I've likely done my last bass fishing in 2016, so I'm going to be detailed in this final one. After all it is one of my favorite trips of the year. Portage Chain in November can be amazing or it can be tough, this year was definitely on the tougher side. Given the mild fall we have had, and the forecast for that day, I assumed going in this would be the case. A couple big bites were going to go a long way, I also knew it had the potential that just getting five could be a challenge.
I always fish this tournament with Bryan Plenzler, and I think it was the first time we fished together all year. We loaded up his Ranger and headed up river to start. It didn't take long and we were putting keepers in the boat on darters, blade baits, and jerkbaits. Unfortunately, they were minis, but it was good to get a few in the livewell early. Right off the get go we were targeting largemouth, then transitioned into some areas that typically hold both flavors. However those places seemed to be devoid of bites. It seemed to be we either had to be fishing for largemouth or smallmouth throughout the day. It didn't typically work out when we were targeting a mix.
From there we switched to smallies for a bit. We have caught 18lbs of smallies a couple times in this tournament throwing the jerkbait for smallies. The lack of wind was not helping us at all, but we figured we could still make a few react. The nice thing about a lot of those places is it either happens quick or not at all. So there isn't a ton of wasted time. That is ideal for us because we typically fish a lot of spots throughout the day. Sometimes this helps, other times this hurts. After striking out with the smallies, we went back to the green ones. Typically this time of year we rely on a darter a lot. However, with it being a little warmer I picked up a Dobyns DX 784 and a Nemesis baits upskirt jig in PB&J. It didn't take long and I felt one smoke it on a slack line (that's why a sensitive rod and line are critical), I assumed it was going to be something toothy since we had already caught several of those. First I was surprised that my bait was still there and second that it was actually a nice bass. It ended up being our biggest of the day at a little over 3lbs. A couple minutes later we spotted a pad clump that I just knew would produce a bite. There were some other pads around, but this one little spot just screamed there is a fish there. Right depth, isolation, and wind on it, the feeling was true and we put another decent fish in the boat on the jig. The best part was we had a ton of good stuff to fish yet.
One of our best spots last year, didn't produce a single keeper. It kind of blew my mind but we would adapt. So back to smallies we went, our next smallie bite was one we desperately needed. It ate a jerkbait and was well over 4, however a couple jumps and he came off right at the boat. Two casts later we culled with a smallmouth, just not nearly as big as the first one. Things went cold after that and we started running more water. I think we culled with another largemouth, but it became evident that the smallies really didn't want to cooperate. We did get a decent smallie on a jerkbait before we began to head back down the chain. Still we had only had one good bite!
Little did we know we were about to get some opportunities. We hit some shallow stuff that typically holds both numbers and big ones. We snatched another on the jig, unfortunately it was skinny but still a good cull for us. We then caught a bunch of shorts right away just outside of some juice. A few casts on the good stuff and we lost a decent smallie on a jerkbait. A minute later I spotted a good smallie cruising, I pitched a darter to it and the fish showed some interest. I moved to get a better look and caught a glimpse of the fish spitting out my darter. Those two opportunities would have really helped, but we still had time to make it happen. There was a new area I spotted on the way into the one where we missed the opportunities. I had seen a 3lber there, so it was worth checking out. Turns out there was more than one 3lber there. However, they did not want to cooperate. We had one nose down on it but I'm not sure if he ever ate the bait. I'll be looking forward to checking that area next year.
Time was an issue now, we could make a long idle to another place or have more fishing time. We chose the fishing time and it didn't work out. There were lots of places we were able to check that had the potential to cull our small fish with a 3lber, but it was not to be and we were stuck with some decent fish and a rat.
We ended up weighing in 13.27 and finishing in 2nd by .1. That's 2 years in a row we've come in 2nd by a tiny margin in this tournament. I think next year I might have to sneak out there for a day and see what kind of new stuff I can find. Things are definitely changing out there and I'm just fishing history.
Once that was over it was time to switch back to birds. Things have been super slow lately. We have been getting a couple but it is a lot of waiting. We even got out on the big lake one day hoping for divers. We knew it was a short window of calm weather, but it was even shorter than we imagined. We got throttled and didn't get much shooting in before it was time to go.
We also had opening day of firearm deer season. I managed to get out the night before with my bow and then had some time with the shotgun. I never really expect much on the opener, it seems it is a miracle for me to even see one. I knew it was going to be extra tough, because there were no crops anywhere near us and very little deer sign. However, none of this really matters to me when we are talking about the opener. I just love the tradition of it. The last few years it has just been my dad and I, but it used to be a big show with the whole family. I had been excited about this day as long as I can remember. I don't see that ever changing, whether I ever get a deer on it or not. That is one of my major struggles living on the west side, I don't deer hunt over here. I don't have any interest in dealing with state land and I don't know anyone with decent private land. I have one option and while it isn't a very good one I may have to put some time in there next year with my bow.
Looking forward to doing a lot of hunting over the Thanksgiving weekend though. Now that it's finally getting nasty out we should have some new ducks (the whitefish should be hitting Muskegon too). Also be on the lookout for some black Friday deals from ClearH2O Tackle (keep an eye on their social media.) See you out there, and have a great Thanksgiving!