Lake Guntersville trip 7-13 through 7-17-2016

This was a 5 day trip to Lake Guntersville and the last 2 days of fishing included our club tournament with the Greater Atlanta Bass Club. I needed 3 days to figure out a game plan for the tournament, this time of year finding fish and catching them can be hot and tough. On Wednesday I fished with a friend who knew a little bit more about ledge fishing than I did. All I was interested in was learning about ledge fishing on Guntersville. We found a few areas of small shell beds on some flats while fishing a long stretch of ledge or the drop off into the main channel. The shell beds on the flats next to the ledge just kept producing 2-5lb fish on every pass. I marked two primary beds that were producing and one bed in particular had chunk rock next to it which made a perfect spot. On every pass we made we picked up at least one nice fish. My first fish of the trip was a 7 pd’er which I lost at the boat and this fish was on the shell bed with the neighboring chunk rock so it was the first mark I made on the gps. We went from one shell bed mark on the graph to another down the stretch of ledge Wednesday through Friday. Tournament day we sat on the shell bed that produced the most fish the entire time. It’s hard to believe the amount of fish that just kept coming, it’s fair to say we caught around 35-40 fish. The fish ranged from dinks to 6lbs with Lisa catching 10-15 fish and my buddies catching a few also. Overall is was a prosperous ledge.

The tournament was a 3 fish limit which made it pretty easy given we were averaging 10-20 fish a day from that stretch of the ledge. The tournament format was a 3 session tournament with the first session being Saturday morning from dawn till noon. The second session was from 4pm till 8:30pm and the third session was Sunday morning from dawn till noon. There was a tournament within a tournament with each session having a total weight pot and a big fish pot. There was also a bigger pot for overall total weight and big fish for combined both days. I like the format because it gives more teams a chance to get in the money.

Basically for the first session we made sure we were sitting just off the shell bed at dawn. We threw a shakey head with a magnum trick worm across the shell bed and dragged it back through the shells to the boat. There were numerous fish on the ledge and you just needed to be able to tell the difference between the shaky head running across the shells and a fish picking up the bait. Once you get the feel of that, then it’s all in setting the hook. You need a good hook set because the fish figure out very quickly to run at the boat if they can’t shake the hook initially. That little tactic is by design to keep you from digging that hook barb into the hard cartilage of their inner mouths. When they get near the boat they surface, jumping and shaking their heads violently as a last ditch effort to shake the hook. Keeping the rod tip low is a must.

In session one, every once in a while the fish would turn on and we would catch a few with one or two nice keepers in the mix. My strategy was to be patient, just sit on them and wait them out…..all weekend. I knew if we could average 4-5lb we would probably do very well, so waiting for the fish instead of running around and missing the bite was my strategy. We just needed patience and trust in the plan.
It was Lisa’s first day of fishing for the week so there was a little learning curve for her to get up to speed. Unfortunately she lost a couple of good fish before she got dialed in with the feel of the bite and good hook set. Once she accomplished that she was good to go and brought several good fish to the boat. On this session I did the damage and put 3 fish at over 13lbs in the boat right away then it was just a matter of working on an upgrade.
We went to the weigh in with 13 and change, all from the same little shell bed. It was good enough for first place in the session and I had a 5+ pounder to take big fish. A lot of teams struggled to find fish and a working pattern but these club guys figure out patterns and strategies very quickly so we were glad we jumped out to an early lead. Here’s a pic of the fish from session #1.IMAG0904

When session 2 started a local club was having their weigh in at the ramp…. it was a cluster so getting out to our spot was a little slow. We finally reached the shell bed and it was wide open… but man was it hot! We could see a big thunderhead building just north of the lake and I was hoping it would give us some cloud cover to cool things down, and it did…. Unfortunately there was an outflow wind from the storm. The stretch of ledge was covered in white capping water, soon came cloud cover and then blowing rain. We stuck it out and every once in a while picked up a 3-4 lber. We ended up heading back to the ramp with three decent 3-4lb fish just as the wind and clouds broke at sunset.

