Sunday, August 25, 2013

Sturgeon Bay NWT Re-cap

Day 1

My Day 1 Co-angler was Billy Ditto from Leaf River, IL which is only 25 miles from my hometown. He fished one tournament as a Co-angler last year and has been hooked ever since. I was hoping I could give him a tournament that he would remember.

I usually don’t sleep well the night before a tournament and this was no exception. With the fish moving around like they had been along with isolated storms in the area I knew it might be difficult to find them. Knowing that these were the “right fish” made me even more anxious.

I headed to the area I had found the day before. The water temperature was the same as was the wind but the fish were gone. I knew there was a reason I didn’t sleep well. I went to another area that was good earlier in the week and made one pass with no luck.

I went back to where I was the day before and drove around for about a half hour going about 20 MPH looking for fish. Finally I marked a few on the screen and set up for a pass. Almost immediately we caught a 22” when another rod went. I helped get the board off of that rod while Billy fought the fish. Unfortunately, that was a sheepshead. I thought long and hard about throwing that fish back in. 

Once you keep your 6th fish you cannot cull and you are done for the day. This was not the type of fish I was catching nor was it going to win the tournament but I decided to keep it hoping it would be the smallest of the day.

The pod of fish was much smaller than the day before so it didn’t take long and we were no longer marking fish. We packed up and made another pass. Almost immediately the board on the same rod that caught the 22” walleye went back. Billy fought the fish perfectly and there was not doubt it was a big walleye as the fish came slowly in. Just before I reached for the snap weight the fish came off. I was extremely surprised to see that the fish broke the line above the hooks. The only thing I can think of was I didn’t check the line after catching the 22 incher and it must have nicked the line. I am sure it was the size of fish I had been catching between 27 and 28 inches. We were disappointed but we had plenty of time left in the day.

Unfortunately, a storm moved in and we only were able to catch one more fish. The fish moved down in the water column. All of my adjustments were for not and we headed back to the weigh-in.

Day 2

I drew Bill Ball as a Co-angler on day 2. Bill is an accomplished angler with a couple of MWC wins to his credit. Bill was going into day 2 in ninth place. I fished myself out of the tournament on day 1. My day 2 goal was to keep Bill in the top 10.

I made the long run south again and I spent 20 minutes looking for the school of fish I had been fishing. I couldn't find them so I went to another area that I had caught them earlier in the week. I marked fish so we set up made our first pass. It didn't take long before we boated a 27 incher. We put that rod back out and had another fish take a board back but it was gone by the time we got to the rod. I thought we were going to have a good day but that was the end of the action.

I was marking fish but I just couldn't get them to bite. It turns out day 2 was tougher for all but that was no consolation.

Bill Finishes 14th

Despite only catching one 7 pound fish Bill only dropped 5 places and finished 14th. That helped my spirits a little bit but if we just could have caught one more he would have finished in the top 10. Bill was a blast to fish with and he brought some awesome venison sausage! 

Fools Gold

My plan all along was to fish the northern portion of the boundaries. I even stayed in Fish Creek to be closer to the northern water. I ended up only fishing one full day up north. Once I caught those nice fish over the mud down south I made the decision to go all in down south. I didn't have the confidence that I could find fish up north alone. It turned out that the majority of the top 10 was fishing north. If I would have spent more time up there pre-fishing would I have had a better outcome. I will never know but I am disappointed I didn't follow my initial plan.

The fishing on the mud flats in the south can be so easy it is like fools gold. I feel for it two years ago and I had the same result, BAD! It is not uncommon to catch 30 pounds one day and a fraction of that the next. I noticed many others fishing the same area had a similar fate. However, there were some that were able to make the proper adjustments and did well. 

The lesson I learned is anybody can catch them when the bite is "on". Hopefully I will learn from the experience and have a better outcome next time.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

NWT Sturgeon Bay Pre-Fishing Recap

I had high hopes for the NWT Sturgeon Bay tournament. I was fishing alone and with the tournament boundaries stretching from the southern end of Door County all the way to Death's Door on the northern tip. That meant I had to cover a lot of water as efficiently as possible. My plan was to stay north and hope the fish had migrated to their late summer home.

Day 1

The final day of the AIM tournament was underway out of Oconto. Despite the forecast for 3-5 ft. waves with some to 8 ft. I decided to go north and stay out of the way of the AIM anglers. This turned out to be a mistake as I did not get much accomplished. I marked a lot of bait and some fish but did not catch a fish.

