This was my first trip to Port Clinton, OH. I fished the FLW Detroit River tournament last year and spent some time in the lake. Even though I fished the river in that tournament, I did pre-fish the lake. It was an awesome bite and I expected to find a similar one in Port Clinton. Was I ever in for a surprise! The winds have been blowing hard all spring and the temperatures have been cool. The lake was a few weeks behind schedule according to most accounts and the fishing had been tough!
My first day of pre-fishing was my best with 5 nice walleyes. The first one came on a crankbait where the tournament was actually won. I had a spread of harnesses out along with one crankbait. I checked this spot periodically and caught the 10-01 walleye above (crawler harness) along with several others. With the weather starting to stabilize I convinced myself that the harness bite was going to be the way to go. Mistake number 1!
The wind blew pretty hard Monday thru Wednesday. I checked my three go to spots on Wednesday. In spot number 1, where the tournament ended up being won, there was a nice mud line. I moved to spot number 2 which was directly east, it was chocolate milk so I moved to spot number 3. The water looked great and the water temp had risen to 53 degrees. That evening I checked the satellite images of the lake. With the east wind I thought that spot 1 and spot 2 would be chocolate milk. Mistake number 2! I decided to go with spot 3 for day 1.
At take off the wind was out of the east at 10mph. When running to my spot I checked spot number 2, I was surprised to see the water had cleared up nicely. I decided to stop and fish as it appeared a thunderstorm was on the way. I picked up a six pounder on the second pass but could not get anything else to go. The storm had passed to the south so I headed out to spot number 3. To my surprise the water was dirty. There were plenty of baitfish but I was not able to find any walleyes. Knowing that I needed to get some fish I moved back to where I started. I thought I could grind out a few fish but to no avail.
I decided to head to my number one spot in pre-fishing. As I approached I knew that I had totally mis-read the water (mistake number 8 or something like that) as it looked like the entire U.S. Navy fleet was fishing the area. I was sick to my stomach but I still had an hour to put something together. I continued to pull harnesses despite seeing most pulling crankbaits. I was unable to get a bite and went back to the weigh-in with my tail between my legs.
Sure enough the majority of the field was fishing this area and there were some impressive weights. The same people that I was catching next to in pre-fishing were in the top 10. Talk about a kick to the stomach! Oh well, it is still fun to go on stage even though I am making fun of myself!
I started where I finished Day 1. I immediately caught the smallest walleye in Lake Erie, an 18 incher. What? Are you kidding me? Oh well, I thought I would just cull it later, right? Not so much! I caught a 4-1/2 pounder shortly after and that would be it! I can't tell you how depressing it was to see fish being caught all around you! I left, tried a couple of other spots before coming back for the last hour without success.
I certainly learned that I need to experiment more, especially in the water column. Most were pulling crankbaits. After watching the weigh-in my problem was obvious, I was not fishing deep enough. I think I could have caught them on harnesses but I needed to fish deeper. All week the fish were telling me that they were deeper and they preferred crankbaits. Instead I thought I knew better and stayed with my program instead of the program the fish wanted. Duh!!!!!!!
This was a great learning experience. I definitely had my lunch handed to me! However, I was close to figuring it out. I just need to do a better job of adapting to the clues the fish give me. Some of these things have to be learned through experience and in this case, failure. That is Ok by me. I am a better fisherman after getting my butt handed to me. I just can't wait to get an opportunity to redeem myself!