Sunday, January 25, 2015

What's it take to make weight?

After hours spent looking at maps, vacation days on the water trying to find new hotspots, pouring money into your fuel tank for both food and transportation, on top of  weeks of endless preperation for the “big” tournament, the day has finally arrived and your hopes are high.  You have been on fish the last three trips out, you know the patterns, you know the holes, and you know how to catch the winning stringer, but in reality, what you know has zero bearing on what you can’t control, and that’s the weather.  Within seven days of your last succesful trip, in came two back to back cold fronts that have drained all of the waters you have been catching monster fish in while dropping water temperatures 15 degrees and turning everything in the underwater world, upside down.  But hey, you have so much confididence in your honey hole, a red hot cattle prod couldn’t convince you to change your strategies, so you decide to stick to your game plan. With miles traveled,  hours of fighting low tides, freezing temperatures, frustration building,  and no fish at all, you decide to accept defeat and head back to the launch. 
NOW is where the question begins to arise in your mind. Do I hang around for the weigh in? Do I let everyone know that I didn’t catch anything? Do I share the stories about my line breaking or maybe even the one that got away, OR do I  get in early, load up quickly and quietly and tuck tail home in hopes that no one ever realizes I wasn’t at the weigh in and maybe, just maybe, I will never be reminded of this horrible tournament again???
It’s definetely a crossroad for some, a lesson in humility for some, and for those that tend to see the glass as always half full, it’s an opportunity to surround yourself with success.  I have racked my brain over the last week trying to figure out the last weigh in I attended and didn’t learn something.  And yes, sometimes you may have to weed through the stories and decifer what’s real and what’s not, or what areas proved productive verses those that didn’t, either way, this is a golden opportunity to learn.  And believe it or not, it’s usually the winners that are quick to share their techniques, tactics, and most importantly their rationale for success.
Last week the Bayou CoastKayak Fishing Club held their 8th annual minimalist challenge in Leeville, La, and with 100 competitiors signed up to compete and the weather turning perfect at the last minute there was a packed house, even though the previous week of weather had destroyed the water conditions.  Water levels appeared to be 4 feet low, water temps were in the 40s, and the fish were inactive to say the least. But even with 8 hours of prefishing a complete skunk the day before, I still had a plan as I went to bed the night before.  Unfortunately, my plan included fishing an area I have never been too, or even looked at on a map, but with all the area I covered the day before, in my mind, it was the only option left.  On the other hand, what I did have in my favor were the conditions.  I had conditions that fit perfectly with an event I fished years ago, back to back cold fronts, water levels lower than I have ever witnessed, an unfamiliar area, and cold yet blue bird skies, and most of all, a journal entry that reminded me of this exact scenario from years past.  And while I tossed up a giant zero in the event I logged my notes from, I made the weigh in.  I listened to those that caught fish and especially to those that won, I logged it all down in my mind and on paper in hopes that if I was ever confronted with that situation again, that maybe I would have a better idea of how to develop my plan of attack.  During that particular weigh in I learned of different stalking techniques, bad condition lures, and most of all, patience. 
Being what some would refer to as a power angler, I normally base my plans around a run and gun attack.  I cover a lot of water, a lot of different terain, and I use a lot of different techniques and lures.  Rarely do I ever stick to one lure or one area. More often than not, this attack usually lands me somewhere within reach of some of the top anglers in the event, except for that one event where my run and gun approach landed me nothing more than miles logged and an empty fish bag.  During that particular weigh in, I spent as much time as I could in the shadows as to not draw attention to myself, due to my failed attempt at being competitve, but I also spent a lot of time bending the ears of those around me that walked away with winnings in their pockets.  I learned different techniques from using smalller lures, to reading maps, to better understanding weather conditions, to how the conditions affected the fish, and most of all the rationale behind the game plans of those that won.
I would have to say that the most impactful lesson of that day was patience.  Normally when I enter a pond or an area where I can see fish, I am quick to approach and get my lure within striking distance of my target, and after landing that fish, moving on.  Rarely do I ever consider hanging around for longer than 15 minutes before hunting down another productive area, but when conditions are rough, sometimes you just have to wait it out.  I heard of one angler spending more than 3 hours to cover a pond no larger than half a football field, where as I would usually cover that same area in less than 30 minutes.  Well that slow moving, cat like sneaky approach was exactly what was needed for this past weekends tournament.  I even heard very similar stories from this past event that only helped reinforce what I had heard years earlier.  And while I had to pull away from my normal running and gunning, I still have yet to perfect the rough condition slow and stealthy attack.
I ended up finishing 8th, which given the overall results and the amount of participants, wasn’t that bad, but it wasn’t exactly where I wanted to be.  After listening to stories and some of the winners tactics, it was clear that while my plan was solid, I still needed to slow it down.  During the tournament I ended up in a pond with well over 50-75 reds in it, I could see them everywhere, and with brids crashing around me, and big shoulder reds blowing through the mud beneath me, I got excited.  Did I move slow, yes, was it slow enough, not even close.  I tried hard to get my adrenaline in check, but it wasn’t for atleast a solid hour of spooking reds from one end of the pond to the other that I was able to back away from attacking my prey, to letting my prey come to me.  I ended up landing only 4 reds in the next 5 hours, and each one was hooked and landed within 3 feet of the exact same spot, yet an hour or more apart.  You see, the reds weren’t going anywhere, but they werent hungry, they werent active, and they knew all too well that I was there.  So once I got my wits and remembered what some  past winners had done, I did my best with the time I had left to imitate the stories and techniques I had learned at past weigh ins. 
So the next time you choose to fish a tournament and skip the weigh in because you know you won’t win, think about the lessons you could be missing out on.  And while I have heard it said that skipping a weigh in to avoid humility or to escape the idea of defeat, is equivalent to walking off the field without shaking your oppenents hands and sometimes leaves an everlasting display of poor sportsmanship, I do however understand there are circumstances that arise at times that are cause for leaving early.  
It’s important to remember that there is always a silver lining in everything we do, sometimes we just don’t see it.  So at your next event, when the going gets tough and you want to throw in the towel, that’s fine, but someone is going to win the event. Wouldn’t you like to know what they did that put them on top? Well, if you don’t geaux, you will likely never know.  So, support your competitors, support your tournament directors, support the sport, and in the end, you will likely be supporting your own increase in knowledge.

