Cheaters Sometimes Win
I’m a little behind on my blogging, but I thought I’d take back up with a cool story from a tournament in June. Although I call this a blog, I know it is much more of a tournament journal. Hats off to those of you who can stay awake long enough to read one of my “blogs” in its entirety.
My last couple of entries told about my adventures in the Everstart Tournament on Kentucky Lake in June. The following Saturday, I was scheduled to fish a Weekend Series tournament out of Paris Landing. If you suffered through my last blog, you know that the last day of the Everstart was pretty intense and that I was pretty much out of fish. So, when I headed to Paris the next Friday, I was basically having to start over.
I spent that Friday with my friend Ken Harris. Ken was excited to get out and learn how to find schools using electronics. We met a Paris Landing early in the morning and spent the day idling, staring at the Humminbird, and occasionally fishing. Long story short, the bass were as schooled up as I have ever seen them. We found 14 schools, caught about 80, and had a blast. The only negative was the size of the bass in the schools. I found several groups that were 3-4 pounders. We caught a couple over four, but most of the fish we found were 2-3 pounders. Those were not going to play in the tournament tomorrow. At the end of practice, I knew that I could catch a bunch on Saturday. But I also knew that I was going to have to gamble on some big fish tactics to have a shot at winning.
From a good friend, I heard that there were some big fish being caught in the grass in New Johnsonville on topwater. I hadn’t practiced that at all, but I know some areas that usually produce. I debated starting there, but I hated to drive past all of my schools on such a whim. Instead, I decided to start on a school close to the launch at Paris Landing where Ken and I caught several 3-4 pounders. Early Saturday morning, I boated five or six keepers in 20 minutes, but nothing over three pounds. I made the decision to run to the grass and throw a topwater for an hour before the sun got too high. We made a high-speed 30 minute run south and I pulled out my spook rod. I threw a spook for an hour and never had a sniff. I felt like that was my only real chance to win and it didn’t work. I knew that I could catch 18-19 pounds fishing schools, but I was going to have to a big bite or two doing something different.
My next stop was a river ledge where I located a good school the day before. They bit like crazy! I caught one almost every cast for 20-30 minutes, but they weren’t big. I left there with three 3-pounders and a couple 3.5’s. It was about 9:00AM and I decided to hit a river ledge where I have caught some big fish in the past. It’s not really a place where they school. In fact, I told my co-angler that we might not get a bite, but if we do it could be a big one. It was.
As soon as I got on my waypoint, I made a long cast with a worm and the line tightened as soon as the bait hit the bottom. I set the hook and immediately knew that this was a giant. “Net! Big one. Big one. Big one!” The fish jumped and I thought it was a six or seven pounder. She pulled like freight train and stripped the drag. I stayed on my knees with the rod tip buried deep in the water trying to keep her from jumping. When the fish finally neared the boat, I pulled her up and my co-angler snatched the bass up with the net. The hook fell out in the net and I stared at this bass with my eyes and mouth wide open. It didn’t even look real. I looked at my co-angler. “Is that a ten pounder?” He said he thought it was probably bigger than ten. It was huge. I slid the behemoth in the livewell and culled a three pounder. I boated a couple of other bass on this spot but I didn’t quite make the team. I left there with four fish that weighed about 13 pounds altogether and one giant. I figured I had at least 22 at this point.
Catching a fish that big is like cheating. It’s like weighing in six or even seven bass. I knew now that if could catch a few four pounders, I could win. My next stop was a spot much like the last one. I knew if I caught one bass there, it would be a good one. I only got one bite and it was a good one. I culled a three pounder with a 5.5. Now we were getting somewhere. I spent the rest of the day in somewhat of a daze. I just couldn’t believe how big that bass was. I didn’t look at her anymore. I was scared that somehow I had grossly over-estimated its weight. I jumped from school to school and around 1:30 got on place where I culled three times. The fish weren’t huge, but I had three that were all pushing four pounds.
As I idled in to the ramp at Paris, I talked to my good friend, Brent Anderson. I told him about the big one. He told me he wanted to see it, but I wouldn’t do on the water. As soon as the boat was on the trailer, Brent came running over to see us load them into our weigh-in bags. When I took that fish out, it looked bigger than it did when I put it in. The thing was enormous. He thought it would go over ten. When I finally got to the stage there were quite a few interested spectators that had heard the rumor of this bass. My limit weighed 26.04 and the big girl weighed 9.42. After lots of pictures, we released her alive and well.
I ended up winning the tournament and got a healthy check for big fish, along with contingency bonuses from the BoatUS Angler Weigh-to-Win program, Triton, and Motorguide. To be quite honest, I was a little embarrassed. I’ve come in second so many times because somebody caught one giant bass. I told the guys in second and third place that I was sorry I had “cheated” by catching that 9-pounder. I did feel a little bad about it, but then I realized that in 15 years of tournament fishing I’ve never weighed in a fish over seven pounds. It was my turn and I took it in a big way.
Until next time, keep chunkin’ and windin’,
BoatUS ANGLER Pro Staff
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