The Blue Line Brawl: Part II

It had been a long week without any fishing. I originally hoped to get out one or two days after work for a few hours; but weather and my work schedule just didn’t permit it. It was now Friday afternoon and the office was quiet as many people took the day off to make it a 4 day weekend. Those that remained were counting down the minutes and judging how early they could slip out. It was just after 3:30 and I had enough. I shut down my work station and took off for Lake George.

I had debated about where I wanted to go for the evening. There were a few obvious places, but I hadn’t fished Lake George in a while, it was close enough I could get there quickly from the office, and yet it still wouldn’t be too long of a drive home afterward. I shot up the northway and pulled into the Huddle Bay beach right about 4:45. The plan had been to get on the water by 5, fish till 7:45 or so, and be home by 9. I was right on schedule.

Since I never fished this area, and really hadn’t fished Lake George in some time, I just went with whatever I had tied on. I started up shallower targeting the docks and rocks along the shore. I wasn’t getting bit on the black and blue jig, but I managed a couple small fish throwing the Z-Man micro jig that I was starting to really like (You can read about that setup here: The Blue Line Brawl Part I).

I came to the end of the island I was working and the combination of boat wake and wind was making this area very choppy. The long shallow point with the chop seemed ideal for cranking so I grabbed my crankbait rod and went to work. On my second cast I was hooked up! But after some aerial acrobatics, what appeared to be a 15-inch smallmouth tossed the hook. It was a good sign so I kept at it. A few minutes later I was rewarded with a nice 17-inch largemouth. Nothing that would help me in my tournament, but a fun fish. Even more so because he hit the crankbait like a freight train, stopping it dead. It at least told me I was on the right bite. 

I fished some more wind blown points with the same success, and found a decent bite flipping a creature bait deep back into some docks; but I didn’t manage anything of size. It was a fun evening, the sun was going down, I had landed at least a dozen keeper fish, and was ready to head home. The long weekend was just starting and I knew I would need to be grinding hard all weekend. There were two anglers right behind me in the standings, and they were two anglers you don’t want within striking distance. My current length total of 95.75 inches would not hold up for the win so I was out to put up a few more inches.

Mist Rising in the Predawn Hour

Saturday morning came and the plan was simple; head to my honey hole lake, cycle through the prime spots, and try to get that cull I desperately needed. My two lowest were both 18.50 inches so I was confident I could find something bigger. When I got to the lake, there was a little extra wind I wasn’t expecting so I started off with the crankbait. My very first cast I reeled in a 14-inch largemouth. Now I’m not too superstitious, but catching a fish on the first cast makes me nervous. I was hoping that wasn’t a jinx on the day.

The first cast wasn’t a jinx, but it also wasn’t a sign of anything either. I continued to get bit sporadically on the crankbait, but they were not the size I was after. I had busted off the microjig the night before at Lake George, but rather than tie on a new one, I switched up and went with a shakeyhead because I knew I was likely to be fishing a little deeper. I fished with that a little, but only pickerel seemed to be interested in the worm. I flipped some weeds and rocks with the black and blue jig I still had tied on, but even my prime areas didn’t produce. I felt I needed a change so I removed that jig and put on a slightly smaller PB&J instead. That was the ticket. I moved into my favorite weed patch, the one that always produces and pitched it in there. BOOM a 16.5-inch. Next flip, BOOM 14-inch. Next flip BOOM a 17.5-inch. A much better fish, but still not an upgrade. I had gathered an audience at that point and it was kind of exciting. One house over from the dock I was fishing, a couple was having coffee on their porch watching me hammer the bass. With every hook set they would cheer. It was embarrassing, exciting, and a bit of an ego boost all at the same time. I had seen them out there other times I had visited the lake. They were some of the few people who knew just what quality fish were in the lake. I gave em a wave, held up each fish for them, then moved on. I felt I should let the spot rest and hopefully reload. 

I was starting to key into the pattern for that day. I was marking a lot of fish along the bottom of the dropoff in 20 feet of water. But no matter what I put down there, jigs, drop shot, worm, deep cranks, they wouldn’t bite. But the shallow cover next to the deeper water was continuously producing and reloading. I figured out the bass that were hanging out in the deeper darker water were not feeding, but they would periodically cycle up into the shallow cover to feed before returning back deep. This cycle was key. It meant I could rotate my spots, wait for them to reload, then hit em again. It was just a matter of time until a big one showed up.

