Monday, September 30, 2013

Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail's Dayton Kayak Fishing Experience Prefishing

Saturday, Sean, Amanda, and I decided to head to Dayton to prefish for the upcoming Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail event, the Dayton Kayak Fishing Experience. We debated on wether to do this or try our luck with the catfish again. Ultimately we decided on the tournament prefishing. I don't want to give too many secrets away before the tournament so this blog is going to be short and sweet.

As usual, Amanda had the smallmouth figured out from the beginning. Midway through the day she found a hot stretch of water where she caught several smallmouth including a 16.75" and a 15.75". Nothing Sean and I weren't used to. Here's the hog 16.75".
16.75" Smallmouth Bass
It was at this point I knew it was time to change tactics. Immediately I started getting 3 times as many bites as before and landed a few small ones around 10-12". Several more hours went by and I still hadn't found any size. Meanwhile Amanda had a top 3 of over 45", Sean had caught a few 14 inchers putting him in the low 40's. At one point Sean hooked into a decent Northern Pike but unfortunately it broke off before he could get it into his kayak. This was pretty disappointing as none of us have ever caught a pike, I've yet to even hook one. This was the second time Sean has been disappointed by a pike as he had hooked one at the Fall Finale tournament at Nettle Lake last week. He said it was well over 30" and probably 10lbs. Shortly after this I finally hooked into a nice bronze. As soon as I seen the fish I knew it would be a personal best for me. The fish surprisingly didn't jump as smallmouth are notorious for. Instead the fish fought downward which seems to be the trend for smallmouth this time of year. After a short fight I had the pig in my grasp. It went 17.75" and 2lbs 5oz, a new personal best and the second time I have broken my personal best smallmouth this year. Setting a decent personal best smallmouth was a goal of mine this year. The fish appeared to be very healthy and I expected it to weigh closer to 3lbs, must have had an empty stomach.
17.75" 2lb 5oz Smallmouth Bass

17.75" 2lb 5oz Smallmouth Bass
Soon after Sean hooked into yet another monster fish. This time Amanda and I were close by to witness. It didn't take long for us to realize this fish wasn't small as it just would not surface. A minute went by and we still didn't know what he had but I was guessing a decent size catfish. Then the worst happened, the hook popped free. Luck just was not on Sean's side this day.

I managed to pick up a couple more decent smallmouth soon after, a 13.5" and a 13". This put me up to 44.25" for my top three, a number I would be happy to get in the tournament this weekend. Finally we reached our take out point, loaded up, and called it a day. In the end I think we all learned something to prepare ourselves for the tournament this weekend. Then again the smallmouth could completely change patterns by this weekend.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail's Fall Finale, Pre and Post Fishing

Last weekend Amanda and I made the long 6 hour drive up to Nettle Lake to fish Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail's "Fall Finale" event. Our weekend started earlier than most other anglers, as I had managed to get Friday off of work. We got up at 3:50am and made our way toward Dayton and met up with Neil. From there we were going to stop and fish along the way. As we got closer to Lake Erie we started to notice a few wind turbines. I looked over to Amanda and told her it was a good thing we had brought our anchors along. If the government had spent millions of dollars to install wind turbines, they probably felt that there was a sufficient amount of wind to justify placing wind turbines there. Wind and kayaking are something that we have tried to avoid in the past, but it seemed that there may be no avoiding it this time around. Here's a cool picture Amanda took of the wind turbines east of Toledo as I was driving. The pictures don't do them justice, they are every bit of 300 feet tall.
Wind Turbines near Van Wert, Ohio.
After a few hours of driving we decided to stop and fish the Maumee River for Northern Pike. My first impressions of the Maumee River wasn't so great. It was a very wide river with very little flowing water, at least where we fished anyway. We got on the water at 11am and fished until 4pm. The water was unseasonably cold, I didn't hook my fish finder up but I'd guess it to be in the high 50 degree Fahrenheit range. We spent about 5 hours paddling around and fighting the wind before deciding to head back to the boat ramp. Everyone had failed to find a fish, fishing was slow to say the least. The water looked good though, plenty of clarity, structure, and cover.  Since it was already after 4pm we decided to head over to Nettle Lake and get our tents set up before it got dark.
My little tent on the left, and Neil's tent on the right.
As we began to set up our tents I quickly discovered that I have a few things to learn about "luxury camping." It appeared that what Ozark Trail claimed was a 4 person tent was more like a 2 person tent. However, everyone else that set up tents that night had what appeared to be 8 person tents for themselves....lesson 1. I started to defend myself and my little tent. I began to ask them why they needed such a big tent for just one person, they then informed me that you need a big tent for big air mattresses....lesson 2. Neil and I quickly got the tents set up and hit the water. Amanda decided to lay down in the tent and let us scout the lake out, since we only had an hour before dark I didn't bother to persuade her to come out. We turned the hummingbird fish finders on and began paddling the shorelines looking for any change in the bottom or submerged structure. We quickly discovered that the lake was full of small lily pads, but that was just about the extent of the cover options. After a half an hour we had reached the northern end of the lake. At this point we decided to break the rods out and start fishing. I had started with a donkey rig, which is a tandem weightless fluke rig. I figured that the bass were keying in on schooling bait fish high in the water column this time of year so the two weightless flukes would be a good option. After a half an hour of casting I got my first fish from Nettle Lake, a 11.5" crappie. I was super excited, since the bonus fish for the tournament was a 12" crappie. Someone who catches a 12" crappie during the tournament would be awarded 30 bonus points toward the final trail standings. I was in the lead by 5 points overall so I needed to get a bonus fish or do very well in the tourney to extend my lead. I figured since I had gotten an 11.5" fishing for bass, that I could easily get a 12" crappie while actually targeting them. The sun quickly set and we failed to find another fish. Neil and I began to talk about the tournament on the paddle back. We had both come to the conclusion that 3 decent bass would win the tournament, and quite possibly that 3 measurable bass would place you into the top 5. Our hopes were pretty low, and we only had one person to blame for this....Travis. He had chosen the lake off of what someone had told him, not his own personal experience. It was by far the furthest lake from the anglers in the whole tournament trail, so if it didn't go well he was to blame. Travis arrived at the campground at 10pm, we were quick to inform him of our experience on the lake. He told us what he knew and why he had chosen the lake, we weren't buying it and neither was everyone else. We gave him crap for it all night long, and at about midnight we all tucked into our tents. Some anglers went to their cozy air mattress filled mansions and others onto the cold hard ground in their shanties. 

