Sometimes It's Better to Just Go Fishing
November 3rd, 2008
“You know, my son and I love to go fishing, but I just wish we could catch a couple of fish when we go.”
That was my good friend Chris’s reaction as I was telling him about a tournament I had just fished. Chris owns a house on a small 100 acre pond that is canoe and kayak only – they don’t even allow electric motors. I was just back from the TBF Federation Nationals where I had just finished 10th overall, so he figured I was the one to help him change his luck.
I asked him a bit about the pond, and it sounded like it should be full of fish. It’s relatively clear, deep in the middle with docks and brush all around. Very few people fish it because there is no public access.
Chris was using lures and tactics recommended to him by the local tackle shop. He’d bought a couple of Rapala’s, some big plastic worms, and a few other lures. As a beginner fisherman, he really didn’t know how to work these baits, and his son was only eight years old and just as much of a beginner as his dad.
He was planning to head back to the lake for the weekend, so I told him to stop by my house on the way, and I would get him all set up. My fishing stuff was still packed up from the Bass Federation Nationals which had just been held on Lake Wylie in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Bass Masters Classic has been there, as well as numerous tour events over the years. I had finished 10th overall and second in the Eastern Division primarily throwing a Senko, so I had an idea as to what to give Chris.
It was spring and the fish were up pretty shallow so I set Chris up with a 4-inch Senko in the most popular color (297 Watermelon Black Flake) and a small split-shot hook.
I hooked the bait wacky-style in the middle, and told him “just cast this out, and let it sink to the bottom – if something pulls on it, pull back!”
That’s pretty much what I had done for three days at Lake Wylie. The fish were post-spawn in the north part of the lake, and full-blown spawn in the south. I only had two days of practice on the lake back in early April, and the lake had changed a bit.
The first day I just hit a bunch of spots, making the longest casts I could, and looked for a bite on the initial drop. The water had about 2-3 foot visibility, so I was aiming for the edge where it goes from light to dark. This is where the fish seemed to be hanging. I prefer not to bed fish, so I felt this was a way to catch a lot of fish and gradually cull up.
The first day, it worked pretty well and I wound up with 10 pounds 7 ounces, which put me in first place in the Eastern Division. There are six divisions and the winner from each division goes on the BFL All American. I figure I could do the same thing on day two, and I’d be all set.
Day two was a carbon copy of day one. I threw the Senko as far as I could, and caught fish after fish. Around 10:00 AM I got one just under 4 pounds which put me over the 13 pound mark for the day. My non-boater congratulated me, since there weren’t too many 13+ bags coming in – most of the field was catching 10-12 lbs per day.
Of course, not every story has a fairy tale ending (at least from my standpoint). Bob Crino, the angler in second in the Eastern Division and a strong fisherman from Vermont, brought in one of the best bags of the entire tournament at 14 lbs 10 ounces, and beat me. My weight put me in 10th place overall, which was still better than I had expected to finish, but not good enough to move on to the All American.
I was telling my friend Chris about how I had done in North Carolina while I was showing him how to tie the knots, hook the Senko, and gently set the hook. He promised to call when he got back to let me know if it worked.
Well, my phone range the next day and there was a very excited guy on the other end of the line. Seems that he was all fired up to try this technique out, so he went down to his dock and cast it out like I’d instructed him.
He said he cast it out, let it sink, and promptly hung it on the bottom – or so he thought. “I was sure it was hung, so I pulled on it. The next thing I know, a huge brown fish shot straight up in the air and almost pulled the rod from my hands”. He was yelling to his wife, “Get the camera! Get the camera!” as he tried to handle the fish. The picture he sent me showed a three-pound smallmouth, with an excited family proudly posing with it.
They wound up going out the next day as well and catching a bunch of fish, and it looks like more than the fish got hooked.
Lake Wylie is the ultimate tournament lake. It has lots of varied structure, four lane boat ramps with parking for 200 trailers, and a chamber of commerce that actively encourages bass tournaments. You can probably fish 100 tournaments a year on Wylie if you had that kind of time.
Yet the same technique that got me the best finish by a Massachusetts angler in the Nationals in over 20 years is the same technique that put an ear to ear grin on an 8 year-old kid and his 45 year old dad.
Chris said it best, “When that fish came out of the water, it was like someone squeezing a pumpkin seed between their fingers – it just went straight up in the air!”
Some people think throwing a Senko is boring, or that you need to have multiple patterns and techniques to be competitive. Many times you do. But sometimes it’s best just to go fishing, whether you are fishing the biggest tournament of the year, or whether you and your son just want to catch a fish or two.