I worked my way around to a few more spots with only more 15s and 16s. It was getting toward midday, and I had to make a decision. There were still 2 days left, and I didn’t want to burn myself out that day. Monday was looking like it could be a washout, but at the same time one of the anglers right behind me had made a cull and was now just 0.25-inches back. I decided one more time around and I would go. I hit my second favorite spot and was skunked. Nothing seemed to be hitting there. The boat traffic was pickup up in that area and that might have been impacting the pattern.

I continued along and approached my best spot. The lady who had been cheering me on was now down on her dock fishing. I gave her a wide berth to not bother her fishing, said high, and exchanged a few quick pleasantries. I joked I wanted to hit that one weed patch one more time. I made a long roll cast with my jig and hit the front edge of the weed patch perfectly. I gave it just a slight twitch and felt something pick it up and start swimming. I reeled down to catch up to the fish and then set the hook hard. This was a bigger fish, I just hoped it would help. I got it in the net, and it was a solid fish. The lady on the dock cheered and asked how big it was. There were a few more boats around at that time and I didn’t want everyone seeing what I just caught, so I turned the kayak and pedaled over to the dock. While I did, her husband came down to see the fish as well. I pulled the fish out and they were impressed. She asked “How long do you think it is? 20 inches?” I said “No, I’m thinking 18.75” I put it on the board and sure enough, 18.75 inches. It was an upgrade. Only a quarter of an inch, but it helped. I got my photos and put her back in the water.

A Small Upgrade

I decided I was done for the day. I sat at the dock for a while talking to the couple about the fish and fishing. We talked about my tournaments, how much I love their lake, and how I hoped that the lake would stay as unpressured as it was. She asked me how I was catching the fish, and I showed her a few baits. She showed me the ned rig she was using. She had on a blue worm. I gave her some pointers on how to fish it, and then also gave her a TRD TicklerZ in Canadian Craw which was closer to the color I was getting them on. I wished her luck and took off for the day. It was still early, but the weather was nice and if I planned on fishing hard on Sunday I knew I should get some yardwork done. Those pesky adult responsibilities always seem to get in the way.

With a successful saturday afternoon of chores behind me, I hit the lake Sunday knowing I could spend all day there if I needed to. I returned to the same lake I went last Sunday knowing it was my best shot for that one big bite. As I pulled off the highway heading to the lake, I came up behind a Subaru with a fishing kayak on the roof. I knew it had to be someone from my club. We both pulled into the ramp and it turned out to be Brenden. We chatted as we unloaded and took off onto the water. I wished him luck and heading out to my first spot for the day.

In the morning I decided to target a different section of the lake than the previous time. I stayed on the east side and worked my way around. In the dim predawn light, I started my day off by throwing a crankbait around the dropoffs. I hooked up on a few smallies, but nothing big. I didn’t expect to find a giant doing that, but you never know. I moved north and began working my way east along the bank to the far east side. There was great deep structure along the north shore which I could work along on my way to the shallow weed beds at the far east end. 

I alternated between the PB&J jig I had tied on and a shakeyhead worm. I had decent success on the jig, and a few bites on the shakeyhead. When the worm was torn up too much to throw anymore, I kept going only throwing the jig. I was doing ok, and was consistently catching fish in the 15 and 16 inch size class. I came up to a point with some scattered vegetation right around the dropoff. I flipped the jig into the grass and felt a hard bite. I set the hook on a heavy fish. I got it half way up to the boat, saw it was a decent fish but then in a flash it was off and gone. I don’t know if it would have helped, but it would have been nice to find out. That was the only good bite I got all morning.

It was getting close to noon and it had been fun so far. I fished all over the eastern area and caught a number of good fish, but the biggest I landed was only 17.75. Not enough to help me. I made the decision to return to some of the areas I hit the last time I was here. On my way to the first spot, I switched back to the black and blue jig. The PB&J was certainly working, but maybe the black and blue might get a bigger bite. I didn’t know, but I was looking to try anything.

