After the rules meeting was completed I headed back to the hotel to finish my preparation for the opening day of the tournament. To say I was I little anxious would be an understatement. After five days of being on the water I knew it was going to be boom or bust. I did not sleep well as I was wondering if the fish I was catching were going to be waiting for me in the morning.
I was in the first flight, which meant I was one of the first to go out and would be one of the first to weigh-in. I ran about 15 miles south of the takeoff and set up on a mudflat outside of Geano’s an area that reminds of the S.O.F.A. (Strategic Offshore Feeding Area) from Shark Week on National Geographic Channel. Early in the morning there were a fair amount of boats fishing the flat but not near as many as there were two days prior during pre-fishing. By 10 AM most of the field fishing the area moved in much shallower. I had been fishing out further than most and basically had the area I wanted to fish by myself.
I caught a 21” walleye around 8:30. This was a disappointment as I had not caught a walleye under 23 inches in this area but I decided to put it in the live well anyway. I continued to work my waypoints but it was becoming obvious that the fish I was catching have moved.
I could have moved into the large group of boats that were working from Little Long Tail Point up to Geano’s but I don’t like fishing in big groups. I knew they were catching fish in there but I think the fish they were catching had been there. I did pre-fish some of the area but I don’t believe the fish I was catching would have moved in. The problem was it is a big, big area so I had to cover a lot of water to find them.
I kept looking with only drum to show for my efforts. Finally I went through one of my primary areas but a little further out and I caught a 4-1/2 pounder. Too little and too late, I headed back to the weigh-in with my tail between my legs.
The leaders were around 30 pounds and many in the top 10 were fishing down by Geano’s. Even though I only caught two fish I thought I could turn it around on day 2.
I spent the morning as I left off Day 1, fishing the area where I had caught my last fish. I was marking fish but I just could not get them to bite. I tried everywhere in the water column and fished new spots, nothing was working.
What happened next summed up my tournament fishing season. I moved in a little closer to the pack of boats and fished the inside edge of my primary area. There was a dead drum that was floating in the water close to my planer boards. If you are not familiar with a planer board it is a plastic board that is used to move the line to the side of the boat. This allows an angler to fish with several rods with out tangles. The more line let out the further the board is from the boat. The line from the 9ft rod angles down to the board, which was about 75 feet from the boat. A seagull flies right over the boat and swings in to pick up this dead drum. Much to the surprise of the seagull, and myself, the seagull gets caught in the line between the rod and the board.
I had my co-angler reel in the seagull. I cut the line behind the seagull and tied the line to a rod holder. My co-angler had me hold one wing of the bird as he held the other. He then worked on unraveling the line. In the process the not so happy seagull was biting him. How this bird got so tangled I will never know but, after about 5 minutes, he was able to remove the line and the seagull flew off unharmed.
Are you kidding me? I am on Green Bay, it’s 11 AM and I have caught more seagulls than walleyes? I could do nothing but laugh. What else can you do?
Believe it or not I did not have a walleye at 3:30. I thought the fish would follow a break line and move north so that is where I spent most of the two days fishing. I finally moved east and immediately caught a 4-1/2 pounder and it was time to leave. Shortly before I caught that fish I saw a really nice fish caught. I think I finally found them and they were less than a mile away. I should have known that as I was given a clue with the second fish I caught on day one. That fish was about a ½ mile east of my main spots. I fished that area again with no luck, I think they slipped out another ½ mile.
As disappointing as my finish was, and I was very disappointed, I feel I gave myself a great chance. When fishing at this level the margin of error is so small. Fishing by myself, and a changing pattern makes it even more difficult. However, I am not making excuses. I pre-fished this tournament almost perfect. The only thing I would change is spending Wednesday in my primary area.
Knowing how long to fish your primary spot prior to a tournament is something that I have always struggled with. In an area as big as the area I was fishing fish will roam depending on the movement of baitfish. If I would have been fishing structure that would have been a different story as those fish are more likely to be on the same spot with subtle movements relating to wind.
This tournament concluded my worst year ever. To use a baseball reference I felt like I was hitting line drives right at the opposition (Atom Balls we use to call them), knowing if the ball was a foot one way or the other it would be a hit. I am getting close and am hoping to “break out” next year!