When we got to the ramp to trailer to the weigh-in a big catamaran looking center console was launching. I didn’t pay much attention as we parked along side a couple of cool looking high dollar Phoenix boats, Lisa held my boat at the dock as I went to get the truck. When I pulled down to the ramp area I noticed the big center console was still at the ramp and the guy couldn’t get the boat off the trailer, he hadn’t backed down far enough. He quickly jumped out of the running boat and ran back up to his truck to back it down further. When he did, the boat jumped off the trailer and started heading out into the bay …. with the boat in reverse. The guy in the truck just drove away as his boat headed out into the bay, motor running, in reverse. It took me a few seconds to figure out what was going on but I quickly realized this boat was making an arc and if my trajectory calculations were correct it was heading right for our Ranger and the 2 unmanned Phoenix’s. I looked at Lisa and she was bracing for impact as the big boat was bearing down for her and our boat. She was standing at the back of our boat with our little dog Chigger in her arms. She quickly thought to take her foot and push the big center console. I knew that wasn’t going to work so I jumped out of the truck screaming as I ran for somebody closer than me to stop that boat. I was at a sprint trying to get there before the collision. Thank goodness there was one lone guy who came flying from nowhere and jumped in the center console just as it collided with Lisa’s foot and our boat. Our boat collided with the Phoenix and that Phoenix hit the next Phoenix but luckily the guy that jumped in the big center console slammed it into drive and minimized the damage. The boat owner came running down just after it was all over and I quickly said a few choice words about him driving away full knowing his boat was in reverse putting everyone in danger. There were only a few minor scratches and we needed to get to the weigh-in. We made it with time to spare but our weight was off so we ended up with 10.5 for the second segment. There were a few teams that were getting things figured out and we finished the session in 3rd or 4th but we were still leading the overall weight by a good 6lbs. We just needed to stick some good ones in session 3 to seal the deal.
It was getting late and Lisa and I swung into Burger King for a burger and onion rings. By morning we were both sick. I don’t think the whopper and the onion rings was a good idea for us…..

At 5am Lisa got sick on the way to the ramp which made me even more sick just watching her so. We were both a mess but we knew we needed to fish and finish well. We got to our spot and by some miracle it was wide open again. We had a lot of company in our spot for the first 2 sessions but the shell bed was so small nobody could get a good angle on it but us. Not long after we got into position Lisa got a nice one on, unfortunately I was a little slow getting the net and it shook the hook boat side. Lisa and I both got a little discouraged but it wasn’t long till Lisa tied into another good fish and we boated a 5+. I just held the boat in one position and Lisa cast to the same spot over and over and before long we had another 13-14 pound sack. Lisa steadily caught fish off the back of the boat on the shell bed and I made a great net man for her. It was getting hot and we still had an hour till weigh-in so we just rode around in the breeze keeping the fish cool with o2 and ice. Our little dog Chigger likes to ride in the boat so we just let him enjoy the ride. At the end of the day we finished in first place for total weight at 36+ pounds, second place was a little over 28. Here’s a picture of the fish Lisa caught in the 3rd session to win the tournament for overall weight.IMAG1034 (1)We won total weight and big fish for session one as well as total weight for the tournament. Here’s a few pictures and a video of Lisa’s final day weigh-in with the winning fish!!

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Lanier Summer Report 7-8-2016

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I’ve been hitting the lake on a regular basis and finding plenty of fish to keep me busy. The bite has been great for me over the past few weeks and I guess you could say that we’ve hit the summer pattern. The lake temps are hovering around the mid to upper 80’s and the thermocline is scattered throughout the creeks and out in the lower lake right now. The stripers and bass are taking up residence in their predicable locations and using a variety of methods for catching these fish can lead to a day of fun fishing…..

For the bass I’ve been starting my mornings very early (dawn) casting a topwater favorite over the same brush piles I’ve been drop shotting later in the day. This time of year the bass are reluctant to hit the surface but early in the morning and sporadically throughout the day they will attack the bluebacks swimming near the surface and they will attack a surface lure as well. Unfortunately this is one of those times of the year that the fish doesn’t stay up on the surface long so if you’re site fishing, making a quick and accurate cast is key to catching the surfacing fish. Basically, a topwater fish is a low percentage endeavor and I’m starting to see more and more bass refusing to come back after a topwater bait just seconds after they initially surface. Just yesterday I was able to catch some nice topwater fish just blind casting wind blown points but the chop across the point had to be perfect before they would surface. Just about every fish I caught on the topwater was a good 3lb+ stout fish and they attacked the topwater baits like they were hungry with the aggressiveness of the stripers. Lately the only topwater bait I have tied on and at the ready is the bone Sexy Dawg. The bass in the picture above was caught yesterday 7-7-2016, mid-morning on a wind blown point using the bone Sexy Dawg.