Day 2

Because I wasn't on a team it was really important that I had someone with me so I could get more lines out which allowed me to experiment with colors, depths, presentations etc. I had a friend of mine from Madison, Scott, with me on Saturday and Sunday and on Sunday we added the son of a co-worker of Scott's. Richard will be a freshman at UW Superior where he says he is majoring in Walleyes and Whitetails.  We put Richard through Walleyes 101 on the bay.

We went south and found plenty of drum but no walleyes. Part of majoring in Walleyes is dealing with sheepshead so we made Richard reel in everyone! He didn't seem to mind but we need to find walleye's. After a few stops we started marking fish and caught one 18" walleye. We set up a little deeper and then it was on.

We were pulling crawler harnesses and were able to identify colors with the biggest fish coming on a certain depth. The depth we targeted was just above the fish we were marking. Although the other baits did catch fish I felt like I was honing in on a pattern.

Our best 5 were all over 27" with the exception of one 26-1/2. I have fished this area before and fishing can seem so easy and the next day is another story so I hoped to find something up north but at least I had a spot with big fish. I slept pretty good Sunday night.

Day 3

I fished with an old co-worker of mine and we went north. I was surprised to find water temp in the low 70's. Due to changing winds temperatures in the southern bay were all over the place, when we found the warmer water we found the walleyes. 

The wind was perfect as I checked areas I caught fish last Labor Day weekend. There is a ton of structure and I covered as much as I could. I did mark a fair amount of bait and a few fish but nothing like I did down south. We lost 2 fish that I think were nice walleyes but the rest were sheepshead. I decided to spend the afternoon between Sturgeon Bay and Egg Harbor with nothing to show for the effort. In retrospect I wish I would have stayed north of Egg Harbor.

Day 4

A small craft advisory was issued for the bay. Winds were out of the NW at 20-30 MPH with gusts higher. I wasn't going to fish but the thought of sitting around the hotel all day got the best of me. I only fished from 9 to 2 and I was happy I had one fish on. I never felt unsafe, thanks to my Lund but the conditions were not the best. I didn't accomplish anything fishing wise but it beat sitting around the hotel.

Day 5

I wanted to fish north so bad but I chickened out. I wasn't confident that I could put something together up north especially when the fishing was so easy on Sunday. I decided to go all in on the south bite and would spend the next two days trying to hone in the pattern.

One of my favorite things about fishing tournaments is you get to meet some great people. I shared the boat with one of my co-anglers from last year, Sargeant Richard Wright who serves in the National Guard. Rich is character and we have a similar sense of humor. It also helps he brings beef jerky!

We tried a couple of different spots but the water temps were colder than I liked. I headed over to where I was on Sunday and there was nothing there. Just like years past these fish move. There is no structure and the fish roam around chasing bait fish. Once you found the bait you would see the walleyes with them. In some cases you could see where the walleyes were feeding as the bait fish were scattered instead of in a ball. When we found that we usually hooked up.

Just like Sunday, once we found them the bite was awesome. We had a double of 28's and just after taking a picture we had another one on of that size or slightly bigger that got off. I made Sargeant Rich drop and give me 20 for dumping that one. You hate to lose a fish like that but we knew what was there and we were happy!

Even better we were catching are fish quite a ways from other boats. I don't like fishing in big groups and it is always my goal is to find fish away from the crowds. Normally I don't net fish during pre-fishing if I can help it but because we were fishing away from everyone I was able to put the Frabill to use! 

Day 6

I fished the last day of pre-fishing with Rich and Mark Michael, the owner of EZEE Steps. We only had until 2 O'clock so my goal was to hone the pattern and get ready for Friday. We went where the fish were on Sunday, nothing. Next we went where Rich and I got into them, we marked fish but not like the day before. We caught a 28" and a 25" when we moved shallower but I was getting nervous. 

I decided to move to another area. About two miles later I was going about 30 MPH when I noticed a couple of blips on my locator. I slowed down and noticed there were quite a few marks and some bait fish. We set up and made a pass. We caught one big catfish and a drum but I knew there were walleyes in there. We made another pass and we caught two good walleyes. That made me feel better for the tournament. It was clear that fish were moving and all I had to do was spend the time to find them on the electronics and go from there.

I will post the tournament re-cap later in the week. Thanks for reading!