Have you ever headed to your favorite lake with a great plan for catching fish, only for it not to go the way you thought it would? Before going fishing, most people prepare by deciding where on the lake or river they want to fish. They may also think about the time of year, expected fish habits and predicted weather so that they can set up their poles with their chosen baits. Although you did everything to prepare, things may be different the day you go out on the water, and being flexible is important. This past weekend for me was an example of being flexible.
The State Junior Bassmaster Tournament was schedule for August 11. Originally, it was supposed to be at Pueblo Reservoir. I was excited for this and I was already making my plans several weeks ago. I was excited for Pueblo because itís my favorite bass lake in the state and it has good populations of largemouth, smallmouth, and spotted bass. A few weeks before the tournament, though, it got switched to Horsetooth and I was a little upset.
Now I had to change my plan knowing that I would only be targeting smallmouth and have a much smaller lake to work with. To help with my planning, I got advice on lures and spots from Ronny Castiglioni (Ronny Cast) from Fishful Thinker. Based on my research and Ronnyís suggestions I set my poles up with a tube, a senko, a crankbait, a jerkbait, and a drop-shot. I also had four main spots in mind where I was going to fish.
The gathering time for the Colorado Junior Bassmasters State Tournament was set for 5:30 am in the south parking lot of Horsetooth Reservoir. Even before the sun had fully risen, you could tell it was overcast. It was also a little breezy but at the same time warm. It was time to draw boats and I was hoping to be on a boat with someone that I knew was a good bass fisherman like Frank Villa, Chad Brekke, Curtis Welch, or Jeff Jones. My draw ended up being a walleye fisherman with the lowest horsepower motor in the tournament. I sincerely appreciate all the boaters volunteering their time so I wasnít upset but I knew it would make my day a little more challenging. We were boat number seven out of twelve and within seconds of us taking off, all five boats that were behind us passed us. Luckily, though, no one was on my first choice spot when we got to it, but everyone had gone north where all of my other main spots were.
I fished at the first spot with no success for 2 hours and finally decided to move just about the time the wind started to pick up. I figured that most of my spots up north were already taken, so I decided to go back south to a point that wasnít on my original list. I hoped that since it was windy, shad would be moving over the top of the point and there would be some bass waiting for them on the other side. When we got there I tried most of the things I had tied on with no success. Now I figured my lack of success may be more lure selection than location. Even though they werenít in my original plan, I decided to give a jigging spoon a try. I tied one on and on my second cast I had a fish. The fish was 14-ľ inches and any fish above 14 is very decent for Horsetooth. Of my next three fish on the jigging spoon, two were over 13 inches and I thought to myself, ďIf this keeps up Iíll do pretty good today.Ē
After that, the fishing had kind of died down so we went back to the first spot we had tried to see if we could get any of those fish to commit to a jigging spoon. We didnít catch anything there except a little 6 inch smallie so we decided to go back to the spot where we had caught all those fish. When we got there they didnít want to bite the spoon but they were all over a weightless senko. I then proceeded to finish out my 7 fish limit on the senko.
At this point, it was getting close to the end of the tournament and we only had about one and a half hours left. Suddenly, my partner started catching a bunch on a little 1/16 ounce wacky rigged 6 inch thin worm. After he had caught a few I decided to put one on. It was taking a little long to get down there and they were taking it right after you lifted it off the bottom. When I realized this I put it on a drop shot so it would get down quicker and I could keep it in the strike zone for as much time as I needed. Using this method I culled some of my smaller fish in the last hour so all of my seven fish were all at least 13 inches.
It was time to go in and I felt like I had a pretty good bag but I still wasnít sure if I would win. We drove up to where we would find out the results and I gave the recorder my card. I talked to a few people while I waited to hear the results and didnít hear about anyone having a lot more luck than I did. When the results were finally ready, I waited in anticipation for my name to be called by Frank Villa, the Junior Bassmaster state coordinator. After he announced twelfth through third without saying my name, I knew I was either second or first. I have finished 2nd in my last three state tournaments, so I was really hoping that my name wouldnít be called next. When he called the second place name and it wasnít me, it was an awesome feeling. I couldnít believe that I had actually gotten first.
I think one of things I am learning at this stage of my fishing career is to be able to adapt when conditions change or when things just donít go the way I expected them to. I also think that sometimes things are just meant to be. If the tournament had been at Pueblo, things could have turned out completely differently. If I had been on a faster boat or had an earlier draw, I may have gone further north and never made it to the spot that held all of my fish. If I would have just stuck with the lures I had planned to use, I would have not had the success I did.
After Frank announced the winners of the younger age group, he did the same for the older teens. Seth Willard won in that age group, which is his second state championship. Seth and I are now official members of the Colorado Bass Federation Nation state team and we will get to fish with the adult team members at the Western Divisional Tournament in April 2013. The event will be held in California either at Clear Lake or the California Delta.
Thanks to Curtis Welch and Frank Villa for running the junior clubs and making this tournament happen. I also want to thank Ronny for his help, and Danny Bass and all of the other boaters who volunteered their time.