Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Road to the Championship Blog 6 "Monastic Obsession"

Monastic obsession...

   I'm lucky...my wife is completely supportive of my goals. She urges me to fish when I can and encourages often to keep pushing on. Does she understand what I'm doing, although she is supportive, is she really standing there watching me in bewilderment... Saying, this son of a gun is nuts...I'm married to a crazy man. Regardless, she is my biggest cheerleader and my biggest critic. Her two favorite things to say to me are..."kick some ass" and "just fish...do what you do!"

If you didn't know it...I love to fish but there are many different levels of fishing. You can go out just to be in nature, not caring if you catch anything. You can go somewhere new and exciting... Chasing a certain species or a giant fish or you can fish competitively. In competitive fishing...everything changes. You're no longer strolling along admiring nature and all of its beauty...you are out to conquer it...at least the world of the largemouth bass.

   To conquer anything requires a well thought out and precise strategy... Probably 3 different strategies to be honest and the ability to know when to use which one and when to ditch it. Since I have limited experience with tournament preparation I've been doing a lot of research which led me to a Henry Rollins video. Mr. Rollins is an intense fellow and although I'm not a fan of his thrash/punk music I do admire his story and some of his ideals. In this video he used the term "monastic obsession" in relation to achieving a goal. I like that term but you could also use laser focused, driven etc. Do you have to be laser focused to be a winner...no. Sometimes natural ability will be enough but I'm not the best technical fisherman nor am I a bass expert...I understand the fish's habits and limitations in relation to water temperature and the spawn, I know what they eat but catching really big fish is hit or miss with me and usually requires a lot of preparation...hence the reason "monastic obsession" intrigued me.
   I may not win the Tournament but going into it relying solely on my instincts and natural ability severely limits my game. I have to pursue every bit of information about fish habits, lures and bait patterns on Kentucky lake with this "monastic obsession" and I have to fish up until tournament time with the fervor of a banshee. The main reason is to win but to lose knowing you put every thing on the line in preparing and competing brings no shame. After all, you can prepare for everything but if the fish don't want to play what can you do.

   If you have an idea of what you want to do in your future, you must go at it with almost monastic obsession, be it music, the ballet or just a basic degree. You have to go at it single-mindedly and let nothing get in your way. You’re young. That’s why you can survive on no sleep, Top Ramen noodles and dental floss and still look good.  Henry Rollins

Thank you for reading my ramblings.  I hope you enjoy what I write but this blog series (hopefully entertaining to you) is a huge tool in helping me prepare for the KBFNC. It allows me to reflect on successes and mistakes and ponder my thoughts. Peace

Sunday, February 21, 2016

"Road to the Championship " blog 5: Changes

Change is inevitable...as soon as you think you've figured it out it'll change...never fails.

The past couple of weeks the weather hasn't been pleasant...It's been cold, windy and wet. Believe it or not for a fisherman there is one thing that was positive about it...the weather and the water temperature were consistent. The fish had to eat and once I found them, they were there everyday in the same area, doing the same thing. Although I was freezing my tail off, soaking wet and beat down by the wind, I was catching fish. Something I chalk up as a minor success towards my preparation for the KBF tournament.

  I have fished a particular lake for the past 5 days and I covered days 1,2 and 3 in the last blog but day 4 a friend of mine from Atlanta came up to fish the morning with me. We went out to where I'd caught a couple of good fish and set up shop. After  a few of hours and about 4 dinks (dinks are very small Bass) I caught a 22" largemouth that exceeded 6 pounds. On our way back to shore my friend picked up a nice 5lb fish...but this fish was a good bit shallower than any of the rest I had caught through the week....Was this a hint as to a change in pattern or was she just shallower for no good reason? These are the questions I and I assume  other fishermen ask themselves when trying to pattern a lake. On that particular day the sun was out and the fish was caught on the windward side of the lake...water temp was about 2 degrees more at 46 -47°. The fish was in 4' of water and every fish I'd caught previously were located 100 yards away in the 8-10 foot range, they all hit the same bait though.  The problem and it is a big problem...I only started wondering about the why's and where's of that fish today...because I only caught dinks today in the 8-10' water... I have to be proactive and ask myself these questions on the fly.

