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.

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