Saturday, March 28, 2015

Clear Creek Bayou Report - 3-27-2015

A friend of my mine from Virginia was in town for work and I promised to put him on some bass.  We had been planning this trip for sometime knowing he was coming down.  In fact last year he was down we were going to go, but thunder storms put a stop to that trip.  This year the weather forecast looked a lot better for a trip. Initially I was going to take him out to Fayette County Lake but he wanted to fish the bayous.  The bayous are a lot like the rivers he fishes in Virginia and was hoping to pick up some pointers.  The conditions of our bayous hasn't been great with all the rains we have had the water has stayed muddy pretty much all spring.  However during the Bassmaster Elite Tournament on the Sabine River last weekend Pro Mike McClelland ran all the way from the Sabine River to Clear Creek Bayou to fish.  Not sure how long that run takes but it had to be close to 2 hours both ways by boat.  If an Elite Pro has that much confidences in a body of water, you know there are fish to be caught.  Mr. McClelland did catch bass, enough bass for an awesome 2nd place finish and was right behind the winner Chris Lane. Enough about last weekend and lets get into what happened during our trip to Clear Creek Bayou.

After that front blew through here on Thursday I was worried about taking Fred out on Friday.  There wasn't a lot of rain with this front but the water would still be muddy from all the previous rains.  What concerned me most about Thursday's front was the high northerly winds.  When we get really strong winds from the north it tends to blow the water out of Galveston Bay and in turn the water is sucked out of all the connecting bayous.  The winds had help as the tide was already due to flow out which meant we would likely face some low water conditions.  This was not our only issue though as we would also be facing the dreaded "Bluebird" day after a front with bright blue sunny skies.  What accompanies a "Bluebird" day is also a quick rise in the Biometric Pressure that can turn off the fish.  Well as I got to the ramp Friday morning all my fears about the conditions came true and in fact the water was lower than even I expected.  It was a good 2.5-3 feet lower than a normal low tide which meant a lot of the structure we would have normally fish would be totally out of water.  In fact the water was so low we couldn't use the dock at the ramp as it was close to 6 feet above my boat. The sky was also very clear and the Biometric Pressure was rising quickly as well.  So this was really putting pressure on me to put Fred on some fish.

We left the dock right at 7:30 AM and headed up the bayou.  A couple of spots I thought might be
holding spawning bass off the main bayou weren't accessible due to the low water so I continued our
run up the bayou.  We finally came to one of my favorite spots and though the water was really low some of the structure I fish there still had water around it, plus there is a good drop off and I hoped the fish might have pulled back from the structure to this drop off.   My guess was right and Fred soon hooked up but lost the first bass of the day.  However it didn't take him too long to get another hit and land his first Texas Bayou Bass.  After Fred landed this bass the pressure was off me big time.

Now how did I have Fred rigged up to catch his first Bayou Bass?  Well I went to an ole tried and trued bayou bait the Tube Craw.  The Tube Craw is very similar to a standard Tube bait but as you can see from the picture it has some craws added.  I can say that the Tube Craws have been a very affective bait for us and it is something about those added craws that really turn on the bass.  We have used them in the bayous for a number of years with awesome results but for some reason they are extra affective on Clear Creek.  I haven't asked the bass but I'm pretty sure that these Tube Craws presentation has to be very close to how the Crawfish move and act on this bayou.  The way I rig a tube craw is very different than most folks that fish tube baits.  So to make it easy here is a video of how I rig a Tube Craw that Fred will testify works really well.