If the topwater isn’t working there are a couple other options I’ve been using to put fish in the boat. The first is casting a Fish Head Spin or underspin across the top of brush on humps or out on the ends of points. I’ve been targeting the brush in 25-35 feet of water. There are some fish at the shallower depths but I think the bigger fish have been deeper and near deep deep water. For the under spin, I’ve been using a 1/4 ounce with a pearl super fluke, casting across the brush pile and counting it down to 5-10 seconds with a steady retrieve over the brush pile and back to the boat. Another tactic you can try if the underspin isn’t working or the wind kicks up a little and that’s a jig. Take your pick, there are plenty to choose from that will work right now. I’m just casting a 3/8 or 1/2 ounce size type casting jig with a watermelon trailer, letting it sink and slowly crawling it across the bottom. Sometimes you’ll feel a distinct thump and other times they rod will just load up or get heavy. Most of the time the larger fish have been on the under spin and the jig.

Once I’ve had some fun with those three early morning tactics and the sun gets higher, I’m going to the drop shot tactic. For me, the drop shot is like playing a video game, I’m just finding the brush and fish on the electronics and dropping my little drop shot rig right down in front of them. Sometimes they hit it right away and sometimes I just dead stick the bait in a waiting game. There are times when holding the drop shot worm perfectly still will entice a bite and other times I have to make the worm dance to get a reaction. A lot of times I’m very focused on my electronics and I am watching the fish as well as my worm on my sonar screen. I can watch the fish chase the bait down and get hooked in real time. Worm color and size selection is a whole other topic. We’ve been using different  sizes and colors, some days it matters and some days it doesn’t. My wife Lisa is the queen of color selections while I’m more of a tried and true kinda guy. We are both competitive and always have a competition on the drop shot. Lisa has that women’s touch which is perfect for that type of finesse fishing and the drop shot is her specialty so it’s always a challenge for me to beat her at the drop shot. Earlier this week she mopped up on me for numbers using a worm color that I never dreamed of using but it worked. Last year Lisa came up with a worm color that was a lock for us in late summer. We had a blast with it and caught some nice big fish just drop shotting our normal brush piles. It was just a color and size that the bigger fish reacted to during that period in time. I caught my biggest drop shot fish on that worm while the corps was generating in the brutal afternoon heat and got it on video. It’s probably my favorite drop shot video from last summer and that fish put up one heck of a fight on light tackle:
You can see the way I’m working the worm in the video. I’m using 6-7lb fluorocarbon line with a 3/8 ounce drop shot weight and a #2 or #4 VMC Spinshot hook about 18 inches up from the weight.

Once I’ve had my fill of drop shotting bass I’m moving on to a bigger target which is our summer striper population. I’m only carrying one item for stripers this time of year but the excitement that lure provides is more than enough for a day of fishing. The lure I’m carrying is the Ben Parker Magnum Spoon and the summer stripers just love this thing. You need to work the spoon kinda like working the drop shot, it’s a matter of seeing the fish on your electronics, dropping the spoon vertically and enticing them to bite. Finding the stripers to drop the spoon to is the hardest part of the equation and it may require some driving and watching your electronics for arches in deep water. Once you find the arches it’s as easy as dropping the spoon and reeling it back up. The stripers will let you know when they hit the spoon, sometimes taking you by surprise and trying to jerk the rod out of your hands.
Here is a video I made last summer that can give you an idea of the way the spoon tactic works for stripers.
A lot of folks have asked what rig I was using. The rig I was using to catch those big stripers was a big Penn Fierce 6000 reel loaded with 25lb Big Game on a 7′ Ugly Stik Heavy Spinning rod. I like the bigger reels because you can gain line very quick with the big spool and gear ratio. We’ve already been catching some nice fish on the spoon, both up lake a ways and down lake as well. It seems that the fish are scattered in groups and finding fish and having a group of fish to yourself is very possible right now. The spoon bite is only going to get better as we progress through the summer and I’m looking forward to a couple months and a solid pattern of hitting the brush for bass and spooning summer stripers for a change of pace. I haven’t really been taking many pictures or videos lately but here’s a few pictures from so recent trips out:

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On the Radio this morning

 

I spent a little time with my buddy Brad Myers and his radio show, Georgia Outdoors Radio 92.5 “The Bear” FM. We talked about Lake Lanier stripers and bass this morning and some of the tactics we’re using right now. We talked about spooning up a couple of stripers for the grill and a good striper recipe we use for a little summer holiday stripers on the half shell. I also talked about the drop shot tactic and the fun we’ve been having with that. Just click on the link below. My portion of the show starts at the 91:45 mark.

https://www.spreaker.com/user/georgiaoutdoorsradio/gor-07-02-16?fb_action_ids=963130547119547&fb_action_types=spreaker_radio%3Abroadcast&fb_ref=image_bigbutton