It was four o’clock on a cool late April morning, and as I hastily reached onto my bedside table attempting to halt the awful screeching of my alarm clock, I managed to knock over an almost-full glass of water. I didn’t just daintily knock it over, either. I somehow launched the glass with the back of my hand into the connecting bathroom, soaking, what seemed like, every individual item within my bedroom.
“I sure hope the fishing will be better than this” I hoarsely mumbled as I shuffled my bare feet across the cold, wet carpet. It was no time to let my early morning water-debacle bother me, however. Today was a day of great significance. It was the Friday before my college fishing team’s final spring qualifier before the BoatUS National Championship on Lake Lewisville. With a strong Saturday showing on Lake Oconee, I had the opportunity to qualify for my first national championship. Plainly stated, it was absolutely imperative that I find quality fish that day. Period.
As I arrived at Sugar Creek Marina something felt different. To this very day, I have a difficult time accurately articulating exactly what is was. The birds seemed to be chirping a little earlier than usual, and the water had that gorgeous, mystical steam protruding from it. Whatever the difference I was feeling was a good different. A really good difference.
As I slowly idled out of the marina in my twenty-one foot Skeeter, she was running like a top. No spits, no sputters; she was ready to run. With the brilliant orange sun barely peeking over the tall, dark silhouetted Georgia Pines on the horizon, I put the hammer down and made haste to a favorite late-spring spot near Lick Creek. As I arrived at my destination and felt the warming rays of the early morning sun on my sunburnt face, my optimism quickly turned into skepticism.
There were no shad flickering on top of the water, and for the life of me I could not see any signs of moving water anywhere. To the casual reader, this may not prove very significant. However, to the experienced bass angler, this can be a huge deterrent for an otherwise perfect spot. Despite my excessive doubts, I quietly dropped my trolling motor and began dissecting the surrounding area.
“This spot is just too good. I’ve got to give it a shot.”
I picked up my trusty 7 foot, ¾ heavy Big Bear flipping stick and subtly flipped my green-pumpkin jig parallel to a shallow, wooden sea wall. Did they want it dragged today? Hopped? Or maybe even swam? I decided to begin my bass excavation with a slow, steady drag. As I felt the dull scraping of my 3/8 ounce jig ascending a submerged stump, I was greeted by a jig fisherman’s best friend – the unmistakable “thump” of a hungry largemouth bass on the other end. Being a practice day for such an important tournament, I painstakingly fought my instincts and refrained from setting the hook. It was unnecessary. I could tell she had “shoulders”. She was at least four pounds by the way she hit my jig and hissed my fifteen pound P-Line fluorocarbon line through the placid water.
“Awesome”, I thought to myself, “Let’s leave this area and move back into the creek a little.”
Finding the Pattern
My next few subsequent casts yielded nothing, but I was encouraged by the hard, irregular bottom I was feeling throughout my retrieves. I kept working the creek, and I made my way to a string of old docks. On my first flip underneath the initial dock, I couldn’t entice a hungry largemouth to eat my jig. However, right as my jig abruptly collided with the front-corner post of the dock, a huge female largemouth just about took my Big Bear rod out of my hands. There was no thump. No tick. No delicate line movement. No warning. Just a frantic dash towards the safer, deeper surrounding water was made. The fish had practically swallowed the jig, and I could not shake her off.
Being wary of sore-mouthing her, I slowly reeled her in. After a few late surges towards the scarred underbelly of my boat, I landed a beautiful seven pound largemouth. Her color was incredible, with a dark green back quickly fading into a pale green underside. I could feel her sandpaper-like teeth digging into my callused thumb as she desperately twisted for freedom. I could smell the scent of her skin. I was in heaven. I was a little upset that I had inadvertently stuck such a beautiful fish in practice when it meant nothing, but there was nothing I could do about it. It was still fun, and beggars can’t be choosers, right? Hopefully she had a short memory and would be hungry tomorrow.
As the morning continued, and the once-orange sun climbed higher into the deep, blue sky, the fishing only improved. The more the hot, fiery sun forced my body to perspire, the more bites I was getting. This came as no surprise, however. The higher the sun gets, the more bass tend to position themselves onto cover, making them easier to locate. I was calling my shots. I knew exactly where each fish would be.
By twelve o’clock, I had “accidentally” boated an easy eighteen pounds. If I had actually set the hook on every fish, I could have had well over twenty pounds. The fish were absolutely inhaling my jig, and I could not shake them off. I did everything that an experienced angler shouldn’t do when fighting a fish, and I still couldn’t make these fish let go of my bait. I had always heard the old saying “the fish just jumped in the boat today”, but I had always questioned its accuracy until this day. I was now a believer that fish, could indeed, jump in the boat!
Too Much Confidence?
After such a hugely successful and satisfying morning of fishing, I was on cloud nine. I was ten feet tall and bulletproof. I decided to put my boat onto the trailer and head for home. “I’ve got this,” I thought to myself, “I should have the tournament won by lunchtime.” Mistake number one.
For the remainder of the day, I made the decision to simply relax and take it easy. I had a beer, watched some television, showered, and even went out to dinner with some friends. I was so confident about my tournament the next day that I didn’t have a care in the world. After all, I was about to absolutely annihilate every bit of my competition, right? Wrong.