Sunday, July 14, 2019

First Tournament on the Mississippi River for 2019


This weekend was the annual Cedar Valley Bassmaster Kenny Thompson Memorial tournament out of Prairie Du Chein, Wisconsin.  This event is open to any member of the Cedar Valley Bassmaster club past or present.  This club is where I got started fishing bass tournaments.  Kenny was the fearless leader of the club back then and was for many, many years.  This event brings together anglers who have had the pleasure of fishing with Kenny in past years and always brings back good memories of times fishing with him.  What an honor to have this event for Kenny each year and I hope Eric Johnston keeps this going.
This year I partnered up with Randy Toale to compete in the event.  A total of 23 teams participated, all looking for those 5 big bass to weigh in.  Randy and I both decided to take Friday and look around the river to see what we could find.  We focused our efforts completely in Pool 9 as the pool was in better shape than Pool 10.  The water level was 12.3ft on Friday and scheduled to drop a few inches come Saturday.  The weather was HOT...and HOT on both days which had us going to the boat cooler often to stay hydrated.  The plan on Friday was to cover as much water as possible in the lower half of Pool 9, about 15 miles of river.  Obviously we hit some areas that I have done well in the past with similar water levels and some new water that I have not fished before as well.  To our surprise and delight almost every area that we tried on Friday, we caught keeper bass (14 inches).  A wide variety of baits were working too, the Mississippi River was in great shape and the bass were hungry.  We were able to come up with a solid plan that would put us in 5 different areas on Pool 9 for the tournament day.  It was a long day on the water but the bass were cooperative and we were having a great time.
We knew the water was supposed to drop over night, and sure enough it did.  We didn't think it would affect the areas we were in, the bass should still be biting.  Plan A was to hit a shallow area full of green weeds that had some current and plenty of bait.  The bass were loving the Optimum Baits Furbit Frogs on Friday and I couldn't wait to get back at them.  However, Plan A was not anything like it was supposed to be.  It did yield 3 keepers, but they were under two pounds.  We gave up on that and went to our second spot.  We caught several bass here on Friday, the size was not the greatest but we decided we couldn't drive past it without giving it a try.  We tried crankbaits, swimjigs, tubes and big craws, small fish and not very many.  The wind change definitely moved these fish around and the keepers were gone.  Off to Plan B, hit as many areas with current as possible to find feeding fish.  The water temperature was hanging around eighty degrees and the bass were on the chew.  Current points on the main channel and off-sloughs were holding fish on Friday and this was Plan B.  Plan B saved our day as the bass were still using these areas to ambush food.  Crawfish seemed like the choice of food as many fish had them sticking out of their throats when we caught them.  The fast baits like the crankbait and swimjig did not pan out on this day like they were on Friday.  We had to make adjustments in our presentations to get the keepers to bite on tournament day.  Hot Rod Baits Tubes and BigCraws along with a Wig's Jig brought in all the keepers that we weighed in.  The QuantumPT flippin rods with all the all new Accurst S3 PT high speed reel were the perfect combination to get those bass to bite and get them in the boat. Using a high speed reel when the current is rolling is a must to keep up with the fleeing bass.  We knew we had between 12.5 and 13 pounds, and it "put us in the game".  The weight was good, and would get us towards the top but I didn't think we would finish as high as did.  As more and more teams weighed in we realized we were much closer to the top than we first thought.  As friends and old friends talked with us we came to the conclusion that fishing was much more difficult today than it was on Friday, it wasn't just us, it was the bass.  Their mood changed over night and the fishing was different.  We made the right decisions and the adjustments throughout the tournament day.  It was a pleasure to fish with Randy as moved through the tough day.  We just kept fishing and let the bass tell us what they wanted.  When in doubt, always listen to the bass!  We ended up going through about 15 keepers to weigh our best 5 bass.  Our limit weighed 12.97# which was good enough for 3rd place and a nice check.
The Mississippi River is an amazing place, and this weekend helped me to remember that once again.
The combos and baits that we used to get in the top 3