I came up to the first main spot, a good area my buddy told me always produces. I fished there and sure enough after a few casts I was hooked up. But like before, it was still just a 16 inch fish. I looked ahead and decided I would continue along the shore up to the back of the next cove, then call it a day. It wasn’t that late, but I was tired and the wind was picking up.

I fished along and got to the mouth of the bay. The previous weekend when I was out here, I skipped this entire bay. According to my navionics chip, the bay was pretty shallow and I was having my success on the deeper drop-offs. As I entered the bay area, it was clear the deep water extended back into the bay much further than what the maps show. I came up on a cluster of laydowns. The tops of the trees were down in almost 20 feet of water. I worked those trees hard, flipping that jig in and over every branch and through every spot I could put it. I spent over five minutes just on that one spot but didn’t get a single bite. I was near the back of the cove and figured I would work the last section of lily pads and then take off. 

The bank was still dropping off pretty deep. I could tell the pads were up shallow, but just beyond them the bottom dropped away. I stood up, and made a long pitch just outside the pads. I was targeting the deeper water, not necessarily the pads. As the jig fell it never hit the bottom. The line just started sideways out toward the deeper water. I reeled up to the fish and set the hook.

The fish felt decent. I started fighting it and got it half way back when it made its first run deep. The fish was digging hard and that’s when I knew I had a big fish on. It kept diving and pulling drag. I was just hoping it would stay buttoned. I was worried about my hook set. When they hit it on the fall and swim off sideways, it can be hard to get a solid hook set. The fish kept digging under the kayak. I had the rod in my right hand and the net in my left. I lifted gently just looking for the fish to appear. Finally she came out from under the boat and I got my net under her. As I hoisted her into the boat all I could see was belly! It was a fat fish, but I had no idea how long it would be. 18 inches? 22 inches? Normally I can judge the length pretty quick but I had never caught a fish this round before. I put it on the board and she went 20.50 inches, not my longest ever, but this had to be my heaviest.

My new PB: 6.25 lb Largemouth

I looked across the bay and saw some people working down near the shoreline. I pedaled over and asked them if they had a fish scale. They pulled one out of their boat and the fish measured 6.25 pounds, my new PB! They commented it was the biggest bass they had ever seen caught there. They took a few photos of me holding the fish. There was no problem with me smiling for the camera, I was grinning ear to ear. I got my photos, got my measurements, and back into the water she went. I was spent so this was the perfect way to finish my day. No need to keep going after that. That fish was a 2-inch upgrade and gave me 98-inches for the tourney. I knew at the time I had a 2.25 inch lead, but only time would tell if it would hold.

Monday was going to be a long day. It was rainy, windy, and thunderstorms were rolling through so I elected to stay home. I had plenty to do at the house and it was an ideal day to get some work done. All morning tho I kept pulling up the standings. I was curious if anyone was out trying to fish. I had a great lead, but there are many big bass out there and someone could easily land a few and catch up in a hurry. Around noon they turned off the standings, but it didn’t stop me from being curious as to what other anglers were doing. It was brutal not being on the water knowing others could be catching fish. Unfortunately sometimes you just gotta do the adulting thing. I still kept my eye on social media to see if anyone was posting pictures of large fish. I was also checking the standings for the monthlong Challenge to see if any big fish popped up there. Only one hit that board before the tournament ended, it was a good one, but not enough to make me worry. At 9:00 the event was officially over, all that was left was to wait till Tuesday night for the results. I was confident in my win, but you never know until it’s official. 

The captains meeting was brief. They ran down the top 10 and there were a lot of great fish caught all over both the Adirondack and Catskill parks. When they got to the top 3, there was a big jump up from 88.75 for 4th and 95.5 for 3rd. I had talked to other anglers enough to know at that point I had won. It was my second club win of the season. It felt great. I worked hard those days on the water and managed to get on some quality fish. I utilized multiple resources, including my network or other fisherman to help put me in the right areas. I never had the tourney in the bag, with other great anglers hot on my heals the entire time. It was exciting right down to the last minutes; but now I could finally relax and enjoy my moment of glory!    

Final Standings of the Blue Line Brawl

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