Now what about me?  I decided to fish a little bigger bait in hopes of catching a big girl to impress Fred.  The bait I picked was a Creme Lures Same Thing (ST) Beaver or Badd Bugg as some of us call them.  I rigged the Badd Bugg similar to how I rigged the Tube Craw.  Fred had caught one and lost two fish when I had my first hit.  It was one of those classic thumps that generally signals a big girl and so I set the hook hard.  My rod bowed up under the force of the fish and then the unthinkable happened, my line broke.  Only thing I could figure was my line had become nicked or weakened some how.  Needless to say I was a bit disappointed as this was a really good fish.  I did catch a decent bass on the Beaver a little later but found the bass wanted something a little smaller. Going smaller was easy, I switched to a Creme ST Craw.  Now I rigged the ST Craw on a Santone Lures Football Piglet shaky head which really lets this bait stand up once the bait settles on the bottom.  Once it is on the bottom you can shake it slightly and it makes the craws move without moving the bait and gives it a realistic appearance that the bass just can't turn down.  I finished the day using the ST Craws and though I never hooked up with another Big Girl, I was able to keep pace with Fred and the Tube Craw in the numbers department.

Now if we had landed all the fish we had bite then we would have had an exceptional day on the bayou.  Really it was a surprising day for the conditions we faced.  In fact ole Fred was able to put one better than average bass in the boat and had another that was really solid. The bass seemed to turn on a little more after the tide started to flow in.  As we fished the water level did rise about a foot, but it never got to a point where it would be during a normal low tide.  So this day we basically fished areas I've found over the years with structure in deeper water during normal conditions.   In this case this was the only structure that was still in the water because the low water had all the normal structure along the banks of the bayou high and dry.  Again if you look at the picture of Fred with his biggest bass of the day, you can see where the water line is on the bulkhead.  This picture was taken after the tide had been coming in for about 2 hours.  You can also see the muddy water we dealt with on the day.  In this muddy water we fished darker baits to start with in the morning.  Black and Blue Black worked best.  However after the sun got up in the sky we found that a good Watermelon Red Flake was the color they wanted.  The red flakes really showed up well in the water with the bright sun.   Speaking of the sun, I believe that this "Bluebird" day actually helped us with the muddy water conditions.   It let the fish see our baits better, especially the Watermelon Red Flakes.

There is one more thing that I know helped us catch more fish too.  That is Liquid Mayhem  Fish Attractants.   We saw and talked to some other guys bass fishing and they didn't seem to be having the same good luck we were having.  I know that Fred is now sold on using Liquid Mayhem.  As we chatted during the day I found out that the conditions he fishes in the Virginia Rivers is a lot like the conditions we faced from a water clarity standpoint.  The bass we were catching all aggressively hit and held onto our baits and I have to give all the credit to Liquid Mayhem.  With the conditions we were fishing the bass shouldn't have been aggressive at all.  I know for a fact that Liquid Mayhem makes me a better fisherman and everyone that I've had use it continue to use it afterwards.  I know Fred will be ordering some as soon as he gets home.

So what is the moral of today's story?  That is simple, you can't catch bass unless you get out there and fish!!  So don't give up even when the conditions are totally against you.  Just because the conditions change doesn't mean the bass move to a different location.  No they will be very near the same locations as they are under perfect conditions.  Now all you have to do is find out what they want.  So you have to work out a plan for the poor conditions and first and foremost use a confidence bait.   I wanted Fred to have a good time and catch some bass and that is why I rigged him with a Tube Craw.  I knew the bass in Clear Creek Bayou loved Tube Craws and they would give Fred his best chance at catching something. So don't sit on the couch the next time the conditions aren't the best, get out there and get after those bass!!!

You can also Follow me on
Twitter - @BHOAdventures
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Also Checkout the great folks that help make my fishing adventure possible and the tackle I use and trust.
Santone Lures
Creme Lures
Dunamis Rods
Liquid Mayhem Fish Attractants

Until next time, Tight Lines and Take a Kid Fishing!!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

The Agony of Defeat or The Pride of Turning a Corner

The conditions for FLW BFL Gator division #3 on Okeechobee were not ideal. The water temperatures had dropped over 10 degrees all over the lake. The wind still wouldn't decide which direction it was going to blow. The wind didn't have any problem blowing all out (15-20mph) even if it couldn't figure out a direction. All reports from practice were the same. The bite is tough. Really tough.

