This past Saturday marked my second tournament of the year and my second trip to the NCKFA spring bass fishing tournament to benefit Heroes on the Water. Last year, I had a tough day on Lake Mackintosh, but managed to land a 16.5" fish that put me in 5th place. This year, as I mentioned in my last post, I decided to head to Randleman Regional Reservoir. Randleman is a unique lake that was re-opened just 2+ years ago. They only allow a certain number of boats on the water, so people come out and get in line early. On the weekend the lake opened this year, boats started lining up on Friday afternoon and waited to be let in at 7 AM on Saturday. Thankfully, it was less crazy last weekend.
I got there around 5:45 AM and was boat number 9. There were probably another 25 boats behind me by the time the gates opened at 7 AM and many more came in after that. Randleman also has a non-motor area where quite a few other kayakers headed, but that group included the Heroes on the Water guys and I did not want to intrude on their water.
Fellow RippinLip Outdoors staffer Bill Kohls told me about a couple areas that were typically bassy, so I paddled to a long cove fairly close to the launch. I had never fished the lake before, but immediately I noticed a lot of brush and some deep points. I was hoping for a topwater bite early, but it was non-existent, so I started throwing a shakey head with a june bug colored worm. It didn't take long before I had my first fish in the boat - a 13.25" fish. It wasn't very big, but I was certainly on the board!
On my next cast I got another bite - a 14.75" fish that would be a decent upgrade. He hit the shakey head on a rocky point and small brush pile. Over the next 30 minutes I landed 4 more fish and lost 1 on a fluke. All were under 14", so I kept fishing down the cove. A bass boat was fishing down the other bank and I saw them land a couple nice fish, which I later found out were in the 4-5 lb range. I knew there had to be more big fish in the area, so I kept fishing hard. I had landed about 8 fish by 9:30 AM and my bite seemed to shut off. The shakey head just was not getting bit, so I tied on a finesse worm fished weightless. I actually tied on two - one in green pumpking (my favorite color for plastics) and one in june bug (which had been the hot color for the day and earlier in the week on Jordan Lake).
The switch did the trick, but only in the june bug color! I fished it incredibly slow along drop-offs, points, and cover and was getting bit again. I caught a few fish right around 14"-14.5" before finally getting a good bite. The fish crushed the worm and headed for deeper water. After a nice fight I boated a solid fish - just shy of 17". I knew it wasn't going to win, or place for that matter, but I was happy to upgrade and improve over last year.
At that point I had landed about 15 fish and was feeling good. I caught a nice 16" and two 15+" fish in the next hour. Then the bite slowed again. I went about 20 minutes without a strike before my bait got crushed. The fish was coming at the Coosa with a full head of steam. I had yet to see her, but I knew she was big. Finally, I turned her and saw that she was a nice fish. She ran sideways then again turned and came at the yak. She was headed for the surface and I did everything in my power to stop her. The fish launched into the air and I got a good look at her. She was easily in the 4.5+ lb range. I can still picture her, hanging two feet in the air in a moment that will be frozen in my mind for some time to come. She shook her massive head and the hook came flying out of her mouth and straight back at me. It hit me right in the chest just as I looked up to see her swim back down to the depths of the lake. My stomach was in my throat and let's just say I was glad no-one was around to here the words coming out of my mouth. I knew I had lost a fish that was a potential winner and it took every ounce of energy to keep my mind focused on the task at hand, rather than the $1000 fish that was laughing at me.
I kept fishing and the bite was changing again. The fish had moved slightly deeper and were again eating the shakey head. I couldn't seem to get bit on the finesse worm or a texas rigged worm at all. I caught a number of fish standing in the Coosa and flipping into brush piles and bushes. And I was catching fish with regularity, but they were small. I actually stopped setting the hook on small fish around 1 PM. Shortly after I had one decent bite that ran me into some brush and popped the hook, but I suspect the fish was only about 17" anyway. I finished the day with 22 bass brought to hand. My best 3 would have went around 49.25", but that really didn't matter in this one bass (big bass) tournament. I knew my fish wasn't going to cut it and I was trying my hardest to shake off that one fish because I had a nice day on the water at a lake I had never fished before.
Most guys at the weigh-in were reporting tough days. Native guide Nathan Raycroft managed one fish all day, but it was a nice bass around 19" caught off a bed. There were very few fish left on beds, so kudos to him for finding that girl. I spoke with two members of Heroes on the Water who had both caught bass estimated around 19.5" and there were rumors of a fish or two caught over 20". It turns out that the biggest fish, and winning bass, was 19.75" followed by a 19.25" and 19" bass. As you can tell, estimates of length often get exaggerated when on the lake. 2nd and 3rd place were taken by members of HOW and 1st place by an extremely nice older gentleman named Wayne. I am not 100% sure where I placed, but my guess is somewhere between 5th and 8th based on everything I heard. The fly fishing division also had some solid fish come in with Great Outdoor Provision Company (Charlotte) water sports rep Gwen Crabtree landing a 16.5" catfish that won first place and a new Native Versa Board. A huge congrats to Gwen - a great rep for GOPC!
Again, a big congrats to all the winners. I had a blast and will always remember that fish...as she taunted me on her way back to the depths. This week has been incredibly busy and this weekend is all about re-focusing and getting some revenge. The RiverBassin Tournament Trail hits Farmville, VA where we will be chasing smallies. Needless to say, I can not wait to catch some bronze backs and have a good feeling to boot. Until then, tight lines!