Special Congrats to Arron Larose 1st, Denis Soignier 2nd, Clayton Shilling 3rd


Until next time,

Stay Safe & Catch1

Friday, January 9, 2015

Get Sensitive for Winter time trout

January is a fun time for fishing a kayak.  It’s the time where gold is truly laying beneath the rainbow.  It’s just that the rainbow ends in deep water, and not the mid to shallow waters you have been paddling around in over the last month or two.  Right now the trout have made their transition into their winter patterns and will be deep.  Don’t get me wrong, there are days where you can find some redfish and a few trout in the shallows, but if you’re looking for the mother load, you have to go deep.

As the water temps have falling into the low 50s to mid 40s in a lot of areas, the fish have moved deeper and their metabolisms have slowed.  Most congregations of fish can be found in deep dead end canals and when you find one, it is likely that you will find a limit.  I have seen this transition slowly taking place over the last few weeks of December and the first week of January.  Shallow water ponds where I have been site fishing and limiting out on reds within minutes, have now become baron, and tough to find a limit of reds within a couple hours.  If you have noticed this same scenario, it’s now map time.  Start looking over your Standard mapping, google earth, or whatever mapping software you prefer, and begin looking for deeper water.  Look for darker areas on the maps, areas that create marsh highways into a deep  channel, or clean and deep dead end canals, not to mention deep water in general, like the causeway or trestles.

Most fish move deep in the winter because the deeper the water, the less drastic the temperature changes they will endure.  Three feet of water that is 52 degrees as sunrise, may end up in the 60s around lunch time, whereas a bay that is 15 feet deep and 52 degrees at sunrise, will likely still be 52 degrees at 15 feet around lunch time.  Now, as the temperatures stabilize during the winter months, your deeper holes, canals, and dead ends will continue to produce time and time again, but if the temperature stabilizes in the 70s over several days to a week, you can expect the fish to scatter, and while you can likely still catch them in deeper water, it may be time to start searching other areas for the time being.
 My winter lure of choice is hands down a jig head and a Matrix Shad, the tail vibration along with the look of a dying baitfish, is one that most winter trout and reds can’t resist.  I also believe in the philosophy that the lighter the jig head the better the bite, at least during the winter months.  Keep in mind, most fish in cold water are lethargic, and they aren’t looking to expel much energy to catch a meal, so a lighter jig head will result in a slower fall rate, sometimes giving the fish exactly what they want, and easy meal.
I am a big fan of jigging in the winter months not only because it works, but also because it helps hone my ability to feel the fish hit the lure.  When jigging this time of month, the fish are not attacking it.  Usually they hit the lure and just sit on it, and if you don’t feel that initial entry of the lure into the fish’s mouth, they will spit it out immediately.  It’s a time where a good rod comes into play, light line, and a combined focus, feel, and line watching is a must.  Many times you will see your line jump just a little and never feel a thing, but with a quality rod, like the rods built by 13 Fishing, you will feel that subtle attack on your lure.  Imagine the feel of a single rain drop crashing into your line, that is what a deep water trout attack feels like.  And right now, if you were to venture out onto the shell beds in the shallow water of Hopedale Lagoon or the depths of Lake Pontchartrain near the trestles or the Causeway, you can get a live lesson of what a winter time jig bite feels like.  You may miss 30 trout before you ever realize the actual feel of the strike, but once you get it, it will change the way you fish forever.  Last month I took a buddy fishing that wasn’t new to jig fishing, but he was new to winter time jig fishing, and after I landed nearly a limit of trout to his one, he finally was able to understand the feel, and he began catching.  He has called me weekly since that trip and can’t wait to go again.  He made the comment that in all his years of fishing, he has never felt a trout hit a lure with that much subtlety and all he wants to do now, is learn the technique and feel. 
So take some time this month and the next to explore you adventurous side and learn something that so many people overlook.  It’s usually not that the fish aren’t there; it’s just likely that you may not be feeling them on the end of your line.
Until Next Time,
Stay Safe & Catch1