Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Fishing Out Loud: The End

After 4.5 years of Fishing Out Loud, I have decided to bring the blog to an end. I have had a great time with the blog itself and I hope you have as well.

As I read back over my posts from the last 4+ years I can see how much I have grown as a fisherman. It is comical to look back at my early posts and see how much I used to think I knew about fishing. Five years from now, I will probably look back on my 2014 posts and say the same thing.

As much as I would love to keep the blog going, it has become a hassle in more ways than one. I will be going back to school for my MBA at RPI in August and I just won't have the time to devote to it.

Based on a lot of the comments that I get, I believe people assume that I get paid to write this blog. I don't. I just did it for fun and to share some of my fishing insights and experiences with you.

Quite honestly, I am a very simple person. I like to go to work, spend time with my family, and fish whenever I get the opportunity. I will also admit that I am extremely sensitive. I know I can't please everyone but when people criticize my posts, it generally bothers me and I really don't want to deal with it any more.

I hope over the last four years or so that any of my regular readers were able to pick up a small tip or two that helped them. At the very least, I hope it provided some light entertainment value. I know it was a great experience for me and gave me a venue to vent my frustrations as well as share in my joys of fishing. Five years ago, I never would have guessed that I would have Elite Series anglers contacting me for advice because they read my blog.

I will leave the blog up for a month or so if anyone wants to dig through my old information they can. Then, I will delete it for good. Anyone who wishes to remain in touch can e-mail me at scwilkes22@gmail.com or contact me through Facebook.

Sincerely,
Sean

Monday, July 14, 2014

Oneida Lake 7/12-7/13

Oneida Lake was not kind to my fishing partner and I this weekend and one of my three goals of 2014 is now unattainable. That goal was to qualify for the Northeast Team Bass Tournament of Champions while only fishing 4 of their 5 tournaments.

This was an extremely difficult tournament weekend for a variety of weekends. We had 0 practice and I haven't been on Oneida Lake in 2 years. I have only been on Oneida 3 times prior to this weekend and one of those times I can't really count because my power trim broke on my boat two hours into my day. I knew we had to have some luck on our side to do well and we had the opposite of that.

Going into the tournament I did loads of research to make up for my lack of practice time. I literally read every blog post from the last time the Elites visited. I watched the last two Elite Series shows from Oneida. I picked apart almost every Oneida report ever written.

After doing as much research as possible, I determined that smallmouth were the way to go for us. I knew I didn't want to waste time trying to find spots within spots during a tournament. I needed large areas that held decent fish. I also drew on my very limited past experience on Oneida to choose our areas.

I was really looking forward to these tournaments because I love fishing for smallmouth, especially when they school up. I was really hoping to get on a big school of smallmouth chasing bait on the surface but in two days, we didn't come across that. We would see a fish bust here or there, but nothing consistent.

On day one, I pulled into a shallow bay with grass that is fed by a creek. Within 5 minutes I had my first smallie in the boat on a popper (a 3lb class fish). Three hours later, and that was still the only fish in the livewell. We made an adjustment and fished an offshore up and boated two quick ones. One was a runt and the other a decent smallmouth, a 2 lb fish. Both fish came on tubes.

We went fishless for another 2 hours before moving to a spot I had had some success on the last time I fished Oneida. Throwing a tube jig, my partner boated a nice 3 lb smallie. Two minutes later, I boat a good 3lb + largemouth and we filled out our limit. We would boat one more fish that would barely cull our runt and we now had 2 hours to cull it and have a decent finish. We spent another hour on this spot without a bass bite. This spot had low lying scattered grass in 10-11 feet of water.

We just couldn't buy a bite the rest of the day. Our inexperience on Oneida finally caught up with us and we only weighed in 13.69 lbs of bass. The winner had 17.99 leaving us with 76 points for the tourney which was more than enough to keep us afloat in the standings.

Going into the 2nd tourney on Sunday, I really thought we could blow away that 13.69 we had on Day 1. I felt that even though we weren't getting a lot of bites, almost every bite in our prime areas were solid 3+ lb fish. I really felt like we only needed 5 bites and we could cash a check.

Day 2 was the worst tournament day I have ever had minus the first tournament of my career when my boat broke down. I could sit here and make excuses but that won't do you any good at all. I really felt terrible for my partner as he had to watch me lose a 4+ lb largemouth, a hammer smallmouth close to 4lbs, a 3lb largemouth, and two other 2-2.5 lb smallmouth. I also lost some smaller fish along the way. It was brutal; especially because every drum, walleye, and pickerel I hooked up with managed to find their way into the boat.

My partner carried us by boating three 3 lb largemouth. I was able to catch two dinks to fill out our limit and we ended up finishing with 12.35 lbs. The winning weight was ~21.5 lbs.

As brutal as this weekend was, I am very optimistic going into the Federation tournament at Cayuga Lake this weekend. I am glad to get a day like yesterday out of the way when it really doesn't matter all that much.

