My Latest Tournament
After weeks of silence, I return to voice my thoughts on a fishing tournament I competed in yesterday. It was July 29. The time was 3:30 (AM). It was quiet...a little too quiet. Suddenly three different alarms shattered the silence. I staggered out of bed and into the shower. By 4:00 I was on my way to the lake.
I met my partner a little after 5:00. I threw my gear in his boat and we made our way to the check-in point. We then waited patiently for the blastoff. My partner noticed a boater who seemed to be having trouble with his big engine. "It stinks to have engine trouble on the day of a tournament," he quipped. He should've kept his mouth shut. A few moments later my partner went to start his own motor. Nothing happened. One look at his face told me that it was going to be a long day.
I was hoping that this would be a breakthrough tournament. I wanted to catch a limit and finish near the top. I couldn't have had a better partner. He was a local who grew up fishing the James River. He knew it like the back of his hand, and he thought we'd have no problem catching good limits. Now we were limited to use of the trolling motor only. We couldn't visit any of the spots he wanted to fish. My morale had been dealt a severe blow.
My partner caught the first fish - a two pounder - within sight of the launch ramp. I caught a 12 incher not too long afterwards. That made me feel a little better. Four more of those would've made my day. It wasn't meant to be though. My partner opted to head to a nearby power plant where the water would be a little cooler. Before reaching the cool water discharge we went up a tributary creek and he caught a small one.
My partner was alternating between a crankbait, finesse worm, and a "creature bait", and he caught fish with each. I was still trying to get into a rythm. I'd caught a fish on a finesse worm, but I hadn't done well with anything else. Halfway through the day I decided to switch from my shallow-running crankbait to one that dives a little deeper. That paid off later. I was also driving myself nuts trying to decide which spinnerbait I should throw.
In my previous fishing endeavors this summer I'd done well with a 3/8 ounce bait with fairly small blades. My partner suggested I go to one even smaller. Unfortunately I was using pretty thick line - 17 lb.test. That line is great for some applications, but fishing 1/8 ounce spinnerbaits isn't one of them. I also knew I would waste valuable time if I respooled, so I was at a mental impass of sorts. After fishing the smaller spinnerbait on the heavier line for a while, I decided I would go back to my heavier bait, which I had much more confidence in. My second keeper came on that bait.
By now it was midday, the sun was scorching, and we were a good distance downriver. My partner decided to head back upriver to an area where he'd caught two fish earlier. He caught a third while fishing a finesse worm in 15 feet of water. Shortly afterwards he said it was time to make the trek back upriver. We would be using only the dying trolling motor and we'd be fighting the tide the whole way. For half an hour we were in the middle of the river where it was pointless to even cast. My partner had his limit (which turned out to be a little over 7 lbs.) and I had my two short fish - one of them dead (which incurs a 4 ounce penalty). We eventually got in close to the bank and I kept casting, even though there seemed to be nothing in the area that would hold fish.
We finally got back to the launch site at a quarter to 2:00. I was preparing myself mentally for our last hour of finishing. It was then that my partner informed me that the trolling motor battery was about to expire and we were heading to the ramp. I couldn't believe we were going to forfeit our last hour of fishing, but we didn't have much of a choice. My partner offered to visit a nearby rocky point before our battery died, and I was grateful. We each made several casts before my partner set down his rod and headed for the ramp. He stopped briefly to talk to another competitor and tell him how the day had gone. I made one last cast to the point with my crankbait.
My partner was chatting about the busted outboard and dying trolling motor. The other competitor asked how we'd done in terms of fish caught. At this point, a fish popped my crankbait. "Fish on," I reported, but I don't think anyone heard me. My parnter was now informing the other guy that he'd caught a limit and I'd caught two. Just then I swung the bass aboard. My partner turned around and said, "Three now." It was beautiful. The fish was small and barely 12 inches, but I was thrilled nonetheless.
My three fish weighed 2 lbs 14 ounces - pretty pathetic if you think about it -but under the circumstances I was quite pleased. I was on a body of water I'm not familiar with, we'd had boat trouble, and I'd been shorted an exorbitant amount of fishing time. Under those conditions I managed to boat three keepers (my previous best was a whopping one fish). I also set a personal best for a one-day tournament weight total, besting my previous weight of 2 lbs 7 oz. Though it was a long, hard, trying day, and so much that could've happend didn't, I went home happy. PS - I finished in 53rd place (out of 129).