The third BFL had us launching out of the north end of the lake on the Kissimmee river. This meant either very long runs to my known areas in the south, or really work hard at developing new areas in the north. I have never liked the north end of the lake like my beloved south. Give me Pelican Bay or South Bay well, any day. When my son and I launched for practice on Friday, I had basically laid out the north end in my head from map work. My plan was to work from the Kissimmee river south all the way to the Harney pond area. I wanted 3 to 5 big areas that would give me the kind of water that I like to fish in the south. As I said above, the conditions were rough. High cold winds, a very tough bite, and ugly water. However with persistence and moving ever farther south, Matt and I found some fantastic new water. I found all the right grass, all the right clarity, even found a spawning bay way way back in the junk that had about a thousand fresh clean beds in it. We got a few decent bites, but I was less concerned with bites. What I found was a mother load of really great water that given the warmer temps the next day should be just the ticket to an exceptional day. If only the weather once again would cooperate. My entire plan was based on the fact that air temps would be in the high 70's the next day. With mostly sunny skies the shallow waters of the great beast would warm significantly and I was pumped. In traditional Okeechobee fashion, the air temps did indeed rise. However the skies at least in my neck of the woods never cleared. The vast blanket of clouds never let the sun bake the waters. The water temps during the day only came up from 56 to 58. Let me spoil the ending for you. The guy that won ran straight across the lake to a big rock pile and worked it all day. His theory (way better than mine) was simple and well known. Rocks hold heat. He walked away with it. 

So flash back to the tournament day. I wanted to start on the area Matt and I found that had the most bites in the shortest stretch. It was a huge flat bay that had thick and many areas of scattered grasses. The water was a little more stained, but there was everything I look for. Lots of different grass, good quality water, and activity everywhere. The birds told me I was right on it. They were also everywhere. I pulled around the corner and sagged in my seat. Five boats were sitting in and around the flat doing exactly what I planned on doing. However, I noticed none of them were working directly toward the stretch that Matt and I had so many bites on. So I stayed out of the way of the boats who were already there and tried to get myself in position to work that stretch if nothing else. My co-angler caught a little keeper within minutes of arriving, so I felt good about our chances. We worked our way carefully along the far inside edge of the flat throwing a variety of moving baits. I was throwing my favorite Lock Jaw Jigs 3D eye jig with a Mister Twister bait that is not quite ready for prime time (its in production not released and still not authorized to share so shhhhh). My co-angler caught his little keeper on a spinner bait. I rotated between all of my standards. Even dead sticking a Mister Twister Comida (soft stick bait).  The bites weren't coming and we kept getting edged away from the best grass area by the press of other boats. I am very conscious of other boats and not being that jerky guy that runs right across someone else's line. We were all working the same area but along similar lines not interfering with each other. It was actually a very nice display on all of our parts. However, as the inside line guy I ran out of real estate way faster than everyone else. I knew the bite was going to stay tough for most of the day, so I was decisive and strategic and made a move to my second spot. My second spot was a dream in terms of perfect water. It had mats, hydrilla, lillys, scattered cane, and all manner of other cover including brush all in perfect water clarity. 

I started in this area throwing top water because the area screamed top water. I was covering water and as I pulled up to each of the mats in the area I punched them with my go to combo. I use a 1 1/2 tungsten weight a 4/0 Trokar flipping hook carrying a Mister Twister Poc'it craw in Okeechobee Craw color. I add a good line of Rage Fish Attractant to the craw and weight work it in good all over the bait. This gives me a good deal of confidence because, I truly believe and have seen in action the fish hold onto the bait a little longer that way. Within the first 15 minutes I got bit in a mat. I pitched the craw into the center of a small mat, saw the whole mat quiver (the dream of all flippers), got bit, and smashed into a really decent fish. Three cranks and I had the fish and half the mat at the edge of the boat, but lost it right as my co-angler went for the net. It was probably only 3 or 4 pounds, and the risk reward in mat punching is pretty high or low depending on your or the fishes perspective. I wish my co had moved quicker, but bottom line is I didn't land the fish. That's on me not my co. Once again though I knew I was in a decent area pretty quickly. I had two more decent flipping bites, but no hookups. My best guess on those was not letting them eat the bait. I was hitting them too quick. We worked all over this area remarking on just how perfect (but cold) the water was. We moved around a lot trying the far inside, middle, and far outside grass lines with everything but the kitchen sink. 

