Finally getting to write about some real fishing action in this blog. After a slow start this year I finally am feeling like I'm getting in a groove or so I thought until the first tournament. Before I get into that fun stuff I've got to talk about an Amazing trip Amanda, Hutch, and I took up north.
We decided to spend 5 days in the Traverse City area as our last trip as a Family of 3. It was predetermined it would be heavy on boat time and the weather could not have worked out more perfectly. While I never got on any good reaction bites because it was so calm, I got to catch them doing what I really love. All the lakes will remain nameless in this one because some of the places I did really well fly under the radar and were lakes I was told about. Anyway we decided to stop at a place I had never fished on the way up. Caught a bunch of perch there but never touched a bass in a couple hours. Not a good start to the trip so we quickly bounced and continued north. The next stop produced some nice fish thankfully. I was sight fishing cruisers and seeing some empty beds. But knowing we had a warming trend, full moon, and calm days the rest of our trip had me excited. It didn't matter that the water was in the low 50's things were going to get right. By the way if the water is over 50 degrees I am always at least going to take a peak for bedding activity.
My hunch was right, they came up in droves and I had a smallie smash fest. Also make sure you check out the FishSens SondeCAM video of the spawning smallmouth. It was sort of weird being able to catch some on the breaks with blade baits first things and then catching them off beds in the same day. Hutch really enjoyed licking each smallmouth that came aboard. I caught a ton of fish over 3lbs and quite a few over 4 with the biggest coming in at 5-12. I had really hoped for a 6lber but constant hook setting, great company, and great weather made for an amazing trip. Between the fishing and many other activities there wasn't a dull moment. I really hope to get back up there next season.
Now to my favorite part of the season, tournament time! I did things a little differently this year than I have in the past. It was Amanda's 30th birthday on Sunday so instead of heading east for the Kent Lake open. I just hung around Muskegon and actually got some practice time in for the West Michigan Bass open out of Muskegon. I knew I wasn't going to run anywhere regardless of the weather. I also thought maybe I could learn a few more things about Muskegon during the spawn since I have a ton to learn out there this time of year. Learning a thing or 2 that might help me at the D&R tournament in a couple weeks wouldn't be a bad side effect either.
I really had high hopes that I would be onto something good. But l knew I was way off the mark to do really well, things were going to have to go perfectly to do anything exciting. I also knew the potential was there that if I got a couple of the good ones I knew about and found a couple more I could do really well. Regardless I'm in my element when I know my whole gameplan is going to revolve around sight fishing. I had some good fish of both species to go to and many areas to look at during the tournament. I had originally planned on fishing with Aaron Cash since we weren't doing Kent Lake this year. Sounds like there were some interesting activities at that one, so it was a good year to miss it. He had some things come up with planning his wedding, so at the last minute I called my Monday night partner Cameron Simot for his first weekend tournament.
A good boat number was going to be critical to our success (or so I thought). That couldn't have went much better drawing boat number 6. I had high hopes I would at least get to start where I wanted. That turned out to not be the problem, but getting bites was a problem. We spent an hour and 15 minutes fishing there with no bites and no way to tell if those fish were actually there because of the sun angle and depth of water. At that point our rotation was off and fish are getting picked that we needed in our livewell. I knew this one was a difference maker and I also knew if I didn't get it now a couple great sight fisherman are going to fish there next. I decided we had to leave and get whatever else we could while they were still there. I stopped on a close by 3lber and decided I'd give it 5 casts just to get something in the well. Not a bite there either, and I couldn't see that fish either. I checked another spot that took a little time and I also couldn't see. At this point I'm getting pretty frustrated and it's obvious how mental of a game fishing this way can be. In my opinion there is no more mentally difficult tournament than committing to a sight fishing game plan. Things were going badly, but we were going to get it figured out. We kept working and we were at least going to pick some fish and have some livewell swimmers. We found 3 cooperative ones while going to check on a fish and lost a decent largemouth. I could never see that fish for some reason although the winners informed me it was still there later in the day. Still kicking myself for that one, it would have helped our weight by half a pound. A couple of my better fish were gone in that area but there were a few decent ones still hanging around. However they were anywhere from uncooperative to extremely uncooperative. Some were struggling to hang out on one spot others just seemed to be a little finicky and biting short many times. But we got all the better ones we could see with the biggest coming on the 3rd stop at it. I knew that one was in trouble as soon as I rolled up on it and saw it hanging in one spot. Sure enough a few minutes later it ate and the culling continued.
Still at this point we didn't have much weight and still 2 small largemouth in the livewell. We quickly traded out one of those largemouth for another smallie over 3lbs. Then it was off to check a fish I call "the beast' again. I thought there is no way he would be there, either he was gone or the other boat got him. I had a little hope though, I hadn't had a single rock bass bite from that area earlier. So just maybe he was still there and didn't get snatched by anyone else. I could barely believe my eyes when he was sitting down there looking like a big log in the bed. I dirtied up the area a little bit so I had to let it rest but I started making casts towards the other bed. I had no clue how big this other fish was or if it was even on a bed, I only caught a glimpse of it a couple days before. Either my first or second cast over there the darter loaded up. I was pleasantly surprised when a 4lber came thrashing out of the water. However excitement and surprise quickly turned into disappointment. He was hooked in the side of his face, so we had to turn him loose. However we knew we weren't going anywhere until we got these 2 fish or it was time to go on. I settled down and went over to drop the Minn Kota Talons near the beast. I will say one thing the 10 foot talons have been a huge help in touching bottom in many areas vs the 8 footers I had before. He was holding tight but it took about 15 minutes to get him worked up enough to bite. Needless to say it was relief when he culled out a 2lb largemouth. There was also no doubt this was the same exact fish I had weighed in last year for big bass in this tournament. Just an ridiculously old skinny male that has his preferred spot to bed. Now for the other fish, I fully expected it to take some time. I want to say that was about a 40 minute fish, not being able to see the fish or bed ever, definitely made it a challenge. I just had to have faith that that was his area and I would eventually find something he would bite. It definitely didn't happen like I expected though. I started to reel in at the end of a cast and the rod loaded up. I was pretty bummed at first thinking somehow I snagged him again. It isn't often one eats it as you start reeling it out of the bed. It didn't feel weird and then he made a jump and was obviously hooked in the mouth. After a short battle Cameron scooped him in the net and we culled a decent smallie. The pressure was off a little bit after that, but we a really need another fish or 2 over 4lbs. Despite running a lot of water and checking another big smallie and 2 big largemouth (that all happened to be gone) we never found another one of those bites. But at least we salvaged something at the end of day.
The beast ended up winning big bass again but unfortunately he had lost some weight. He was 5.3 last year and 4.93 this year. I think he's probably on the decline and it also seemed like he had been on the bed a long time this year. We ended up in 4th place out of 59 boats with 18.31, definitely an improvement on the start of the day. While that looks good on paper, I'm feeling really frustrated about it, not because of the weight/where we finished (that is all good!). But I feel like I missed something in practice, literally did not see a fish that was there (that really bothers me), and just feel like I had a weak practice/tournament regardless of what the scales said. I just feel like I have a lot to learn after this one, so I'm going to do my best to keep on learning. Huge congrats to my buds Kyle and Dave for winning and all the other teams with nice bags (there were a lot of them).
I'm really looking forward to the D&R event on Muskegon in 2 weeks. That could be a real interesting one either in a good way or in a survival type way. Shaun and I can't wait to find out though. Oh and prepare for some longer blogs now that tournament season is upon us!