Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Blair Family Benefit Tournament: Wind, Waves, and Good Times

Last Saturday, October 20, 2012, I fished a tournament sponsored by the Ohio Hills Catfish Club (Ohio Hills Catfish Club Site) with Kip (Smoothkip) and Randy (Luckeywade) of Catfish Freaks. The tournament was held in order to raise money for the Blair family, who's son was recently diagnosed with cancer.

Kip, Randy, and I started off a half hour later than all of the other teams, because we were waiting for Amanda to bring our spare batteries. When I got to the Shawnee State Forest boat ramp Kip called me and asked me if I got his text, which at that point I hadn't. He asked if I had brought my spare batteries because they used all of their boat batteries to keep their truck running (alternator issues) on their 4 hour ride down to the Ohio River. So at 7am I called Amanda and asked her to bring the boat batteries to the river, an hour and a half later she arrived and we were off.

None of us were familiar with this section of river so we began to scout every bend, rip rap bank, exposed structure, etc. in the river. We found that this particular stretch of river was significantly shallower than the stretch of river that Rylan, Amanda, and I fish. After an hour of searching we settled on a rip rap bank in the 20 to 25 foot depth range. A few bites and a half hour pass and we pull anchor and moved to the next mediocre spot. The next spot had similar results, a few bites and no fish. At this point the wind had picked up and was pushing 1-2 foot waves up river. I looked at Randy and asked him if his boat was good with handling waves, he assured me that we would be fine.

We fished the third spot, once again no fish, and now the waves were really rolling, some of which were throwing white caps. Randy began to look uneasy. As we debated our next move, Kip stated that he wouldn't mind heading further up stream to check out a sharp bend, traveling with the waves, and I cautioned that if the waves get worse we'll be in for a long trip back. Randy didn't say what he wanted, so I assumed that he didn't want to disagree with Kip. I then began voicing my opinion for fishing the mouth of the Scioto River, which at this point was nearly halfway back to the ramp.....a safer route I felt. At this point Kip informs me that if we sink the boat, it wouldn't be the first time they have sunk a boat. At this point I feel that I may need a life jacket.

We developed our game plan, we were going to head downstream with the waves at an angle until we reached the calmer side of the river and then drive back down river against the waves. We took off and the 17 foot flat bottom G3 jon boat began to crash each wave, occasionally throwing a bit of water back into the boat. We made it to the other side, and to our surprise the waves were not calmer. So we traveled for 10 minutes, which felt like 30 minutes, crashing each wave back down river to the mouth of the Scioto River. Every now and then when I saw a good wave coming up I'd look back to see what expression Randy and Kip had on their faces. I cannot truly express in words the look on their faces, but I will try. Kip began to shake his head, his eyes grew two sizes, and he gave a half smile. As I looked back at Randy, he had his hood drawn tight around his face to keep the cold wind and water from hitting his face. He had a cigarette hanging out the corner of his mouth and as he saw the next large wave approaching he'd draw in another puff, and grip the steering wheel with both hands. At this point I found out that when I get really nervous (scared for my life) I laugh hysterically.

We finally got to the mouth of the Scioto River to find out that a few boats had also tucked in out of the wind. We tried our best to get around them without leaving plane in the shallow riffles of the small river. We anchored and fished a good cut bank with a decent hole for two hours. We ended up catching a small channel and tossing it back, because we knew it'd take a couple good fish to win. We then drove down river, fished a couple more spots, and returned to the boat ramp an hour early as to get things packed up before the weigh-in started.

Two thirty pound blues were brought to the scales, with a 39 pounder winning the big fish of the day, and the first place team weighing 4 fish in the mid 70 pound range. However that was not the true reason for the tourney or the biggest victory of the day. All winning teams donated their winnings back to the Blair Family and with the raffle and tournament fees the Ohio Hills Catfish Club helped to raise between $1500 and $1700 for the Family....the true victory.

I want to thank Kip for the invite, Randy for taking me out on his boat, JC (Jaybird8177 of Catfish Freaks) for giving us fresh skipjack, the Ohio Hills Catfish Club for holding the tourney, and everyone that showed up for the tourney.

I wish the best of luck to the Blair family in their battle with cancer. We will keep you in our prayers down here.

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