A few years back, when I was really getting into tournament fishing, a trout fisherman friend of mine was constantly on my case. He’d come in to work showing pictures of some nice rainbow or brown trout he had caught over the weekend. I’d always reply with, “That’s great. How much money did you win for catching that one?” He’d always reply, “David, when your hobby becomes your occupation, you are conflicted. Pretty soon it’s not going to be fun anymore.”
I’ve certainly never reached the point that I didn’t enjoy fishing, but I can certainly say that over the last few months, its felt more like a job. In the “real world,” I am an audiologist. I own a business and see patients daily. I am the only hearing doc in the house, so I see all the patients, pay all the bills, and do everything it takes to keep a business going. Fortunately, my business has been extremely busy for the last few months. Not only have I had more patients and more work, but I’ve also purchased a piece of property and we are remodeling to relocate my office. Trying to keep all of these balls in the air and still be competitive in fishing tournaments has been no small task.
Normally, I plan, plot, tie, retie and study prior to a fishing tournament. I’ve always been very big on preparation. However, over the last month or so, fishing has been on the back-burner. OK, enough with the excuses for not updating my blog more regularly. I just wanted to my four fans, (you know who you are), to know that I haven’t been just sitting around pouting about not winning tournaments.
The last week in July I fished a Weekend Series event on Lake Barkley. I’ve spent many, many hot summer days on Lake Barkley. In fact, Barkley is where I first learned to ledge fish. A friend of mine named Mickey Noel introduced me to ledge fishing on Barkley and I’ve never been the same since. I don’t know whether to thank Mickey, or to smack him next time I see him.
The past few years, Barkley’s sister, Kentucky Lake, has absolutely been on fire, so I haven’t spent much time on the smaller lake recently. Due to my work schedule, I could only manage one practice day. Trying to practice Kentucky Lake and Barkley in one day is like trying to ride all the rides at Disney World in a half day, it’s just not doable. Rumor was that the fish were really schooled and biting on Kentucky Lake, so I decided to practice on Kentucky.
I launched at daylight and started looking for schools. I’ve reached the point where I don’t fish until I see them on my Humminbird, and it took an hour or two to find a school. Unfortunately, they were 2-2.5 pounders. I idled around for another hour and found another school… same size. By 12:00PM, I’d located 5 schools of fish, but had only caught about 12-13 pounds. I wrestled with what to do. I certainly didn’t want to burn 50 gallons of gas running to KY Lake to catch 13 pounds, so I decided to trailer to Barkley and spend the rest of the afternoon.
I put in on Barkley around 1:00PM, so I had about 5 hours to figure out 40 miles of lake. No problem (please note the sarcasm in my typing). I hit a few familiar old ledges without a bite. Then I stopped on a main river ledge and picked up a crankbait. I immediately started catching fish. Everywhere I stopped on the main river, I caught them. Again, I was plagued with little ones. Many were keepers, but none over three pounds. By 2:30, I knew I could catch 12 pounds or so cranking the main river, so I headed off in search of better fish. It took a while, but around 5 PM, I pulled into an area and caught a 3 and a 4.5, then found a school with some 2.5-3 pounders. That did it for me; I’d spend most of my day in this spot and perhaps back it up with the river channel fish.
If you’ve ever been to Tennessee or Kentucky in late July, you know what it feels like. The air temperature is 97 and the humidity is 197%. Saturday was hot, humid and still. At blast off, I headed up the lake to the area I had found the previous afternoon. I started on the schooling spot, but the fish weren’t there. I caught one small keeper. I made a quick move to a long creek channel ledge. In the next 45 minutes, I boated three more small keepers. As I was working on my limit fish, I tossed my football jig to the top of the ledge and worked it back slowly. A bass hit it so hard that it knocked slack in my line. I reeled up, set the hook, and missed it. Disgusted, I fired back at the same spot and had another hit, I set the hook on what I expected to be a big one, but it turned out to be just another keeper. About two casts later, as the jig fell off the ledge, I felt it load up and start moving. I set the hook, only this time it didn’t move. “This IS a big one!” I shouted to my co-angler. I caught a glimpse of her and it looked like a four pounder. The fish surged under the boat and pulled drag. When she came back out, she tried to jump and my co-angler slid the net under her. The fish was much bigger than I first thought. I didn’t think it was 6 pounds, but definitely over five. I looked at my watch, 7:30 AM. I had all day to get three or four more bites like that one and I could win this thing.
Within a few minutes, I had fish grab my jig on the end of my cast. It wasn’t big, but did cull. The next cast, another, the next cast another. I picked up my crankbait and got the school firing. It was happening every cast as fast as I could get one in the boat, cull a smaller one, and make another cast. The fish weren’t big, but they were a better class of fish than the ones I had. I just hoped that there would be a big one lost in the middle of them. I picked the jig back up and it loaded up as soon as it hit the bottom. I set the hook and immediately knew that this one was different. The fish started taking drag immediately. I knew it was another big one; in fact, this one was pulling harder than the five pounder I had just caught. My mind was racing. “If I could boat this one, I’d be at 17 pounds at 8:00AM.” The fish pulled and pulled. It started to come up and jump, but I kept the rod tip deep so she couldn’t. I still hadn’t seen the fish when it surged under the boat pulling more drag. The bass flashed out from under the boat and into the net. My shoulders slumped. It was a 2.5 pounder hooked in the back. It must have been spitting out the jig just as I set the hook. I felt so deflated. I had already done the math and counted that one as a five pounder.
I caught fish all day long. It was actually a pretty relaxed day. I didn’t run far. I had a limit in the first hour and culled all day long. Unfortunately, I never got another big bite. My limit weighed 16.28 pounds and I finished the day in third place. It was good for a nice check and I claimed the points lead in the Kentucky Division.
I really enjoyed getting back on Lake Barkley. It’s a beautiful place with lots of bass and it’s where I first got really fired up about bass fishing. I’ve got a couple more tournaments coming up in August. I’ll try to keep everyone updated.
Until next time, keep chunkin’ and windin’.
Boat US ANGLER ProStaff
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