Still attempting to get my act together on the BassMaster Invitational Circuit I headed to the Arkansas River last month to fish the first Invitational of the Central Division. The section of river we were able to fish was about 100 miles long. Like last year I chose to fish the southern portion of tournament waters. It was my intentions to fish backwaters and creeks being that it was Fall and that the shad would be back in the creeks spawning again with the bass along with them.
This never fail Fall pattern proved to hold up again as I found a good load of fish back in a main creek. The creek was textbook: deep, with timber, with milfoil, with coontail, with lilly pads, and with small tributaries draining into it. I fished these fish for two days during heavy rain trying to figure out the best way to catch them. Normally I would have just figured that out during the tournament but in this case time was a major factor. These fish took two hours to reach one way so fishing time totaled about three and a half hours. Even late into the second day with all of the rain the water remained clear and it seemed that the runoff was not going to change the water clarity. There was so much aquatic vegetation that I figured any major runoff would be filtered by the matted thick grass that choked the creek.
With my “ace in the hole” fish located I went north for the third day and practiced near the harbor. The tournament would run out of the harbor and it is always good to have a few fish located there just in case.
At the pairings meeting on Wednesday night I drew a guy from Kentucky for the first day. We agreed to head South to my fish the next day. So far so good.
The next morning we leave out in Flight 2C right on time and we are headed out the harbor when we hit a wall of fog just before we reach the Arkansas River. The fog was so thick that we could barely see the front of the boat. Fortunately we were near the bank so we at least had a landmark. My partner said he had a creek nearby that he had caught fish in during practice, so we idled to it. We did not have many other choices being that it was too dangerous to travel in the fog with 152 other tournament boats on the water not to mention the spectator boats, barges, and rock dikes lining the river and harbor.
We stayed in the harbor all day and I caught a limit of fish. I felt confident about the day but knew I could have done better down south on my backwater fish. Anyway I was off to a good start and was in the top 50. My partner for the second day agreed to go South and fish my fish.
We left out Friday morning in Flight 1B and headed down river on our two hour journey. Travel time is only one hour but to go that far South you have to lock down twice which take about a half hour each.
After the second lock it was about thirty five minutes to my fish. I shaved the corners of the river, ran on the insides of the channel buoys, and screamed by the ends of rock dikes trying to cut the distance down a bit in order to get there faster. We turned off of the river and headed into the creek running wide open all the way, I could not wait to get there. During that time I totally forgot about the tournament and all I wanted to do was to get there and enjoy the awesome fishing that was in store for us. As I neared the back of the creek and began to slow an ice cold chill hit me as I realized the water was the muddier than Trinity Bay on a North wind. I quickly looked around and knew this place was impossible in the time that we had to fish. I picked up a spinnerbait made several casts trying to figure out what to do. My partner a very knowledgeable bass fisherman from Oregon agreed that it was hopeless in the time that we had.
Between the second day of practice and the second day of the tournament two days had passed and enough run-off had drained into the creek and ruined the entire backwater. Sure the fish were still there but muddy water initially sickens the fish and makes them lull and not bite. You can still get reaction bites if you get your bait close to them. Well actually the fish in this situation were new to me because I had never fished for bass in water that was this muddy. It was not off color or stained it was rolling mud. Anytime I had ever encountered water that was this muddy I would just go someplace else and fish. This was my key area that was ruined but I did have two lesser backup areas. We fished them and scrambled up a couple of fish each for the day but my expectations were no where near fulfilled.
The third day treated me worse than the second and I fell out of the hunt but I also relearned an old lesson. The lesson being don’t count your chickens before they hatch. I thought that I had a for sure honey hole down in that backwater and my plan backfired with me not ever even considering a back up plan. So in a sense I was not mentally prepared because I had not thought out alternatives for all of the possible situations. Looking back it is as simple as pie, you have to roll with the punches and roll with the weather that Mother Nature deals out. You have to get “into the flow” of Mother Nature. I was obviously no where near the “flow” in this tournament.
In tournament bass fishing there are always variables that can help you be a hero or cause you to be a zero. At any rate my learning continues and I’ll start the whole tournament process over in Georgia late this month at Lake Hartwell.
Also, a special congratulations to my friend and traveling partner Brian Utecht for finishing up in 12th place in Arkansas Tournament. Brian’s fish held up through all of the rain and he mastered three baits during the tournament to coax his fish into biting in a twenty yard stretch of shoreline. Good job Bro.
Bill Cannan Professional Fishing Guide – Lake Mohave
– Lake Mohave