Monday, October 22, 2012

Low Water, High Winds, and Short Fish

Saturday morning Evan and I headed off to Smith Mountain Lake to do a little prefishing for the Virginia Tech Bass Fishing Team tournament we had on Sunday.  On Saturday we ran all around the lake getting tossed around by high winds, but were not able to find bait nor fish.  We threw everything but the kitchen sink at them; we threw swimbaits, A-rig, jig, Texas rigs, drop-shot, and just about everything else in our tackle boxes.  Despite our best efforts though we only landed two shorts, and a couple green sunfish.
 When Sunday morning rolled around, we were the first team to launch.  We immediately headed far up the Blackwater arm.  The day prior we talked with some guys at the ramp who told us that the bait was in a cove passed the 4-H area, and that was our end destination.  After a 20minute run we reached the cove, and immediately saw striper fisherman in there and got excited.  I started off with topwater, but only managed a couple short strikes, probably from sunfish.
We continued to work the cove, and found bait stacked up in spots.  However, the bait was not holding fish.  Instead, we started catching fish off docks on drop-shot in <10FOW.  My first fish was 13.9in-14in depending on how you measured it, but we were too worried it wouldn't be long enough if placed on the board at weigh in so I tossed it back.
The morning quickly gave way to the afternoon, and we only had short fish to show for it.  We caught around a dozen fish 12-13.9in (a Claytor Lake limit!).  The afternoon went faster than the morning did, and soon it was time to head back to the launch for weigh-in.
I was relieved to hear that we were not the only team to struggle on the lake, not one of our teams caught a limit.  The winning weight for our tournament was less than 7lbs with 4fish and the Weekend Series Championship was ~12lbs/day.  Both pros and joes alike struggled to find the fish out on a low Smith Mountain Lake.
There were many tournaments over the course of the weekend, and I would like to blame the lack of fish both days on that.  However, I think the root cause of no keepers was the lake being down close to five feet from normal pool.  All the spots we would usually fish were high and dry, boats were on lifts that hovered over dry land, and floating docks in inches of water!  It was a tough two days of fishing, but we enjoyed ourselves nonetheless.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Check Another One Off The List!

Friday morning I was granted a morning of fishing; I had no classes, and I wasn't scheduled to work until later on in the day.  With a couple hours of fishing guaranteed, I retrieved my kayak from my girlfriend's property and slipped over to Whitethorne to chase some bronzebacks and try for a musky from the yak.
After I launched I immediately started paddling upriver towards Toms Creek.  On my way up I saw a monster smallmouth sitting on a weedline 100ft downstream from where the creek entered the river.  I tried numerous times with a green pumpkin grub, but couldn't even get a look from him, so I kept moving up river.
My next encounter was one I have been hoping for, for many months, a musky.  I switched rods and grabbed my rod rigged up with a Jake in "Walleye," but I was unable to make this big girl turn.  I tossed about fifty times before I decided it wasn't my day and kept making my way upstream.
Once I approached the chain of islands approximately .75miles from the launch I encountered some difficulty.  The current rips around the tips of the island and makes paddling upstream a hard task.  I hugged the shoreline and used anything breaking the current to my advantage, and after what seemed like an eternity of paddling I reached my fishing grounds for the day.
One of my favorite holes to fish on the New River is about 2miles upstream from Whitethorne.  There is a pretty quick drop in depth from 3-5ft to 8-12ft.  It's a perfect spot for smallmouth who tuck themselves underneath the many ledges.  However, once I anchored up the wind started gusting upstream and made it very hard to work my grub across the bottom.  After my second snag I decided to "unanchor" and fight the current.  I would cast out, fight the wind, and retrieve my grub.  It was getting aggravating, and I was getting ready to head back to the Toms Creek area when it finally happened.
Any of my close friends could tell you that I have had a goal for close to a year now to catch a musky from the kayak.  I have come close many times with follows and close encounters, but never had hooked into one of the "powerhouses" of the New River.  Today, my goal would be achieved...
I tossed my grub towards the dropoff and fought to reposition myself to retrieve it; once in "good" position I started to reel in the slack from the wind, and felt weight on my line.  However, it wasn't weight like a normal bass would have; instead, it felt like a snag.  I reeled the line tight and felt thumps; it was then I knew I had a fish.  For the first minute or two it didn't make any runs just eased along down the river.  I thought I hooked into a hawg, but once I saw the unmistakable silhouette of a musky underwater my heart started thumping!
I was using a light action rod with 8lb Flurocarbon and NO steel leader!  For close to ten minutes I fought the fish towards the shoreline.  It made several runs, and even went aerial in the middle of the river and again in the shallows when I was trying to land it.  After several botched landing attempts, I finally got my first kayak musky ever!  I was ecstatic, and took a couple pictures before reviving the fish for another day.
After checking that off my list, I began paddling back against winds that were close to sustained 10mph; the current was less powerful than the wind was on the return paddle.  I reached the ramp worn out, thirsty, and hungry, but I wouldn't have had it play out any other way! 
~37in New River Musky

Ugly Stick Rod for Short River Trips

Powerteam Lures Watermelon Grub on a 1/4oz Head

Wind Before Heading Downstream (To the Right)
Do they make bigger hawg troughs?!?!?