Saturday morning I woke up to the sound of Amanda's cell phone. She had sat her alarm for 6am, in order to give herself time to do her make up. The tournament didn't start until 7:30am so I'm sure the other guys were thrilled to hear the alarm go off. Everyone got up and started to get ready anyway. At 7 we started to head over to the state boat ramp, where we met the anglers who had drove in that morning. We all gathered around and the guys who had drove in wanted to know if anyone fished the lake last night? I was quick to inform them of our experience. A couple other guys chimed in and said they had fished the lake last week and it was awful then too. Travis was in for round two, but he quickly told them what he had told us the night before.
Travis trying to tell everyone that there are big fish in the lake. Everyone's face is priceless.
It went something like this, "A friend of a friend told me that he had caught some huge bass in here......his biggest was 9.8lbs." They weren't buying his story either. We hit the water at 7:30am and started working the shoreline of the main lake. The lake was as calm as glass, but it wasn't going to stay that way for very long.
It didn't take long for the front to blow in and the wind to pick up. In about two hours the lake had went from glass to throwing 2 foot waves.
I started off throwing the tandem fluke rig but after an hour without bites, I had to switch back to what I had confidence in....a hollow body frog. I quickly landed a 12.5" bass and missed another small one. However, at about this time the waves started to build and the top water bite had all but shut down on the main lake. I alternated between the frog and a small crappie jig for the next few hours. I managed to pick up a few crappie and a couple bluegill in 5 feet of water. My largest crappie went 11", it was heart shattering. I knew that for the overall standings a bonus crappie would help me as much as a first place finish in the tourney would. I eventually made my way to the north end, the most sheltered end of the lake. I found Brian and Jeff tucked back in there all by themselves. Jeff quickly paddled over and we started talking. He had found 3 good fish, and even discovered the topwater frog bite. I told him that I had only landed one bass and that I had an 11" crappie. I made my way around the north end of the lake, still throwing a frog and a crappie jig in alternation. As I made my way around I failed to pick up any fish, at this point I had made up my mind that I was going to catch a 12" crappie since I had no chance of placing well in the tourney with one bass. I was going to head back to the very same spot that I picked up an 11" crappie and make that spot give up a few more fish. I made a lure change from a small swimbait to a 3" plastic worm, a wobblehead. Last year we re-discovered the wobblehead worms, landing several bass over 3lbs, a few crappie over 13", channel cats over 24", carp over 20", etc. Here is a link to one of my best trips on wobblehead worms....Wobblehead Fishing Report. They looked like a worm out of water, but when paired with a 1/32oz jig they looked more like a wounded 3" minnow. It was a deadly combination, so I had confidence in it. I arrived to find that the wind was slamming the bank where I had caught the crappie before. I didn't have any other options so I paddled out into the waves and then vertical jigged the wobblehead worm as they blew me back toward the bank. I quickly picked up yet another 11" crappie. I paddled down the bank and noticed that I was catching these fish off of a weed line 10 feet off of the bank. I started watching my fish finder and noticed that there was a ledge of weeds about 10 feet off of the bank in 4 foot of water. The ledge then dropped into 10 feet of water. I was catching fish right on the break. I assumed that the waves were pushing baitfish into the weeds where fish were patiently waiting. Once I put the pattern together I started to find bass. I quickly got 3 bass in the 12 to 13" range. I had 3 decent bass at this point, good enough to place in the top 5 I felt. At this point I had a big decision to make, switch to a jig or frog and hope for a kicker to win the tourney with, or stick with the wobblehead and see what I can get. I knew the wobblehead worms caught quality crappie and bass so I stuck with it. That decision soon payed off for me with a 18.5" bass. 
At that point Jim had come around the bank in his Hobbie Pro Angler. He was well equipped to fight the big waves as was I in my Malibu. I asked if we were the only ones stupid enough to fight the wind and waves? He told me that everyone else was tucked onto the other side of the lake out of the wind. I then proceeded to tell him that I had caught an 18.5" bass and a couple smaller ones off of the wind blown weedline. We then set back out and hit the weedline with our soft plastics.

Soon enough 3:30pm rolled around and I started to make my way toward the boat ramp. I met up with Travis and Rylan and told them what I had gotten. Each of them had also gotten a limit of three fish too, so the day had turned out much better than I had expected. Travis was pretty happy to hear that I got an 18.5" bass, now the guys wouldn't give him such a hard time for choosing the lake. We got back to the boat ramp and patiently waited for the results. I had placed in 2nd, and Jeff had placed in 1st. We sat around and talked a little, raffled off a few prizes from our sponsors, and then went out to eat.

Everyone but Travis, Luke, Amanda, and I went home. We decided to stay another night and give Nettle another shot. We grabbed a few burgers from Burger King and hit the water at 6:45pm. We had all decided to try and get a Northern Pike so we tied on large surface lures and crankbaits. We paddled back to the northern end of the lake and started working the lily pad edges. About a half hour before dark I decided to tie on the hollow body frog and see if I could get a few bass before we had to head back. On my 2nd cast I landed a 15.5" bass, a few casts later and I had landed yet another 15" bass. As I was releasing the second fish Travis came over to see what I was throwing, I told him I had got 2 good fish in less than 20 minutes. He too made the switch over to a hollow body frog in hopes of landing a bass. We then sat in the middle of the cove and debated where to go to finish the night out. I told him that one side was deeper than the other and he ended up taking the shallow side of the cove. I quietly paddled over to my side and started to throw my frog on the bank. I'd let it sit for a second or to and then ease it into the water. I would then pull it slow and steady over the pads until I got to a pocket of open water or the pad edge. I would then let it sit for 4 or 5 seconds and then begin to walk the frog back to the kayak. On my 5th or 6th cast I had something blow up on my frog about 10 feet off of the pad edge. I set the hook hard and the fish came to the surface. The light was fading so I didn't get a real good look at it but I knew it was a good quality fish. I quickly gained all but 15 foot of line when the bass started its aerial assault right at my kayak. It came up and gave me three or four good jumps less than ten feet from my kayak. I quickly grabbed the largemouths lower lip and pulled it into the kayak. I then yelled out that I had a good one, Amanda replied, "How good?" I didn't know how big it was at the time so I told her over 5lbs and 22". Travis overheard the conversation and him and Amanda started to paddle over to me. Luke was pretty far away still so I don't know if he even heard what was going on. Everyone got close and I lifted it up for them to see. Travis was super excited and kept saying, "I told you so....there are big ones in here!" The bass went 21.25" and 4lbs 8oz, the biggest 4lb 8oz bass I had ever seen. It must have had an empty belly or something. Here's the best picture of the size of the fish, the flash didn't go off on the camera so it was out of focus. Regardless you can see how big she really was.
Here the flash went off and we got a good picture, it did make it look a lot darker than it really was.
Here's Travis letting everyone know that he told us there were big bass in the lake.
Travis....."I TOLD YOU SO!!!"
Until Next Time.
We ended up fishing way past dark, probably until 9:30pm or so. I managed to pick up another solid fish at 16.75", for a total of almost 53" in three fish, in 1.5 hours. (For reference I took 2nd with 44.25" during the 9 hour tourney.) I wondered where the heck that kind of fishing was during the tournament? I knew of course that the bite was the best at dusk and that the 20 mph winds during the day made it hard to catch fish. Either way, I was glad to have a good night of bass fishing.

