RIGHTING THE SHIP

Posted on July 9th, 2018

If you have been following along this season, you know it's been off to a rough start. Definitely was one of the biggest "slumps" I've been through in recent memory. Lots of disastrous and potentially confidence crushing events. Things that can really throw your whole game off and get you on the track of over thinking everything instead just fishing on instinct. It definitely is an easy trap to fall into when things don't well a few tournaments in a row.  

Avoiding that trap throughout a stretch of tournaments or maybe just throughout the day in an individual tournament can be so tough. The only way to get out of it is just to keep working and continue to trust in the decisions you've been making. Things can snowball in the right direction just as quickly as they can unravel in the wrong direction. I know it's tough because there's a million things to consider going into tournament day and the competition factor just escalates things more. But always trust in instincts no matter how silly or random they might be. I'm starting to right the ship although it's not quite there yet, I'm hoping for one of those tournament days that makes it seem easy to come along soon.

I wasn't going to get a chance to get any momentum on the weekends in June. Something was going on every weekend and I had no other tournaments I was committed to. Amanda and I also took a little trip up north. Huge thanks to my in laws for watching Mabel and Hutch while we had a long weekend without much real responsibility. We started from the east side and basically took a trip around Michigan's coast with really no plan. We were camping so we just picked a direction and went with it, I think I also went by almost every smallmouth factory in Michigan at some point. We camped at Mullet Lake, Petoskey, and Interlochen. We had to do some creative planning towards the end because of the rain but we had a great time and were able to check some more Michigan breweries off the list.

Although all the weekends were busy with other activities I'm fortunate that we have some very competitive weeknight tournaments in the area. The West Michigan Bass Monday night series and the Thursday Nite Bite routinely draw 20-30 boats. That makes it fun and very challenging all at the same time. Cashing some weeknight checks definitely helps to get things rolling. Things centered on the alewife bite for awhile, but they are finally transitioning to more exciting summer patterns. I did finally get to experience a frenzied alewife bite for the first time this year. Cameron and I were fishing a Monday night on White Lake and got in an area where bass were just destroying alewives. Alewives were coming out of the water with bass following them, it looked like something you might see in saltwater. We absolutely just destroyed them and even though we only brought in 15 and change and got a small check it was well worth the price of admission. It was hard to not take some time off work and head back the next morning. It is not often you get to see largemouth destroying a topwater like that!

The next tournament up was the Dylan Compagner Memorial put on by Shoreline Bass Tour. It is a big deal for the Compagner family and also all the proceeds from it go to the National MS society. My mom has MS so I definitely appreciate that gesture on their part and that is one of the many reasons I will always make it a point to fish/support this tournament.

I decided to go poke around up there the day before and see if I could figure anything good out. I was extremely disappointed in what I saw, the weeds were way behind. The higher water levels definitely seem to be making it more difficult for that deep grass to really get going. Hopefully those weed beds will start growing better as the water warms and they get closer to the sunlight. Anyway I figured a few things out, even one particularly interesting thing there. I caught some quality fish in some shallower sparser stuff and it seemed to be a pattern vs one area deal. I hoped it would be something sneaky I could cash in on mid morning. I didn't get a ton of bites in practice or find anything really good. I did see some quality and eliminated a bunch of water, so I knew this one could go either way. I also had a special guest this tournament, it's the annual tournament my buddy Billy (and founder of Reel n Smoke) comes up to fish.  We hoped this would be the year it wasn't going to rain, we got that wish but the wind was relentless (more on that later). Also if you need some sauce/seasoning I’ve got a bunch on the west side right now that can be picked up at any tournament I’m at.

We were boat 49 out of 53, which was no big deal, there wasn't anywhere I was particularly excited about starting. We were just going to get in where we could and see how things unfolded. We actually started on a place I had 0 bites the day before but it looked right. Moving baits provided a couple short strikes and that was it. The grass flipping bite was garbage the day before but since this area was right for it I wasted little time in checking that out. Pretty quickly we put a 3lber in the boat, a 15 incher, and another decent fish. Not big ones but at least a couple filler fish if we started getting big ones. I probably should have stuck it out a little longer there but I had hoped to get on a school of bigger fish while they were biting. I felt good about the next area because it was so similar, although I had gotten bites there the day before. It wasn't long on that spot and we had a couple 2lbers to fill our limit. However we never got a decent bite so we did not bother to run back through it. We made a couple culls on a swimjig at the next few locations and caught some short fish. Still looking for more of those 3 pounders, I assumed if we could get to 15lbs and then get a kicker we could have a chance. We had a solid foundation but we needed some good ones. I was counting on getting one or 2 good ones in that sneaky stuff but we never even got a bite. That was a big time bummer because I felt better about that than anything else I found. We headed to a place that historically kicks out good ones for me, but not always a lot of them. But I knew if we could get a bite or 2 there it would be likely they were the right ones. We hit it a couples times and it did give us 3 bites and we put 2 of them in the boat. The good news is they would be our 2 biggest fish, the bad news is they weren't giants. We fought the wind the rest of the day working for that kicker but just couldn't make it happen. We didn't really feel like getting destroyed going back down the lake so we kept at it in the narrows. There was some great looking stuff but unfortunately every fish we caught weighed 2-7 and we had one of those in the livewell that was dragging us down. I did think we were going to have our hero moment with about 20 minutes to go on a fish in deep grass. The Dobyns loaded up but when it came up it just happened to be another 2-7!

I mentioned earlier that I would bring that wind up again later. My partner isn't exactly what you would call an experienced bass fisherman. So the whole trailering and all that is pretty foreign to him, anyway I drove the boat to the dock and dropped the Talons. Well since they won't penetrate concrete they don't always hold on ramps in wavy conditions. If I'm by myself in this situation I always put them in rough water mode so they will re anchor themselves. But I figured Billy would be able to hold onto the dock. Anyway I waited in line to get up to the ramp for a while and at some point he broke free of the dock. I could see him starting to drift away and the panic going on inside the boat. Lesson learned always teach someone how to drive just in case. It's easy to forget most people don't assume a bass boat has a gas pedal. So after floundering with the big motor and beginning to drift into a cheese mat I could see the panic building. I yelled to try the trolling motor next but it was too windy to hear each other talk and my phone was in the boat. I finally got the trolling motor point across but that was a struggle too. I realized my only option was to get out there and get in the boat, huge thanks to Jerry Smith for taking me out there so I could get the boat in. After it was over I got a good chuckle out of the ordeal but I think it is going to take Billy a while longer to find the situation funny.

The next one is on the Grand River and it is sure to be a challenge. From what I’ve seen weights have been low out there and the fishing extremely tough. I don’t expect this one to be easy but hopefully we can keep righting the ship and getting dialed in.