That wraps up the "regular season" of tournaments for the year. Things didn't end how I thought they would at Cadillac/Mitchell to end the D&R Series, even though the door was left wide open to achieve our goals. It was definitely a major disappointment, but win or lose I always make sure to walk away with something that will help in the future. There is no doubt I learned a few things up there. Anyway here is how it went down from start to finish.
Not knowing the lake and figuring we probably needed to win to have a shot a AOY we took 2 days of practice for this one. Plus with the limited experience we have up there, it seemed like flipping grass for hours on end could be fun. By the end of 2 days, we were hoping to have a bunch of different grass patches with quality fish. I was also excited about the numbers of shallow docks in the lake and maybe even some frog fishing.
Upon arrival I was a little concerned with the water level. I knew looking shallow was going to happen, but with it down a foot there wasn't much water left in some places. At the end of the 2 days we only had 2 places that seemed like they could be pretty consistent shallow. The grass bite wasn't looking a whole lot better either. We had gotten some big bites on swim jigs the first day on inside grass lines, and one area in particular produced a bunch of bites.
We also found an area that looked different flipping and hooked a big one there, so we had a little bit to go on. But there was no doubt the place was fishing tough and we had our work cut out for us the 2nd day. It also wasn't helping that we didn't have a good map chip. I had a wire break in my trolling motor during the Monday nighter that week, and wasn't going to have time to thoroughly test it before heading up there. So we took Shaun's big red Skeeter to Cadillac, and I forgot to bring my Lakemaster map chip. So more or less we were running around blind out there and that place is crazy with slight depth changes and humps. There are just giant flats and you have no clue where they are going to pop up. We found another spot or 2 during day 2, but it wasn't until we turned the Humminbird Side Imaging on in the last hour of practice that we started finding the good stuff.
The first little hump we found was loaded, we snatched one over 3 and the next couple pitches we had fish that took 20 seconds to shake off. This is where autochart live (found in ONIX and HELIX) really could have come in handy, it's very easy to map a spot like that in a minute or two. That way when you come back the next day you are going on more than just waypoints. Speaking of waypoints we learned a lesson in waypoint management. There were so many waypoints it became unclear which was which out there. So on a new fishery like that with nothing for mapping, there is no doubt some sort of labeling system is important. Just like it is when labeling bed fish or anytime you have a lot of waypoints.
We did find one other spot similar to that one in a short time, so we definitely had some confidence we could catch some good weight in a couple minutes on those spots. It also turned us onto to something specific within the grass beds, but it was going to be tough to find those spots with the dark skies the next day.
It was definitely dark the next day, but luckily it just rained and we never had any lightning or thunder to deal with. It was similar to the last time we were there, except this time it wasn't 40 degrees. We had a crappy blast off number (42), so we would have to wait and see where we could start. We ended up starting on the hump that was loaded the night before, and only caught 2 non keepers off of it right away. We did revisit this spot a couple times throughout the day, but it would never produce anything for the livewell. I guess we should have leaned on them during practice. Next we picked up the swim jigs and headed to the area we caught one over 4.5 and had 4 other bites. The bites were still there but they were the wrong kind today, it was pike city! That place is loaded with pike, and they like to bite whatever you are throwing off. We struck out there on bass and headed to one of the shallow spots. We picked up a decent one on a rat there so at least we had a start.
We headed from there to another one of our "best" spots, it had fish but unfortunately they shrunk. We did at least fill out our limit there, even though not a single one of them was over 14.5 inches. We still had a big fish area to hit in Mitchell yet, and also some fish in Cadillac. The other big fish area we had in Mitchell only yielded a pike bite and it was off to Cadillac for some more swim jigging. Once again we couldn't get anything going on the swim jig. But we did get a nice one off a stretch of docks we had a couple bites on during practice. We ran some more docks but never got it going (mostly I think to the dark skies).
We headed back to Mitchell to finish out the day in there. We had a lot of time but no matter where we went we couldn't make it happen. We caught some more keepers but there were also just mini bass. When time ran out we knew we blew it, and 10.62lbs isn't a good feeling. We didn't really need to catch that much to capture angler of the year, anywhere in the top 10 would have done it for us (we finished 27th). We ended up dropping 2 more spots to 5th, which still isn't bad but is really frustrating at the same time. Cadillac and Hardy Dam absolutely killed our chances, but one good bite at either of them really could have changed things up.
We do have the classic to look forward to. They announced that it would be at Lake Charlevoix, so at least it will be interesting to be on a smallmouth fishery. It is going to make it a lot easier to prepare for, I'll have to make a smallmouth only order to ClearH2O Tackle. I am still really frustrated it is going down on opening day of duck season for the south zone. Hutch and I will have to make up for that the rest of the season.
On a positive note I've been doing my last fishing out of the Skeeter lately (it is still for sale). As soon as the salmon are done I'm going to be putting some effort into that. Until the salmon are done however it is going to get a lot of use. I was fortunate to guess the right day this year that they would come in. The wind forecast set up perfect for a bunch of them to show up and bite, it didn't disappoint. We went 7 for 13 the first day and have been steadily catching them ever since. I would imagine there will be a good opportunity for another week to 2 weeks. I am absolutely addicted to that salmon stuff, seeing them on the graph and catching them on heavy baitcasting equipment is a blast. The coolest thing this year has been watching Amanda catch her first 2, with one of them being just shy of 18lbs! We haven't caught any real monsters yet, but I have caught 2 over 20 and several between 18 and 20lbs. The spoons that have been doing best are a #9 white swedish pimple and a green tiger P-Line laser minnow (available at ClearH2O Tackle). If you have been following me on social media, you'll know this has been going down. If not hopefully you'll read it in time to get out here and get in on the action. Although I've got salmon fever really bad, my mind has wandered to another type of fishing
I know that no one probably wants to think about this right now, but ice fishing is showing up on my radar too. Clam Outdoors just unveiled some really cool new products like the Stealth series shanties and the Lift Suit. I'll have a better review of them once I've got them in my hands, but I'm really excited for them.
I have got my hands on some of the new products from Lew's though. The new 8:0:1 left handed Super Duty reels are awesome, faster gear ratio is going to translate into more flips throughout the day. Also the Mach II spinning real is super smooth and only XXX, I like the Winn Grips on the handle too. Lastly I've finally traded my leaky weigh in bag for a new Lew's weigh in bag, which also has a zipper. So no more worries when transferring the fish from the boat to a dock. I've had one jump out of the livewell but never the bag, and now I won't ever have to worry about that.
That's all I've got for today, until the next time you can find me on Muskegon Lake looking for more king salmon!