Travis, Luke, Amanda, and I made it back to the boat ramp and started to change into dry clothes. At this point the temperature had dropped into the 50s already, so having dry clothes was a must. We then got the grill out and started grilling hamburgers and brats. With the temperature dropping steadily we decided to move the grill out into the club house offered by the campground. We got inside, ate some food, shot some pool, shot darts, and told a few stories. We decided to clean up and head to bed at 1am, where we tucked ourselves deep into our sleeping bags as the temperatures fell to 41 degrees by daybreak. We had a blast, to be honest it's probably one of the best weekends Amanda and I have had in a long time. The guys who left early missed one heck of a good time.

In the end I had lost the lead in the overall trail standings. Jeff is now in the lead by 5 points, the equivalent of half a place in a tourney. I'm not too tore up about it. He has been very consistent all year long, placing in the top 5 in every event he has attended. He had even took first place in an unofficial event at Kiser Lake when the Dayton River event was postponed, so he deserves to win it. I have done fairly well too, some of which I can contribute to luck..... such as pulling a 20.25" bass up a 15 foot high dam during the online tourney. On the other hand I have had my fair share of bad luck as well. I lost a few good fish when I needed them the most.  Such luck includes failing to land a 3rd decent fish in the Columbus event which put me less than .5" out of 4th place, or losing two fish on a frog at Nettle Lake that would have put me closer to 50" rather than the 44" that I ended up with. Oh well, you have to take the good with the bad and in the end what happens will happen. Check the trail standings, event pictures, etc. out HERE. Once again I want to thank all of the sponsors, the guys who put the event together, and all of the anglers who braved the tough conditions this weekend.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kayak Catfishing Round 2

Friday, September 13th, Sean, Amanda, and Russ hit the river to do some more catfishing. I had other things to do so I couldn't join yet again. The flathead were still biting pretty well as they found out. Russ started the day off quickly with a decent sized buffalo. 
 
Russ would then proceed to land an additional buffalo and two more carp over 24" before anyone could anchor and set up for catfish. Once everyone got settled in, they quickly found that the cats were biting. Amanda started the trip off with a solid 28.75" flathead catfish, approximately 10lbs.
Sean then landed a flathead at 26", that he guessed to be in the 8lb range. Russ soon followed with a flathead of similar size. They didnt get into any big cats, but at least everyone got to land a flathead.

Saturday, September 14th, I was finally able to join Sean and Russ on the river. Amanda sat this trip out. Early in the day we headed to Rocky Fork Lake to restock on bait. After an hour we had more than enough bluegill for the evenings trip. Sean and I met up with Russ and got on the water around 5:30pm. By 7:30pm we all had our catfish rods out. My plan was to use cut bait on one rod for channel cats and a live bluegill on the other rod for flathead. I decided to start out with cut bluegill on both rods as my confidence in catching flathead catfish during daylight is low. Channel cats on the other hand more commonly bite during the day. Minutes after putting rods out Russ got the first fish of the day, a nice 26" channel. Sean and I on the other hand had quickly got the interest of several gar. After an hour of the gar playing with our baits and nobody had caught anything else we moved on to the next spot. For the most part we were targeting wood in deeper areas. We got rods out again, it was dark at this point so I switched to using one live bait as intended. After another hour I had got a few nibbles on cut bait but nothing committed and something had pull my live bluegill into a snag. We all regrouped and moved on. Sean and I were still at zero fish while Russ had got a 29" flathead at the second spot. 

The bite was pretty slow after that. Nobody caught anything at the next several spots and I wasn't even getting the nibbles anymore. At about 11:30pm I tucked in just downstream of a large downed tree. I tossed out my cut bluegill and a good lively bluegill and waited. At about 12:30am something had taken my bluegill. I picked up the rod and set the hook and the fish was on. It felt decent, 10lbs or more but it had been a while since I had hooked a decent catfish. I had anchored myself to the bank by jamming my claw style anchor into the mud. I was worried about the anchor holding if I hooked a decent fish but at that point my confidence in catching anything was getting low so I just went with it. As soon as I hooked the fish my anchor pulled free of the mud and I was at the mercy of the fish. Once I realized the fish was pulling me out into the river I started trying to muscle the fish in quicker than I would have liked as I didn't want the fish to get into a snag and I didn't want to get a face full of branches from the tree I was fishing by. After a minute the flathead surfaced. One final run and I scooped the fish into my net. Upon removing the hook I found that It was barely hooked in the soft roof of the mouth so I was very fortunate not to lose it. The fish looked to be around 10lbs, not huge for a flathead but I was excited. This was my first flathead of the year. Sadly this was only my 4th catfishing trip of the year. At this point I had been pulled and floated down stream an unknown distance as it was getting foggy. With the fish in my lap I started paddling upstream to where Sean and Russ were as I wanted to get some decent pictures. I quickly seen that they looked to be already heading my way. I asked them if they was moving and they said they had decided to leave and call it a night. I then informed them that I'd got a decent one and was hoping to get a few pictures. The flathead weighed in at 12.5lbs and measured 31.5".
It was pretty cold at this point and Russ had plans in the morning and Sean had to work in the morning so they still wanted to call it quits. After a brief paddle through some thick fog we found our take out spot, packed up, and headed home.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Transporting and Keeping Live Bait for Flathead Catfish


Summer is all but over with, and Fall is just around the corner. Leaves are now beginning to litter the water’s surface, and the cold nights have begun to cool the shallows. With winter approaching fish are beginning to feed aggressively, making for some very exciting fishing. Past experience has taught me that this time of year yields the highest catch rates of trophy catfish. I can recall nights at Rocky Fork Lake where multiple 10 plus pound channel cats made it to the bottom of the boat, on a couple occasions we had 2 fish in the net at a given time. Double Trouble Channel Cats. The month of September has given my two largest flathead catfish. One of which I caught last weekend, 31# Flathead Report, and my current personal best flathead in September of 2011. Flathead catfish are very elusive creatures; in fact we have spent countless weekends in search of flathead catfish with nothing to show for it. So when this time of year comes around we make sure to spend as much time on the water as we possibly can. In order to catch flathead one needs a good source of fresh bait. In our case, a large supply of live bluegill. This blog will highlight how we obtain, transport, and keep our bluegill alive.