This morning I fished all over the lake's 8-10' sections and completely ruled out that water. Today's conditions were warmer, cloudy with a good wind but the water temp was 50 and in some places 51. Is that a big enough difference in conditions to change the pattern? I believe so. I can't fish tomorrow as a matter of fact,  it'll be Friday before I'm on the water again but if I were going tomorrow I'd throw a spinner bait or small swim bait in the shallower 3-6' sections of water.
In the past two weeks (10 days fishing) I've caught 6 fish weighing from 5-8lbs. Not bad and to be honest the best string of bass fishing that I've ever had but isn't good enough because...
• although I'm having fun...I'm preparing for a tournament. The biggest tournament I've ever had a chance to compete in and only on one of those days did I have a respectable limit.
• I could've caught more if I would've thought quicker and noticed a few subtle or not so subtle clues.
• I found that a lot of today I was making blind casts on covered ground.
Why?...things changed and I didn't.

  So, here is the scenario... I get up to Kentucky lake and find fish early in the week but a cold front moves in and changes everything  causing thevfish to leave or change their feeding habits on day 1 of the tournament. What do i do?...The easy answer is to scrap the plan I had and go to deeper or different water. The problem is my confidence level that I had gained from the hypothetical fish I'd caught earlier in the week is now a hindrance. Confidence is a great thing to have most of the time but when it's in a plan that was once working but no longer is will definitely lead to disaster if I handle it like I did today. I would've spent most of, if not all of the day trying to salvage what I had confidence in. The end result would be the age old excuse...they weren't biting. Although sometimes, they really aren't biting, I can not be sentimental when it comes to my confidence. To use some age old adages, I have to read the writing on the wall and I can't beat a dead horse. I'm seeing more now, than ever before that this is a game of patterns...that will end, changes that will happen... when you least expect it and patience, that single characteristic that all good fishermen must possess...you'll have to throw out the window sometimes so you can make something happen.

Easy as pie...sometimes it's like I'm playing chess while the fish are over there playing Scrabble.

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I'd really love to read your thoughts about my blog, your general location and any suggestions. Peace

Thursday, February 18, 2016

Road to the Championship Blog 4: Live and Learn

Live and learn...

  I fished the last four days after working 3rd shift. The first day I fished some backwaters of the Coosa River named Brushy Branch. The morning was cold and cloudy with rain in the forecast. The water temperature was 44° and the air was 38°...the fish weren't interested in anything I had to offer. I managed a dink off of a 3" Keitech paddle tail on an under spin. There were lots of calories burned for that little fish and not much was learned in ways of lessons except the fish weren't biting.

Day 2: I fished a small public lake in my city. A little history on this lake...it's loaded with shad and motorized boats are prohibited. It doesn't look "fishy" because of lack of structure but I am convinced that there is a monster bass swimming around this lake. The obvious place to target is the earthen dam because of the exposed rocks on it but after 4 hours of fishing a handful of different lures thrown at different angles along the dam I'd not had a single bite. As I sat there brainstorming, I noticed a few shad flipping on the surface in the middle of the lake so I paddled over and tossed a plastic worm out and on the third cast had a fish hit it on the fall...a solid 5 pounder. I was extremely happy but also wondered if it was a fluke...pure luck. I'd see if I could work a pattern out of that one fish the next day. I had to go get some sleep.

Day 3: I launched after work at 9am and headed to the spot my big one hit the day before. I had a plastic worm on but decided to throw a 5" swim bait too. The wind was brutal and made it impossible to stay in one place so I paddled towards the bank and got a rock to use as an anchor...back out to the middle and I set up shop. I caught several dinks on the worm but I had 3 good fish throw the hook on the swimbait...I had a pattern, an understanding of what these fish were doing and yes, I'd be back in the morning with a more refined approach.

Day 4: I downsized the swimbait and stuck with it. The weather was nice, the wind light and the little fish were hungry. After catching and releasing 6 dinks I made a cast and started that slow slow retrieve only speeding it up to keep it off the bottom then I felt that pressure...it's not a hit it's commonly described by Bass fishermen as "loading up". I set the hook and I knew it was a good one...22 3/4" and 8lbs worth of big ol fat fish. Exactly what I went to catch and the night before I had jokingly made a Facebook post that I was pointing to the fence like Babe Ruth, knowing it would be a good day. All jokes aside, I'm learning this patterning little by little... It'll take more than one like that hawg to win the KBF. I'll be back in the morning. Peace

Sunday, February 14, 2016

"Road to the National Championship" blog #3: Driven


   I was sitting here debating on whether I should fish tomorrow...I'm working a 16hr shift but don't have to be back to work until midnight shift tonight. I'll be tired and the weather will be nasty but that's gonna be the norm at the KBF Championship next month. Also, its not like I'm going to be hauling hay or digging ditches, I'll be fishing.

