Another tournament is in the books in the Wal-Mart FLW BFL Series, Shenandoah Division. It felt great to get back out on the water in what was a productive event towards my goal each season, qualifying for the Regional Championship. Overcast conditions with some minor rain proved to be weather worthy of solid bags. Although I was only able to bring three to the scales, I got bites which is always a good sign you are throwing appropriate lures. Thank you to boater Paul Propst Jr. from West Virginia for putting me on fish. Even though they were tough coming, the co-angler game entails capitalizing on what the conditions give you.
Event: Kerr Lake
Date: April 25
Weight: 6-10 (3)
Season Standing: 23
The day started out very nice, scoring a 3 pounder in the first thirty minutes of competition. I started the day fishing shallow creeks with semi-submersed threes and fallen timber, slow rolling a War Eagle Spinnerbait along the cover. When I hooked into the bass, I actually thought I was hung on a fallen tree, but with close observation realized that the line began to move. Much like my second and third fish, the bites were quite aggressive, as were their jumps. After the first jump, I knew I had a solid keeper. The bass jumped two more times despite my best efforts to keep my rod tip in the water. I must add that I used a trailer hook, and without it I may have not caught the acrobat of a bass.
Fish number two was caught alongside a ramp dock, casting a Culprit Stinger Worm along the outside of the dock. I weighted the Stinger Worm with a 1/8 nail weight, increasing the fall velocity as well as the action of the rig. I never felt the bite, but with a line heading in a different direction, little is left for debate. Almost immediately after adding the 14 inch keeper to the livewell and casting to the same location, the line took off again and I set the hook. The bass headed under the boat and caught my line in the outboard prop. Fearing the sharp blade of the propeller was going to cut my line, I quickly steered the fish out of the predicament. The bass, however, swam to the surface and jumped, spitting the hook and showing its bucket of a mouth. An unfortunate loss that left me just outside the money, but a great lesson learned.
My third and final fish of the day came on a Culprit Incredi-Craw, a pitching bait that quickly became a favorite of mine after weighing in all but one keeper on the soft plastic last year. I rigged the bait with a 3/0 Flipping Hook and a 3/8oz weight, unpegged.
Lessons Learned, Knowledge Reiterated
1) Use the knowledge given pre-tournament to develop a game plan for your day of fishing. People often assume that being given lure information is the key to catching fish on tournament day. Use this help with a grain of salt, and instead focus your attention on weather and water conditions. What is the water temperature? What is the clarity of the water, and how does it vary across the water body? For those like me who work a full-time job and are often limited to the amount of time on the water prior to the event, such information many times will save some of the headache of re-tying baits upon getting to an event. Take your knowledge of the seasonal patterns of bass to understand which techniques will most likely pay dividends on tournament day.
2) Bring an assortment of rods to the tournament to limit the amount of time a bait is not in the water. Most new anglers are unaware of this and are often lead into misusing their time accordingly. At Kerr Lake, I caught my three keepers on three different baits with separate rod and reel setups. For instance, you may move from shallow water of two feet to another location where the angler is fishing five feet or more. A bait will end up being presented in a much different manner by simply elongating the fall rate the bait must take to reach the bottom. This is just one of the many factors that must be taken into account when determining bait selection. Once a pattern is developed, having multiple setups will provide a bass multiple looks as well.
3) Developing a pattern played a large role in my success last Saturday. At Kerr Lake, a lot of what I threw I based on the cover I was throwing to. Each fish I hooked came off of hard cover or close by. Once I discovered this, I better understood where I needed to cast my bait in order to get bites. At the same time, be alert to where the boater is casting when he gets bites.
4) Maintain focus to the best of your ability after you catch a fish. We have all been pumped up on adrenaline after catching fish, it‘s just a product of the amazing hobby we cherish. I question whether my loss of complete focus after catching my second keeper was the determining factor in losing a fish. If I had been more focused, my decision making process may have saved me a loss, and cashed a check. 21 checks were handed, and I finished just outside at 28th. A costly loss indeed.
5) Although it is overused across competitive fishing, Never Giving Up is an ever so important endeavor. Although I went multiple hours after catching my second fish in the late morning, I fished hard with the faith that I would get another bite and fill the void that was a third keeper. With thirty minutes to go, we moved to a location close to the ramp where I saw more than ten boats also attempting last minute heroics. We fished a bank that I had just seen two other boats fishing, but never felt discouraged. One bite, and a missed hook-set. I pitched my Incredi-Craw to the same location, and the bass was quick to bite again. Like before, the bass had dropped the bait. I quickly cast again to the same spot and like the saying goes, the third time is the charm! The line moved and I set the hook, boating my third keeper and moving me up the leaderboard to 28th.
Although I could not see the fish in the dingy water, I assume the small female was sitting on a bed, holding onto the bait just long enough to move it from the scene. There are few certainties in bass fishing, but confidence and perseverance often pays off. Stay focused, think critically, and most importantly have fun. It will make the learning process so much easier. Good day fish heads!