A couple more tournaments and we are all caught up. I've had a nice little break with a vacation up north and some Charlevoix smallies. After that the focus is all on salmon until the Michigan Bass Nation State Championship on Muskegon Lake. I don't have any salmon news to report yet, although I expect that to change tomorrow and throughout labor day weekend. If you haven't picked up your salmon jigging starter pack (with my favorite spoons and hooks) from ClearH2O Tackle now is the time!
Back to the bass, let's start with the West Michigan Bass HOTD tournament on White Lake. Based on our struggles at the D&R tournament we were going to have to find something better if we were going to do well. We had to abandon my favorite areas of the lake, because for some reason they sucked! So I was off with the Humminbird side imaging to find some other places that had what I was looking for. Most times if I could find the right mix of depth and coontail, I could get bit. The side imaging was absolutely critical for covering water quickly and finding the right stuff. It didn't take long to find 6 or 7 new schools that were holding quality fish.
However, those coontail fish move a lot in that place, so I was hoping for half of them to be on during tournament day. Plus I knew with 80 some boats we weren't going to be able to get to all of them. We got to start where we wanted to, which actually wasn't one of the schools, but it was a place we felt was one of our best chances to get one or two fish over 4lbs. Unfortunately, it completely let us down, just a couple weak bites. The next place we headed to we got a nice one right away then the next spot produced the same thing (and a 2.5lb fish). We weren't getting a ton of bites off these places, but if we could get a quality fish off each one things were going to be ok. Unfortunately, that's when things stopped going according to plan and we had to start working for them.
We kept picking through them and upgrading little by little. Unfortunately, the big bite was becoming a struggle. We had a livewell full of 3lbers, but that doesn't cut it on White Lake. We stopped on another grass bed that usually produces and right away I set the hook into a big one. Sadly it turned out to be a walleye (first one I've ever caught on a punch skirt). The theme of no big ones continued for the rest of the day, although there were a couple times we thought it was the one. I really expected the one I dug out of a mat with 10 minutes to go to be our kicker, but we only ended up with 15.13 and a 9th place finish. However, we did get a small check and I cashed in on some contingency money. So although it was a frustrating day, it ended up ok in the end.
Next up Shaun and I had the final regular season D&R tournament on Muskegon Lake. We had high hopes for this one, I feel like we are due this year. Winds during practice were ridiculous and much of the lake was unfishable. That kind of put damper on our plans, but we did have some fish to go to. We had a few things working with Dobyns flipping sticks and braid so we thought things might be fun on tournament day. We had an uncharacteristically fast start and popped a nice one on about the 5th flip. It didn't take long to rack up a limit and have a little bit of a party. At one point Shaun was digging a fish out of the net so I grabbed another rod, flipped out again, and caught another. Once again the big bite was proving to be elusive. We had a solid bag before 10 o'clock, but the rest of the day proved to be a waste. We had a couple big missed opportunities with a line break and a bent out hook, plus some fish that just came unbuttoned. I would say we had the bites to have 17-18 but not the 19 and change it took to win. One thing that was crazy is how critical a Nemesis bullet craw was in the morning. We flipped some other profile baits but the black and blue bullet craw was on fire! It was weird to catch our weight quickly, instead of taking all day like normal. We bounced between deep and shallow the rest of the day looking for a kicker. We probably should have rode out our area for another hour before leaving, but it's a tough call when you want to get to some places before other competitors, plus when you had 20 bites doing something else the day before, it was hard to ignore that. Luckily, for us our good part of the day produced 14.89lbs of largemouth, which is typically a pretty good bag on Muskegon Lake. But it seemed like everyone caught them and we finished in 10th place. Once again scraping up a small check and being left a little frustrated. Catching a bunch of fish on a flipping stick in deeper coontail was a decent consolation prize though.
From there I finally got to do a little fun fishing for northern Michigan smallies, something I've always wanted to do, but never really had the chance to during the summer. I also wanted to find some good stuff in case there is ever a Lake Charlevoix tournament again. I caught some good ones, but nothing over 5lbs. I definitely found some good stuff for the future but was never really dialed in on this trip. I don't think nights in the 40s helped things much either, but it was such a blast catching big ones on a dropshot rod. It feels like it's been so long since I've been able to do that. I feel like I know so little about that type of fishing right now, I can't wait to go back and figure things out a little more.
That is what I love so much about fishing, there is always something to learn and everything is always changing. It was so rewarding to find a place with my electronics, waypoint it, drop the trolling motor, and catch a 4.5lber. Those little moments where the light bulb goes off make it all worthwhile and keep me coming back for more.