Thursday, September 28, 2006

Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Cowboy Division tournament on Lake Sam Rayburn.

Lake Sam Rayburn to host Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League Cowboy Division tournament Sept. 30-Oct.1. I fished this event over the weekend and I'll just start this off by saying it was a very tough event. This was the final qualifying event to the Wal-Mart BFL Cowboy division and I ended the season on a high note placing 5th in this event. I also ended the season 3rd in the overall points standing, just one point out of 2nd and 15 points behind 1st. It was a very close race for the Angler of the year title that was determined by this event. Jesse Fry held the lead all season with Brandon Wells and myself closing in on him in each event, but Brandon was able to pull off a top 25 finish on the first day of the event and put him in the points lead for the Angler of the year title. Congratulations to Brandon on that achievement.

My 5+ lb bass on the first day.

The Tournament:

I drew out Mike Moody as my boating partner for the first day of the tournament. Mike has been a guide on Lake Fork for 18 years and only recently started fishing in the BFL tournaments. Mike told me a story while we were fishing, he said he guided a lure maker while he was testing a prototype top water lure. In the trip, Mike said the lure was the "spitting image" of a shad and that became the name of the lure. On day two I drew out Cody Davis for the tournament and Cody showed me some of the finer points of fishing deep structure. Both are incredible fisherman and I was fortunate to have fished with them.

Day 1:

I woke up on the first day of the tournament at 3:00 AM, 3:15, 3:30, 3:45, etc... until 4:45 AM when I gave in to my excitement and got up 15 minutes before I really wanted to be out of bed. I met up with Mike at The Stump which is a restaurant near Lake Rayburn that caters to fisherman. The Stump starts serving breakfast in the predawn hours and it's great food. We headed off to launch and wait for the tournament take off. The tournament director, Tim, played the National Anthem over the speakers and it echoed across the lake. Tim then said a very nice prayer for the anglers and our armed services. We took off in the second flight, boat number 34 and headed out to a hump close to the launch site. With in minutes of pulling up Mike and I had a keeper in the boat taking the pressure off showing up empty handed. Actually Mike caught his fish on the first cast and them commented that it was bad luck. Incase you didn't know, most bass fisherman are superstitious about catching a bass on the first cast. I once won a tournament catching a bass on the 1st, 2nd, and 4th cast of the day, so I don't buy into the first cast curse.
Mike was fishing with a Carolina rig using a Lake Fork creature lure in green pumpkin. I fished with a Texas rigged 10 inch plum worm. We proceeded to catch a number of short fish near 14 inches over the next few hours before heading off to a new spot. We hit Needmore point and proceeded to catch near 14 inch spotted bass in 8 feet of water on isolated grass patches. After another hour or two of that, we headed back to the hump.
The wind was blowing a steady 15 to 20 mph across the hump we were fishing on. I caught another keeper in the 3 lb range after a few minutes of fishing there. We caught a few more short fish and then decided to fish the wind blown banks. I started using a 3/8 oz spinnerbait at this point and Mike stuck to his C-rig. We started on the tip of point and worked out way around and I caught a keeper spotted bass on the spinnerbait. The bass hit the lure so hard that it knocked slack in the line and I had to reel up the slack before I could set the hook. We turned around for a second pass and on the way back to the point I put the spinnerbait on a stump in 2 feet of water and after turning the reel one time I felt the weight of a large fish tugging on the end of a very long cast. A five plus pound bass surge into the air after I said, "fish on!" The celebration was short lived as the bass stripped drag and wrapped around a stump that wasn't visible. I jumped to the front deck of the boat while pleading with Mike, "It's wrapped up on something, please get me over there quick!" The wind was blowing around 20 mph and pushed the boat over on top of the stump the fish had wrapped up on. At least five minutes have passed since I set the hook and Mike got the boat off the stump, I couldn't feel the fish pulling any longer and was starting to fear the worst. I wanted to at least retrieve the spinnerbait so I reeled down poking the tip of my rod down into the water, made a circle around the stump three or four times and my heart skipped a beat when I lifted my rod tip and saw the exhausted bass roll onto it's side and swim free of the stump. "It's still on! Holy cow, it's still on Mike!" In a matter of seconds, I'd swung it over the side and into the boat before it could make a surge and possibly pull off. The rest of the day is pretty much a blur after that because I was, so excited to have a good sack of fish. At the end of day one, I had four bass weighing 11 lbs 12 oz putting me in 3rd place. I was paired up with the boater who had placed 3rd, Cody Davis.