   Just to catch up, I fished yesterday for a solid 6 hours and only caught a crappie. The temp was 28° when I launched and God only knows what the wind chill was. My reels were freezing and I'd constantly dip them in the 46° lake water to thaw them but I pushed on. After, fishing the sheltered coves of the lake with no luck I headed out in the open to deeper water. I marked suspended bait several times and caught my lone non-target fish on a jigging spoon. That sounds like a miserable day on the water and in some aspects it was but I did learn several things that I know will help me when the KBFNC kicks off.

1. Go with my gut. My gut told me to fight the wind and go where I thought the fish were.(deeper water) The only problem was my anchor fell apart. Which brings me to #2...

2. Be prepared for any and all circumstances. An anchor has been a fixture of every Kayak that I've had and will continue to be.

3. I need some good fishing gloves...any suggestions? Lol

   Did I not catch fish because of a faulty anchor...I'll go out on a limb and say yes. I've been pretty successful catching bass on or over deep structure in the past...when I could stay in one place and target the structure...AND, I did mark fish in open water over three different rock piles in 20'-30' range. Another plus that won't necessarily help me for this tournament but it will for some of our local ones is...I had no idea that structure was there. If yesterday was practice for a tournament on that lake...I'd have a new anchor or I'd tie a cinder block to the rope and I'd target the deep structure I found.

  So far for this blog series I've logged 5 days fishing and 3 have been sub par, one had a lone big fish and one netted me a 56" stringer...respectable but it ain't gonna beat the top guys I'm going against on Kentucky Lake. I need more water time so I'll be at it again in thevmorning but this time in the rain, hopefully I'll catch some fish but more importantly I can test my equipment, work on problem solving and I'll definitely check my gut.

I'd like to take a minute and introduce my self to anyone who doesn't know me and/or thinks I'm nuts...I believe every day of my life I've thought about fishing. I was the kid that you see riding down the road on his bicycle with a rod in one hand and a tackle box in the other while also holding on to the handle bars. I started out wading creeks and fishing small lakes from the bank. I eventually bought a 16' Skeeter and used it to chase everything from bass in North Georgia to redfish on the coast. Times got tough...gas and keeping a boat maintained wasn't financially possible so I was forced back to wade fishing but I embraced it. I regularly waded the river, creeks and mountain streams of North Georgia for trout, bass and when possible I'd wadefish the shallow gulf coast bays for redfish or fish from a pier. About 10 years ago I decided to get a kayak...I started out with a used $200 kingfisher kayak and now I fish from the ultimate fishing machine, atleast for me it is, a Jackson Big Rig.
   Not much has changed since I was a boy...I still struggle at being home on time from a fishing trip, I still lose sleep before an upcoming fishing trip and I still want to catch the biggest and baddest fish swimming. Only now I do it from a Kayak...thank God for little plastic boats.

Friday, February 12, 2016

"Road to the Championship" blog 2

    Planning for the unknown is difficult...I have no idea what the weather will be on March 19 when I paddle out for the 2016 KBF National Championship, no idea what the water temperature will be and certainly no idea where the fish will be. At this point it's a guessing game but I can put myself in different situations and I can visit unfamiliar lakes and try to figure the fish out there...its just practice and as long as you're putting forth the effort and learning then that part of the preparation has been successful.

Last Friday me and a friend drove up to Sparta Tennessee with the intentions of fishing the Collins river for muskie but as my luck would have it, the Collins was high and muddy. We came up with a new plan where we'd fish the clearer Caney Fork river on Friday then fish a section of Center Hill Lake on  Saturday.

     We launched Friday around 1pm into the Caney Fork and was immediately startled with the depth of the river. There were spots that reached 40 feet, the water was 46° and was moving pretty fast. For about 3 hours we fished a  1/2 mile stretch of river. We tried every thing that we had, from jigs to crankbaits but nothing worked. After a frustrating few hours we called it quits and headed to our camp.

   Saturday morning we were greeted with 24° air temps at one of the many boat ramps on Center Hill Lake. We launched into extremely stained water and headed up river to the falls. The water was high and 46° and the fish were uncooperative. On the flip side the high water made the "falls" a magnificent site...that coupled with the steep Bluff walls along the river and the occasional bald eagle truley made the lack of fish unnoticeable. We paddled and fished for 9 straight hours and the next day my shoulder felt as if a draft mule had kicked it numerous times but it was great hanging out and fishing with some fellow Jackson Kayak teammates. After a nice dinner at a local restaurant and some rest I packed up and headed back to Georgia. On the ride home I heard that the bite was on at one of our local lakes so I took Sunday off from fishing, changed my tackle around and planned to fish this local lake on Monday.

