I fished Yuma Pro Am Sunday (6/24/12). I didn't draw a co-angler, so it was all on me. I thought I would try to start in the current again. My first spot already had a boat on it, my second didn't produce. My third didn't produce. Off I went into one of the lakes to see if I could find something going on as the sun still hadn't cleared the mountains. I hit three high percentage spots in the lake and nothing.
There was some grass growing up in the lake with a few feet of clear water above so I decided to give a crankbait a try. Still nothing. My crank bait fouled on itself on one cast and started to spin so I burned it back to the boat spiraling through the water right at the surface. I wasn't even looking when I heard the "KA-PLOOSH!" of a topwater strike. I dropped the rod, took up slack, gave it a second, and swept the hook set just like I would on a regular popper strike. Amazingly I hooked up and put my first 2 pound keeper in the boat... on a fouled crankbait. I picked up a popper after that. Nothing. Then a buzzbait. Nothing. Then a buzz frog. Nothing. Without a clue what to do I picked up the popper again, and when it fouled itself I burned it back to the boat torpedoing just under the surface. "KA-PLOOSH!" Dropped the rod, took up slack... you get the idea. 3 pounder and second keeper of the day.
I thought about that for a while, but I just couldn't think of a bait that I could torpedo like that just under the surface making a bulge consistently. I did work those grassbeds for a while using a variety of baits and presentations for ... nothing. I hit a couple rock points, with a couple different presentations for nothing, and I finally hooked up a fish when I bounced a crankbait off a submerged rock. Short.
It was a small lake and I figured that I had burned up my best chances of catching a limit there so I headed out. Not sure why, but I decided to go out on the electric motor. At one point I was on my hands and knees working the peddle with my hands to get under the brush. I saw an undercut I had never seen before so I grabbed a light spinning rod with a salted melon pearl laminated Club-O tied on and proceeded to try and flick it up under there. Not an easy task while crouching down on your hands and knees trying to hold cane out of the way so you can move the rod. After three or four tries I finally got the bait back where I wanted it. Nothing. After that much work I decided to get it back there again. Only took me two failed attempts before I dropped the bait in the sweet spot this time. Still nothing.
I headed on out of the lake. As the brush opened up a little in front of me I tossed the Club-O out ahead of me a bit. I was still down under the brush, but there was some free space right in front of the boat. I blinked and as my eyes opened I thought I saw the tiniest hint of a line twitch. I watched carefully. The line was dead still. I gave it several seconds. Zero movement. Something told me to be careful. Still on my hands and knees, I eased forward over the trolling motor and reached the rod out into the clearer space in front of the boat. I dropped the rod tip almost all the way to the water, and slowly took up slack. When I felt the line go tight I set the hook, and it didn't move. It bucked. Then it headed back under the cane. I only had 8lb Carbon Pro on that rod, and I couldn't remember if it was the rod I respooled the night before or if it was the one I had caught all those small bass on in the canal last week. I let the rod do its job trying to hold the butt at 90 degrees to the direction of the line, and when she really seemed determined to get under the brush I eased back gently on the rod to try and just hold her. When she couldn't buck me that way she headed under the boat. The boat was still pinned in the brush, so just taking the rod around the boat wasn't going to work. I let the rod tip get down in the water a bit as I tried to ease her out with the rod. I was afraid to turn the reel handle at all with her bending that rod back like that. I made some progress, but she wasn't turning... until she decided she wanted to. She headed straight out in front of the boat and took some drag. I think she was making a last ditch effort to get back under the cane, but I managed to get the rod up enough to take the shock surge and held her. Then she jumped. I bowed to the queen. I threw myself flat out over the trolling motor and dropped the rod. I worried that she might shake my bait loose letting her jump free like that, but I knew she would break my line if I let her tail walk against it. I eased up the rod as she slipped back into the water and I still had her. She made one more run back up under the boat, but I was able to pull her back fairly easily. Then she tried to do a tail skitter along the surface as I eased her up to lip her. I knew she was a good fish, but she had the mouth of a 3 pounder. Nice fat fish. My mind instantly said six and a half, maybe seven, but I looked at the small size of her head and I didn't know. All day I told myself she was probably a heavy five, but every time I added up my bag in my head I counted her as six plus.
