Monday, January 21, 2013

Wheeler Lake, AL 1/19, 1/20/2013

Friday morning I received a call while I was on lunch break from Kip Armstrong asking me if I wanted to go out and fish this weekend. I rarely turn down fishing opportunities so I told him I was in. A half hour later he called me and asked me if I wanted to fish with one of his friends in Alabama. He told me his friend was Aaron Wheatley, founder and administrator of Monsters on the Ohio annual catfish tournament. He told me that Aaron was planning on heading down to Wheeler Lake, Alabama for the weekend and that he had a few open seats. I had a few extra bucks in the bank account that I had been saving for a high end bass reel, so I had to weigh my options.......a high end bass reel or a trip to Alabama for trophy blue cats with 2 experienced and well known catfisherman. Needless to say, I'm sitting here at my computer writing a fishing report for the weekend of fishing, the bass reel will just have to wait a few more weeks.

Kip showed up at the house around 10pm Friday evening after driving four hours from his house. We then loaded my car up and began our four hour journey to Aaron's house. At this point we had never met Aaron in person, so we didn't know what to expect. Each of us were running on no sleep and had been up over 20 hours. We arrived an hour early and waited for 3 am to roll around. Soon enough Aaron came out and asked us if we had the truck loaded yet, and to be honest at first I didn't know how to take him. I was concerned that he may be uptight, but he soon laughed it off and introduced himself. He cracked a few more jokes and we began to load the truck.  At this point we were still 4 hours from Alabama, so Aaron drove the rest of the way down. We got on Wheeler Lake around 7am and took a water temperature of 49 degrees. We immediately headed to a spot that Aaron thought would be holding fish.
We quickly anchored up and tossed baits out. About an hour passed before one of the rods began to bounce, a few bounces later he had finally loaded the rod. Since I had the smallest personal best blue in the boat, they let me take the first fish. A minute or so later I had the 16 pound blue boat side. Aaron and Kip were unsatisfied with the size of the fish but I was just glad to start the day off with a quick fish. We sat around for another half hour without a bite, before we decided to pull anchor and move a few hundred feet away. A few short anchors later and we still hadn't found the fish so we decided to try moving to another side of the lake.

At this point in the day the wind had started blowing pretty hard, around 15mph. We didn't know it yet, but the wind was only going to get worse. We drove against the waves and found a secluded ledge that partially blocked the wind. We anchored for a short while and watched as the wind started to churn up 3 foot waves.  At this point we knew that we couldn't fish much in the wind so we began to talk about our other options. Aaron told us about another lake that was nearby (Wilson lake) that he had caught many decent blues out of before, and after a few minutes we decided to load the boat up and give it a shot. The boat ride back to the boat ramp was quite the experience.

We got to Wilson Lake and put the boat into the water around 2pm. We started the motor and noticed that the impeller was failing to pump water. After a few phone calls to the boats owner, Jodie Beavin, and a few conversations with the locals, we ended up getting the motor back in working order. We drove across the lake and found a few fish suspended off of bottom. The current on Wheeler wasn't near as strong as it was on Wilson so we couldn't anchor up. The rest of the day was spent drifting deep ledges, but we failed to bring another fish to the boat. We decided to call it quits at 4pm and head back to the cabin to regroup and plan our trip for tomorrow. When we got back to the cabin we unloaded the truck and crashed.

 Day Two.....Sunday Jan. 20, 2013

We woke up around 5am and decided to head back out to Wheeler. Aaron had been busy after Kip and I crashed the previous night. He made several phone calls to some close friends, experts in the field of catfishing, and had developed a sound game plan for the day. We got on the water around 7am and took off for the lower end of the lake. Our first few spot we tried drifting some submerged structure and deep ledges, but failed to find any fish. We eventually found one spot on the bank that yielded a few nibbles, but no fish were big enough to commit. At around 12pm we had failed to catch a fish, at this point we had 15 hours on the water with only 1 fish to show for it. Aaron's phone went off and he began talking catfish. After he got off the phone he told us that we were close to the fish, but we needed to move a few hundred yards. This time around he had gotten good info, and we quickly boated our second fish at 23lbs.

Kip's 23lb Blue Cat
At this point Aaron was determined to turn our trip around. He told us that we had to start putting time limits on each of our spots. Every 20 minutes or so without a bite, we'd move. It didn't take long before we started to develop a pattern. Aaron finally got his turn to catch a fish at 1:50pm. Here's a short video that highlights Aaron's battle and his comedic sense of humor.

This was the fish we needed to make our trip. We could have stayed home and potentially caught a few blues around 20 pounds, but a 50 pound fish on my stretch of river is rare. After the 53lber I got on a 23lber.

My 23lb Blue Cat
Kip also ended up catching another small blue before the cold and dark set in.

All in all we had a good trip. Got out, caught fish, met a heck of a guy and made a friend for life.  I learned a lot from Aaron and Kip, not only fishing knowledge but life lessons, and that's worth the trip for me. The fact that we did catch fish, and got to hang out with two great guys was just a bonus. I want to thank Kip and Aaron for the invite, Jodie for letting us borrow his boat, and everyone who called Aaron and tried to help us this weekend. We'll definitely be back down to fish with Aaron soon. 
Aaron and Kip talking catfish

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