6-12The tournament started like many other ones do for me- a fast run across the lake to a pre-chosen spot with a plan to work a Zara Spook until I catch a few fish. “Durham Shoal” as I call it produced a couple decent smallmouth as well as a couple 12.0001 inch fish that I didn’t even want to keep. With four small fish in the livewell, and a goal of 7 nice fish for the day, we had our work cut out for us as we moved on to the next spot.  Within minutes of arriving at our next area, an extended main-lake point, I had a nice largemouth bass that weighed about 4 pounds on the end of my jigging pole. I had cast to where I thought a large boulder was and it engulfed my jig while it was sinking. This is exactly what anyone fishing a bass tournament wants to see! What happened next was something I wanted to see..followed by something I didn’t.

My partner, KC, set the hook on what judging by the arc of the pole appeared to be large fish. It didn’t take her long to figure that out for herself. I, being the experienced and all-knowing bass angler that I am, decided that this was the perfect time to give her a bunch of pointers for fighting fish. “If it jumps, point the pole down” I said…and as if I had just foretold the future, a very large bass jumped out of the water not 15 feet from the boat, shook a very large mouth from side to side (throwing the hook), looked at me and laughed (might as well have) and then disappeared back into the water. This was poor decision number one of the day-adding pressure to an already pressure filled one. “That fish would have been the Lunker of this tournament.” I told KC-mistake number two…”It was at LEAST 6 or 7 pounds”-mistake number three. 

The day took on a different tone after that. The battle between concentrating on what I was doing and what had happened/could have been was a constant one. The little voice in the back of my mind kept talking about how nice that fish would have been to bring to the weigh-in. The little voice in the back of my boat wasn’t any more supportive. We fished our third spot and I was probably only half as effective as I could have been. Same thing with the fourth spot.  By the time the tournament was half over, we were back at the original spot where we  had caught the small smallies in the morning. My concentration had come back and we were able to fish “Durham Shoal” very effectively…we just couldn’t catch any fish. I thought of returning to the extended point that had produced the only largemouth we’d seen that day, but the little voice was telling me that the chances of going there and catching anything were slim.I decided to go out swinging. Good decision number one! I drove over to the “big fish spot” and as we idled by, marked the high point with a buoy and put the boat in place to fish I was noticing some serious schools of baitfish in the area. While prefishing for this tournament, I’d caught only a large white perch followed by a large black crappie. Even though I didn’t see a bass that day, the spot looked like a very likely one. After an hour and a half of cranking, jigging, carolina rigging and, in near-desperation, spooking- and only hooking and losing a small smallmouth-I decided that enough was enough. We needed ONE more fish to fill out a very small (and embarrassing) limit.It was 2:09 pm-there were a mere 51 minutes left in the tournament. I had to weigh-in first because I was going to emcee the weigh-in ceremony.After getting everything stowed, life vests buckled up and telling KC why we needed to go to one last place that I was pretty sure held at least a couple small smallies we were on our way.

If you like to fish deep water structure like humps, shoals and points you always have one eye on the sonar when you are moving across the lake. Good thing. Just as I was ready to blast toward the last spot of the day the boat moved across the very end of the point we were fishing. The Lowrance indicated that the bottom had gone from more than 20 feet, up to eight feet, and then back down to more than 20 again quite suddenly.
  I took a look at the point, my waypoints, and my shore-references and realized that I had been fishing what I thought was the end of this long point, but that I had been too short and THIS must be it. Good decision number two: I turned the boat around and marked the ledge’s shallowest spot. Seconds after putting the trolling motor in the water to position myself in a place where we could fish the spot I made my first cast. As I retrieved the crankbait toward the most likely spot for a Lunker bass I could feel it digging into the water and vibrating…just as the lure passed the spot that I was visualizing as the very front of the ledge I felt a bass take the lure. The fish decided that it wanted to dive deep when I set the hook and my pole decided it wanted to bring the bass to the boat. There wasn’t anything special about the fight-I could tell I had a decent fish on and I assumed it was a largemouth. When I felt the fish start to surface I lowered my pole as it came up just shallow enough to where I could see a flash of largemouth and then tried to dive back down. The water in Sebasticook Lake is stained a brownish color with suspended algae so I wasn’t really able to tell how big this fish was until I pulled it close to the boat. When KC put the net in the water (she is an expert with a net) the fish JUMPED right over it. I really thought it was lost at that point, but I was able to pull it back up and slide it into the waiting net.  So now I have this large fish in the boat. It was the largest fish I’d caught this year, the largest fish I’d ever caught in a tournament and the largest fish caught that day. “This bass is seven pounds” I said. KC agreed. I placed it in the livewell and without even missing a beat asked KC what time it was (2:14) and made another cast. Nothing-I moved the boat a bit with the Minn-Kota and made another cast-WHAM! Another fish hit the crankbait. This one weighed 3-4 lbs, I don’t know to this day because I threw it in the livewell and culled one of the 12.0001 inch smallmouth. Just then, KC set the hook. Visions of giant largemouth were again appearing in my head, but this was “only” a 2 lb-12 oz smallmouth-allowing us to cull the remaining 12.0001 incher.  At 2:49 we stowed some gear, snapped on the life vests and shot off toward the Newport Town Launch for weigh-in! I don’t like weighing in first, but anytime I get to weigh in some nice fish it is great. The tournament scales said that the fish weighed 6 pounds and twelve ounces-good enough to take home the prize for “Lunker Largemouth” and put KC and I into fourth place for the tournament.

I always try to give my performance in a tournament a good critique afterwards, assuming that I can learn from the negative AND positive things that happened during the day. Looking at this one, the success or failure teetered at the point where I had to make the decision to stay and fish the new spot I’d just found or to move on to a place where I had a very strong feeling that I could catch a small fish or two. Obviously, I made the correct decision that time, but I still chalk most of it up to the luck of finding that spot…