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.
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!
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.