I will be practicing Thurday, Friday, and Saturday for the tournament on Sunday. As usual, I will leave no stone unturned and control every controllable that I can. I just need to put the fish into the boat once I hook them.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Lake George/Lake Champlain 7/5-7/6

Happy Belated 4th of July Everyone. I hope everybody stayed safe and appreciated their independence. I know I did. My girlfriend and I took a trip up to Ticonderoga for the weekend to do a little boating on Lake George and I was able to sneak in a little fishing.

Let's start with the Lake George boat inspections at Mossy Point. I know this has been a hot button topic for a lot of bass anglers. I was a little nervous pulling into the ramp but I had zero troubles launching my boat.

The inspectors did do a very thorough job of inspecting the boat for invasive species (even checking my livewells and crawling underneath my trailer). They asked me for my lake pass, complimented me on my clean boat and I was on my way. The whole process took no longer than 5 minutes and I was able to launch my boat on Lake George for under $10 on a holiday weekend.

My day started off helping two young gentleman in a bow rider who had broken down. I am always scared to tow with my boat so I stayed with them until another boat came along to tow them in. I tried diagnosing their issue but I am no mechanic so I wasn't able to assist. I am glad they made it back to shore safely.

Saturday was very a very blustery day on the Queen of American Lakes. A strong NW wind blew down the lake at a constant 15-20 MPH. The wind would shift to the West as the day progressed. With the water temps being 73 degrees in the northern end of the lake, I decided to begin my search off shore. I fished an off shore hump that I had located last year and didn't see any sign of life on my electronics.

I then strolled down towards Hague and fished the large hump in the bay. I didn't spend too much time here and it was difficult to maneuver around the hump as there were fisherman trolling every which direction. We have friends that live in Hague we we paid them a visit. Two of them wanted to come for a short boat ride/do some fishing so I took them out for an hour.

I figured I would try to find some structure closer to a spawning bay since my first two off shore ventures didn't pan out at all. I assumed the smallmouth were still transitioning out of the shallows.

Within 2 minutes I boated a decent smallmouth but this area was right into the teeth of the wind. My companions were more interested in drinking than seriously fishing anyway so I took them for a spin and headed back to their camp to pick up my girlfriend.

We boated down to the southern end of the lake to one of my friend's camp. We spent a few hours here before heading over to the Algonquin for dinner. Finally, we headed back up the lake as the sun was beginning to set. I hit a few more off shore humps but the only one that produced anything was again near a large flat and was shallower (20') at the peak than the rest. It also was loaded with bait.

After taking my girlfriend boating and sight-seeing all day on Saturday, she felt obliged to let me fish Champlain on Sunday instead of heading back to George.

I really wanted to get a good grass bite going. I have the Bassmaster Open coming up at the end of July and one thing I have always struggled with in Ticonderoga is fishing grass. I have had great days fishing the grass there and I have had awful days fishing the grass. I need to know why. Why do I have days when I can catch 22 lbs and why do I have days when I only catch 11 lbs?

The water temperatures were in the mid 70's on lower Champlain yesterday. The wind was steady out of the south. The water color was certainly more stained than usual but the grass beds were well protected any many had good clear water. The way I usually fish Champlain is I blow through grass beds in practice and try to find the one that is most productive. If I don't get bit right away, I move on.

Yesterday, I tried to spend at least 2 hours in each grass bed I fished. I wanted to try and pinpoint fish and understand where they located themselves during a south wind with stained water. It is very difficult to do that when you only boat five fish, none of which were over 2 lbs. I caught 3 on frogs and 2 flipping a Texas-Rigger Beaver. To make matters worse, 2 of them came from the very edge of a grass bed, 2 came from directly under a thick mat, and one out of the middle of a grass bed that wasn't matted thickly. How is that for a pattern?

Very rarely do I have a day on the water where I feel like I couldn't get anything going. Yesterday was just one of those days and I am glad I wasn't fishing a tournament. I really struggle at slowing down sometimes. It's just one area of my game I need to improve going forward. However, I am very glad I was able to experiment a bit going into a busy stretch of tournaments.

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Saratoga Lake 6/30/14

I decided to take advantage of the warm weather last night and took the girlfriend out on the boat after work for three hours. We had dinner on the boat and did a little swimming but I couldn't not take a few casts.

It is difficult to develop a pattern in less than two hours but I was able to put a few fish in the boat. The water temperature was 78 degrees and I was pleasantly surprised to see some decent weed growth on the lake.

All of my fish came on jig on the fall. Most were Saratoga cookie cutters but I did get one fish a little better than 2 lbs. Normally this time of the year I can drop shot the edge of the deep weeds and put fish after fish into the boat. It just wasn't happening for whatever reason. All of my fish came from the heart of the grass (albeit deeper grass) on a jig. I threw some faster falling baits such a Texas-Rigged Chigger Craw and couldn't get a sniff. The slow fall of the half ounce jig was automatic.

I am hoping I can take advantage of these long days again this week. If these storms hold off I'd like to get out again after work.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Looking Forward

The NYBCF Standings were posted today and I find myself in 17th place. I would have liked a stronger finish on Champlain but the fact of the matter is: I didn't put myself out of contention going into Cayuga.

