Wednesday, October 24, 2012

week of October 21, 2012

Wow, what an outstanding trip this was.  Not many cool photos to share, but one amazing fish story.  You may not believe any of it, but it is all true.  I was there.

I started out Sunday with a 4 hour evening trip with Rhandy Simmons.  We headed over to Bell Branch and started out with Carolina rigs.  I think we caught one, before switching to DD-22s and working our way back in the branch.  No bite, but we did see a beautiful bald eagle soaring around.  On the way out, I grabbed a silver and blue rat-L-trap, pitched it shallow and immediately hooked a dink bass.  Two more casts and two more dinks.  Then the side fell off the reel and the spool fell in the lake!  Rhandy had this little Shimano reel with a release button on the side and I had somehow punched it while holding the rod. Rhandy claimed operator error, I claim poor design.    Well, after retrieving the spool by pulling all the line off, we were back in business and caught a few more dinks.  All good fun but nothing worth taking a picture.  Afterwards we headed out on the main lake to secret spot #47 where we caught several small bass up to 3 pounds on a big Texas rigged worm.  We quit about 8 pm and headed in to drink much beer.

I was up early meeting Dale Stokes at the Minnow Bucket at 7 am.  The Minnow Bucket is currently closed as the previous "owner" has R-U-N-N-O-F-T (as they said in that movie, Oh Brother Where Art Thou).  Martin and family are waiting for legal stuff before they can get in and re-open, but it is dark for now.  Anyhoo, Dale and I set out for 8 hours of very tough fishing.  I think I had 3 bites all day and Dale had 9.  He landed 7 bass and I was skunked.  Of the fish Dale caught, several had problems.  One was blind in one eye, another had only half a mouth left, another had those big sores on its side.  I teased him about picking on crippled fish and said I was holding out for healthy ones.  Towards the end of the day, we caught a few little bar fish on tail kickers.  Dale was more worried about it than I was.  Sometimes you just get the stink on you and it was just my turn.  I said something to Dale about Lake Fork often rewarding you later for a tough day on the lake.  That proved to be prophetic.

I went back to the room about 3 pm for about an hour before meeting Rhandy for another 4 hour half evening trip.  We left about 4 pm and headed to Little Boy point where we tried some Carolina rigs with little luck. Once again I picked up that silver and blue rat-L-trap and quickly hooked a small bass.  Yay!  The stink was off!  Rhandy graphed around awhile and found tons of fish but we never could get them to bite.  He decided they might come up to school later but decided to head to S.R.A. point for 30 minutes or so before coming back.

At S.R.A. we hung around about 30 minutes and caught a few small fish at the sandy point near the old water intake.  Then I looked over at the main S.R.A. point and saw two gulls hitting the water grabbing shad.  I told Rhandy, "Hey, they're schooling over there," and off we went to chase them.  Now this is where it gets unbelievable.  This was at about 5:30 pm.  Those fish stayed up schooling for one and a half hours and we caught fish on almost every single cast.  It was insane!  Rhandy said he had not seen schooling like that on Fork in over 15 years.  They would go down on one side of the boat, then come back up on the other, or 50 yards away.  We just chased them down and kept catching.  The ratio was about 2/3 bass to 1/3 sand bass.  The bass were small.  Most were under 14 inches.  Some were 14-16 inches and a few were small slot fish, up to about 3 pounds.  The bass were beautiful dark black and green fish with huge guts from eating lots of shad.  I used that silver and blue rat-L-trap, Rhandy jumped around between topwaters and crankbaits with the best result coming on the same bait I had.  The water was so full of bait and fish that he foul hooked a shad with a topwater lure.  I got a picture of that!
The sand bass were huge.  Mostly between 2 and 3 pounds and they hit like freight trains.  It literally took us longer to get the fish off the treble hooks than it did to cast back out and hook another fish.  The action was that crazy.  The birds were swooping all around us squawking and hitting the water.  At one point I looked up and a seagull was carrying off Rhandy's rat-L-trap, flying around with his line hanging in the air.  Rhandy was cussing the bird and popping his rod trying to get it loose.  He didn't want to reel it in, and he didn't want to hurt the bird if it was hooked.  The bird starts to fly around the boat.  I have on about a 2 pound bass at maximum cast range and I'm reeling and laughing my ass off.  Rhandy finally gives it a big yank and the rat-L-trap and those 6 sharp hooks come flying at my head.  The bird gives out a squawk, I duck, still laughing my ass off, and reeling in my bass.  If I had that on video people still wouldn't believe it.  One of the funniest things I have ever seen on the water.

I have no idea how many fish we caught.  It was, easily, well over 100 fish.  At one point half way through I started counting doubles (times when both Rhandy and I had a fish on simultaneously).  I was up to 14 when I lost count.  So that's 28 fish right there.  We caught many many more that were never counted because the action was just too intense.  I think combined we probably had somewhere around 125-150 fish.  I wish I had gotten my camera out, hit video mode, and taped some of that.  It never crossed my mind because I was too busy chunking, winding, and getting hooks out of fish.  At 7 pm the action stopped like flipping a switch.  We never made it back to Little Boy!  Once again, much beer was consumed afterwards.

