The second event of the Wal-Mart FLW BFL Shenandoah Division proved to be another tough finish for me. Despite my best efforts, losing a 3+ that came up and spit my Incredi-Craw and short fish plagued me. To be truthful, it really played with my confidence and that is a big part of what this sport is about. Prior to the tournament, the lake had risen three feet or more positioning many of the fish on submerged trees along the bank in the thickest cover possible. Due to the intense winds throughout the day, relocating to the backs of creeks proved beneficial. The single fish I weighed, a 2-05 largemouth, who hung me up in a tree, dangling out of the water with its tail fin splashing the water like a beaver. I had such a sharp hook set that my back was actually in pain after from arching so much! After losing the 3+ there was no way I was going to let this fish elude me. As my boater Shane drew close to the sweet gum the fish dislodged itself and ran out into open water. Slowly I fought the fish into the net. Talk about a hands shaking, slow motion heart racing good time!
Event 2: Kerr Lake, NC
Date: May 17
Weight: 2-05 (1)
Place: 86 of 117
What had I learned in this tournament?
1) As with tidal systems, fishing can get good quickly in backwaters when the water level substantially rises. This was only my second time fishing flooded bushes and I must say that I did better than the first so a step in the right direction. Target isolated trees, especially ones with the most shade protection. Not only will the water be cooler for the fish, but provide the fish with the greatest ambush points for shad, bream, and other bait fish.
2) Sometimes it is good to let a bait play out on the water. After talking to my boater post tournament, he stated that I should never had put down the Incredi-Craw. As fishermen we sometimes will quickly change things up due to our inner contemplation even though we know what will put us in the situation to catch the next keeper. I had gotten all of my bites but one on the bait and due to questioning what I was doing varied my bait presentation a bit too much.
3) Sometimes merely letting the bait come to a stop on the water substrate before popping the bait off the ground again sometimes is not the given technique for the day. The fish I was fortunate enough to weigh-in bit only after shaking my rod tip in the flooded bush. Bass will often commit to a bait only after seeing it struggling amongst the cover or vegetation you are fishing around. I remember a previous boater on the James River a couple years back getting his soft plastic stuck underneath a dock. As we got closer to the piling the bait shot off the post as though someone had slingshotted the bait. The bass turned out to be a 5lber that was using the dock for shade in the middle of summer, a classic pattern.
4) As the saying goes, NEVER be afraid to set the Hook because hooksets are free in this game. If nothing else the act of setting the hook gets the blood flowing and the adrenaline pumping which can lead to greater concentration. Many times if the bass did not have the bait in its mouth, a simple pitch back to the same location could result in another aquatic friend towards your limit. In the Kerr Lake tournament, the fish I lost resulted from a delayed hook set and a loss of full concentration. Even though I got the fish out of the tree I had lost the perfect position of the bait in the bass’ mouth resulting in a lost keeper.
Looking forward to redemption on the Potomac River on June 14th. Remember, in this sport you are going to lose WAY more than you will win. It is about having fun, spending time with friends new and old, and learning something new each time out. Keep a detailed journal of your day and I guarantee you that progress will be found. Everything starts somewhere. Till next week, Tight Lines and Set the Hook!