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.
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.
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.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Staying sharp

This past weekend was an "off" weekend for me as I had no tournament scheduled.  This allowed for some fine tuning of skills for upcoming events on the Mississippi River.  With one day to fish I headed to Hawthorn Lake, which has many features of the big river.  Weeds, rocks and plenty of shallow water to get my mind sharp for the trip northeast.
Ken Lundsford joined me on the trip and we quickly found out that the bass on this lake were not going to play very nicely this day.  A huge cold front hit the area on Saturday and continued on Sunday.  The drive to the lake early in the morning was done with 46-degrees on the thermometer.  Quite a blast of cold air for the last day of May!
Ken pulled a couple early with a swim jig, which is what we were hoping to catch them on this day, however that was short lived.  The vast majority of bass we caught this day were on jigs or Hot Rod Baits tubes and Big Craws.  At times the bass would hit the swim jig amid the shallow weeds, but for the most part they wanted a slower presentation.  With a cold front settling in it didn't really surprise us and we enjoyed the day catching dozens of bass.
Many of those bass were brought in the boat while utilizing the Minn Kota Talons.  These continue to impress me, and did once again this time out.  Wind gusts were 15+ MPH and the Talons anchored right down.  They save time while tying on baits, throwing multiple casts at one target, the list goes on and on.  A great addition that are worth every penny spent.

Monday, May 25, 2015

Pool 10 Bass World Sport Tournament

I enjoy fishing for bass no matter the location, however, the Mississippi River is by far my favorite place I have ever been to.  So when I got a call from my long-time mentor Kevin Christensen to fish a tournament with him, I was all in!  Even though Kevin and I talk almost weekly throughout the bass fishing season, we seldom get to fish with one another, and it has been almost a decade since we fished a tournament together.  To say the least I was excited to get the chance to fish with him, and I think he was looking forward to it too.
The tournament was held out of Harper's Ferry on Pool 10 of the Mississippi River.  Kevin had decided to lock up to Pool 9 and I was all for it.  We both had spent some time earlier in the month on Pool 10 and just can't seem to get things going yet.  Reports from the river have been pretty slow this year, with the bass just not relating to normal areas as they normally do.  With that in mind, we knew that if we could get around 12 pounds of bass we would be in the mix of things.
We focused our time looking for bass in heavy current, mild current and off sloughs with little or no current.  We couldn't find much going on in the heavy current so we focused most of the day around little or mild current.  We did catch a few bass in areas with no current too, you just never know about river bass sometimes!  We kept our Quantum PT rods and reels busy all day pitching jigs with Hot Rod Baits jig chunks, and Hot Rod Baits Big Craws to catch all of our fish on the day.  We caught fish anywhere from 2 feet to 8 feet deep.
We fished well together, and I even had Kevin laughing a time or two keeping the mood light as went along through the day.  We didn't catch a big number of fish, but we definitely had the baits in the right areas to catch keepers, as we caught more keepers than bass under 14 inches.  It was a great day of fishing and even better once the weigh-in was over.  We ended up in 2nd place with 12.37#, just a tenth of a pound from first place.  We brought home a nice pay check for the day and earned some very valuable points for Team of the Year for Kevin and his regular partner Gary Satterlee.  A win-win on Mississippi River on tough weekend where we earned every bite and every bass.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Work Day trip to Union Grove Lake

Yesterday was one of those opportunities that came up and I knew I had to take advantage of it.  It was a gap in my schedule and although the weather had taken a turn for the worse, I just "had" to go.  A quick call to fellow angler Dave Jordan and we were set to fish Union Grove Lake.  A couple different reasons brought us to this lake.  First, it only takes about 20 minutes to get to, and every minute is valuable after a day of work, and secondly this lake is set to be drained at the end of this month.
Union Grove Lake has an excellent population bass, with plenty of 14-16 inch bass in it.  A typical trip to the lake on a 3-4 hour trip usually leads to catching 15-25 bass.  With the night time temperatures plummeting into the low forties the past two nights we weren't quite sure what the bass would be doing.
We began by one of us throwing crankbaits, spinnerbaits and swimjigs, while the other one would throw a slower bait.  While the crankbait did catch some bass, the Hot Rod Baits Tubes really were the hot ticket for the night. Dave went to his stand-by bait pretty early in the evening, the black and red tube bait and I am not sure he put it down. Bass after bass came in the boat this night, mostly on tubes of various colors.  While anchored down with the Minn Kota Talons in a large mess of laydown logs Dave hooked into the big one of the night.  It was 4 pounds and 9 ounces.  A huge bass, especially for this lake.  It had already spawned out and it was a beautiful fish.  After the picture was taken it it was promptly put back.  We ended up catching 5 bass over the 15-inch keeper mark and we estimated about 40-50 bass for our four hour trip.  It was a great trip, and perhaps it might be my last trip to this lake with the renovation staring in a week or so.  I will definitely miss this lake as they make improvements to it, but in the long run it is the best thing for the lake.  

