournaments I like to enjoy to meet up with friends, and "just go fishing".
Union Grove Lake was the destination a couple weeks ago
with Dave Jordan.  We had a great time talking fishing, life and the last tournament of the year which is coming up.  We caught a few keeper bass that day along with a couple dozen other bass.  Most fish were eating Hot Rod Baits Tubes, or a finesse worm.  The water color clarity was good for the lake, and the colors of the baits didnt' seem to matter.
That brings me to todays' outing at Hawthorne Lake with friend Jacy Large.  I have ice fished several times with Jacy, but this was the first outing in the boat together.  We dodged a few rain storms on the day, and between them we caught some nice bass.  Today, it seemed like the bass were hanging in the 10-foot range, and they were eating crankbaits pretty well.  A few fish took some slower presentations, but it didn't account for too many of the 20 or so bass we caught this morning.  Looking back at these two trips, it was all about the fun, the act of catching a few dozen bass was just a bonus to the great company!
Next up, the Tri-County Bass Club Classic tournament, which will decide the Angler of the Year at Pool 9 of the Mississippi River.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Second to Last

No, that wasn't my recent performance in a bass tournament!  However, this past weekend was my second to last bass tournament of the year.  The Tri-County Bass Club had the event at Lake Belva Deer.  This is a lake that is up and coming for bass anglers here in Iowa.  It is full of bass and in the past couple years the bigger fish have started to appear.  The one down-side to the lake, other than being a little over a 90-minute drive, is that it is relatively small.  It is only 264 acres, and seems much smaller than that in the middle August.  With 15 boats in the event, fishing areas were at a premium.
I had a chance to scout out the lake the weekend before, and I had a good game-plan ready.  The fish were holding in their typical summer places, deeper water, off channels, and suspended in the flooded timber.  That day was sunny, with little wind...fast forward to this past Saturday, storms, several directional changes in wind and clouds most of the day.  My game-plan was no good, however I hunkered down in the most productive area I found the week before and made the adjustments for the current weather.
Clouds, several storm fronts and wind had the fish scattered, but still feeding in the area.  I quickly got two keepers in the livewell flipping a Hot Rod Baits River Minnow Tube along the weed edges.  Then the lightning and storms really hit the area.  At about 6:45am I decided to sit in the bottom of my boat for the next 1.5 hours.  I have never done that in my 20 years of fishing bass tournaments.  However, with so much lightning in the area, I just couldn't keep fishing.  I tied to a log and sat/laid in the bottom of the boat playing on phone.  I was content, and more importantly, I was safe.
After the lightning had passed, I was back at work.  It was still cloudy, so I just kept fishing how I caught my first two keepers.  It wasn't too long, and keeper #3 made its way into the livewell.  I was feeling pretty good, knowing that on a strange weather day that several anglers probably wouldn't catch a limit.  I kept at work, knowing that I just need one big fish.  After going through a lot of shorter bass, the big one made an appearance.  I set the hook, and up it came.  It boiled on the surface, and I said out loud, "that's the one".  I played it out a little bit and flipped it into the boat.  It was a long fish, but skinny, it weighed exactly 4.00pounds.  I was stoked!
I kept working the area over, going through some keepers, and I made one more upgrade before the end of the tournament.  All that was left is bringing them to the scales.  My buddy Doug Chaloupek weighed in quickly and had just over nine pounds, I knew I didn't have that much, but was scared that others had big limits too.  Turns out, I came in second place and that 4-pounder was the big bass of the event.  It was an awesome day, and most importantly I picked up another Top 3 finish and some very valuable Angler of the Year points.  With only one event left, there is no room for a slip up.
 Needless to say, I am looking very forward to getting up to Pool #9 for the finale of the season!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

