Friday, September 21, 2012

Final Results: Happy Hookers Classic (Mississippi River Pool 14)

Pool 14 on the Mississippi River ended up being a bigger challenge than expected.  Fish were caught on both Saturday and Sunday, but the size of them were just not what I was looking for.  Friday's practice brought promise with two keepers both over 14" but the cold front that moved in on Saturday and Sunday shut off the fish somewhat making them move from areas that we found them in on Friday.  River fish are less effected by cold fronts and pressure changes, but it still ended up being tough.  Water temperatures remained in the low to mid 70's with the air temperatures starting in the morning around 52 degrees and working up to the low 70's.  High pressure both on Saturday and Sunday with blue bird skies as well. 

I think the key thing that made it so tough was the water level...and I think that has been a pretty consistent theme for most tournaments throughout this season.  The river was at least 5-7 feet down which made a lot of the channels and cuts inaccessible for boats.  With the water being lower than usual a lot of the structure that the fish were used to holding to was also out of the water.  So after some thinking and practice on Friday we were able to find a handful of areas that consistently held a few fish.  One of those areas was an isolated point next to a main river channel.  Basically what it looked like was an island out in the middle of the river that seperated the river into two channels on either side of the island.  On the right side there was no current due to the river being low enough to expose a sandbar, and on the left side the channel dropped down to almost 20 feet of water.  So you basically had a nice flat at a point with no current with deeper water near by....which is perfect for bass in the summer.  It took all about 3 casts  to find out that there were fish there and we caught a couple keepers instantly.  So we left it alone until Saturday.  All of the fish were at the tip of the point and to the right where the sandbar dropped down into the water.

The other area that we found later in the day on day 1 of the tournament was a stretch of discharges from a set of industrial plants in a cut off of the main river.  This provided warmer water which made this specific channel less effected by dropping water temperatures from the cold front.  There were about 8 or so discharges in total but one of them was just on fire with the amount of action from fish busting the surface while chasing after shad.  We threw everything we had at them with no luck until I switched back to a texas rigged plastic.  Then I caught two 13 3/4" largemouth within a few casts from eachother.  No keepers for Saturday...but at least that was another spot we could return to on Sunday.  In any case where we found fish the other piece to the puzzle was baitfish...without a food source the bass were nowhere to be found.

Sunday was a little colder and we fished the same two areas again...which produced good fish but again nothing over 14".  My boater Joe pulled up to the point where we caught fish and he ended up picking up the only keeper out of that area that day.  I caught several 13" fish but just couldn't find that bigger one.  Same went for the discharge...had one just shy of 14" but nothing after that.  I caught about 12 bass on Saturday and 8 on Sunday, so I was happy at the fact that we did find fish and we did catch a decent amount for the conditions that we had.  I also caught a small 24" northern and a few hybrid bass as well, which gives you a glimpse of the diversity of this fishery.  Fish were caught primarily on crankbaits and texas rigged creature baits.
At the end of Sunday we knew that a couple of the guys figured the fish out and they shared with us what they had done.  I guess they found a cut with a couple of wing dams in them that had a good deal of shallow water.  Like I said earlier, the water levels were down so a lot of the guys were leery to venture into some of the cuts so they didn't damage their boats.  Well, that ended up being the big difference that added to their win.  Wing dams are long rock structures that jut out from the shore on some of the main river stretches and cuts that basically create a buffer for current in the river.  Since the water was so low some of the wing dams were exposed above the surface of the water.  These rock piles almost always hold fish...but are very hard to fish since they are hard to find if you don't have an accurate contour map.  The shallow areas that they were in were loaded with fish and the two guys that found them had limits on day 2.   Almost all of them were caught on spinnerbaits and were in an area where baitfish was plentiful.  Shallow water and cold fronts just didn't mix in my brain as being logical...but for some reason that is where the fish wanted to be.  That's the beauty of fishing...its always a puzzle and patterns always change from day to day.

The weekend still ended up being a lot of fun, and I learned a lot about a river that I have never fished before.  I finished the year on a positive note by coming in 7th place overall in our club standings this year.  That means then that I will be the first substitute for the 6 man state team for next year.  On the non boater side I finished in 1st which I was really happy about.  On the ABA side I finished with a ranking of 629 out of all of the members of the ABA circuit in the US.  If I would have fished the classic for the ABA I am pretty confident I would have finished in the top 500 which qualified me for the National Event.  So overall, I am extremely grateful for how I did this year.  All of the prep work, the learning, and the time spent on the water this year was worth it.  I couldn't really ask for more than that. 

Thanks to all who have commented and sent positive thoughts my way throughout the season, the encouragement really helped keep me on my game this year.  The fishing season is starting to come to a close in the next few months so I will still update you with my other catches this year....but until then happy fishing and tight lines!


Thursday, September 6, 2012

Happy Hookers Classic: The Mighty Mississippi (Preparation)

In a few hours I will be heading out for a single day of practice and a two day tournament on Pool 14 of the Mississippi River.  All my hard work for the year has come down to this and I am ready to go!  I am currently sitting in 6th place in our club and if I can hold my own this tournament I will claim a spot on the 2013 State Team.  The main goal throughout the season has been to try and remain consistent and I am happy to say that I have achieved that so far.  On one side I have our bass club and the other was the ABA division 39 tournament series that I also competed in.  At one point I was 1st in points and got a letter about a month ago to let me know that I qualified for the National tournament in Kansas.  I would have loved to go and compete with the top 500 guys in points...but it just wasn't in the cards this year.  This whole season has also been aimed at just taking baby steps into the sport of tournament fishing.  It can really become a consuming hobby and one can lose sight of the fun in all of it...but I can definitely say that all of it has remained fun and enjoyable.  I got my butt handed to me in some tournaments and I kicked butt in some tournaments....that's just the way it goes.  Still lots to learn but I remain grateful for the opportunities that I have had this year, and the people that I have met and fished with along the way.  Not to mention those of you that have supported me and have read my blog entries...a big thanks to you all as well!

So rods and reels were all cleaned, relined, and starting lineup lures tied on.  The tacklebox has been organized and every last detail though about.  Now I just need to get out there and hit the water and get a pattern together.  The weekend calls for rain and cooler weather and the river is low.  Game plans will probably change as the weekend goes along....but keeping a clear head and thinking through things will help get some mojo going!

Wish me luck guys, be safe, and have a great weekend if you can get out on the water!