With a lack of success in my previous two tournaments, a West Central Bass Club event followed the next weekend with an Anglers in Action derby, I nervously awaited the July Joe Bass Truman Division contest. Although I typically don’t like the break caused by the 4th of July, this year it proved beneficial to have the extra time at home to spend tending to my parents’ increasing needs. The flipside to that is that I hadn’t been on the water since the AiA event, but having to start from scratch could serve beneficial in finding a stronger pattern. As such, I met my oldest son Markie at the Shawnee Bend ramp and we set off for on our practice day, anticipating limited action due to the 100+ degree forecast.
We started on a bluff close by in hopes of finding a spot where we could pick up an easy fish or two. Seemed like a good idea, but not one that we could put into action. Stop number one resulted in zero strikes, while spot number two, a bluff bank a mile or so up the lake, coughed up a small Kentucky and a short largemouth. Our next area, a steeper shaded bank further up the lake, gave up three 14” Kentuckies along with a solid keeper KY, but we were still concerned as they’re difficult to count on come tournament day. Deciding our hope of a quick starting spot was gone, we motored on up to a favorite channel bend and proceeded to throw an Alabama Rig loaded with Chompers grubs while Markie followed up with a crankbait banged through a stand of deep trees. Other than a small fish Markie hooked on the crankbait, and me hanging the rig up several times, nothing seemed to be biting in the treetops so we zipped up a bit further to another channel swing. This spot centered on a similar group of trees in the heart of the channel bend, but with a little less depth. As such, we planned to work the bottom with Markie continuing to throw the crankbait while I chose a…C…Car…Carolina Rig. There! I said it. Yes I was dredging bottom with a 10” worm on a Carolina Rig. I chose to do so freely..the heat hadn’t fried my brain…I simply decided that I would attempt to be open-minded and give it a try. (I sure hope Al Cox appreciates how desperate I was to catch a fish!). Thankfully, I didn’t catch a stitch, so I could, with a clean conscience, leave and fish the way I really wanted to start with. However, before we could depart, Darrell Reach stopped on his way by and caught me with that silly Rig in my hand. I thought surely I would have some explaining to do, but he didn’t hold my feet to the fire. [Note: For those of you who are C-Rig aficionados, no offense is intended here. My point is it’s difficult to Rig a topwater, and even with a nice Chompers soft plastic bait attached, rigging in inches of water just doesn’t feel right!].
The remainder of our practice consisted of hitting several of our favorite shallow water flats where we struggled to get bites and never boated a keeper. I did have a solid fish blow up on a frog midday, and after fending off the urge to throw back in and catch him, we headed out feeling like we would be points fishing rather than having a decent shot at a good finish. A quick stop in a stand of deep trees provided a half dozen shorts on our way back to the ramp, but no keepers. However, it seemed like it might be worth starting there in the morning in hopes of nailing a keeper or two before heading shallow.
After a short boat ride south, we settled in on a steep channel bend bank just downstream from where we had caught the shorts in the treetops the day prior. A quick pass through the stretch proved fruitless as there were no takers on our combo of buzzbaits and deep crankbaits. Once we transitioned into the deep trees, we both started picking up shorts, me on a small Bandit crankbait while Markie stuck with his deepdiver. After picking off 5 or 6 12” clones, I made the call to abandon the trees and head to the mud, so up we went. The bites were few and far between, but I finally put a small keeper in the tank while Markie had a nice fish swirl and miss his buzzbait. We settled in for a grind and several hundred casts later put keeper number two in the boat. I noticed what appeared to be a carp swirl on top of a shallow mud bar but fired the frog in anyway. The swirl turned out to be a 4.5 pound bass, so our second keeper proved to be a bit of a kicker as well. Try as we might, we couldn’t entice any more good fish from the spot, so we progressed up a shallow sloping mud bank that had a few stumps for cover. I switched to pitching a Chompers tube rigged on the new Mustad KVD grip pin hook, while Markie was slinging a beaver-style bait. After only a pitch or two he reared back on a tap but missed, although a quick followup resulted in a brief tussle before I slid the net under a 2 ¾ pounder. A few stumps later I swung and missed as the fish were taking the baits on the drop and sprinting off, not just swimming away. As with Markie’s miss, I straightened my tube and chucked it back to the same stump and immediately set the hook on a small keeper, leaving us one short of our five fish limit.
We worked on down the stretch, catching several more shorts before moving across to work down the opposite bank where we had seen a few fish busting on shad. With no luck, we worked on back to the mudflat feeling confident we could pull off one more fish, but with an early 1:00pm weigh in in place due to the excessive temperatures, we had to decide between continuing what wasn’t working, knowing the next cast could prove to be a hog, or head out and hit the treetops that had been full of shorts on our previous two visits. I made the call to head to the trees, as I believed that a fifth keeper, no matter how big, would put us in contention for a check. Instead, a decent fifth keeper would have put us in contention for a win, as we hit the trees without success and dropped four fish for an even eleven pounds on the scales. Roger Waters and Kevin Johnston topped the field with a 13.86 pound bag, while we held on for 7th place and a small check.
Fortunately our finish garnered some much needed points and moved us up to third in the year-to-date standings. We’ll need two strong finishes to round out the year if we’re to have a shot at bumping Darrell Reach and John Bennett from the stop spot, who are followed closely but the ever strong team of Darin Lankford and Doug Schilling. We’ll know soon how we’ll fare, as the fifth Truman Division event is next weekend!
For those in the market for a solid fishing platform but simply cannot afford the cost of a brand new rig, take a minute to consider my Skeeter rig which is now available. The 2009 ZX200 is paired with a 200hp Yamaha Series Two HPDI on the back with an 80# Minnkota Fortrex providing power up front. Humminbird electronics consist of a 798 sideimaging unit in the console with a 787 w/GPS in the bow panel. The engine is covered by Yamaha’s Y.E.S. extended warranty. Trailer features include a breakaway tongue, single axle trailer with aluminum wheels, retractable tie-downs and LED lighting. $26000 gets you into a tournament proven, stable boat that will provide years of enjoyment. One can email me at the link in the title section of this article for more information.
I. Thessalonians 5:16-18