The 18th and 19th of May was shaping up to be a busy weekend. I had my second double header of the season. Luckily I would be able to spend the weekend at home and not have to do any overnight travel. The first event of the weekend was the KBF Northeast Trail Event at Lake George. I was admittedly nervous going into the event. I competed in the Lake George trail event in 2018 and finished 6th. I did pretty good considering that I had never really bass fished there before. This year the stakes at the trail events are much higher so having a relatively local event, especially one I performed well at last year, was much more intense and I was feeling the pressure. The level of competition is stepping up, and there were going to be three times as many people at the event this year so I knew I couldn’t just wing it and I needed to bring my A game.
The weekend before the Trail event I was able to get out and do some prefishing on the lake. Lake George is a special lake to the area and has some unique regulations in regards to boating, but luckily canoes and kayaks are exempt from all those regulations. Those regulations have resulted in a limited number of boat ramps and marinas, but this didn’t matter for us. The lake is littered up and down with parks and beaches, most of which allow you to launch a kayak.
I had studied the maps and lake bathymetry over and over again and found a great little public beach up at the north end. It was about 1.5 miles from a bigger launch both to the north and to the south. I decided this would be where I would start my prefishing. I decided to fish there all day Saturday and see how it went. If it went well, that would be my area for the tournament; if it went poorly, I could check out another area on Sunday.
I explored the various exposed rock piles and some old ferry slipway rails off of that beach. The water was incredibly clear (as is usually the case on Lake George) with 15 feet of visibility. The jerkbait bite was hot in the clear water and I quickly got on some smallmouth. At one point, after netting a fish and tossing my jerkbait back over the side, in the few seconds it took me to reach back for my Ketch board, another smallmouth came up and grabbed my jerkbait from right next to the boat. I had to drop the first fish back into the net and grab my rod before it pulled it overboard. I boat flipped the second fish and was sitting there with two 14-inch smallies in my lap. I was a little disappointed nobody was around to see it.
I finished my day having caught a couple dozen bass, but unfortunately there was nothing of any size. The largest was only 16-inches. I had a decision to make. Do I fish there for the tournament, or do I go out and try to find something with bigger fish? I made the decision that this was a good area. There were obviously plenty of fish, and lots of great structure. I knew that at any moment a school of big smallies could pull in on any of these spots so it was as good as anything. I might as well roll with it.
Tournament day came and my alarm went off at the ridiculous time of 1:30AM. I had a 2-hour drive to north end of the lake and I wanted to be there by 4:00 to unload and rig up prior to launch at 4:30. I rolled into the park and I was the only one there. As I was getting ready for the day I kept looking up expecting at any moment to see a vehicle or two with kayaks pull in, but they never did. I had the launch all to myself. I knew it was only 1.5 miles to two other big launches. I wondered just how many kayaks were putting in at those spots?
Launch time came and I shoved away from shore. I made my gameplan. I was going to fish a rocky point, then pound the two ferry slipways hard. I knew I could easily get a limit there. I just hoped there would be one or two good ones. As I pedaled across the lake I re-rigged my one spinning rod. When I had prefished I got zero bites on a wacky rig and with the fish being deeper I wanted that rod set up with a shakeyhead instead.
It was only about 0.5 miles from my beach to the point so I was there in ten minutes. As I sat there watching the light of the sun start to crest the horizon and the full moon beginning it’s decent I looked up the lake to the north. I could see the lights on the shoreline, but there were more lights coming down the lake. One, Two, Three…. At least eight kayaks were making their way toward me and fast. I knew there would be others in my area during the course of the day, but I had hoped most would fish their way there so I would have a little time to myself. It was clear however a group was making the run right to my area for first cast.
I made the decision to skip the point. It hadn’t been that productive in prefishing and the ferry slipways were my sure thing. I drifted off the point and headed closer to the rails. One of the kayaks heading down the lake was coming straight at me. “Tyler Mother F-in Sweet, you son of a bitch”. It was my friend JT from NYKBF who I had fished with a few times in 2018. We chatted briefly and it turned out he had the exact same plan as I did. Lucky for me, I got there first. (Later at the captains meeting I showed him the map of just where I launched, he didn’t find it as amusing as I did.)
I recommended he fish a couple rock piles just out from the slipways and told him that if he wanted to move in behind me once I left the first slipway he could. We wished each other luck, and got ready for first cast. I made my first cast intentionally off to the side a little bit just to get it out of the way. My second cast was up along the slipway and a short smallmouth grabbed my jerkbait. It jumped off right by the boat, but I wasn’t concerned. I didn’t think it would have gone 12-inches and I needed bigger fish anyway.
It didn’t take me long and my spots paid off. Within 30 minutes I had three keepers off the first slipway and moved on to the second slipway. A few casts later and I had my fourth and fifth fish. It was 5:55AM, less than an hour in, and I had my limit. The only problem was it was a very short limit. I knew I needed some kicker fish.