I work 7am to 3:30pm every weekday. Since almost 90 percent of our catfishing is done at night, I am only available Friday and Saturday to do the majority of my catfishing. I have found that I am less stressed out when I spend an evening getting bait before the day of our catfishing trip. This allows me to focus more on what we need for the night of catfishing, rather than having to worry about getting everything ready for both bait fishing and catfishing. Therefore, Thursday has become my bait gathering day. I start by loading the car with our ultralight combos, bait buckets, aerators, and baits. We use two types of bait buckets to transport and keep our bait alive. The first of which is a 2 gallon trolling style bait bucket.
These style bait buckets are buoyant so they float and have holes to allow movement of water between a body of water and the bucket. We use these buckets to keep our bait alive as we are catching them. We typically throw a 1/32oz lead head jig with a 1.5" piece of nightcrawler or a small ice jig tipped with a wax worm. This time of year fish relate heavily to structure, we find that by targeting docks and tied off boats that we can easily get a few dozen bluegill. Once we catch our bluegill we simply open the lid, toss the bluegill or other piece of bait in, and then throw the bucket in the water just off of the bank. The holes in the bucket will allow for the exchange of fresh water, keeping your bait well oxygenated and lively. We typically put a dozen 5-8” bluegill in each bucket before transporting them to our secondary bait bucket. Our second bait bucket is a five gallon bucket with a lid and an aerator.
The five gallon bucket is over twice the size of the other bait buckets, so we typically put two dozen baits in them. The bucket is aerated by a small battery powered bubbler made by Marine Metal Products.  While this keeps the water oxygenated, it doesn’t keep the water cool and free of ammonia build up. Therefore, we typically exchange half of the water in the five gallon bucket every 45 minutes until we are done fishing.

Once we get back to the house I begin filling my 25 gallon livewell, which happens to look a lot like a white trash can. I then add a water treatment agent called Better Bait. Better Bait conditions the water, removes chlorine, stimulates a natural slime coat on the bait, reduces fungus and bacteria, removes heavy metals, adds electrolytes, etc. In simpler terms it helps keep your bait lively and reduces die offs.  
I add half a tablespoon to my 25 gallon livewell, as per the directions given. The powder gives the water a bluish tint, which is a nice visual aid so that you don’t treat the water more than once. I then hook up a 110 watt aquarium aerator, and begin to aerate the livewell. 
Our water is fed from a well so it's very cold. Cold water holds more oxygen and reduces stress on the fish, but since the bluegill are in much warmer water this creates an issue. To ensure that the bluegill don’t go into shock, I acclimate them very slowly. I do this by placing them back into the trolling style buckets with the water from the lake, and then placing the trolling style buckets into the livewell with cold water. I let them set for 5 minutes to ensure that the water in both the livewell and bait buckets are similar in temperature. I then place the bluegills into the livewell.
My 25 gallon livewell will keep up to 6 dozen 5-8" baitfish very comfortably for several days without much maintenance. If I plan on keeping them for more than 3 days I will do a 50 percent water change on day 3. I keep my livewell in a garage, so it stays a fairly consistent 70 degrees. If for some reason the water gets warmer than that I will add a couple frozen water bottles to the livewell in order to cool the temperature back down.  

From there all you have to do is load the bluegill back up into the five gallon buckets or trolling style bait buckets and hit the water.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

Kayak Catfish

This year we have been focused on Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail's kayak angling tournaments, so ninety percent of our fishing has been directed toward the tourneys. This has put a serious hurt on our time spent catfishing. However, last week Russ got a hold of me and asked if I wanted to go catfishing for a few hours in the middle of the week. He said he had plenty of bait for everyone, so the trip was set.

Wednesday 9/4

Wednesday Amanda and I met up with Russ and hit the water. We got to our launch point, an old dirt road down a private soybean field. It had just rained but the ground was still very solid. After a little debate we decided to put our front wheel drive sedans to the test. No sooner than we got the kayaks in the water it started to pour.
We were already on the water, so there was no turning back at this point. It rained for a good ten minutes before the storm had passed. All the while I was thinking about how we were going to get back out after all this rain turns that field into a swamp. The rain eventually ended for the evening and we started tossing baits out for catfish. Amanda had opted to skip out on the catfishing portion of the trip and focus on other species such as gar and spotted bass until dark. Russ and I on the other hand, dropped anchor and started to probe the hole for cats.

I chose to tie off to a fallen tree at the head of the hole and fish a small eddy in 8 foot of water. I was running circle hooks for this trip, so my kayak needed to be very still. When using circle hooks, I put my rods in my rod holders and engage the reel. When the fish grabs the bait and starts to move off the rod will bow, adding resistance. The slow and steady bow of the rod will then pull the circle hook into the corner of the fishes mouth. At that point the fish will panic and take off, driving the hook deep into the corner of its mouth. For all of that to work, I needed a good anchor and I found one in this fallen tree. I simply threw my anchor over the side of it and ran my anchor line through my anchor cleat. About an hour before dark I got my first bite of the evening. I actually heard the cat hit my bait as the rod shook in the rod holder. I then patiently waited as the rod began to bend. Soon enough I had landed the first cat of the evening. A 7lb 1oz channel catfish that went 27" long. Not a bad start to the evening.
As the sun began to set I made the switch from cut bluegill to live bluegill, in hopes of landing a flathead catfish. About an hour after dark I feel my kayak make a funny movement. It felt as if my nose had pulled away from the tree slightly and then swung back into position. I couldn't see my rods at this point, so I turned on my head lamp to find one rod doubled over. I struggled to get the rod out of the rod holder, but after a very unstable lean forward I got to the rod and started to fight the fish. This fish was definitely bigger than my last, but the swift current made it very difficult to judge. After a couple short burst of drag I brought in my first flathead of the night. A 30" 10lb flathead catfish.
Unfortunately that would be the last fish of the evening. At 11:30pm we decided to call it quits and start packing up. We got the kayaks loaded up on the cars and started our journey back. The old dirt road was now as slick as ice. Russ decided to go first, so I watched as he slid back and forth between ruts in the field. Luckily we both made it out with plenty of mud to spare.  