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Fishing for FUN

I have had a couple weekend without competitive fishing, which always brings me back to why I enjoy fishing so is just FUN.  Sometimes I get wrapped up in the game of fishing tournaments and lose some of that "fun".  When I get that feeling I just need a trip or two to have some fun catching fish.

The past couple years the best people for this are my kids.  My boy is now 7 years old and my girl is 4.  Both love the outdoors and love everything about the process of fishing.  These two can always bring a smile to my face and help me realize that smiles should be the norm when fishing.  Don't get me wrong, I love fishing tournaments and I am always looking forward to the next one to test my abilities against other anglers, but everyone has to take a break once in a while and have some fun.

This past Saturday we headed to a local farm pond to try our luck.  Once we found the depth of water the crappies were holding at, it was all catching!  Fun really doesn't describe the couple hours that we were there.  After catching a few dozen fish the kids spent 30-40 minutes just playing with the fish they caught that were in the cooler.  This gave me a chance to even catch a few, which doesn't happen too much with my two fishing buddies...which doesn't bother my too much.

Take a kid fishing if you can, or an adult that doesn't get out much anymore, it will light up their day and put smiles on all your faces.

Monday, May 4, 2015

Iowa Bass Nation Event

This past weekend I participated in the 2-day event at Pool 10 of the Mississippi River.  This tournament is jammed full of the states/and neighboring states best bass anglers.  I haven't participated in this event for 10 years, so I thought I would give it a try.  The tournament set-up is rather unique, instead of payouts, when you do well, you get to advance to another tournament the following year.  If you do well at the Regional, then onto the National tournament the year after that.  This could lead to fishing against the best the bass anglers in the world at the Bassmaster Classic.  It is quite a road, but a couple of Iowan anglers have done it, and hundreds of us dream about it...on to the first event of two.
The spring event is a two-day event.  I was able to practice on Friday and found some areas that I felt comfortable with in Pool 10.  I had also crossed off many areas which is as important as finding good areas. I quickly found that current was the key to holding fish this particular day on the Big River.  I had the plan to stop and fish my best location in Pool 10 and then lock up to Pool 9 quickly to areas that have produced for me year after year in the spring.  The plan was good, until the lock turned me back due to barge traffic.  They wouldn't allow me to go to Pool 9 and thus I spent the day in Pool 10, which didn't pay off.  I only weighed 2 bass out of a 5 bass limit on day 1.
Day 2 I decided to go straight to my areas in Pool 9.  It was a good plan and I caught a limit of 5 bass which averaged over 2 pounds each.  Not exactly what I was hoping for but after day 1 I was happy.  My boat, motors and Talons worked flawlessly.  Every time I use the Minn Kota Talons I am more impressed.  20+ mph winds and Mississippi River current won't bother me anymore, I just push the button to activate the Talons and I am set to make multiple casts in one spot.  They really secure your boat and boost your catch.  As usual my Quantum Rods and Reels are solid and never let me down, high quality for the right prices is what Quantum Fishing products are all about.  I can't forget Hot Rod Baits, the best plastics out there, the River Minnow tube caught just about every fish I weighed in, and I know for fact that many other top placing anglers were using Hot Rod Baits too.  Great durability and incredible scent make them a go-to bait.
 Any trip for me to the Mississippi River is a good one, but this one was bitter sweet.  I didn't do as well as I hoped, but it wasn't my equipment, my fishing, or state of mind, it was all about an on the water decision.  It is easy to cast blame on that decision I made on Saturday to wait and go to the lock later in the morning, but it's easy now that the tournament is over to point the fault.  I do believe I had located some fish, and had the baits to catch them, but now I can only wait for the Fall event to show what I can do.  I know I will take this tournament and learn form it, and that is what tournament fishing is all about, live and learn to become better.
 Final standing aren't posted yet, but I will update that when they are finalized.  Until then, more information about the Iowa State Bass Nation can be found online.