Day one weigh-in. The date on the camer is wrong. :-(

Day 2:

Cody picked me up at the Twin Dikes camp ground and we headed off to the boat launch. As we launched, we were swallowed in thick fog and slowly idled around to the marina for take off. The tournament began with Tim calling out the boat number, the anglers names, there home towns, and then waving them off. It's truly amazing to sit idling in a cove with 50 of be best anglers in the area and hear, "Boat number 3, Cody Davis from Glen Rose, Texas and Clint Bridges from Round Rock, Texas, have a great day!" With that we were off into the thick fog with Cody running across the lake looking at his GPS unit guiding him to our first fishing spot. We made it safely despite concerns of thick fog and started fishing.

Cody put us on his big fish hole where he had caught an 8 lb bass the day before and we started fishing. On the first pass Cody caught a keeper bass and that was our only bite. On the second pass Cody set the hook and said, "Git the net. It's a big one!" At that moment, he would not know how right he was about the size of that fish. After a minute or two of wenching the fish to the surface, a 40+ lb flathead catchfish surfaced on the end of Cody's line. We wrestled the fish into the boat where Cody proceeded to stick half his arm into the fishes mouth to retrieve his jig. I know Cody was upset, but I couldn't hold back the laughter. That fish was huge! Any other time we probably would have been excited about landing that fish, but not today. The fish was quickly released and we were back to fishing.

After and hour passed, we headed to Five Fingers and started fishing points. Cody quickly hooked up with a 4+ lb bass on a white spinnerbait. A few minutes later I had a huge fish short strike my spinnerbait and produced a swirl on the surface that looked like someone had taken a boat paddle and made a full stroke. We caught a few short fish and then moved out to a road bed nearby where we fished in 35 to 45 feet of water with Carolina rigs. Cody went with a six inch trick worm in watermelon/red and I used a beaver in watermelon/red. I dipped the tale of the beaver in chartreuse & garlic SpikeIt and also sprayed the lure with Fool-A-Fish. We proceeded to spend a few hours there catching a few small bass. We decided try something different and headed back to Five Fingers where we killed some time fishing grass edges. That wasn't working out and Cody had confidence in the road bed, so we headed back there.

After a few minutes of fishing we started catching short fish on C-rig watermelon/red beavers and I eventually landed a 3 lb bass. Some time later I caught another keeper a long with more short fish. Cody switched to a beaver, caught some short fish and then his 4th keeper. We got excited about all the bites and Cody said the school was turning on. A few more short fish and I caught my 3rd keeper. We caught a couple more short fish and then the action slowed down. Cody then switched back to his 6 inch trick worm and set the hook on something big, a minute of fighting and he brought a drum about 5 lbs to the surface. Somewhere around 1:00 PM Cody tried to start the boat and the big motor would not turn over. We spent about an hour swapping batteries and cables around trying to get things back up and running. Once the engine was started we decided to run back to the boat ramp to be safe and fish nearby until time to weigh-in. Fishing one of the big islands didn't produce a single bite in the last hour of fishing. That was one of the longest and hottest days of fishing I've ever experienced. There was no wind and it was something like 97 degrees with no clouds.

Day 2 Weigh-in From Left, Kelsea, Tim Porter, Me, Zachary and the current leader in the chair.

Tournament in Review:

It was hot both days, on the first day clouds and strong winds helped the bite. I caught 4 bass that weighed 11 lbs 12 oz that included a 5+ lb kicker. On the second day there was no wind or clouds, so the fishing was a bit tougher and I was only able to catch three keepers for 5 lbs 9 oz. I've never caught so many Kentucky spotted bass on Rayburn in a single trip as I did in this tournament. They were mostly 13 to 13 3/4 inches long which made for a frustrating trip when you are trying to fill a limit. Two things improved my fishing catch rate over my paters both days: I dipped the tail of my lures in SpikeIt and I sprayed the lures with Fool-A-Fish. Cody had one more keeper than I caught, but I put more fish in the boat on the second day fishing that road bed.

Official results posted here - FLW Out Doors.