Monday morning was cold and extremely windy. The news of 18-20 mph sustained winds almost kept me in but I decided to go ahead and chance it. My thoughts were, if it was tournament day we'd be fishing.

   I started out fishing some sheltered deep timber with no luck then got a quick ride courtesy of the wind to the other side of the lake. The lake was white capping and as I drifted over a point I threw a downsized bait and was immediately bitten. The fish felt like a nice one and after I landed it she was 18" on the hawg trough...a solid fish by any measure but too late in the day to determine a pattern. I'd be back on Tuesday and take up where I left off.

Tuesday was colder and exactly what February should look like. 34° temps, snow and a northwest wind. Again, I debated on staying home but I had to see if the fish would be triggered by the front that had set in. Upon reaching the boat ramp (which is normally packed) I noticed one other boat on the water and immediately thought...it'll be good or this will be stupid but you won't know unless you go. I launched in an almost white out, paddled to yesterday's point and after several casts with the same lure from the day before caught a 14" bass. He was just a small one but I wasn't skunked and I knew that others may be hungry....in the fishing game, confidence is a very powerful component and in competition a confident angler is hard to beat. It only takes one fish to gain that confidence and now I had it.

The other boat in the lake came by and stopped to talk, he introduced himself as Jason Mullinax from Cartersville. Jason is an engineer by profession and an avid tournament angler. He fishes local tours as well as competing as a co-angler on the Walmart FLW tour where he's had some impressive success. Looking back, we probably looked like a couple of dummies... I held onto his bass boat while he kneeled out of the wind and snow having a long conversation about tournaments, Kentucky Lake, and just fishing in general. I found out that he was as passionate about the sport as I was and although we went after fish in boats opposite of each other on the spectrum, there was a mutual respect for each other. Jason gave me some good information about what these fish were doing and I headed off to the other side of the lake.

An hours worth of fighting the wind and snow I headed back to the spot where I'd caught my lone fish. I cast my downsized lure and started my retrieve...3 fish on 6 casts with a combined length of 56" of fish later, suddenly I no longer felt the cold. Confidence was renewed in me. I felt a sense of victory considering the conditions and the size of fish I caught and left with a smile. I certainly have a lot to work on but so far so good...peace!

Thursday, February 11, 2016

"The Road to the Championship" blog 1

Championships...recently we were treated to a couple of the greatest championship games on the planet. The Superbowl and the NCAA College Football Championship, unfortunately my teams didn't even get a sniff at the chance to contend for it but I enjoyed watching both of the games. I love watching the intensity and heart that a player puts out during "the big game". I've always thought that if I was faced with competing for a championship that I'd put forth the same effort.

    In my 46 yrs on earth, I've only played in two Championships... The 1978 " Santa Bowl" where the Pepperell Dragons Mite football team (my team) won and the 1991 "Buchel Bowl", a flag football championship where we lost in the final seconds. I don't really remember how it felt to win that big game but I do remember explicitly the pain felt with the loss. I personally know people that have won state championships in wrestling, football, baseball and even two friends that have NCAA Football National Championship rings but I've not been blessed with the opportunity to compete on the really big stage...until now. The Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship...on March 19 and 20th 2016 almost 400...yes 400 Kayak anglers will go at it on Tennessee's legendary Kentucky Lake to see who is the best that there is. For us that eat, breath and live kayak fishing this is the ultimate championship...this is our Superbowl.

    As I stated before, I don't have a lot of experience in preparing for championships but I do have a plan...have you ever seen the movie "Dodge Ball"? There is a scene where the underdog dodge ball team meets their new coach, Patches O'Houlihan. Patches is a salty old dude that's bound to a wheel chair. Shortly after meeting the team he decides to run a drill where he pulls some wrenches out of a bag and starts throwing them at members of the team...when asked why he was throwing wrenches he says, " If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball." It makes perfect sense to me...until the week of the tournament when I will be on Kentucky lake for practice, I will fish no matter what the weather is or how I feel and I will fish in lakes that are known to be hard lakes to fish like Lake Allatoona (aka: the Dead Sea)...if you can consistently catch Bass in the "Dead Sea" I believe you can probably do it anywhere.

With this blog series I am inviting you along with me on my journey to the greatest game I've ever played in. The next month and a half will hopefully be entertaining and I'm sure a little adventurous. So tag along and win or lose I'm going to give it all that I have. It's game time folks and I'm all in. Peace and thank god for little plastic boats!

Note: I ask if you would please leave in the comments where you're from and any other information you'd like to share...anything from criticism to a secret bait for Kentucky lake or where some schools of GIANT largemouth may be lurking in the lake.
                            Thanks, Jim