Thursday, July 11, 2019

Indee Bass Club July Wapsi Tournament

Twenty-One students took to the Wapsi at the July Indee Bass Club Tournament

I have been looking forward to this event ever since the school year ended.  As the coach of the Indee HS Bass Club  I knew that this date on the calendar could be the perfect storm of hungry smallies and largemouth taking to their usual summer haunts.  It should have been perfect...but it wasn't.  Fishing was not easy on the Wapsi River and I knew in the back of my mind that it was going to be a grind for the kids.  Of course, the kids didn't mind as it was all smiles as they loaded into 12 different boats captained by adults from the Independence area.  Of the twelve boats, seven of them were able to bring bass to the weigh-in.  On a tough, slightly dirty Wapsi, that was pretty darn good for these kids!  Students ranging from 7th graders to students that just graduated from Independence High School were in attendance.  It seemed fitting as the boats were loaded back onto the trailers that the only two seniors fishing on this night were the only team claiming to have a limit to weigh in.  Karter Wendling and Connor Joblinske did bring 5 bass to the weigh in and walked away as champions in their last ever Indee Bass Club tournament.  Their limit weighed 8.54# and they also had the big bass weighing in at 2.42#.  CalebW came in at second place with three keepers that weighed 5.22#.  JustinS and HunterP came in third with 2 keepers weighing 3.05#.
Plaques were given to the top two teams and the big bass winner KarterW.  Along with those the winning team received Scheels tackle packs, and Karter also claimed the Hank's Bait and Tackle Big Bass Prize bag filled with all kinds of fishing tackle and gear.  The club also uses sponsorship money to purchase gear for kids at random drawings.  Nine lucky kids were drawn for new rods and reels, tackle, Rod Gloves and other fishing gear.  All in all over $500 worth of fishing gear was given away this night at the event. 
It is an honor to facilitate this club and get things organized for the kids, and kudos to all the captains that have volunteered in the past!  The sponsors located at the bottom of the page are the reason why the kids get treated to new gear and giveaways.  The club has come a long way in the first three years of existence, I hope the fishing community and the community of Independence can keep it rolling for the youth of our town.
Seniors WIN at their last HS Bass Tournament

Complete results and more pics can found on the Indee High School Bass Club Website and their Facebook Page.

2019 Club Sponsors

Monday, July 1, 2019

Hot Rod Baits Bass Series at Brushy Creek Lake

Saturday was the second stop for the series, the first was at Lake Sugema.  I had a 10th place finish at Sugema and was looking forward to this event since the ride home from Sugema.  Brushy Creek is a lake that I have fished dozens of times in all months of the year.  On the calendar, this lake should have been smashing with post-spawn bass.  In easy terms, the bass should have been on a good bite...should have been.  It is quite clear that Mother Nature has either lost her calendar, or simply does not care anymore for this state.  It has been quite a spring here in Iowa, and only the last couple days have actually felt like summer.  This has no doubt played a part in the weird and tough bite at this lake.  With tournaments at this lake each and every weekend as well as every Wednesday night it gets plenty of pressure, but has always been able to rebound and keep producing big healthy bags of largemouth bass.  This was taking place at Brushy earlier in the year, but the past 3 weekends the weights have tanked severely, and the numbers of keepers have tanked as well.
I was able to take a look around on the lake on Wednesday.  It was a solo trip and I tried to cover as much water as possible, looking at all the old stomping grounds.  I hadn't seen the lake for about three years, the only real change I saw was the water clarity was extremely clearer than I remembered.  A good thing for the lake no doubt.  Deep, shallow, mid-range, fast baits, slow baits, and the kitchen sink was was tried during this experimentation day.  A few fish were caught including two decent keepers...not what I was expecting but not really shocked either by the stories and reports I had heard from other anglers.  Onto the tournament we go.  Brian Bowles joined me for this event early on Friday to take one last look around the lake and try to form a game plan that would put us toward the top.  We did a lot of looking and some fishing on this day.  By the time we left the lake we knew it was going to be an old fashion grind the next day.  The kind of events that really drive some anglers crazy.  We knew it was going to be like this and we were mentally prepared to go the entire day with a few bites.
Tournament day came and the "Reel-Feel" was predicted to be over 100 degrees, perfect, just one more obstacle to overcome on an already tough day of fishing.  That is why boats have coolers and that's why you wear the proper clothing on these hot, sunny days.  I was glad I packed my Cliff Keen Athletic Fishing Gear, it made the hot temperatures much easier to deal with.  Our plan for the day was simple; frogs and punching Hot Rod Baits Big Craws in the best looking grass we could find.  We knew we could catch some fish using these techniques as long as we stuck to the plan.  We hit our first area and connected with a keeper in the first ten minutes.  The Optimum Baits Furbit Frog in the Bluegill color brought 2 of our 5 keepers in the boat.  After the bass would strike at the frog, the punching rod came out and cleaned them up.  They couldn't resist a sunfish Big Craw dropped down in front of them.  It is a great 1-2 combo that has worked many times and prevailed today as well.  Both key baits were rigged on QuantumPT Rod and Reels.  The new Quantum EnergyPT reel with the flippin switch paired with a heavy QuantumPT rod  was great for the punching rod, and the high speed QuantumPT Smoke Speed Freak reel paired with a MedHvy QuantumPT rod was the trick for the frog.
Our plan was a good one, but we came up one bass short today of our 6 fish limit.  You simply can't do that against this type of competition.  We had a plan, and it was a plan that would have had us in the top 5, but it wasn't meant to be today.  We only had 7 bites on this day, and we boated 6 of them.  That is a great ratio when fishing the techniques we did.  No regrets, and we both felt as though if we had to do it all over again today, we wouldn't change a thing.  We weighed in 9.77# with the winners having 12.24#.  Close, but on a day when only 4 teams weighed a 6 bass limit, we came up in 7th place.  On to the next adventure chasing that next fish.