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!