Saturday 9/7

Saturday Russ and I decided to hit the river and test our luck again. I wasn't so easy to convince this time around. We had planned on hitting the river Saturday anyway, but Thursday evening he called me and said he had to work overtime on Saturday. Our trip would have to start at 8 or later. I was still more than willing to fish at this point. Then he said that there may be people at the put in and that my vehicle may not be safe to leave there over night. At this point my confidence was shot, I told him it may be best to fish another night. The next morning Russ sent me a message that said, "Well are you gonna fish or not?" I took it as an insult, I kind of felt like he was calling me out. It was on, we were going to fish.

This time around we both had plenty of bait to spare...or so I thought. I had 25 bluegill from Rocky Fork Lake between 6-8.5", and Russ had a dozen suckers and over a dozen gills. Russ had to work overtime Saturday so we didnt get on the water until 8pm. We paddled past a few over fished bank spots and hit the first good looking spot we found. A bank lined with fallen trees in 8ft of water. We sat for about an hour without bites before moving on. We quickly found another good option, this time a little deeper with significantly less structure.  I got a few bites but failed to land anything.

By this point it was after midnight and we were struggling to find fish, I was beginning to think it was going to be one of those nights where we'd go home with our tail tucked between our legs. We soon got to a section of river that was wide and fairly shallow, on average 2 to 3 feet. I began to zig zag between banks trying to find the deeper side, constantly checking my fish finder as I went. At this point the current had picked up, but so had the depth. I quickly came across a spot where the bottom went from 3 feet deep to 12 feet deep. It was the first hole in probably a half mile of river. The actual hole was probably only 30 yards long by 10 yards wide, plenty for 2 guys to fish. We anchored up and got our baits out. I took the head of the hole and Russ tucked in behind the largest piece of structure. I wanted to get a fish so I cut a big bluegill in half and hooked up his head in hopes of finding a big channel cat. I put it on a 8/0 circle hook and tossed it out. I then set my rod in the rod holder and began to wait. This time I had brought the glow sticks along, and clipped them to the tip of my rods. This allowed me to see my bites as they happen, not after the fish had moved my kayak around. On my second rod I hooked up a live bluegill and tossed him 10 yards away from my last bait. My lines were in the water for probably 20 minutes before one of the glow sticks started to head toward the water with my rod tip. A fish was starting to lean on my rod, but wasn't hooked yet. I patiently waited for the rod to go all the way down and then my drag started to slip in the rod holder. I leaned forward and started reeling down on the fish. At this point the fish had no idea it was even hooked, when I grabbed the rod out of the rod holder it went nuts. My kayak had shifted toward the fish and my drag started rolling. After five or six seconds of non stop drag my line went slack, the hook had failed to find flesh. I was sick to my stomach. That was by far the largest thing I had hooked into for a couple years, if not ever. I hung my head for a few minutes and listened to the bugs as they were surely mocking me. About five minutes later Russ had hooked up with a fish, and for a moment I thought that maybe he picked up the fish that I had lost. He quickly assured me that his was probably only 10 pounds. He brought it to the surface once before the fish found his anchor line. Both of us had lost fish within 10 minutes. We sat around for another hour or so, before deciding to move on.

At this point it was now 2am. Russ had stuff to do in the morning and he had been up since 4am the previous day. I could tell by his actions that the trip was nearing its end. We paddled down stream a few hundred yards when I came across a spot very similar to the last spot where we had lost fish. I told Russ I was going to fish it for a little bit, he didn't sound too thrilled but he didnt say anything about leaving yet. I was just about out of bait at this point so I figured one last spot should do it. I tied off to a small tree that was 20 yards upstream from a huge fallen tree near a steep bank. I tossed out another bluegill head in hopes that I'd get a shot at another big fish. Before I could even get my second rod in the water I had something slam the rod. It shook the kayak hard, but once again failed to find the corner of the fishes mouth. I was getting discouraged at this point. I had two gills left, both of which were in the 8.5" class, normally way too big as live bait for me. I cut one in half and hooked up the head, after all it seemed that that's what they were hitting on. On my other rod I tied on a 7/0 octopus hook and tossed out the bluegill alive. I put it about 5 feet off of the bank, 15 feet upstream from the fallen tree. I disengaged the reel and set my clicker. I was all out of bait at this point, two more bites and Russ could go home. It wasn't 10 minutes before I felt a thump on my leg. I had set the rod with the live bluegill across my lap because I like my rods to set horizontally when I run bait clickers. Five seconds after the thump, my bait clicker begins to roll slow and steady. I flipped on my head lamp, disengaged the clicker, and watched my spool as the fish steadily pulled out line. I engaged the reel, leaned forward, and set a solid hook. However, my hook-set was stopped short. I could only muster to bring the rod up to a 45 degree angle as the fish started to pull drag. My hopes weren't real high after losing the big fish earlier, but after 20 seconds of the fight I figured I'd better settle in for the long haul. The fish quickly pulled off about 10 yards of line before turning and heading up river. As he made his way up river all I could do is hang on and pick up a little line as he got closer to the kayak. Soon enough he started to pass me and the kayak. At that point the nose of the anchored kayak started to point out into the river, I was sure that my anchor was going to slip at any minute. I then realized that I should have found a better tree to tie off to, as the fish started to pull my kayak and the limb my kayak was tied to out off of the bank. Then the fish surfaced, just enough to show me his tail. My initial thoughts where that I had hooked into a very strong 20lb flathead. It soon surfaced again, and then pulled drag as it dove back toward the bottom. The third time it surfaced I had its head coming right at me, so I tried to end the fight quickly. I stuck my hand out and tried to grab his bottom lip, but he wasn't having any of that. Back to the bottom he went. After another minute of swimming around the kayak I brought him to the surface yet again, this time my hand slid right into the corner of his mouth and then around the bottom jaw. I then hoisted him into the yak and admired my catch. It was definitely bigger than I had previously given it credit for, but only the scale would tell the tale.

Now somewhere during this epic 5 minute battle I had grunted to Russ....I say grunted because I tried to yell while the fish was driving the butt of my rod into my midsection. Which to Russ probably sounded like a distressed grunting noise. Russ had figured it out though and was on his way upstream by the time I had it landed. We got the tape out and took a quick measurement, it went 41". We took a few pics and broke the scale out, 31 pounds...plus or minus a couple ounces.
I was soaked from constantly throwing water on him to keep him moist while he patiently waited for his photo op. Air temps were in the high 40's/low 50's so I would soon pay for that decision. I was out of bait, and Russ was ready to head home. We decided to call it quits at 4am. We got to the take out at 430am, Russ took off and swapped vehicles.  He got back and we were loaded up by 5am. At this point I was shivering, so I was glad we decided to call it when we did. I got back to the house at 6:45am and sent out a few photo txts to close friends, just to let them know what a little lost sleep can get them.