The next morning I headed out again with Dale.  We hit a bunch of great spots but fishing was still tough.  I opined that they are mostly feeding in the evenings, then laying around in a stupor all day.  That made as much sense as anything else.  I did catch a few bass but our numbers were still low.  I think we ended up with 8 for the day.  We did stop at S.R.A. point for a bit and saw two more beautiful bald eagles, but no fish.  Dale talked with another guide who stayed out longer than we did, with 2 customers, and they only caught 7.  Dale did his job.  We covered a lot of great water and tried a variety of techniques.  The fish just weren't playing.  For whatever reason, I think they are on an evening feed right now and during the day you are just screwed.

Tuesday evening Rhandy and I hoped for a repeat of the Monday night madness.  We went straight to S.R.A. and sat there waiting for the action.  This time we were prepared.  Rhandy brought his crappie clicker to count the fish.  I set my camera on movie mode.  We had several rods rigged with silver and blue rat-L-traps.  It just never materialized.  Oh, they did school a bit but they were spread out all the way from S.R.A. to a mile or so north down the bank.  They never stayed up very long when they did come up.  We tried chasing them, but never had much success.  On the main S.R.A. point we caught 11 bass, 4 on the pond dam south, and 20 huge sand bass further north along the shore.  The green fish were still small, up to about 3 pounds.  It was interesting that they were mixed schools on Monday, but seemed to be split on Tuesday evening.  We didn't catch any birds at all.  I got a bit of video of the sand bass schooling, but punching that record button meant Rhandy couldn't catch a cold.  Whenever I turned it off, he immediately caught a fish.  Too funny.
Look at how beat up this poor rat-L-trap was.
Wednesday I went out with Dale half a day in the morning.  We tried some Carolina rigs early, then switched to swim baits under the 515 and 154 bridges, hoping to snag a gorilla.  It never happened but we had fun trying.  

Thursday, October 18, 2012

week of October 15, 2012

Couldn't stand it so I was out at Fork again this week.  I spent two and a half days with Dale and one half evening with Rhandy.  The first two days the real problem was weather.  Tuesday was about 15 degrees colder than the weather doofuses had forecast, plus a stiff 15-20 mph breeze.  It was chillier than I was prepared for, but we did catch some fish.  I think we ended up with 12 for the day but I think Dale caught more than half of those.  My biggest was about 4 and a half pounds on a fluke with a Carolina rig.  We tried some spoons and crank baits, but never had any big success with them.

Wednesday the wind howled out of the south most of the day between 20 and 30 mph.  Lesser men would have stayed in, but Dale had a good plan and we actually caught more fish than Tuesday.  We put in over in Chaney Branch, on the south side of the lake, and hung around the southwest corner of the lake, which probably had the best wind break.  We still had to tie up to stumps most of the day, but we found some good spots and had some fun.  We even had some schooling fish come by early and we caught bass and sand bass at about a ratio of 1:3 on deep crank baits.  I even caught a drum on a fluke.  We didn't use much gas, but we ended up with 14 fish for the day with the biggest at about 4 pounds.

After about an hour off Rhandy came by and we also headed over to the SW corner of the lake to put in over at Wes's ramp in Leafy Branch.  The winds had died down a bit, so we headed over to one of Rhandy's favorite spots and he caught two fish on his first two casts.  The first one went around 6 pounds.  After that, they shut off big time.  We eventually motored over to another spot and I had a big fish break me off.  It was stripping off drag from the get go and broke me off right above the hook.  I'll get him later, and his little dog, too!  I caught a small one on the next cast, then again, nada.  About 6 pm the front came through and the wind picked up out of the north.  We tried a deep spot, and almost got thrown from the boat by 3 foot rollers.  That was a short stay.  So we headed back to Leafy Branch and threw crank baits back into the pocket
with no joy.  I finally called beer thirty about 30 minutes after dark and we drowned our troubles in Murphy's Stout.

Thursday was much cooler but the wind had slacked off at last.  Unfortunately, the fish had slacked off, too.  I think Dale had 2 bass for the morning and we both caught a few bar fish and sandies throwing spoons on a deep road bed.  Nice weather, no bite, 30 mph winds 14 fish.  Hmmm.  Too bad I like my comfort.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

week of October 1, 2012

Booked two and a half days with Dale Stokes this week and one and a half days with Rhandy Simmons.  I fished Monday, Wednesday, and a half day Thursday with Dale, then a full day Tuesday and an evening Wednesday with Rhandy. Overall, it seems the fall bite is not quite on just yet.  The fall lake turnover seems to be finishing up but is not yet done.  We seemed to find most of our fish in the 15 foot range in creek channels and at shelf breaks and humps.  I think the totals were 7 on Monday, 10 on Tuesday, 8 on Wednesday (in 12 hours of fishing), and 8 on Thursday morning (in just 4 hours of fishing).  Most of our fish came on flukes with Carolina rigs or crankbaits.  Rhandy caught the biggest fish I saw this trip at around 6 pounds.  My biggest was about 5 and a half pounds and came on a DD-22.   The bite seemed to pick up Thursday morning.  Of course!  I was leaving!

Rhandy has sold his "go-fast" boat and downsized to a newer and smaller boat that caught fish without all the gas guzzling.  It rides nice.
The bugs came out in swarms around dusk.  I took this photo over my head with a flash.  Sounded like a buzz saw running.