Joining the Bay Area Bassmasters has got to be one of the best decisions my brother Rick and I have made in a while. Sitting in the water at Anderson Park before the tournament, just looking at all the other boats we realized we had stepped up a level, and would need to step our game up as well to be competitive.
This was my first experience on Lake Tarpon but Rick said he knew some spots where there had always been hydrilla beds sense when my dad fished the lake 30 years ago. So I let him take the wheel as we set off to find some fish. I had been dreaming about catching 20 pounds in the vast hydrilla I was sure was going to be there. We realized something was wrong when cast after cast came back without any sign of vegetaition. None of the hydrilla Rick knew about was still around and after thoroughly fishing 4 spots, we were ready to give up. We are guessing the hydrilla had been removed at some point and that thought hurt. At noon, in the ridiculous heat of Florida without a cloud in the sky we were beat. We moved to the south canal to flip a bit and maybe try the bridges. No fish flipping and about the time I was going to ask if hooters sounded like a better afternoon than fishing we saw about a 7 pound bass come out of the water and eat some kind of bait fish. That gave us a little more energy to keep trying I mean hey, some fish were obviously biting and if we could only find a school and have a little fun the day could be salvaged. We stayed around the bridge for about 30 minutes and I eventually caught one small bass on a vibrating jig as they pushed a school of baitfish through the bridge. We noticed the water temperature was pushing 90 degrees and the sun was cooking us. We decided to try to find some shade and maybe some cooler water. As we pulled up to the mouth of Booker Creek I had to smile. This is more like it, this is the kind of water I’m used to fishing. I pulled out my Zoom horny toad and went to work under the tress on one side of the creek while Rick was throwing a ¼ oz swim jig on the other. It didn’t take long. I had a limit within 20 minutes and Rick was catching one here and there as well. The water temperature was much cooler around 85 degrees in the creek and there were blue gill beds all over the place. It was like we found a bass oasis in the middle of the dessert. Finally we were having a good time again. We also fished Hunt’s Canal with some success and found it to be the closest thing we could find to Booker Creek.
We had about 9 pounds and were both discouraged that we weren’t able to capitalize on the hydrilla fish and excited that we were able to salvage what seemed t
o be a good bite that could at least keep us from embarrassing ourselves. But then Rick said he wanted to check one more spot out before we left. Oh boy another one of those old hydrilla beds. We pulled up to the spot and started to cast at what I was sure to be nothing. But that rattle trap caught in hydrilla right off the bat and after just 10 minutes of ripping it through the grass we had caught 2 bass. A dink, and one close to 4 pounds. This changed our whole outlook and because we knew the hydrilla bed was big enough to fish for hours, the creek top-water bite was immediately put back as our secondary pattern. We came here to find these fish and we had found them. Would they all be 4 pounders? Probably not, but as long as one or two were we would be feeling good at the end of the tournament.
Bay Area Bassmasters – Lake Tarpon Tournament – June 11, 2016
Let me start by saying that one of the main reasons I started fishing these tournaments, other than to have fun, see my brother a little more often, and meet a bunch of great guys, is to learn how to fish tournaments. I mean really learn and get good at tournament bass fishing. I learned a lot over the first 5 months of the year fishing various open tournaments, but what a lesson I learned at this first tournament with Bay Area Bassmasters. Execution starts way before the tournament starts. By the end of the tournament we knew we had found the winning fish, got them to bite, and because of a lack of proper preparation and in my part a lack of knowledge, we didn’t get it done. I know, I know the old, “you shoulda saw the one that got away” line. But in order to learn this lesson I wouldn’t want to make the sting any softer by thinking anything other than we had it in the bag.
We were planning on throwing rattletraps through the hydrilla but wanted to start off throwing some top-water baits. Rick had bought and spooled a new bait caster the morning of the tournament (Planning is important). He tied a 20 lb fluorocarbon leader on thinking that he was going to be throwing a rattletrap on that rod. It was an early start and I found myself squinting to see my toad on the water. Before long I had a nice hit, gave it a second, and set the hook hard. My toad came whizzing past my head, no fish. Rick switched to a toad and sure enough, he had a lapse in thinking and tied it straight to the fluorocarbon leader. Before we went another 100 yards down the bank he had a big hit and snapped the line setting the hook. He knew his mistake and we shook it off. We caught a couple little keepers and Rick switched to the rattletrap. He had a 4 pounder to the boat within 20 minutes. We filled out a limit of about 8 lbs before I watched a 4 or 5 pound bass zigzagging shoulders out of the water behind my toad. He finally got it good and I set the hook. SNAP. I forgot to mention Dick’s Sports were having a deal on 20 lb braid that week. I now know, 50lb braid minimum for top-water baits. The lesson was ingrained a little deeper near the end of the day when another big bass came out of the water on my toad…. Snap. And I also learned to not set the hook so hard when fishing a rattle trap. I broke one off on one of those as well. Poor planning led to breaking off 4 times in one day. We upgraded little by little and probably caught between 15- 20 bass throughout the day but with just over 10 pounds, we were discouraged. We thought 16 -18 pounds minimum would take the tournament and our weight might not break the top twenty. The afternoon thunderstorm was intense trying to drive through the rain to get back to the ramp and added a little insult to injury.
We got to see our first BAB weigh in which was cool and even had lunch cooked. It was a really nice set up and we were happy to be involved. After the weights started coming in we started to get our hopes up and were elated to pull off a 4th place finish in our first tournament. Apparently the fish were being stubborn for the most part that day and we lucked into a good sack of fish. It did hurt though to know the day we should have had. We fish a lot and Rick has even won a couple IFA redfish tournaments and been on TV 5 or 6 times so the knowledge that we did this to ourselves was rough. But I still feel like it was a great learning experience and that’s what we were looking for. I don’t know if anyone cares to read this but I’ve enjoyed writing it. I will probably continue to write a review of each tournament for myself and would gladly post it for the club if anyone is interested.
– I decided to write a tournament review to have a reference to look back on for future tournaments. After finishing the review I thought some of the other BAB members might appreciate seeing how another angler approached the tournament. I hope you enjoy.