Monday, August 27, 2012

Coming Home...

Sometimes it's nice to get back to where everything started.  I can vividly remember launching my 16' aluminum boat on the waters of Rend Lake 20 years ago.  Green as a gourd, hardly a drop of experience on public water, yet absolutely stoked about what layed in front of me. 
I spent countless days in that aluminum boat, can't tell ya how many fish I flipped over the gunwales of that rig, but it was a bunch.  Sometimes I think I'd like to go back, me and the ole 16 footer, the 40 horse Merc wound out, running as hard as it can go. There was no pressure to perform, it was just me, the pond and some ole green fish that had every ounce of my attention.  Trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together, good times indeed. 
The past five weeks I've had the opportunity to come home, I've fished five straight events at Rend Lake, something I haven't got to do in years.  The result, it's been a good five weeks.  Of the events I've fished one was a pro-am event, the other four were team tournaments.  The result: five top-ten finishes, including a "W", a win that is.  Undoubtedly it's been a blessed five weeks.  But more so than the tournament finishes, I believe the blessings lie in the memories.  Every day I spent on the lake in preparation for these events brought back some of the best memories I have, memories of the big one that I caught over there, or how the first time I learned a small piece about fish behavior and what I could do to trigger a reaction from them.  Days spent in the ole aluminum rig, thinking I knew it all, learning now that I didn't.  I see places where there "used to be" a stump or a lay down that "always" had a good fish on it.  Now, all I have is the memory, just like the cool days of fall fishing til dark, running back to the ramp freezing to death 'cause you didn't bring enough warm clothes. It's memories of sunsets and sunrises, pitching a jig in a flooded buck bush and watching the whole bush shake, just waiting for your line to jump, standing practically on your tip toes in anticipation of the bite.  Chills run down your spine, a smile comes to your face, just thinking about those things.  The lake has changed a lot in the last twenty years, I guess we all have and don't realize it.  I said it earlier, the last five weeks have been great, fishing at home, reliving memories of days gone by...thank God for the memories.  Don't let em go!
God Bless,

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Illini Division BFL at Rend Lake

August 4th marked the fourth event of the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League (BFL) Illini Division.  A considerable amount of my fishing history, both early and recent has been centered around this lake.  I can't begin to tell you the countless hours I've spent on this body of water, and I wouldn't trade them for anything.  It's a neat deal to compete on your home water, to re-think all of the successes, areas where you've caught em, areas where you haven't.  It can be a double edged sword, those memories can be the first step in derailing a good tournament plan.  They will distract you from paying attention to what is happening in the here and now, and have you thinking about the great catches of yesteryear. I was fortunate during this tournament to avoid those pitfalls, concentrate on the present and turn in another top ten finish.  Here's how it all took place:

I practiced about 6 hours for this event, which is way less than I normally would have, but as I mentioned earlier I have a lot of history and knowledge of this lake.  In the early hours of my only practice day, I was able to identify not only what type of cover and locations the fish were positioned in, but also a couple of baits that were very productive.  I spent the remainder of my short practice riding around looking for similar areas.  One huge key was the presence of bait fish.

Tournament Day
Weather conditions had changed significantly for me during the tournament in comparison the the weather I experienced during practice. We went from slick sunny and calm in practice to windy cloudy and occasional rain showers. I had developed an early morning topwater pattern during practice.  It would last until the sun got up good, then it would fade away.  My initial thoughts on the clouds and rain had me pretty excited as I thought I would be able to run my topwater pattern all day, this turned out not to be the case.  Although I probably spent too much time chasing this pattern, when I reverted back to the methods I used to catch them in practice, I began to catch the quality sized fish I was looking for.  Overall I caught 9 keepers, carried a five-fish limit to the scales that weighed 10lbs 6oz and finished 9th.  I only had one fish get away from me all day, and of course it was a decent one, not a giant, but one I could've culled out a smaller fish with.  Regardless, I was blessed with another great finish, which in turn moved me up another 11 places in the standings to 36th, safely inside the top 40 cut for this fall's regional event on Lake Cherokee. 

Baits & Equipment
Here are a few of the baits I used and the equipment I used them with for this event:

3/8ths oz Lunker Lure Buzzbait - White on White.
Thrown on 20lb Maxima Ultragreen monofilament line with a Powell 705 CEF Max series rod

Hawg Caller 1/2 oz  Spinner bait in Sexy Shad
Thrown on 15lb Maxima Ultragreen monofilament with a Powell 714 C H Ex-fast Endurance Series rod

Gambler Tube in Black neon, 3/8ths Strike king Tungsten Weight and a Gamakatsu 4/0 hook
Thrown on 20lb Seaguar fluorocarbon with a Powell 775 CEF Endurance Series rod.

With only one event left in the regular season (September 8-9 at Lake Shelbyville) I feel like I'm in a decent position to qualify for yet another BFL regional and give myself a shot at returning to the 2013 BFL All-American.  But first, we gotta geet by Lake Shelbyville, Lord willing we will!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Home from Neely Henry

The Neely Henry event is over.  I finished the event in 29th place, although 29th place does not accurately describe my tournament, it does explain exactly where I finished. 
With out going into great detail, I had several key opportunities this week to do well, to use a basketball analogy, the ball rolled out of the hoop instead of in it.  Had those opportunities rolled my way, I'd have made the cut and be fishing today, since they didn't...well, you get the idea. 
Practice for this event went well.  I had identified a couple of productive patterns, mostly situational patterns, and had the bites to do well.  I felt like I made good decisions the entire event, kept myself in areas that were productive and even though the event was a grind, I fell like I kept my head in the game.  I had a limit for 11.18 lbs on day 1 and followed that up with a somewhat anemic 8.46 lb limit on day two.
The morning bite on Neely Henry was great this week.  I managed to generate several quality bites each morning swimming a jig around the bank grass in the back ends of the creeks.  Later in the day when the morning bite shut down I would switch over to a pattern of running rip rap banks adjacent to the creek channels, which produced a lot of bites for me.  I fished the rocks using a Lunker Lure Shakee head in 1/8ths oz paired with a Zoom Red Bug trick worm or finesse worm.  It seemed that several afternoons they would start the turbines at the dam (used to generate electricity) and the current that was created positioned the fish at the mouths of the bays and sloughs.  You catch these fish throwing a shallow crankbait, I used a Lucky Craft 1.5 and a SPRO Little John crankbait when running this pattern.  Often, once you got a fish to bite, you could catch one every cast.  Ultimately, lack of execution on day two caused me to finish lower than I had hoped for.  Monday the points list will be updated, and we'll see where I stand.  The last event is scheduled for the Arkansas river in Oklahoma in September.  All in all I'd be wrong in not mentioning that I was blessed this week to find several productive patterns, that generated the bites I needed to do well, I just didn't get them all in the boat.  Even though it stings a little, I know I was fortunate to have figured out what I did, and for that I'm thankful.
God Bless,

I threw the SPRO Little John with a Powell 703 CB Glass rod
on 10lb Maxima Ultragreen monofilament line

When shakee heading the riprap, I used a Powell 703 MEF spinning rod
and 8lb Seaguar fluorocarbon line.

The 1.5 was tied to 12lb Maxima Ultragreen monofilament line and thrwon with
a Powell 703 CB Glass crankbait rod

When I flipped the grass, I used a Big Bites Bait "Yo-Mamma" on a Gamakatsu 4/0 heavy cover flippin hook
on 25lb Seaguar Fluorocarbon line and a Powell 775 CEF rod