Fall Brawl Mania

The season was winding down, yet many anglers in our club were hungry for more competition. Many had hoped to fish a tournament the last weekend of September, but when they found out they were ineligible to fish it, we decided to do something extra. The TDs of Adirondack KBF decided we would host another event. We knew it had to be an online event, but we didn’t want just another basic 5 fish tournament. We debated on what other kind of event we could do, and we settled on a MLF format tournament.

For those not familiar with MLF, that’s Major League Fishing. It’s the newest of the Professional Bass Fishing tours, and they run their tournaments completely different to BASS or FLW. While a normal bass tournament is your 5 largest fish, MLF scores every single fish caught above a certain limit. They set it at 1 lb. There is an official in the boat with the angler who scores each fish when it is caught, and then the fish is immediately released. This format lends itself to kayak fishing perfectly since we measure each fish and photograph it before releasing it anyway.

The biggest debate we had was going to be the minimum size limit. A normal KBF tournament has a minimum size of 12-inches. This is great in a live event when the conditions may be tough, but when an angler gets to choose where they fish, and they can put an unlimited amount of fish on the board, we felt this would be too short. There are many smallmouth lakes an angler could go to and put up a couple dozen 12 and 13 inch fish in a day no problem. This may lead to an exciting tournament, but would be a nightmare on the directors to score over the next few days. We landed on a 14-inch minimum which I felt ended up being perfect. 14-inches is really the next “Class” of bass. It would keep it from being a dink fest, yet still allow some big bags for those who could find schools of that next size up fish.

With the details settled, all that was left for me was to plan my tournament. This was different than anything we had ever done so I went back through remembering everything I saw when watching the MLF events this past year. One key I remembered was that early in the season, those anglers who were used to fishing for just a couple big bites struggled. I knew I couldn’t fish slow, I couldn’t pick apart an area looking for just those couple big bites. I needed numbers. I also needed to figure out WHERE I would fish. I have a few honey hole spots that put up big fish, but I rarely have 10 fish days there. I usually only catch 7-8 fish, and 3 of them will be tanks. But that’s not what this event is about so I came up with a new plan.

I didn’t want to drive far since this was a fun event and didn’t count for points or anything, and I wanted to keep it low key. I decided to go to Saratoga Lake. It’s local, and I’ve had days there where I’ve hammered the 14 and 15 inch fish. This is exactly the type of lake and conditions I needed. The weather forecast for Saturday called for sunny skies and a strong south wind. That would mean the north end would get blown out so I elected to fish the south end. There was another reason I wanted to fish the south end. DOCKS!

This would be a perfect tournament for flipping docks. The end of September can be a weird month for fishing in NY. The water is just starting to cool down so the deeper water fish are creeping up into the shallows. At the same time, many homeowners are pulling their docks out for the season. This would mean the docks left should be holding large numbers of fish with maybe an occasional big one that has moved up. The bright sun was a bonus that would concentrate those fish back into the darkest places under the docks. There was still plenty docks to be found at the south end so I had my plan. Just pound the docks all day and see what happens.

Saturday morning came and I wasn’t in a huge hurry to get on the water. Fishing started at 7:00am, but I was literally launching right next to a big marina and lots of fishing targets so I didn’t need to actually launch before 6:55am. I stopped on my way to the lake, got a coffee and a breakfast sandwich, and took my time rigging up while I ate my breakfast. I launched about 6:50am and made my way around inside the marina. I grabbed a spinning rod with a wacky rigged Biospawn Exostick and waited for lines in. My alarm went off and I made my first cast. It only took a few minutes and I was hooked up. A nice 16.25-inch largemouth and I was on the board at 7:06! This was shaping up just how I expected.

