Monday, August 4, 2014

Paying the Fish Gods

Over the past few weeks my fishing has been sporadic at best.  From my last post I had been getting into a decent class of Triggerfish, and some real solid bridge Spadefish.  Between now and then I had to switch up my summer fishing style to inshore tourney mode.  This led to some issues...

Trip one - My boy Tex and I went out to a spot to fish a real solid redfish pattern I had established this spring/early summer.  It ended up being one of those days where two extremely competent fishermen landed (1) small croaker and (1) small oystertoad between the two of us.

Angler 0 - Fish Gods 1

Trip two - Ben Hoover and I decided that with the slow bite the day before, we would try to change it up and hit the Eastern Shore of VA for some flatfish.  When we got out there we met the Kick-Kick MD crew (Jack Daughtry and Matt James) who had been catching some solid flounder to 20".  For us, it was oystertoad after oystertoad.  After hours of fishing, I managed to find (4) Flounder from 16.5" to 19.5"  A far cry from the work that had been done by others just days before.

Angler 0 - Fish Gods 0 (Draw)

19.5" Flounder
Trip 3 - A mid week excursion on the SUP yielded no fish, but plenty of views.  This trip wasn't all about fishing as much as it was about getting used to reading inshore waters.  I was able to regain focus and center my soul in preparation for the first tourney of the year, so in that aspect I was fine without catching.

Angler 0 - Fish Gods 1

Trips 4 & 5 - After being down to the fish gods 2-0, traveling 260 miles and no sleep, I finally made it down to Cape Fear for some tournament action.  This was the weirdest tournament weekend I have ever had. On the drive down I saw over 150 deer along the road (in downpouring rain), a running car in a ditch with 4' of water (nobody inside), and drank 4 Monster energy drinks, just to wait on early morning thunderstorms to pass.  While I was waiting, I made acquaintance with a crusty old Korean War era Marine (Semper Fi you old fart), and a swarm of fire ants.  I will just say this, don't think that you can drown fire ants to get them off of you, because you will lose.  I also learned that fire ants bite to ensure they have a solid hold on your skin, then they sting.

After a crazy energy drink fueled morning, I got on the water in search of my 3 target species (Specks, Reds, and Flounder).  I managed to find the specks about halfway to my target location, and left them be.  I then proceeded to soak mullet at my destination while finding a pattern on artificials.  While my mullet was on a flat swimming under a cork, I see a large wake making a b-line towards the bait.  It hits, and turns right for my yak.  I was thinking shark as it charged me, but when it hit the yak, I saw a solid 23-25" Jack.  Unfortunately, the cork got buried in the grass before I could get my line back, and the hook straight up bent.  Now my blood is pumping and I move around more looking for some solid Jacks (screw the tournament fish).  I didn't find any more jacks in the area, but saw reds around 30".  I established my pattern on some mid 20's reds, and while I was doing so, I had a storm bearing down on me.  Being 8 or so miles from the launch, I left and made a strong effort to get off the water.

This is where it gets really fun!  The tide was super low, and I didn't realize the wind was pushing the remaining water out until it was too late.  I made my way deep into a cut, and dealt with an impass.  At this point, I tried to turn around, but there was nothing to turn too.  So I had one choice, risk lightning strikes and wait for some water, or get out and drag.  I chose the latter and soon realized, I chose wrong.  The first 30 or so yards were fine with hard bottom, then the fun started.  At the beginning I was sinking to mid calf, then to my knees, and finally my nuts.  This is when I realized I had made the wrong choice.  When I was Balls Deep in fluf mud, my fears turned from lightning strikes to drowning. It gets better though, for about 500 yards i'm anywhere from balls to tits deep, dragging the yak.  Over an hour and a half later, I am covered in mud from head to toe, thinking i'm going to have a heart attack before I make it to hard bottom.  I will say this, one of my sponsors ASTRAL makes some of the greatest gear, in this case the BREWERS.  Solid water shoes that (1) didn't come off my feet when stuck in the mud, (2) kept my feet and ankles safe from submerged oysters, and (3) still remained comfortable to wear after all that.  From now on I will not flats fish without them! (No pictures, but I changed close before going to the HLP captains meeting, and everyone asked me why I was covered in mud)

To finish that day, on my way in I for the Captains meeting I see some amazing topwater action.  At first I throw a Skitterwalk and get smoked by a 15" Jack.  After another in the same class, I switch up to a chatterbait and landed 3 in a row.  Being so ubsurdly late, I decided that when I had an unproductive cast, I would leave.  I guess threes company, fours a crowd.

Tournament day, I woke up late and called my tournament partners Seth and Kam it was a no-go, id get there as soon as I could.  After making it to the launch 30 minutes late, I paddled out and met up with them.  Kam had a 14" speck in the bag, so Seth and I sent her for Flounder while we netted some bait.  I took off my PFD and glasses, and got a few dozen mullet and spot.  When it was time to go, I put my PFD on and realize the splash next to me was my Maui Jims.  After 30 minutes of looking, I was able to find them and we were on our way.

Kam Goodrich Photography with this sick sunrise shot!
As we moved to the speck spot, I tell the team to start focusing on the area.  I managed a 19" red, but no specks.  We move on and I get the unmistakable hit of a speck.  I missed the fish and made another cast.  This time "Bam Bam Bam" and weight.  I knew it was a good tournament fish, but it never made it to the boat.  In hindsight, it was at least a 3rd place fish, if not a 2nd.  Damn!  We move again, and I make it to the spot that I patterned the reds the day before.  My first red was 25.5" and I gradually upgraded to a 26.5" to end the day.

Historically this would be a real competitive fish, so after a bit more fishing we head in.  Now keep in mind the low tide fiasco I had the day before.  I check Navionics and my track from the previous day and come up with a plan out, while staying in some water.  Kam is not psyched with our path, but after showing Seth the plan, we keep going.  At this point, every 5 minutes Kam says "I think were lost".  This is not what a Type A male wants to hear so I kept going, and going, and going.  On my last turn, I see a blessing and a curse.  A landmark that I knew without a doubt, but also I knew how far from the launch it really was.  At this time, we had about five miles to the launch and two hours to the weigh in. Kam later asked me "Did you know where you were going"?  My response, "Of course", to which she said, "Obviously not, because you got us F'n lost!"  Not my proudest moment.  Sorry Kam!

Fast forward one long paddle and now I have less than 10 minutes when I walk in.  the time is called, 3:55.  Five minutes but I feel good.  The Tournament Director Chris looks at my card and his eyes said everything.  BUMMER!

On a brighter note, my boy Bob aka Toba, killed it with a 33" red and a ginormous lam to bring home to yaks!  To boot, I got to chill with my fellow Teammate Drew Camp, and All Out Kayak Fishing Contributors Mike Eady and Seth Goodrich, not to mention the other great anglers and folks from Hook, Line, and Paddle and NCKFA.  For me, I am giving myself two points for a new species, and surviving the marsh with a quality fish!

Angler 2 - Fish Gods 0

So this evens it up.  Hopefully it pays off!

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