I got the boat out into the current and let it drift while I decided what to do next. I headed up river and hit a couple spots for nothing. I headed back down river to flip some one off spots and try to fill my limit. I had to take alternate spots three times, because Craig Johnson was there first in each of them. Tells me they probably would have been good spots since he won. He had a 2 pounder in his hand as I passed him at one of them.
I didn't catch anything in the current. There are several more spots I could have hit, but i just wasn't feeling it. I headed to Fisher's and decided to try and fill my limit in one of my last chance spots while it was still early enough to hit them ahead of other last chance anglers. Nothing. Those were very high percentage spots too.
I bailed out of Fisher's and headed for Ferguson. I passed up several banks that have produced in the past in favor of running and gunning to specific pockets and trying to fill my limit quick. My first spot produced a solid 2+ flipping an RFG in the same color as the Club-O I got the big girl on. My next couple one off spots produced nothing, so I picked a bank where I have caught fish before and just started slicing and dicing. It produced. Two fish. Both super fat. Both just barely short.
Fisher's bugged me. I almost never zero in Fisher's although for the last year its usually been just small keepers and not a lot of them. I headed back still one fish short of a limit and decided to work a few other spots more carefully. There is one little stretch that has a variety of cover, docks, a deep cut, heavy brush, and a cut that almost always has a floating mat in it. I probably should think of it as fifteen or twenty different spots, but I don't. I think of it as one spot. If I fish that little stretch thoroughly and fish each part of it as I should switching rods, baits, and presentations for each of the conditions I can usually catch one fish there. I did. I had a solid 2 pounder swim out from under a dock and take the Salted Melon and Pearl laminated Club-O. FINALLY. I filled my limit about a quarter to one.
Hoping to cull atleast once I moved out towards one of my next moderate to low percentage spots in Fisher's and saw Ed Reeder already fishing it. He wasn't fishing it like I do so I moved up as he moved on and I stuck another keeper, but it was no help. I checked all my fish and they were all bigger. In fact I they all seemed bigger than I remembered when I put them in the livewell. All day I was telling myself I'ld have a 12 pound bag if I could just fill my limit. I passed Ed who was having trolling motor problems and hit another of my 50/50 spots in Fisher's for nothing.
At some point after catching that last keeper I remember hearing my fish thrashing around in the livewell, but I didn't check on them. I thought, "They were all fine a little bit ago and the spray bar was spraying when I was in there last." I even had both the aerate and the recirculate pump turned on. I should have checked. After weighing and recording everybody else's fish two of my fish were dead, and the big one was looking weak. I looked down to see if my pumps were still on, and I saw I had accidentally turned off the master power switch at some point. Cost me four tenths of a pound and second place. I finished third, but that big girl was was 6.88 and big bass of the day.
1. I learned that if something doesn't sound right with your fish... CHECK ON THEM.
2. I have since thought of a few different things I could have tried in the morning to emulate the presentation from those first two strikes. I guess I was enjoying being out and thinking a little slow that morning.
a) I could have used a technique Bill Dance calls "Waking Them Up" in his bass fishing course. Burning a spinner bait back to the boat as fast as you can without breaking the surface. Just create a bulge in the surface. I have never had much success with that technique, but I always figured it was a "right place, right time" kind of presentation.
b) Just break out a floating swim bait like a Kicktail Minnow or BBZ1 Shad. I had both in the boat and I have caught tons of fish on the floating Kicktail. In fact I used to pay the exhorbitant price for the floating version of them 6-12 at a time (they are pretty fragile for a ten dollar bait) until they started packaging them 3 at a time with a diver and a sinker. I only like the floater.
c) A lipless crankbait burned through the clear water above the grass might have provoked some strikes too.