At this point in a tournament day I would normally be wound tighter than a drum and my mind would be playing dangerous games with my thinking. However I am extremely proud of how I handled the day to that point. I had moved around, thought on my feet, and was trying everything I had at my disposal to make something happen. This is the beginning of the true turning point in my tournament fishing as a boater. I knew I was being smart. I was doing everything right.

At this point, we decided to make a run to the big spawning bay I had found. There was a chance that some fish were still hanging around or with the warming air temps the fish might pull back in there. It's tricky getting in there, but I managed it like I've been doing it for years. Again a real turning point for me. Previously I wouldn't have done something like run on plane in 2.5 feet of water down a tight cut and maneuvering into a place like this. But I was fishing to win. There is a hard to describe difference I felt out there that day. I'm sure guys who have done this much longer than me already know this feeling, but it is new to me and part of my growth in the sport. I knew at a core level that I was doing everything right to win. I was fishing for big fish exactly like I needed to win. One thing I do have to make sure of in the future though is using a push pole in a place like that. Very thick and hard to manage the boat. There were beds everywhere and some fish movement. Because I couldn't be as stealthy as necessary, I fished the beds I couldn't see way out in front of me. I caught three little bucks back there who I think had early aspirations of being daddy's. They were all just shy of 12 inches so still no keepers. We worked all around this bay hunting some bedding fish that never materialized. The water temps in this shallow bay had improved to 60 degrees but still not enough to really draw them back in there. Again though, I was doing it right. I was trying everything that you should try. I had found very healthy areas, and I was working them methodically waiting for the bite to come to me. I continued to believe even as late as 3pm (ck in 5pm) that they would turn on and if I stayed working in my best areas, the bite would happen and we would get good real quick.

We left the little bucks behind to hit my first area one more time now that the boats had cleared out. We worked the best part of the grass line one more time but didn't waste time when the bite still didn't materialize. I decided to start heading back towards the launch ramp with three more good spots on the way back. Again all of this water was perfect in every technical sense and I was fishing with tons of confidence even though I still didn't have a fish in the live well. I was fishing with way more confidence than makes rational sense, but that is the part I am the most proud of.  I was not lost in my head feeling sorry for myself and making excuses. I was fishing hard fast and with purpose.

After trying my best remaining spot my co-angler suggested we finish the day on Kings Bar a community area very close to the ramp. He said its almost a guaranteed late afternoon bite which I had heard before as well. This is another one of those places on Okeechobee that just makes it one of the most special places on earth if you're a bass fisherman. There is everything here. Cane, lilly pads, mats of all kinds, hydrilla all over, penny wart, everything. Again, even with an hour left in the fishing day, I knew I could still win this tournament. One wave of big girls pulling in here off the main lake for a late afternoon feeding session, and I could win this tournament in a blink. The true turning point folks right there. Let me repeat that. I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I could still win this thing. I fished like a machine. I fished with confidence. I fished exactly how you have to if you ever expect to be a winner in this game. I am very proud of making that turn in the road. The best part. I was still having fun. I was still enjoying every sight sound and moment standing on the deck of my bass boat leaving behind all the rest of the world for those brief few hours living the dream.

Unfortunately nothing happened except my co caught a monster pickeral that for a moment made us think he was about to win big bass. I scored my first zero in the BFL's as a boater. But looking back I have zero regrets. I have zero shoulda, coulda, woulda's. I fished like I know what I am doing. I am proud of making this turn in the road. I wish the results had been better, but truly this was as gratifying a loss as I could ever wish for. I executed the day like you have too to win. This knowledge and this confidence is exactly why I will succeed. Tight lines everyone. Never stop learning. Never stop dreaming. Peace.