Last weekend the Potato Creek Bassmasters fished our Club Classic, this year at Lake Weiss. Club members must qualify for this annual tournament by finishing in the top eight in the club points standings the year before or fishing at least eight of the 12 tournaments the past year.
In 17 hours of casting Saturday and Sunday, 14 members landed 83 bass weighing about 159 pounds. Two fishermen weighed in limits both days and everyone caught at least three keepers. The weather was so bad some went home after fishing Saturday and others left early Sunday, before weigh-in.
I got lucky and won with ten at 24.72 pounds and had a 6.30 pound largemouth for big fish. Raymond English had nine at 21.93 pounds for second, Lee Hancock placed third with ten 20.51 for third and Ryan Edge had nine weighing 14.76 pounds for fourth. Frank Anderson rounded out the top five with eight bass weighing 14.42 pounds.
I did not get top practice before the tournament but had a plan in my mind. It did not change even when I saw the water was clearer and lower than expected. The lake flooded a few weeks ago but had dropped almost nine feet since then.
At blast off I ran to a bridge where I have had good luck in the past. As seems to be a pattern lately, two more club members headed to the same place. I fished it for almost an hour with a variety of baits without a bite.
At 8:00 I was fishing a line of docks leading into a spawning pocket. Docks were in terrible shape from the flood, with most torn up and some with boats hanging at weird angles from lifts under the docks.
By now the lake was getting busy, with boats running around and fishing. Another pattern this time of year happened then. A bass boat with two fishermen ran in, stopped two docks ahead of me and started fishing. There is no courtesy on the water any longer. But as they stopped, I caught a two-pound bass on a shaky head worm under the dock I was fishing.
I fished some more docks for about an hour without a bite. I guess I should thank the slobs that pulled in front of me because it made me try something different. I went way up a creek where the water was stained a little more and there were few boats fishing.
At 10:00 I was on a rocky bank where I have had good luck and caught three good keeper bass in the next hour, all on shaky heads. After trying a place further up the creek with no bites, I came back to that bank and caught my fifth keeper at 1:00.
I decided with a limit I would leave that place alone for tomorrow and try to find something else. I caught two more keepers but found no pattern.
Sunday morning, I ran straight to the good bank, but the wind had changed direction 180 degrees. It was hard to fish a shaky head in the wind, so I cast a spinnerbait for an hour without a bite. At 8:00 I tried the shaky head. Every cast the wind would blow my line in a bow, making it almost impossible to detect a bite.
As I was afraid, on one cast I realized my line was moving against the wind and set the hook. With all the slack line I did not get a good hookset. A three-pounder jumped and threw the hook. I was disgusted, I knew I was in third place from Saturday, six pounds behind Raymond and two pounds behind Lee. I needed to land every fish that bit!
A few casts later my line again bowed oddly. I tried to take up some slack without spooking the fish, then set the hook. My rod bowed and I knew it was big. But last year on this same bank in a tournament, my partner Chris Davies, had caught a big drum here and I figured this was another one.
When it got closer to the boat, about the time I could see it was a big bass, I also saw it was barely hooked. I managed to miss it three times with the net, about having a heart attack just knowing it would pull off each time. But I netted it on the fourth try and put it in the live well when I stopped shaking. It was the six pounder that gave me big fish and went a long way catching up.
A little later I lost another three-pound bass that jumped and threw the bait. A couple of casts later I was more careful and landed may second keeper, just under two pounds.
As I started down the bank again Raymond and his partner Tom rode by and started fishing several hundred yards from me. Although they started fishing toward me it did not bother me since I was fishing a short section of bank. When they got near me, they stopped casting and went around me, being courteous and giving me plenty of room.
Raymond said Tom had caught three off that bank the afternoon before. So much for leaving them alone for the next day! He had also just caught three on a spinnerbait down the bank, an area I had tried that earlier without a bite. I figured even with the six pounder there was no way I would catch him.
After a couple more trips up and down that bank I landed two more keepers on one pass, giving me four. Although I stayed there another two hours, until one hour before weigh-in, I got no more bites.
I had a pro moment that morning. I kept thinking about a small rocky point at the mouth of a nearby spawning cove. Although I had never caught a bass there it sets up just right for this time of year, and it was somewhat protected from the wind.
I pulled up on it and landed my fifth keeper on my first cast. Sometimes hunches pay off!
The wind was cold and I had a limit, so I did something unusual for me. I quit fishing an hour early, ran to the dock at the weigh-in sight, tied up and drank coffee until the rest of the guys came in.
Although my plan got changed, it worked out ok.