I have to say that nothing quite compares to the feel of the sheer power of a flathead catfish. I have caught nearly a dozen bass exceeding 4 pounds this year and to be honest I probably wont remember any of them by next spring. This one however, is different. This will be a story I tell for years to come.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Labor Day Tourneys, Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail's "Buckeye Open" and Kayak Anglers of Western Pennsylvania's "Rippin Lips and Snappin Pics"

This weekend Amanda, Rylan, and I participated in two online kayak bass tournaments, Buckeye Kayak Trails “Buckeye Open” and Kayak Anglers of Western Pennsylvania’s “Rippin Lips and Snappin Pics” tournament.  We have been regulars at the Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trails events all year so there was no doubt that we were going to do their online tourney. However, the guys of BKFT threw us a curve-ball and offered a joint tournament with the Kayak Anglers of Western Pennsylvania. We had met a few of the Pennsylvania guys at an earlier BKFT tournament so to show our support we signed up for both. Below is my report from the weekend of fishing.

Friday, August 30
 
Friday I had to work until 3pm so my fishing was limited to the evening after work. It was really hard for me not to take a sick day or personal day and fish the whole day, but I figured with the 4 day tourney I would have more than enough time to fish…….and I was certainly right. A week earlier I had fished with Neil Farley of Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail and we had made plans to fish together on the Saturday of the tourney. We were going to hit a local lake in the morning and then a local creek in the evening. I hadn’t fished the lake in nearly a month so I wanted to scout it out and make sure I knew where to tell Neil to fish the next day. After work Amanda and I loaded the kayaks up and hit the water. I had two baits tied on, a buckeye lure mop jig in black and blue and a texas rigged chigger craw. The jig is my go to big fish bait and the chigger craw is my “Get on the board” bait. I quickly discovered that I wouldn’t need my chigger craw, small fish were eating my jig just fine. I quickly landed two bass at 14” off of a fallen tree in 6 feet of water. They weren't the fish I was looking for, but I took a few pictures of them on my measuring board anyway.  We quickly covered the deep end of the lake and decided to hit the shallow end to see if we could pick up some size-able fish there. We started off in the lily pads. I threw a jig for about an hour before the urge to throw a hollow body frog overwhelmed me. I tied it on and started using it as a search bait. I would toss it to the bank and then quickly reel it across the pads. When I got a hit I would then throw a jig back to where I had a hit on my frog in hopes that I would pick that fish up.  It worked very well and helped me land a couple more small fish. On one cast I threw the frog along the edge of the pads and started my retrieve when a fish blew up on the frog. I paused for a second to see if the fish had hit its target, sure enough the frog was nowhere to be seen. I reeled up slack and set a solid hook. The fish’s first reaction was to come straight to the surface, it leaped out of the water throwing its head back and forth. I kept telling him, “Don’t you do it, Don’t you do it”, I knew that this was a fish that I needed to land. A couple more leaps and I had him in the kayak. It was definitely a fish I needed, a bass at 18.25”. Now, I do want to say that no self-respecting man should ever take a “Selfie”, but for a 3lb bass I was more than willing.

Amanda was struggling to find fish, but after watching my frog antics she developed a strategy of her own.  Instead of a frog, she decided to take a texas rigged chigger craw without weight and drag it across the top of the lily pads. The crazy legs made a sound similar to a buzz bait, and was more than enough to get a few blow ups. She eventually landed a 14” bass before the sun set.

Saturday, August 31
 
I woke up at 5:30am and started to get ready. I sat outside for a few minutes and watched as a nasty thunderstorm went north and east of us. I checked the weather channel app on my phone and it appeared that we were going to stay dry for a little while. Amanda, Rylan, and I met up with Neil on the lake and began fishing.
Amanda went right to the pads where I had landed my 18.25” bass and Rylan started working the corner of the dam where he had landed his 22” bass in the last tourney. I told Neil that he should just work the opposite bank down to the lily pads, it was my most productive stretch by far. It has steep banks that drop into 4 feet of water very quickly and only has a little bit of vegetation. On this bank bass hold very close to the weeds, cattails, and other vegetation. Neil replied, “that’s just what I like.” That was good enough for me. Less than 20 minutes later he had landed a solid fish at 17.25”. He already had an 18.25” bass from the night before, so with this fish he was in pretty good shape.

At this point we started to hear a distant rumbling. We all knew what was about to go down but we kept fishing, just hoping that it would go away. Well, it didn't. We paddled to the bank and went straight to the trees. In less than 30 minutes we got over an inch of rain, we were all completely soaked and it wasn’t even 10am yet. The storm quickly passed and we got back to fishing.  The water was slightly stained but still fishable. We fished for another 45 minutes before mother nature was back for round 2.

At this point we had decided to pack up and grab a bite to eat. Rylan knew that the lake had potential so he decided to stay and make the fish bite. Neil, Amanda, and I loaded up and hit Wendy's drive through, we figured it was the polite thing to do since we were all dripping wet still. After we ate we started heading toward our second spot. Amanda was fed up with the rain, so she decided to stay home and do some homework instead. I dropped Amanda off at the house and Neil and I hit the creek.  The weather had cleared up significantly and as we got close to the public access point we realized that this spot had not seen any rain yet. The creek was at normal summer pool, and was as clear as I had ever seen it.  We got the kayaks down to the water and started to paddle upstream. We quickly noticed how clear the water was, visibility was greater than 4 feet. As we passed the first riffle we started seeing fish. Neil pointed out the first fish, a small 12 inch bass. He then said he saw a 15” bass, then a 17” bass. By this time I too was watching under my kayak to see if I could spot a bass. We then started talking about how you never catch the fish you see, we didn't think much about it and kept paddling upstream. Then I saw it, a huge bass, I believe my exact words were, “There’s a five pounder.” At this point it was already 5 feet behind my kayak, I quickly grabbed the jig and threw it where I thought the fish would be. As my kayak was moving forward I felt the jig bounce off of rock after rock, and then I felt a thump as my line went slack. Something had picked up the jig, I set the hook and my kayak began to turn in the current.  The bass wasn't much of a fighter; it gave me a halfhearted jump and then swam right under my kayak. I quickly got a hand in her mouth and pulled her aboard the kayak. Somehow, someway I had fooled the bass into eating my jig even after it knew we were there. It went a hair shy of 20”.

