Rubbin Salt and Racing the Clock
Ah, springtime... The grass turns green, the flowers bloom, the birds sing, and the bass move shallow. Stupid shallow bass.
Although I've caught tons of fish this spring, my fishing account doesn’t show it. I’ve fished tournaments almost every week since the first of March and have been ridiculously consistent, consistently just out of the money. I've weighed limits. I’ve culled. I’ve caught a bunch of fish. But it seemed like every Saturday afternoon, I'd be standing around when the checks were being passed out only to find that I just missed the cut.
Last Saturday, I fished a tournament on my "home" lake, Percy Priest. I have home lake in quotes because it is the closest to my house. However, I only fish Priest a couple times a year. I took the day Friday to practice and had a great day, boating 18 pounds and getting several more good bites. For the first time this spring, I felt like I had a shot at winning. The fish were mostly post-spawn and starting to move out. I had a little offshore spot where I had caught a big smallmouth and had several more good bites, so I decided to start there. It wasn't to be on that spot on Saturday; in fact, I hit it three times during the day only to catch one 15-inch line-burner. The fishing was much tougher for me on Saturday and ended up with an 11 pound limit that slid me into the last check spot. I left for the short drive home, disappointed that I didn’t do better, but pleased to at least have a trip to the bank on the agenda for Monday. To rub salt in my wounds, I took my son out on Priest on Sunday afternoon crappie fishing. We went to the same spot I had fished three times on Saturday during the tournament. I caught 10 big crappie, 2 keeper largemouth, and a 4.5 pound smallmouth on a crappie jig with four pound test line. That fish would've made me $800 had she bit yesterday. Guess I should've been using a crappie jig.
For guys like me that have a full-time job, balancing fishing and business is a struggle. I am so competitive that it kills me to not be in contention every event. At the same time, I can't afford to be away from my office two or three days a week to practice. This past weekend, I had a tournament on Lake Barkley. Under normal circumstances, I wouldn't even need to practice. The water would be in the buck bushes, the fish would be feeding and I'd have three flippin' sticks on the deck all day. This year's drought conditions, along with the extremely warm spring we've had, made for anything but normal circumstances. I decided to bite the bullet and practice for two days, something I haven't done all year. I arrived at Lake Barkley at 5:45 AM on Thursday and fished until dark. In my little 14 hour day I scratched up a good limit, but the bigger bites were hard to come by. The good thing is that I was catching them the way I like to fish: sitting way off-shore, winding a big crankbait. Keepers were not a problem. I found several schools of fish, but most of them were small. Friday was much the same, only without the big bites. I found another school or two and had a few three pound bites but nothing big. I knew I could catch 12-15 pounds, but needed something good to happen to get me up there where I needed to be.
We blast off at 6:15 Saturday morning in scattered storms. I headed about 25 miles south and started off on a topwater spot. I boated several fish, with two keepers. My next stop was an every-cast school. I caught them for about 15 minutes until the school scattered. I left there about 8:30 with a 12 pound limit in the box. On my next stop, the light-bulb went off. It was a place I had a few bites in practice and I caught a 3 pounder and 4 pounder on back-to-back casts with my crankbait. Once that happened, I figured out the type of places I needed to be on. It took until about 12:30 for me to find the right spot, but when I did, it was lights-out. Both my co-angler and I blasted the three to four pounders for an hour and culled up to good bags. I knew I had a good limit, but probably not enough to win. I figured he probably had enough to win the non-boater side. I fished until the very last minute hoping for one big bite to seal the deal. When I went to pull the trolling motor up for the last time, it was 20 minutes until we were due in. I figured it would take 16 to get back. I grabbed the cord and pulled and the motor wouldn't come up. I pulled some more, nothing. Uh oh. Somehow the pin had gotten wedged and wouldn't release. I got under it, I pulled from different angles - nothing! After about four minutes of wrestling, standing, jumping, it finally popped and the motor came up. Now I was in a time crunch. I ran back, threw on my lifejacket and hit the start button. Nothing. The battery had run down sitting in the same spot running the livewells on full blast for the last two hours. No problem, I have a built in jumper system. I ran back, flipped the switch, ran back up, hit start, nothing! I checked my kill switch. I checked my connections. Nothing seemed wrong, yet the motor wouldn't start.
Panic started to set in. I started doing the math in my head - even if it started now, we probably wouldn't make it back in time. I knew I was close to winning, I thought my co-angler had it. If the motor doesn’t start in the next 30 seconds, we are done. I flipped my breaker switch back and forth, hit the start button and she roared to life. I hammered the hotfoot and told my co-angler to hang on. I stretched out that Triton and ran hard taking every safe shortcut I could. We passed barges, cruisers, pontoons, bass boats... and I never let out. As we rounded the last turn, I loosened my grip on the wheel slightly and stopped gritting my teeth. We were going to make it. I slowed her down and came off pad with one minute to spare at the no-wake zone. Nothing like a little drama.
My limit weighed 19.13 and I finished second. My co-angler also finished in second place. I would have love to have won, but catching them was a blast. After a Triton Gold bonus and the BoatUS ANGLER Weigh-to-Win bonus, I'll clear a little over $2000. I sure am glad the fish are finally getting out where they belong and that my Triton is fast!
Until next time,
Keep chunkin' and windin',
Boat US ANGLER Pro-Staff
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