I'd like to talk about that tournament a bit, partially because Mohawk Angler practically begged me to. Like I had mentioned in my 2014 goals, I wanted to have a year of consistency. To me, this meant eliminating as many negative uncontrollables as possible. This also meant eliminating the thought of running to Ticonderoga to fish for largemouth.

I have just had too much inconsistency in the past fishing for largemouth down there. There are days down there where I can do no wrong and there are days when I can do no right. Add in the long run and potential wind and I just didn't want to take the chance when I knew I could catch smallmouth up north.

I had three days of practice. On my first day of practice I fished in Missisquoui Bay for largemouth. I caught 2 fish over 4 lbs but I didn't feel that the pattern I was on was a sure thing. I felt like I could run up there in the tournament and catch 20 or catch 12.

I spent the next day in search of smallmouth. For the most part the lake was in a post spawn stage. I found a few areas where I was pretty much guaranteed to catch 12-13 lbs and do so without risking a lot of boat driving.

I expanded on this pattern on Sunday and began locating bigger fish. I thought at the very minimum, I would catch 15 lbs and had a very good shot at 17 + lbs. I was fishing a Lucky Craft Pointer in the morning for active fish and a Bass Pro Shops Tender Tube in the afternoon. Yes, I had some fish on beds as well.

If I didn't find what I was looking for on Saturday, I very well may have made the decision to run to Ticonderoga despite not practicing down there. However, I thought the smallies were the safest route I could take. I took it and caught 15.29 lbs. I am in a decent position now to make the state team. I need two more consistent finishes.

Here is a pic of my co-anger and myself after weighing in. Scott (my co-angler) caught just under 15 lbs and was able to cash a check. I am always happy to see my co-angler fare well. Scott and I had a great time on the water together.

My next tournament is actually two tournaments. They are Northeast Team Bass Tournaments on Oneida Lake (July 12th and 13th). My partner and I will have 0 practice going into that event. I have only fished Oneida a handful of times so that tournament will really be a challenge for us.

I estimate we will need about 15 lbs each day to stay competitive in the point standings. What this means to me is that I will likely target smallmouth. In my only real tournament on Oneida I found an area that had a bounty of smallmouth and largemouth. This tournament will be taking place at nearly the same time of the year as the last one so I am just going to start the tournament there and pray for the fish to be around.

This weekend I will be attending another wedding. I am hoping I will be able to squeeze some fishing in as well. Thanks for reading.

Monday, June 23, 2014

Lake Champlain 6/22

Well, I got my first NY Bass Federation Tournament under my belt. It didn't go as well as I wanted it to but I managed to escape with valuable points towards making the state team (my top goal of 2014). At the moment, I'm not exactly sure where in the standings I finished but I weighed in over 15 lbs of smallmouth. I could be wrong but I believe this puts me inside the top 20.

I was disapointed for a few reasons. Normally, I tear up Lake Champlain and the way my practice went, I thought I was on the fish to do so again. I thought minimally, I would catch 15 lbs on tournament day so to come back with the minimum is a big downer.

I don't want to get into too much detail on my gameplan and what happened on the water because I'd like to keep that particular information close to the vest.

The other piece that was frustrating is that I got whooped by a lot of talented anglers. Normally, that is something you can hang your hat on but that means I have an uphill battle to fight to make the state team.

Also, only 80 boats fished the opener. The smaller the fields, the better finishes you need. By my estimation, I will need two top 10's to close out the season to fish with the state team as a boater. I will likely need two top 20's to earn a spot on the state team.

As badly as I wanted to win that tournament, I didn't blow my chances at making the state team which is what is most important to me. The other piece is that I will be fishing more relaxed the rest of the year. I feel strongly that Champlain is my lake so I put a lot of pressure on myself to win there. The rest of the year I am fishing on other bodies of water. I'm like the 2007 New York Giants, better on the road than at home.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Here we go....

Let the tournament season begin. This upcoming Sunday I will fishing my first NYBCF tournament of the year. I am very anxious to fish the tournament after a disappointing Federation Season last year.

I got a good look at the lake this past weekend while competing in the Northeast Team Bass Opening Tournament on Champlain. My partner and I didn't fare as well as we had hoped but it was a very valuable tournament for me for a few reasons.

First, I got to see the lake. I haven't been on Champlain since April so I was intrigued to see what shape the lake was in.

Second, and most important, I was able to shake a lot of the rust off. Last year, I fished the Fed Opener after going nine months without a tournament. I felt rusty in that tournament and my mind wasn't clicking like it should. I felt that same way on Champlain yesterday.

We weighed in 12.29 lbs yesterday (5 fish limit). We weighed in 3 quality tournament fish and two dinks. The inability to cull those last two fish was really frustrating. We dropped a 4 pounder boat-side but that is going to happen from time to time. That isn't an excuse but it would have brought our limit closer to 15 lbs.

We were obviously disappointed with our bag but we fished hard all day and made the most of our limited practice time. We still salvaged some AOY points and we didn't eliminate ourselves from qualifying for the Tournament of Champions at the end of the year.

As disappointed as I was in our finish, I still have to keep things in perspective and it was a very productive day. Hopefully, it laid the foundation for a solid finish this upcoming weekend.