I now had two good fish so I was ecstatic. We then started working back downstream. Neil started off throwing a crankbait and picked up a half dozen bass in the 12-14” range. He then switched to a spinnerbait, thinking he would get away from the dinkers long enough to get a good fish. To his surprise, the bluegill loved his spinnerbait selection. He lost one skirt to the little guys and landed several 7-8” bluegill. I eventually persuaded him to throw a jig, something he very rarely throws because it’s too slow of a fishing style for him. Twenty minutes later and he picked up his third keeper, a 16” bass.
At this point I felt pretty confident that Neil had made it into the top 10 with his three fish total of 51.5”….three bass at 18.25”, 17.25”, and 16”. I thought to myself, his trip was worth it now. With a couple hours of daylight left we decided to head back up above the first riffle and throw topwater. I tied on a hollow body frog and he tied on a buzzbait. He quickly caught a half dozen bass on the buzzbait but failed to land one over 16”. He did have one good blow up on the edge of a weed mat that I felt would have been a contender for his top spot.  The sun eventually set, and the daylight faded. We got to the take out and we both realized that we had to carry our kayaks up a 30 yard hill. We were exhausted, but it was well worth it.

Sunday, September 1
 
After Amanda heard that I had landed a 20”, she wanted to go back to the creek. So at daylight we drug our kayaks down the hill and started fishing the creek.  We fished for hours without much to show for it. The fish had shut down completely. We passed a canoe full of three people, which was a rare sight for this section of creek. (Probably because of the intense hill at the public access point.)  They told us they had seen some huge bass upstream, I smirked and said, “Sure they weren't carp?” They assured us that there were a couple huge bass upstream. I looked at Amanda, smiled and told them we’d go check it out. We got back to the spot where Neil and I had seen the bass and sure enough they were still swimming around. There wasn’t any sight fishing this time around. We floated downstream and worked every laydown, weed line, etc. I eventually picked up 2 small bass on the jig off of fallen tree inside of a weed bed. At this point I had a 20”, 18.25”, and a 14” bass. I was beginning to wonder if I was going to get stuck with a 14” bass. We worked the entire length of creek and I had gotten to the dam at the bottom of the float.

I edged up to the dam and took a look over to see what the water looked like below. I could see that most of the water was super shallow, 2 foot or less. However, on one corner there was a deep hole, probably 5 feet deep....just a guess because I couldn't see the bottom. The dam looked to be between 12 and 15 foot tall. I sat there for a minute and stretched out, when the thought hit me……”You should cast down there just for the heck of it.” I grabbed the rod and took a cast. It hit the weedline on the other side of the pool. I then thought about what would happen if I snagged my jig. There was no way I was getting it back. I quickly bounced it into the water and gave it a few hops. I brought it to the closest side of the pool and then up and over the ledge. I could just now see my jig on the edge of the dark deep water. And then it happened. My black jig disappeared and my white braided line began to head back into the deep hole. I set the hook and saw a massive head come out of the water. To be honest I thought it was every bit of 6lbs at the time. This fish would put me in the top five no doubt. Then I realized that I hadn’t thought this one out very well. Now I have a huge bass hooked below a dam, and I have to lift it up 15 foot to my kayak. I looked for alternative options……can I get down there? NOPE. Can Amanda help? NOPE, I couldn't even see her. The last resort was to pull this fish up the dam and hope the line (Spider wire 20lb invisi-braid), rod (Abu Garcia 6’6 MH Vendetta), and jig holds the fish. I quickly pick my rod up and lift it over my head and reel down to take up slack, the fish was still there. I pick up another 5 feet and I still feel weight. One more should do it……. And then I see it. I got it to the top of the dam and put the fish in my lap. I look to the sky, shake my head and laugh. Right beside luck in the dictionary you will see a picture of this bass. This is to date one of the most intense two minutes of fishing I have ever had. I quickly take a picture of it on the board. The leaf debris in the top left of the picture is the top of the dam.

I then paddled upstream and found Amanda taking a picture of a bass she had caught. She held it up and told me it was 15.5”. Then she saw something in my actions that gave it away, she said, “What do you have?” I told her, “you’re not going to believe this but….insert the story here.” We quickly got a few pics and released the fish into its new home.

Amanda did notice that it had some battle wounds from our epic dam battle, here’s a picture of its wounds.

We then paddled back upstream and fished back down to the take out. Fishing was slow but I didn’t care, I had a 20.25”, 20”, and an 18.25” bass.  She wasn’t very happy about that though, since she was sitting with a couple 15” bass.

Monday, September 2
 
Monday we slept in a little. I woke up at 9am and went to a small creek to see if I could manage a Yak Ohio rock bass. The rules for Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trails tourney awarded an angler extra points if he/she could catch a rock bass over 10”. My personal best rock bass is currently 9” so it was a long shot, but I would be stupid not to at least try. I fished for two hours but came up empty handed. Then Amanda and I loaded the kayaks up and hit the creek where I had landed 2 of my keeper bass for the third time…it had produced 2 fish near 20” so it was worth the exhausting take out. We only fished for a few hours because I still had to submit my pictures to BKFT and KAWP before midnight. Amanda did pick up her biggest fish of the tournament on a J&M Jig, a 16” bass before we left.

We decided to call it an evening at 6pm. We went home, got to eat some real food, not the chips and bottled pop that we had been eating and drinking all weekend. I sat in dry clothes, watched a little tv, and relaxed for the first time in three days.

Results:

Tuesday morning the results were posted for the Kayak Anglers of Western Pennsylvania’s “Rippin Lips and Snappin Pics” Tourney. Somehow I had gotten first place in a three way tie at 57.25" after deductions. I tied with a fellow BKFT member, Brian, and a KAWP member DETOX.

Wednesday evening Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail posted their results. I had managed to pull off second place with my 58.25" of bass. Brian Britton had bested me, with three bass at 58.75". With the points I received from this tourney I had passed Rylan and took first place in the overall trail standings. I now had a lead of 25 points on him. However, Jeff Bennett had taken 4th place and with those points had passed Rylan and now sits 5 points behind me in the final trail standings. The next two tournaments are going to be nerve wrecking. 

Here is a picture I took of the water as my paddle exits while paddling….Its a perfect smiley face. I felt it was a good way to end the weekend of fishing.

Rylan's weekend didn't go as he planed. He didn't get the opportunity to sight fish a 20" bass, or pull a 20.25" bass 15 foot up a dam. His luck was the complete opposite of mine. Here he shares his experience.

