Lightning and Fishing

I admit it, I am scared to death of lightening. When I was about eight years old some friends and I were “camping out” on the screened in back porch of my house. A bad thunderstorm hit in the middle of the night and I just knew I would be hit by a bolt of electricity. Since that night I get nervous when I hear thunder, even if far away.

Over the years I have had many bad experiences with thunderstorms while I was fishing. Once summer while fishing way up the river at Bartletts Ferry a powerful storm suddenly popped over the surrounding hills. The rain was torrential and lightening started cracking all around us.

There was little cover so I pulled the boat into a small creek where the overhanging trees should give me some protection. I sat there in the boat, using the trolling motor to keep the wind from blowing me back out in open water. After a few minutes I realized the boat was not being affected by the wind. The heavy rain had put so much water in the boat it was sitting on the bottom.

That storm lasted over two hours. When it finally stopped it took a long time for the bilge pump to get enough water out of the boat to make it float again.

One August I was at Jackson Lake practicing for a night tournament. The afternoon had been very hot and muggy, with thick clouds overhead but no thunder, rain or wind. Just as it got dark I was fishing beside the dam when suddenly wind started gusting over the dam and a crack of lightening direct overhead was the first sign of a storm.

Back then there was no barrel line at the dam so I pulled my boat up against the solid concrete wall. There was a metal rail on top of the dam, about 20 feet over my head, so I felt I had a lightening rod protecting me.

For over an hour I sat in the drivers seat of the boat with my head on my arms. The lightening flashes were so bright I could see the light even though my eyes were tightly shut and my arms covered them. My dog Merlin got under the console of the boat hiding from the downpour and loud cracks of lightening.

Those experiences and others make me now head for some kind of cover if the thunder is anywhere near me. And I have an app on my phone that shows weather radar, giving me a good idea how close the storm is to me.

Last Sunday at a tournament at Oconee thunder made me head for cover. I left a place in open water where I had just seen on my depth finder a brush pile covered with fish. I would not stop and fish it, it was way too far from cover.

In the Flint River Bass Club tournament last Sunday at Oconee, 13 members and guests fished our September tournament from 6:00 AM to 3:00 PM. We brought in 16 bass over the 14 inch size limit weighing about 29 pounds. There were no limits and six people didn’t have a keeper after nine hours of casting.

Niles Murray won with four bass weighing 7.66 pounds, Chuck Croft was second with three at 6.08 pounds and his 3.38 pounder was big fish, Mindy Burns had three weighing 5.19 for third and my three weighing 4.62 gave me fourth place.

I knew fishing would be tough, but not that tough. I started fishing a spinner bait on seawalls, usually a good pattern before it gets very light this time of year, and caught a three pound channel cat at about 6:15. It gave me a good fight but it was not what I was hoping for.

At 6:30 I switched to a crankbait and caught a keeper bass off a seawall. That fired me up but after almost an hour of trying the crankbait, spinner bait, buzz bait and Pop-R I had not gotten another bite. Then I got an explosive hit on the Pop-R right on the seawall. The fish fought like a big one but it was another 15 inch largemouth. Two in the live well at 7:30.

From then to noon I tried everything I could think to fish. I kept throwing the topowater baits until the sun got on the water but never got another bite. Crankbaits and spinner baits didn’t work either, and the only hit I got on worms was a ten inch bass by a dock.

At noon thunder started rumbling off in the distance so I got nervous and kept looking at the clouds. At 1:00 I was fishing a point and the thunder was getting closer, so I decided to head near the ramp so I could get to the van quickly. As I left the point I saw a GPS waypoint way off the bank on the point and rode over it. That is when I saw the brush with fish on it but I would not stay out there and fish in the open water.

At 2:00 the thunder was still distant so I went back to the brush pile I had seen and quickly caught my biggest keeper at 2:15. Although I fished the brush until I had to go in that was it for me.