Monday, July 11, 2016

Addicted to Crank


I had the itch, the craving, the shakes.  After taking a short hiatus from fishing after my week-long fishing adventure, I was itching to hit the water again and needed a fix.  The short hiatus weakened my muscle-memorized process of loading my kayak and gear.  So I took extra time the night before to ensure I didn't forget any critical gear.  Luckily, I noticed my Kayak Bass Fishing regional tournament identifier was still for June.  In this "phwew" moment, I printed a fresh July identifier and slipped it into my TourneyTag.  I was ready for an early rise.

My alarm woke me while it was still dark outside.  I roll out of bed, get my stuff together, and jump in the car.  I head to a local gas station to get the lunch of champions (Lunchable Pizza and pre-packaged Italian sandwich).  Upon exiting the building, I realized a fatal flaw in my planning activities.  In my excitement to hit the water, I hadn't checked the local weather report in 3 days.  It was raining.

I'm not a fairweather fisherman, I've caught some of my biggest fish in a deluge.  But there is a fine line between passionate and crazy.  As I look at the radar showing dangerous storms approaching, my passionate side thought about going for it.  My logical side seen lightning on the horizon and decided to head home (temporarily).

I come home and take a brief nap and spend some time with the family.  The weather begins to clear.  My next debacle is to decide which water to fish.  I am participating in the upcoming Mountain State Kayak Anglers benefit tournament.  I'd like to prefish the Mississippi.  To keep up with the southern bassers, the Mississippi is a must (and I wouldn't mind one of the Kayak Bass Fishing National Championship spots up for grabs).  After consulting with my more logical half (wife), I decide to give my home water a go.  The weather report shows additional storms headed our way.

Given the poor weather, I'm the only one on the lake.  The recent storms and rains over the last week have left the water looking like chocolate milk with crushed mint swirling in it.  Given the calm conditions, I try working the dam before the wind picks up.  I try some flashy lures including senkos, topwater, spinners, the usual arsenal with no success.  The wind picks up and I make the short journey into the wind to the opposite side of the lake.  Frogs being my favorite, go-to, lure, I search for the weed mat on the horizon as I approach the ledges where they usually reside.

Upon arrival a wave (pun intended) of complete disappointment washes over me.  I go into shock.  The weed mats are washed deep into the shallow bays.  This time of year, bass are rare in those areas.  They hold on the ledges foraging on the bait fish hiding in the adjoining, now non-existent, weed mats.  The water is too choppy to attempt a frog or topwater.  In my state of shock, I place my frog rod back in my kayak's rod holder.  I may have cried, I don't recall.

Snapping out of it, I take a moment to think about the situation.  My home water, historically a fishery producing tank bass, has been terrible since the re-freeze during the spawn.  That coupled with additional pressure and the fish patterns from the last few years are gone.  I've spent countless hours on this water learning every structure, ledge, depth, and fish patterns.  I decide this is the problem.  I knew the water so well, I expected amazing results based on the previous 2 years of patterns.  When these no longer work, I quickly frustrate.  I come to the realization I need to treat this like new water.

My moment of enlightenment is followed by a stare-down with my tackle trays.  I have a good selection of tackle.  Surely I can come up with something new.  I force myself to put my go-to trays away (spinners and topwater) and look at what remains.  I have had good luck with hard swimbaits in the past, but I also use these often.  Next to my swimbaits, two lures catch my eye.  Since I'm attempting to think like a fish, I hope they will do the same for a nice bucketmouth.  I grab my crankbaits.

Forgive me fish Gods for I have sinned, I only own two crankbaits.  I have always wanted to try cranking but I'm addicted to frogs....so they have always waited patiently in my swimbait/jerkbait tray.  Recent videos on cranking by Fishing with Phil further peaked my interest in cranking.  My backup baitcaster is spooled with the recommended 12-pound mono and nothing else is working.  A perfect opportunity to really try cranking for the first time.

A simple execution of "Eeny, meeny, miny, moe" decides on the silver and purple flicker shad.  I glance at my frog sitting idle on my frog rod in my rod holder.  It is glaring at me, fully aware I'm cheating on it.  I ignore him, set my reel's brake, and give it a toss.

Cranking for the first time was like the first time I ate sushi.  At first I frowned at the idea.  Then when I decided to try it, my face frowned with doubt.  As I am reeling, I start to nod my head and smile slightly with approval.  I could get used to this.

I force myself to slow the retrieve.  My backup rod is a 6'6" medium action with a 7.1:1 ratio, not the ideal cranking rod but it'll do.  I allow the wind gusts to push me through the reservoir's channel, near the ledges where my frog and I used to enjoy majestic topwater blowups.  Keeping my eye on my Garmin Striker, I am watching for two things, fish and speed.  The wind is blowing me a reasonable .6 MPH and I notice an increase in baitfish at about 9 feet.  Shortly after, larger fish appear.  Though excited, I force myself to keep the retrieve slow.

As I drift through this plume of fish, I feel several hits.  Still not entirely convinced cranking is for me, I assume them weeds.  The next cast, I get a large snag that begins to move.  Fish on!  I had a devious smile spread across my face like The Grinch.  I've been bit by the cranking bug.  I quickly reduce my smile because my frog is still watching and I need to concentrate on landing this fish.

I land the fish.  It is only 15.00", but a fat one.  This body of water typically produces fish in the 16" - 18" range, but they are deceiving.  They are the primary predator in this water and have an impressive weight to them.

I continue working the ledges and flats but the clouds are breaking and the wind gains momentum.  Whitecaps slap against my kayak.  The bite has turned off.  Satisfied with this start to cranking, I decide I must make the land, load, drive, unload, launch journey at my upcoming tournament water.  Time to hit the Mighty Mississip'.

To be continued....

Check out Fishing with Phil here on YouTube.  He shares some great tips and advice for fishing - love his videos! https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCO2Fc5Aosfj-Xb3m5kXS-Gg


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