Goals
My goal for the tournament was to place top 10 in the Rippin' Lips and Snappin' Pics Pennsylvania tournament to acquire 30 bonus points, a rule set in place by Neil of Buckeye Kayak Fishing Trail. I figured 54" would put me comfortably in the top 10. I also wanted to at least try to catch a Yak Ohio top 3 fish for another 40 bonus points, also one of the tourney rules in place by BKFT. The catfish category was my favorite option as I felt it was achievable (33" required to tie for third assuming nobody else beat 33") and it wouldn't conflict with the times when I wanted to bass fish other than less sleep.

Day 1
Friday I had to work as usual. After work I headed out to the same lake I fished on the Friday of the last online tournament and broke 48" on the first day. This lake is very small and has an abundance of floating weeds. Which way the wind has been blowing determines where these floating weeds are and where you are able to fish. I arrived and found the weeds stacked up on the deep end which was good, I like the shallow end best. Paddling through these weeds is a pain, after every stroke you pickup a pound of the stuff on the paddle. Most of the time its worth the effort as the bass fishing is pretty good. I had a typical green pumpkin jig and chigger craw combo on one rod and a swimbait on the other. The bite was average, I caught a few 12-14 inchers in the first few hours. The big ones were no where to be found but I was hopeful they would come out and play at dusk as they typically do. I did catch a few more but still no big ones. Once it got dark I switched to a buzzbait and hit the shallows with no luck. I ended this day with 41.25", catching 7 bass total.

Day 2
I got to bed by midnight and woke up at 4:45am ready to fish again. My plan was once again the same as the last online tournament, the lake where I got the 22" at. I got on the water by 6:30am and started making my way through my favorite area. It didn't take long to find out that the bite was no where near as good as it was last tournament. I was using the same jig and swimbait id used the previous day. At about 7:00am Sean, Amanda, and Neil showed up. By about 8:00am or so a storm started to move in and I had yet to catch a fish, which was very surprising. Lightning and thunder surrounded us and the downpour was on the verge so we all decided to seek shelter on the bank. I had brought rain gear since rain was predicted which helped to an extent. After about 30 minutes of hard rain it eased up. I hoped maybe the bite would pick up but typically the good bite is right before the rain. However the bite remained much the same. I did eventually find a few smaller bass in the 10-14" range. A little after noon Sean and company packed it in as they had plans to fish somewhere else that evening. Meanwhile I continued to fish and kept telling myself that the bite was going to pickup if I just kept at it. Well it never did. By 3:00pm I was getting pretty hungry and tired so I decided to head in, get some food, dry cloths, and debate my options for the evening and the next morning. I wanted to try some flathead fishing that evening but multiple things concerned me. One, the creeks were rising quick from the heavy rain that morning, and two, the doppler radar looked like more strong storms would be moving through. Some say catfish bite best in high water and in rain but I ultimately decided to get to bed early to rest up for more bass fishing in the morning.

Day 3
Again I woke up at 4:45am ready to fish. I really only had 2 local lakes that I considered fishing for the tournament, both of which I had already fished and done poorly at. I decided to head to the lake I had fished Friday evening to see how the morning bite was there. This time around the floating weeds were all blown to the shallow side, much to my disappointment. I put in and started fishing the deep end anyway. I decided to switch up baits slightly. I went with a black and blue jig with an added rattle. I thought maybe a different color with the rattle would entice them into biting. On my second rod I switch the swimbait to a large shad colored crankbait. I had some quick success catching a few more 12-14 inchers but still not the 16"+ bass I was looking for. After an hour I hooked into something that felt a little strange. I reeled it in to discover id hooked a nice bullhead catfish. This bullhead tied my personal best for weight at 1lb 5oz but was a half an inch shorter at 13.5"


After 2 laps around the fishable area of the lake the bite had slowed. At about 9:30am I decided to pack up and head back to the other lake... maybe they would be biting today. Again I fished until about 3:00pm and the bite was just as slow if not slower than yesterday. I had only caught 3 small bass. So I decided to head home once again defeated. The weather for this evening looked good so I took the opportunity to get a catfish trip in, maybe id have some luck with ol' Mr whiskers. Previously in the week I had stocked a few gills in my aquarium just for this purpose. A couple interesting things happened during this bait fishing trip earlier in the week. One, I caught a monster largemouth...

Two, I deep hooked a bluegill which didn't survive. A water snake then found this said bluegill and proceeded to attempt to swallow the bluegill. It was amusing to watch and I got some good pictures.

Unfortunately after about 30 minutes the snake finally gave up as the bluegill was too big.



Anyway, back to my catfishing trip. I chose to fish a spot on a creek that was close to a put in spot so I wouldn't need two vehicles to pull it off. I got setup at sunset and tossed out 2 live bluegill and I waited. 3 hours went by and I hadn't got a bite. Not long after I was ready to call it quits and try to get a little sleep before making my last ditch effort with the bass. So I made the drag back upstream to my truck and headed home.

Day 4
Since I was out later on the catfishing trip and I was already exhausted, I slept in a little later that morning. Since I had no confidence in any other local lakes around I made the decision to try somewhere completely unknown. I looked over my options and decided on Stonelick Lake, a lake I had never even seen before. So I made the hour and ten minute drive to Stonelick. My initial reaction of the lake was good, lots of wood in the water, wasn't too crowded considering it was labor day, and there wasn't any weeds. The visibility in the water was a little low at around 6" but I was still optimistic. Throughout the day I also found that the lake is fairly shallow in most parts. I started out using the green pumpkin jig again and a black spinnerbait. Everywhere I cast looked like it would hold a bass but time and time again, I got nothing, not even the dinker nibbles I typically get at other lakes. Ultimately I switched back to the black and blue jig as I thought maybe it would help with the water clarity issue. After a couple hours I cast deep into a large downed tree, I felt what I thought was a snag but turned out to be a bass. I didn't get a good hook set and as I pulled the bass up the hook popped out. It looked to be another 14 incher which wasn't a big deal anyway. The significance of this was it was the only bass I hooked for the remainder of the day. Stonelick Lake had not won my liking by any means. To top my weekend off I got rained on once again. Out of no where a sunny day turned into a chilling downpour. At least the sun came back out soon after and dried me off a good bit. Eventually I called it quits and headed home. The previous night I had got my first skunk of the year catfishing and now I even got skunked bass fishing. It was a goal of mine to try to go the entire year without getting skunked.

Conclusion
My weekend was nothing but a disappointment, day after day of bass with lock jaw. If you had asked me what the worst I thought I would do was this weekend before the tournament, my weekend was worse than what I would have said. Over 30 hours of fishing and my biggest bass was only 14.25". I guess you can really take those big bass for granted when they come easy. Time to get the sponges out and wash the fish repellent off of my NuCanoe I guess. Congratulations to all who did well.