I have been taking a few lumps in June so far this year. Catching fish hasn't been too big of an issue, although there has been some grinding just to get limits. But it has been an absolute struggle to put quality fish in the boat when it counts. Most of it is no big deal either small tournaments or stuff I haven't practiced for. But it really irks me when I take 2 days of practice on a place and don't get it dialed in (Hardy Dam).
Before I get into what went down at Hardy, there are a couple other events I'd like to touch on. First was the Payback Tournament on Burt/Mullett Lakes. We knew it was going to be difficult going on basically no practice, but the conditions really made it difficult. Dirty water (for up there) and high winds the day of the tournament didn't help anyone. I left my house at 1:30 in the morning to meet Ralph Blasey up there.
We spent much of the day trying to target beds we couldn’t see but had been there in the past. We couldn't snatch anything but walleyes to start the day, I actually caught 2 of them with DNR jaw tags. I hope that is a sign for what is to come during duck season; I'm still waiting on my first piece of duck jewelry. Finally we snatched a 3 plus pounder on a jerkbait. Not the kind of fish you need up there but at least we had a swimmer in the well. We then stumbled onto a little flurry, losing a 4+ and catching 2 over 4 in just a few minutes, all on the Erie darter. That 4 plus we lost was really going to come back to haunt us. I'm not sure why he came off; it was coming to the boat perfectly when the hook just came out. I question whether he was actually hooked or just had his mouth closed on the bait.
Things got tough from there and we had to abandon looking for big ones to go fill out a limit. We headed to a part of the lake we could actually see and picked a couple smaller ones off beds. We finished the day back in the big fish areas, to my disbelief we never were able to catch another big one just fishing. At the end of the day we had just under 18lbs and a 2lb swimmer in the well. Landing that 4+ would have definitely put us in check range. Hoping this tournament happens again so I can get up there and spend some time practicing. I need to get my northern Michigan smallie bed fish fix next season.
Shaun and I kicked off our D&R tournament season this year at Hardy Dam. Unfortunately this is pretty late to start the series, so it wasn't going to be a sight fishing dominated tournament. We were hoping however Hardy was going to show out a little better than it did for the classic last fall. I was excited to get another crack at the place regardless of how the fishing was.
I spent Thursday and Friday practicing with very different results. On Thursday I caught them good, my best 5 going over 15. I was fishing a couple different patterns which I could run all around the lake. The problem was the weather was going to drastically change. The wind was going to drop out and it was going to get hot. We found out quickly on Friday that same stuff wasn't going to work. We did however have some places we still got bites. We had one area with 2 spots on it we thought we could catch a limit on fairly easily. We knew we would have company there as well, so we crossed our fingers for a good boat number. Turns out we were last boat in first flight (37), the only good thing about that is no one was going to be coming right behind us.
We were able to start on the waypoint we wanted to but never caught one there. We fished around the area for quite awhile with only a couple keepers to show for it. One came on a Nemesis Baits Sicko and the other on a bullet craw. We never were able to get to our other spot over this way so we left and started covering some water. We went to another grass bed that we had a couple bites out of and couldn't get anything going there.
I had found a few small bed fish just in case things weren’t going well and we needed some fish in the livewell. We went and picked one on maybe the 2nd cast and lost another really quickly. We did come back to that one and catch it, but it was just short. There were some more way down the lake, but once again just keepers. So we headed up lake to a couple stretches that we had some good bites on. We couldn't get anything going up there other than pike (the place is loaded with them). We did miss a bite or 2 on some other places and pick up another keeper although we didn't know if it would still measure come weigh in time.
The rest of the day was largely just a lot of frustration with minimal activity. We stumbled onto some more fish in the last hour, finishing out our limit and culling twice. Giving us a limit of 7.82lbs, talk about a limit of absolute rats. But the fishing was tough and we were happy to have them. The weights ended up being pretty tight, only 1 bag over 11lbs was weighed in and there were lots of bags similar to ours. We ended up in 31st place, not where we wanted to be but at least we got some ok points out of the deal. One decent bite would have moved us up considerably, and based on practice I'm pretty surprised we never got it. Even though the fishing sucked we definitely learned a ton. I also gained a bunch of confidence in a new bait that is going to pay off in the future. Hardy as a fishery is not in good shape right now, hopefully in a few years the smallies will rebound and the largemouth will keep growing. But I think if you can get good at catching them at that place you can catch them anywhere. Because it is a big reservoir with noticeable current and both species of bass I think it is an excellent training ground for fishing some places down south. I know most people don't ever want to go back there, but I'm all for it. Maybe not next year but the year after it would be cool to see it on the schedule again.
I also have to give a big shout out to Darrin at ClearH2O Tackle for shipping me a package direct to the campground. Being able to give a local company a call and get the things I think I need at last minute is huge.
The last few things I've got on my mind are that I need to step up my weeknight tournament game ASAP and get a few big bites. It will be interesting with all the Grand River events coming up. I'm no expert out there so I'm hoping this will challenge me and I'll keep learning even if I'm going to take some beatings. I also want to remind everyone I'm still giving FishSens SondeCAM demos if anyone needs one, just get a hold of me in advance.
My next weekend tournament is the second weekend of July, so I'll be doing a little relaxing until then. I’m Looking forward to spending some time at home with Amanda over the 4th of July (and our. Frying up some bluegills, having a BBQ with the Reel n Smoke BBQ sauce, and maybe even getting adventurous and seeing about having a crawfish boil. Should be a fun couple weeks!