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David  Gnewikow  

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April Fool

By DGnewikow - Published April 21, 2011 - Viewed 2363 times

April Fool

“I'm just a fool for April
There's nothing more to say
Long as I can remember
She's led my heart astray
When I was green as willow
She had me ditchin' school
And even then she tricked me
I'm just an April fool”
-         Hugh Prestwood
I can still remember sitting in class in the sixth grade at Westmoreland Middle School on a beautiful April day watching the clock on the wall nearing 1:00PM. My eyes would go from the budding green trees and blooming dogwoods outside the window, back to the clock, back to the trees. Then, it finally happened. The school intercom let out an annoying tone that was music to my ears.
“Mrs. Hughes?” came a voice from the office.
“Yes?” the teacher replied.
“Could you please send David Gnewikow to office, his father is here to check him out.”
A big smile spread from ear to ear as I hurriedly packed up my back pack and took off for the principal’s office. Dad and I were headed to Buggs Island Lake for two days of bass fishing. I can vividly remember the smell of the water and the trees, the pollen on the water, and the flooded bushes and willows. April was special. As a kid, I didn’t fish in the winter or summer very much, mostly just in the spring, and April was that special time of year when it seemed to me like the fish “woke up.” I’ve since learned that they eat year round, but there was just something so special to me about going fishing with my Dad in April.
Fast forward a few years, I can remember the day it all started to click. About ten years ago, I was fishing a tournament in April on Percy Priest Lake. It was 12:30 and the livewells were empty. We had been beating the banks all day with nothing to show for it but some small non-keepers. I picked up a Carolina rig and started fishing offshore. In the last two hours, we caught enough bass to win the tournament and I learned a valuable lesson. If you aren’t catching big fish with what you are doing, do something different! Since then April has been very good to me when in comes to tournament fishing. My birthday is April 12. Since 2002, April 12 has fallen on a Saturday twice. Both times I’ve won a big tournament. I’ve also been fortunate to win a few more in April. Almost all of the April tournaments I’ve won involved catching spawning smallmouth.
April 19th I had a tournament scheduled for Percy Priest Lake. I only live a few miles from there and have a fair amount of experience, especially in April. The full moon was April 18th and the water temperature was 63. Those big brown fish were going to be on bed, and they were going to be mad. I made up my mind to fish nothing but places were smallmouth should spawn and hope to catch five good ones. Since this was a Tuesday tournament, I didn’t have time to practice, so at blast off, I just headed to the first likely spot I could think of. Unfortunately, I never got a bite. I fired up the Triton and headed to spot number 2. My partner was throwing a Carolina rig, and I was throwing a ¾ Hoppy’s spinnerbait. As soon as we set down on this spot a big fish broke him off and one knocked my spinnerbait sideways. I fired back out there and another one grabbed it. When I set the hook, she didn’t move. All I felt was a big slow head shake. The fish made a run the other direction and knew it was a big one. I wasn’t sure what to do. I didn’t want to play her too easy and let her get me in the rocks on the bottom. At the same time, I didn’t want her airborne the whole time. I just kept steady pressure and she eventually tired enough and got close enough to the net that my partner, John, dipped her. It was a beautiful brown fish, about 4.5 pounds.
We caught several more that didn’t meet the 18 inch size limit. It is pretty painful throwing 3 pounders back, but such is the Tennessee law. By 10:00AM, we had two more nice smallmouth and one keeper largemouth that weighed about two and a half pounds. I knew if we buckled down and hit enough places, we could catch two more big smallies.
For about two hours, I couldn’t get another keeper bite. I jumped around to a bunch of really good places with nothing to show for it. About 12:00 noon, I pulled up on a spot that has been really good to me in the past. It was a hump about 9-10’ on top. I fished around it, expecting a bite at any moment. Finally, I felt a “tick” and set the hook, I was sure it was a big one, but I just couldn’t catch up with her. I reeled as fast as I could trying to catch up with it when finally the fish broke the surface and plopped in the boat. It was about 11 inches long. I tossed that one back and fired another cast. As soon as the bait hit the bottom, the rod loaded again, and I set the hook. It felt like I had a big ole sack of flour, then, she started to pull. This was a biggun’, a giant, a won’t-wind. I don’t think I turned the reel handle for about 30 seconds while she just took off for deeper water. I pushed the button on my spool afraid the fish would break me off. My mind was racing. If this wasn’t the fish to win the tournament, it was really close. Finally, I gained enough line to get her within net range. It was a five and half pound smallmouth as fat as she could be. John slid the net under her and I breathed a sigh of relief.
Not only was that a great way to fill out a limit, but we now had a really good bag and three hours to cull one little one. We eventually got rid of that little largemouth with another 4+ smallmouth. I knew we had about 21 pounds, all smallmouth. I joked with John that he better not catch a seven pound largemouth, because I wasn’t going to mess up that beautiful bag of fish with a green one.
The fish weighed just under 21 pounds and we won the tournament by about 2 pounds. What a day! I’ve been fortunate enough to catch a few big bags of smallmouth like that over the past few years. Those days don’t come very often for me, and I always look back on them very fondly. There is something about catching those brown fish! We caught about 20-25, but only five that were over 18 inches. The tournament wasn’t a big time, big money event, but anytime I can spend an April day catching big ole smallmouth, it is time well spent!
Until next time, keep chunkin’ and windin’.
David G.
Boat US ANGLER Pro Staff

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