Special Thanks:

Thanks to my sponsors, Ranger Boats, Austin Boats and Motors, Fool-A-Fish and American Rodsmiths. Thanks to Tim for being a great tournament director. Kelly and the kids have enjoyed talking to him and his staff all season long. On the second day, Tim let Kelsea assist the anglers with taking their catch to the holding tanks.

Kelsea taking fish to the holding tank.

I also need to send out a special thanks to My lovely wife, Kelly, and my mom, Liz! They came to all the events and supported me throughout the season. It really made the tournaments more fun having you there to support me and that meant a lot to me.

Me and Kelly after a long two days of fishing and man are we tired! :-)

Sunday, September 17, 2006

Texas Classic Bass Club September Tournament on Lake Austin.

I fished the Texas Classic Bass Club August tournament on Lake Austin with John Hackney, 6:00 to 3:00 on Saturday. The hot Texas summer made for some tough fishing conditions as the drought has cut down on the amount of water flowing through Lake Austin. The day of the tournament the wind was pretty strong a times, there were light rains, and true to Texas weather there was 90+ degree sunshine before it was all over.

The Tournament:

AT 5:15 AM I met John at the Quinlan boat launch. We loaded his gear in the boat and headed off to our first fishing spot. We moved out on to the grass flats on the upper end of the lake in 4 feet of water and went to work at 6:00 AM. Nothing happened for the first hour of the tournament and then around 6:00 AM the action picked up. I caught the first little one of the day on a Zoom horny toad. We then proceeded to kill three or four hours of flipping the grass and buzzing lures over the top of it. We had a few missed strikes, a few short fish, and it was tough. I decided to move down the lake to hit a few more areas. We hit one of the more productive creeks I like to fish and John caught several small fish out of it including a Guadalupe bass which is kind of strange for Lake Austin. I've never seen anyone catch one in all of the times I have fished on the lake.

Anyway, I made a few more moves down the lake and John caught a 13 and 3/4 inch bass just under the mark off of some posts. That spot didn't pay off so I decided to just continue fishing down the bank and noticed balls of shad on my graph and they were jumping out of the water when our baits got close to them. We threw all the standard schooling lures and caught small bass on chrome rat-l-traps and white swim jigs.

Follow your instinct and never give up:

The last move of the day came with just 45 minutes left to fish and we hit the creek next to the Austin 360 bridge. I stopped the boat at the mouth of the creek and elected to fish the golf course wall. I chose to fish it with a chartreuse spinnerbait and John flipped the jig he had been catching bass with. I dialed the trolling motor to 100% power and proceeded to chunk and wind that spinnerbait as many times as I could while sailing down the creek. We passed by the golf course with no bites and I apologized to John for fishing a little to fast for him to flip the jig, but we were running out of time. We crossed over and fish a laydown tree, then fished the rock walls next to the apartments, still no takers. As we fished down the front of the first set of boat stalls I noticed two empty boat slips that are normally occupied with boats. As we reached the first slip I made a cast to the very back of the slip, banged the spinnerbait off the walking path and dropped it right next to the wall. I burned the lure out with no takers. The boat is flying past stall after stall because I've got the trolling motor maxed out. When we reached the other open stall I made a cast to the back, but this time the spinnerbait glided under the walk way and made a small splash on entry, I gave the reel a quarter turn and felt a solid tug on the line. I said, "John I got a good fish on..." The fish proceed to shake it's head and then wrap the line around the submerged boat lift in the stall while trying to shake free. "But it's got me wrapped up!" John dropped his rod and went for the net. The momentum of the boat is still heading forward and we would be past the stall in next 30 seconds. I told John to forget the net and get on the trolling motor. It must have looked like some sort of fire drill or dance with John running to the front of the boat and me running to the back at the same time. I held pressure on the bass and waited for it to work itself free or break off which ever came first. A minute or two later the line started moving and I worked the bass out of the boat slip and into the net. I put the bass in the livewell, took in a deep breath, because I think I forgot to breath in all the excitement and looked at my phone to check the time, just fifteen minutes left to fish. John did a great job taking over the trolling motor while I worked the fish free, team effort all the way or we would have zeroed. Never give up!

Tournament in Review:

The tournament was pretty tough and I lost track of the number of small fish we caught, 10 give or take. John and I took first place and big bass with one fish weighing 2.3 lbs!

Special Thanks:

Thanks go out to my mom for taking care of the kiddies while I fished in the tournament.