After stumbling a bit in the 3rd BFL, I was looking forward to getting that bad taste out of my mouth as the only tourney which I had not cashed a check in for 2013 thus far. For this tournament, I was actually going to get two full days of practice, which having only a little over a day for the last event definitely hurt me a bit.
I was able to stay with a friend about 45 miles from the river and he went fishing with me on Thursday. Based on fishing reports, I decided that my best chance to win and do well was probably to lock up to Pool 9 even though that turned out disastrously for me in a previous Bassmaster Weekend Series tournament.
Thursday morning greeted us with a thunderstorm and heavy rains that we road out at the launch in Lynxville. After the lightning subsided we braved the rain that lasted until almost 1pm. The wind and waves made it difficult to fish the eel grass lines that I was targeting, we also tried to some rock early, only catching short fish early. We eventually found an area that both decent smallies and largies on a grass line. In the same area, I found a rock point that was holding some quality smallmouth. From there, I wanted to find some backwater slop, so we went deeper in the backwaters, it took some time but I did find a large duck weed mat that was holding high numbers of largemouth. We ended up fishing until dark, hitting closing dams, wing dams, rip rap and eel grass looking for more fish and I was able to find a few more areas and cross some things off the list.
Feeling good about my first day of practice, I decided to spend my Friday practice on the top half of Pool 10 looking for stuff to fish after I locked back though on tournament day. My practice was hit and miss, I caught quite a few short fish and some keepers, I worked sand drops, grass, points, pads, wood and much more.
I ended up drawing a 4th flight boat draw which I was good with as I knew that all that wanted to lock through early would likely make it in to the lock and I thought the extra fishing time would be helpful. We did make the lock along with 40 plus other boats, and rather then fight the boat traffic out of the lock, I spent a few minutes fishing some rocks near the lock. Once clear, I ran up to some grass lines in Winneshiek to start fishing, my partner and I each start catching fish early, although mostly short. I scored my first keeper on a Evolve Mad Mouse buzzed across the top of the eel grass. We kept working into an area where I had found a group of bass holding in a little corner. I quickly put 3 keepers in the boat on a green pumpkin tube and my partner got his first keeper on a lizard. After that dried up, we hopped down the lake, where I caught my 5th keeper on a Evolve Nervous Walker floating frog. We worked that area longer, but no more takers.
From there I went up the pool to a different grass line that had an isolated stump, where I was able to stick and boat a nearly 3lb smallmouth on a prototype creature bait from BassTEK, but one fish is all it would give up. From there I wanted to fish a rock point before the sun got too high, my co-angler got a keeper smallie there and all I caught was a short. Back to the grass lines to do some flipping when we saw a barge coming down the river, I felt the clock ticking at that point so even though the sun was just starting to get bright, I felt it was time to give my duck weed area a shot.
Once in the area, I quickly started bombing my Nervous Walker Frog around, and it only took a couple casts to stick my first good fish which made for a solid upgrade. A few super long casts later, I hooked and boat a 3lbr and not long after that made another quality upgrade. The key was these fish were way back off the edge and I had to make super long casts, to the point where my co-angler wasn’t even getting close to the distance to get bit. But the bad news, is I could see the barge was less then 3 miles from the lock and I had to run 5 miles back up and down to beat it to the lock, so I had to leave biting fish to avoid being locked out as the barge I saw was definitely a double lock.
Well, I made it though the lock a little after noon with the barge right on our heels. We spent the last 3 hours fishing rocks, wood, pads and grass, but neither of us could manage any fish that would help our bags.
Pulling into weigh area, the lines were short and not many boats beached, which told me two things, fishing was a little tough and that likely some people got locked out. I was correct on both accounts. My 5 fish weighed a solid 13-10 and was 5th place when I weighed in. I launched in Marguette, so I dropped my partner off and headed back to load my boat. This is where the fun began, as I ran out of gas before I got back to the ramp, but had enough trolling motor to make it the rest of the way. I made it back to the park in time to get my check and my new hardware.
This is one tournament where my setup was extra key, and it had to do with my frog setup. When I am fishing big mats, I always rig up my “Frog Launcher”, which is my Dobyns 805 Flip/Punch rod with a Shimano 200E7 Curado spooled with 65lb Sunline FX2 Braid. This setup really launches my Evolve Frog and allows me to stick fish even on ridiculously long casts and get them out. Also, the Evolve Nervous Walker frog has a great hook masked by super soft plastic shell that collapse beautifully when a fish eats and provides awesome hookup rations. Even you have not tried the Nervous walker, it is something you need to and they are priced from $6-8 in most places.
The other fun parts of this trip was my blown trailer tire in the middle of Iowa and the fresh road kill that splattered blood and debris all over the bottom of my boat and trailer. Guess I have some cleaning to do before next week’s MN BASS Nation State Tournament of Champions in Winona.