I wasn’t getting bit anymore off the jerkbait so I threw the shakeyhead around a little briefly on the second slip but with no success. I decided I needed to move on so I turned around to head to my next spot. I wanted to fish the rock piles I had recommended that JT start on. The problem was when JT moved in behind me on the first ferry slipway another angler had come out to the rock piles. I looked around and on every spot I prefished, there was a kayak. There were a half dozen rock piles, all with kayaks on them. In the narrow shallow stretch there were kayaks fishing. It was clear this was a popular area and this would be a struggle most of the day.
I decided to work my way south around the point to Echo cove where I had the double with the jerkbait in prefishing. I hit a closer point first and as I rounded the corner to head down to Echo I saw another kayak moving in through that area. I knew it was another angler who had launched from the south and had worked his way up to the same area. With him in that spot I needed a Plan C and fast. There were some deeper rock piles I didn’t really want to fish, but one of them was open so I moved out to it.
I fished it for a while with only the pecking of perch on my dropshot. I decided to work my way along the flat to the southeast down toward a point. Because of the wind I hadn’t been able to prefish that area and I just hoped it would produce something. I fished up and down it for almost 2 hours. I stayed in the area because I was getting a lot of follows, a few of them were nice size smallies. I just couldn’t get them to bite. I threw the chatterbait, jerkbait, changed colors in both, I dragged the shakeyhead, I tried a crankbait, I put on a live target baitball and was getting bites, but I think they were just hitting the dummy baits and not the hook. I didn’t know what it was going to take to get them to bite and it was getting frustrating seeing them follow but not take it.
It was midday and I hadn’t made any culls. The previous night I wrote “DON’T PANIC” on my center hatch lid. I needed to remind myself that all it takes is five bites and they can come fast at any time. I decided I needed to get back on some of my practice spots. It looked like Echo bay had cleared out so I moved back in there. When I had been fishing out on some of the deep rock piles and not getting bit, I changed out the green pumpkin ribbed worm I was fishing to a Morning Dawn colored Roboworm. That change was key. As I moved into the bay, I stopped at a pier that dropped down to 30-feet of water pretty steep and started to work the dropshot along the ledge.
I sat along that ledge for almost an hour catching fish after fish. I was getting a mix of rock bass, bluegill, and smallmouth. The problem was they were still small. I made a few small culls, but it was still not enough. I just couldn’t find that bigger class of fish. I was seeing massive schools of smelt on my electronics out off of the ledge in the deeper water and was marking plenty of bigger of fish. I stayed in that area and just continued to fish the dropshot hoping that maybe one of those marks was a big smallmouth I could get to bite.
It was about 1:15 and there was only 45 minutes of fishing left. I looked out and all the other kayaks had left the area. They had to get back up to their launch, and it was an hour drive down to check-in. It meant I finally had the area to myself since my launch was right there. I decided since the drop shot was working, I would hit the rock piles I wanted to hit after the ferry slipways. I cruised over there with the mind set Ten minutes at the first pile, ten minutes at the second pile, and then I would need to get to the beach.
I pulled up on the first pile and and started working my way around it. I was throwing the drop shot up on top the pile which was only 5-10 feet below the surface while I was sitting in about 30 feet of water. I was dragging the drop shot until I felt it drop off the pile. I would let it fall, once it hit the bottom shake it a little, before reeling it in and doing it again. I made a cast up on pile and pulled it down off. I felt it hit the bottom and then the rod started to get heavy. I couldn’t tell if the weight had wedged in a rock and the wind pushing me was making it tight or if it was a fish that had gently grabbed my worm. I reeled down and briefly thought I was snagged until the fish started t0 pull back! I could tell it was a giant. It was bulldogging me and just staying deep. I worked it up to the surface, and got it in the net. As soon as I took the pressure off, the hook just fell out of its mouth. I was pumped.
It was a toad! Finally the class of fish I was looking for, a 19-inch smallmouth. I quickly got it on the board, got my photos and tossed it back without even thinking about a selfie. I knew there was a chance for big bass on the hour and I wanted to get it uploaded as quickly as possible. I also wanted to get my bait right back down there since smallmouth often school up in size class. There was a chance there was a few more giants down there and I wanted to see if i could find them. I stayed there instead of moving on to the second pile but I never got another bite. It was 1:50 and I needed to get back!
I shot off toward the beach and as I pedaled over I uploaded all my fish to the Pro Tourney. I knew there was no hourly prizes for that and with the poor service I held off uploading until the end and just uploaded my top five. I rushed to load up my gear and take off to check-in.
The captains meeting was fun. I got to chat with anglers from all over the Northeast I only see at these larger events. The guys at the top hammered them and put up some great numbers. One of the members of our local club finished in the top ten which was great. I didn’t get the finish I wanted. That last smallmouth was a 5.5-inch upgrade for me and moved me up to 47th place. The highlight for me was that 19-inch smallie I caught at the end of the day was enough for Big Bass for the last hour. But it was a long day and I needed to get home. The next day was a big club event up in Old Forge and I needed to try to get some sleep. My weekend was half over, but the best part was yet to come.