August on the Mighty Mississippi River

This past weekend Brian Bowles and I teamed up once again in a club event on Pool 10 of the Mississippi River.  We had about a half of day on Friday to look things over for a two day tournament.  We decided to go to Pool 9 and check things out, if we didn't find anything, then we knew that our focus would be in Pool 10 the entire weekend.  We found a few areas that were holding fish so we knew we were headed there the first day of competition.
Saturday morning came and we headed north.  We filled our limit of 6 bass in about 3 hours and started to upgrade our catch.  We caught dozens of smaller fish, which kept the day a lot of fun.  We focused on trees and eel grass in current.  These areas were also loaded with minnows, making our bait choice an easy one.  Most bass were caught on the Hot Rod Baits River Minnow Tube.  We ended day one in the lead by a slight margin.  With that news we decided to stick to the same plan and hope the similar or better results.
Sunday came and off we went to our best spot.  We caught a couple bass right away for our first two keepers of the day. After that, no bites, not even smaller ones.  Something had changed, but what was it?  Mayflies...they were not in the area this day, and thus the fish left.  A simple little bug put a damper on our day.  We hit some other areas that we caught fish on Saturday and even expanded on those areas to fill our limit and upgrade slightly a few times.  I knew we didn't quite have the weight we did the first day, and I had a bad feeling about things.
The bad feeling was true, we ended up 0.09 pounds out of first place.  Yes, a few drops of water, but that is how things go in world of fishing tournaments.  I have been on the other side of a weigh-in like that, and this time it was my turn to denied by a narrow margin.  It was still a great weekend, made some money and spent time with a great friend catching Mississippi River bass.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Brushy Creek Club event

Last Sunday marked the 4th event in the 6 event schedule for the Tri-County Bass Club.  I had some trailer issues with  tire, so that held me up last week after the river trip, and I think I figured everything out yesterday.  Well, this meant that I had only 2 hours to look over Brushy Creek ( I haven't been there all year) before this tournament.  I spent most of those 2 hours riding around the lake looking at the water, looking for baitfish and getting an idea for the following day.  I did do some fishing, and I focused my efforts on water deeper than 15 feet.

Big Bass for me was a 4.05#

I didn't see much on my two hour tour, so I had the game plan to stay shallow during the first few hours of the tournament and see if things were better there.  Tournament day came and my first area I wanted to try was open, so I hit it.  The 5th or 6th cast I caught a bass on a buzzbait, and it was a good one, over three pounds.  From the talk at the campgrounds I figured it wouldn't take a whole lot to do well in this event, so starting the day with a three-pounder was an awesome feeling.  I continued to fish shallow the rest of the day and pick up fish throughout the day.
One thing I have noticed this year, as I have fished shallow for several events in a row, is the amount of casts you make in a day is enormous.  I sure am glad that I had my Quantum EXO PT, and Smoke PT combos doing the most work today.  They are so light, I could have fished for several more hours!  Buzzbait, Optimum Baits Frogs, and a swimjig did the damage on the day as I caught seven keeper bass and weighed in 10.20 pounds. It was one of my best days ever at Brushy Creek. I really thought I had them figured out.
The weigh-in was about what I thought, except more guys had big limits than I thought.  Four anglers had a limit over 10 pounds, something I was not expecting.  Anyway, I ended up in 3rd place and was very happy with that finish.  As for having the fish figured out, I did in my own certain way, but the other 3 guys with big limits caught their bass fishing deep.  Typical Brushy Creek, on most days you can catch them in a variety of depths.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Double Duty

This past weekend I pulled "double duty" on the Mississippi River.  I am the director of the Hot Rod Baits Bass Series and I also participate in the tournaments too.  The director part of it takes a little extra time each day, but the bulk of the work was done ahead of the weekend.  The fishing part of it...well let's just say that is why I like to get up 4:30am during the summer!
Optimum Baits Frogs continue to
catch a lot of fish this summer
The tournament went off without a hitch, and many nice compliments were received, so I give myself an "A" on that part.  The fishing part though, I would say a "B" was earned.  My partner, Brian Bowles and I found plenty of areas where the fish were biting in our 1.5 days of practice.  However, the bigger bass, 2.5# and greater just didn't show up for us.  We had a blast, equipment worked great, and we caught our bass a variety of Hot Rod Baits plastics, Biffle Bugs, swim jigs, and Optimum Baits Frogs.  We ended up with 11.95# and got 5th place out the of 19 teams.  That was enough for some cash in our packets and we left the river feeling pretty happy about it, especially since it was near flood stage at 13.5ft.

Another unique thing about this tournament series is that all teams are competing for Team of the Year.  We started the weekend in 4th place, and ended up in 3rd place.  Not too bad when competing against 19 teams from all over the state.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Picture of the Week

I know the week isn't over, but I won't be fishing the rest of the week, so here is my "Picture of the Week".
Brian Bowles with a largemouth on the Mississippi River