My rods and reels are safely stowed away for the year, well except the pier gear. Whitefishing is just around the corner and the walleye fishing has been steady. Besides you never know what kind of weird stuff will show up in the channel when the water is cold. At this point I only plan on being in a boat if I'm pursuing ducks, although I wish I had enough time to take advantage of the great November bass fishing out there. I did get to sneak in one last trip with Bryan Plenzler though at the annual Jigs and Pigs Portage Chain open.
I absolutely love this tournament because I love fishing the Portage Chain. I never get to fish there anymore but it is where I began to learn about fall fishing starting way back in high school. I will say the place is changing a bunch though as it has been tougher to catch numbers/size of smallmouth in their typical areas. I'm not sure if their numbers are decreasing or they have moved locations. There is definitely some changes that have occurred to the areas and I think with a little time to explore over there I could dial it in again.
Once again we had a light turnout, 10-12 boats or so, and mostly diehards from the Jackson area. It always cracks me up about these tournaments on the east side, they always seem to get some excitement and another 10 boats that can't wait to fish but never show. That is the amazing thing about the west side, you never have to wonder if people are going to show up. You know a bunch of boats are going to show up every time. Compared to the southeast part of the state we have an amazing tournament scene over here on the lakeshore. I would lump the whole east side together but from what I've seen the Wixom/Sanford Lakes area has some good stuff going on too. Regardless I do not miss the weak turnouts in southeast Michigan.
Weak turnout or not the guys that were there can catch them so we knew it was going to take some weight. Word at the ramp was that weights had been light out there all year with a 13lb bag being a good winning weight. That was a little disappointing to hear but since we had cold water there was no question more quality fish were going to play than a typical summer tournament. I figured if we could get 17 to 18lbs we would probably have a good chance at winning. The forecast was for relatively calm winds though, which always complicates things out there. Those fish love the wind in that clear water and without it things can be super tough.
We were going to mix it up throughout the day, fishing for both largemouth and smallmouth. Typically in this tournament one species tends to be the dominant bite for us. The last two years we have finished 2nd both times with, I think, all or mostly green ones. We started on smallmouth this year and caught a tiny keeper on a swimbait right off the bat. I thought maybe things were going to get good after that but the next two hours consisted of absolutely nothing. Finally we picked up a couple 2lb largemouth on darters and at least had things moving in a positive direction. Our next fish happened to be our biggest one with a 3.71lb smallmouth that was barely hooked on a jerkbait. We were bouncing back and forth pretty good between largemouth and smallmouth at this point. Shortly after that big smallie we picked up a 15 inch largemouth on a darter. We at least had a limit at this point, it wasn't much for weight but we at least had one big one to build on.
We moseyed on over to a place we never fish but it was the only place on the lake where the wind was really piling on. It is amazing how these things work sometimes because we caught another big smallie on a ned rig and a really solid largemouth on a swimbait in 5 minutes of fishing there. Now things were moving in the right direction. If things were super tough on everyone we at least had a decent bag. But those two 2lb largemouth needed to be upgraded or we needed a kicker. Quality bites became difficult to come by the rest of the day but we did have an easier time catching keepers at least. We finally got one more quality smallmouth to bite on I think the 3rd time we fished that particular spot. It got rid of the smallest 2lber and we at least had a shot now. We kept working for that kicker but could never find her. Things got a little crazy toward the end though and us along with most of the rest of the field put it on the trailer a bit early due to lightning.
We had more weight than I thought we did, which was a nice surprise and our 15.73 was enough to get the win. Fishing was definitely tough overall though with a 14lb in 2nd and a bunch of 11lb bags following. We weren't the only ones struggling to get quality bites and I'm definitely thankful we got a few of them. One of these days though the stars are going to align during this tournament and everyone is going to smash them. I'll be looking forward to the day when the chain really shows what a great fall fishery it is.
While the bass fishing has wound down for me, other things are just about to ramp up. We are seeing increasing numbers of ducks along the lakeshore so I'm hopeful for a good 2nd half of the season. Whitefish season is also about to get going here along the westside. Things are a little ahead of schedule compared to the last couple years. So grab your 1 ounce P-Line Laser minnow and get to the pier after dark. It should be going until early December! Walleye fishing has also provided some entertainment while things were winding down. I will probably get back into that as the whitefish wind down as I'm still hoping for that 13 plus pounder.
I'm also getting that ice fishing fever as we had 20 degree temps for the first time this week. Breaking ice while duck hunting certainly made me looking forward to walking on it (hopefully soon). There are some cool new ice products from Clam Outdoors and Humminbird I will be talking about in the next blog.
One last thought, how about some deer hunting! I have had a few more encounters with my bow this year but never was able to get a shot off. Either way it is awesome to have a spot and understanding of deer movement on the west side now. I think with a little effort next year I could have a really successful season and also be able to spend more time with Hutch duck hunting. I am extremely grateful for the people who have let me hunt this year, it has been nice having an option on the west side. Still planning on getting after it in a couple days with my dad and brother on the east side for opening day. Maybe this will finally be the opening day I get to pull the trigger, maybe not. Either way I don't plan on ever missing the tradition of it. Also want to remind everyone that if you do end up getting that wall hanger Jim and Son's Taxidermy in Chelsea is THE place to take it (no matter what species it is). That's all I've got for now, hopefully in the next blog we will have a deer story!