Good Start to my Day

The rest of the morning was slow and steady. I worked every dock up and down. I threw a multitude of baits up under there, from a wacky rigged Exostick, to a texas rigged Baby Brush Hog, a micro finesse jig, and just a regular green pumpkin jig with a Smallie Beaver trailer. The fish weren’t too picky; I got bit on all of it when I put the bait in the darkest spots back up under the docks. I landed a few short fish and a couple pickerel, but the quality fish weren’t coming quite in the numbers I hoped for. The odd thing I was finding was that I would not catch more than one bass off of any dock. Once I hooked one, no matter what I threw back under there, or how long I fished it, it was always a “One and Done” pattern.

It was half way through the event, and I just finished uploading my 7th fish for 109.5 inches. I was right in line with my goal of 15 fish for the day and 225 inches. I pulled up the standing to see how everyone was doing. It was beginning to look like it was going to be a 2 man race. Zach was ahead of me by 30 inches. The cool thing about this tournament was I didn’t see it as 30 inches. I saw it as 2 fish. I didn’t need to think about culling, what my smallest fish was, what his smallest was. All I knew was I needed to catch two more keepers before he did. It made it much more of a race and it was on!

I moved on to the next couple docks and got my next keeper. But when I uploaded it, Zach had put two more on the board. He was clearly on them so I needed to speed up my game. I was coming to the end of a set of docks and decided now was the time to run across the lake and get over to maybe where I could get some smallies or more concentrated docks. It was going to cost me 20 minutes of travel time, but I figured it was worth it. I turned east and made my way to Snake Hill.

When I pulled up to Snake Hill, Zach still had about a 45 inch lead on me. I figured it was a three fish lead so I kept going faster . I landed another small one just north of the point, then moved back south to where some more docks were concentrated. I was done fishing slow. I stopped fishing all the area between the docks. Even the pads and grass which looked really good. The fact was I had only pulled 12s and 13s out from the pads and shorts wouldn’t help me now. I needed solid fish. I knew the pattern had been one and done so once I got a bite on a dock, I immediately left to head on to the next one.

I fished as hard and as fast as I could along that stretch. When I broke off a bait, I didn’t bother to re-tie I just put the rod away and grabbed a different one. My finesse jig was broke off, my regular jig was broke off, I was out of stick baits in my front hatch and I wasn’t going to dig into my plastics bag to find more. The hook on my texas rig was getting bent out from all the hard hook sets, but it was still sharp so I roughly bent it back and kept going. I was down to the final minutes and couldn’t waste time to get a new one out. I needed every last cast I could make. 

At 2:42 I uploaded my 14th fish. I was now 38 inches back. That meant I either needed two giants or three keepers. I kept gunning. Finally I got another bite! A 14.75 at 2:54. I didn’t stop to upload this time. I needed to keep casting. The next dock looked great and I shot up to it. A few flips in and I felt the bite. I set the hook and came back with only half of my Brush Hog. Was that a largemouth? A pickerel? A rock bass? I rigged a new one quick and kept casting. I didn’t have time to move to the next dock and just hoped maybe this dock would be the exception and have a group under it. But then my alarm sounded. It was 3:00 and the day was over.

Last Fish with 6 Minutes Left

I started to pedal back to the launch and uploaded my last fish. It had been a good day. I landed 15 scorable bass for a total of 228.5 inches. Zach was sitting in first with 251.5 inches. I couldn’t quite catch up. But I had a decent lead over third place and there were only a few anglers who were signed up to fish Sunday so I liked my chances to cash a check. It was a fun tournament, I loved the format, and it made for quite an exciting finish for me. All that was left was to sit back and wait for the results of Sunday to be revealed.

The announcement came and had help on to the number 2 spot. It was a solid showing on a new style of fishing and I was happy to have cashed a check. After talking with other anglers about it, everyone seemed to love having something different like that, and the excitement of just putting up numbers of fish gave everyone something a little different to do. The 14-inch limit turned out to be ideal. Many anglers put up large numbers of 13 inch fish, but struggled to find that next size class. I’m certain more of these style events will be in our club’s future. All that was left of my season was our Club Classic on Round Lake, I had a long shot at Angler of the Year but you’ll just have to wait for the next post to see if I could pull off a miracle.

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