The Polar Vortex and Survival Mode
I don’t know about you, but this global warming is killing me! They say if you are under the age of 40 this is the most brutal winter of your life. Much to the chagrin of my children, my home in Tennessee didn’t receive the copious snowfall that much of the country saw this winter. We did, however, have plenty of cold weather. The few times I got out to go duck hunting this winter there was a lot of ice-breaking to be done, and several times we couldn’t break it. That’s cold for Tennessee.
All that cold has obviously affected the fishing this spring. My first couple of tournaments were cancelled because the marinas were frozen. Again, very uncommon in Tennessee. My first event of the year was a BFL tournament on Kentucky Lake the first week of March. Since I hadn’t made a cast since November, I decided to go the Friday prior to the event just to get some idea of what was going on. The water was 41-43 degrees. I fished for ten hours and caught one drum and two catfish…not a single bite from a bass. Given that stellar performance, I made the decision to practice two days prior to the BFL. So I drove in the snow on the Thursday morning prior to the event and put in at New Johnsonville, TN. The water was 38-42 and rolling mud. Once again, I fished all day without a bite. Seriously? How can I be this bad? I have a fishing blog for goodness sake! (sarcasm intended).
I changed my game plan for Friday and spent the day looking at different water. When I finally got a bite, I was so excited I almost rolled around on the deck screaming “Never Give Up!” My first bass of 2014 was a six pounder. Unfortunately, it seemed to be a loaner and I couldn’t duplicate that bite elsewhere. About 1:00PM on Friday, feeling pretty down on my lackluster fishing ability, I pulled up on a river bar not unlike 50 other places I had fished, and quickly boated a 3 pounder. About five casts later I caught a 3.5 pounder. Now normally at Kentucky Lake, this kind of fish don’t get me excited, but two bites in five minutes was more than I had had in the past 25 hours on the water. I fished the rest of the day without another bite.
That night as I sat and analyzed my plight, I made the decision to do something I have never done in my 16 year tournament fishing career. I was going to camp out on one place all day. Truthfully, I had my doubts if I could really do it. I’m a run and gun kind of guy; ten casts then off to the next spot wide open. I just knew that my only chance of surviving was, if I could get on that place, to wait the bass out.
Saturday morning dawned clear and cold, but the forecast was for the air temps to reach the mid 50s. My hope for this little staging area I had found was that the bass would funnel through there all day. I arrived to find my little spot vacant and within about 5 minutes, I boated my first keeper. It was tiny. Like a bass, only smaller, but it measured 15 inches and went into the livewell. I was glad to see him. In the first hour I landed three more keepers. They were all babies, but I was well ahead of where I expected to be based on my practice. I fished back and forth over a 75 yard stretch for the next two hours without another keeper. This was killing me! I wanted so bad to leave and run around, but I really had no idea of where to go. I told my co-angler that if I didn’t catch one by 10:15 we were going to leave and hit another place. At 10:14, I rolled my crankbait over a stump and it just stopped dead and slowly started pulling. “This could be a bigun,” I announced. The fish stayed deep and as it neared the boat I lifted the rod and my co-angler slid the net under her. It was well over six pounds. I breathed an enormous sigh of relief. I had a limit. I had a kicker. I had another five hours to fish.
I wish I could tell you that the big ones moved up and I commenced to whacking them. But the truth is, I parked my Triton on that spot for the next four hours and caught one about every 20-30 minutes. I never caught another big one, but I culled all of those babies with 2.5-3.5 pound fish. It wasn’t hot and heavy. It wasn’t what I hoped for when I set out for Kentucky Lake on Thursday, but it was making the best of a terrible practice. I ended up with a limit that weighed 17-7 and 7th place.
Tournament fishing is all about decisions. I have had some good success in the past in March and I planned on catching a big bag doing what had worked for me before. Unfortunately, the crazy cold weather and muddy water threw me a major curve ball. I’ve never in my life had such a hard time getting a bite. So my decision to camp out totally salvaged the day for me. We all want to win and hold up the trophy at the end of the day, but some days, you just have to survive.
Until next time - keep chunkin’ and windin’,