Tournament Bass Fishing is not always the most enjoyable of events. Especially in the winter, there are going to be days on the water that we ask ourselves why are we here. My latest adventure was to Lake Palestine Texas for the first B.A.S.S. Weekend Series tournament of the new season. I have never been on this lake, much less even seen the shores of it. Well, except for Google Earth and my Navionics chip data that I had been studying. I was very excited to fish this event; I love the challenge of unfamiliar water. However, as the day of the tournament drew closer the weather deteriorated dramatically. The day of the tournament we launched in North East winds at 15 gusts to 25 and an air temperature of just 33 degrees. The winds were not forecast to let up and the day’s high was supposed to, emphasis on supposed, reach mid 40’s.
I was able to prefish for this tournament for two solid days. Knowing the forecasted weather conditions I was able to formulate a game plan based on what I had learned, seasonal patterns, and the forecast. During prefish, I was catching plenty of bass, even a few with some size. A five pounder was the first bass I caught out of Lake Palestine, so I was colored impressed with the lake. Water temperatures were in the mid 50’s; this means bass staging for the spawn. Early spring, with these water temperatures, I have always found my largest bass on any given lake on North West banks or pockets and Lake Palestine was no different. I found the largest concentrations of bass and bigger bass on North or West facing banks. Well, with a North East wind, this presents a problem.
The night before this event we had a meeting to go over rules and partner pairing. I have a very defined good luck bad luck relationship with the draw. More often than not I draw a great partner; however, we will be near the end of the pack in launch order. This time of year that is not necessarily a bad thing. When you draw late you also get to fish longer. Being in the last flight to blast off, we were allowed an extra 30 minutes to fish in the tournament. This translates into 30 more minutes that the sun has to warm the water. So when I think about it, I had a great draw this time, Daniel my partner for the day, was fantastic. Not once did he complain about the weather, where I was fishing, or how I was fishing it. This was Daniel’s first tournament, what a first tournament, and he was excited to be fishing even with the worst conditions possible.
It’s blast off; there are rollers like you can only imagine, and we have about 10 miles of running to do. As I mentioned before, I did not know the lake before we got there, part of my prefishing was to determine how to run the lake to the waters I would be fishing. After talking with a few people, it was obvious that when this lake was built they left all the timber in the middle of it. However, there was a path cleared around the lakes shores for traveling. My travel routes were doing just this, driving around the edges of the lake. Well, at blast off I could see boat after boat taking off right down the middle of the lake. This was interesting, to say the least, and something I’ll check out the next time I visit Lake Palestine. However, at safe light and in very larger rollers, was not the time to explore. Sure I could have followed one of the others that were headed in my direction, but what if he really didn’t know either. Ever hear of the blind leading the blind? I’ve been there done that and don’t want to do it again. I bring this up because it’s an experience factor. No one was willing to tell me that there was a path down the middle that could save time. I don’t blame these folks at all as I’m sure it’s a very specific path and to send someone out to find it could jeopardize equipment or even a life. However, now I know it’s there.
We get to my first location and as I’ve mentioned it’s a North West facing bank, and the wind is blowing North East. This means, the wind is blowing at an average of 20 mph straight down my bank of choice. At an ambient temperature of 33 degrees, this was not very comfortable, to say the least. I had a lot of confidence in this bank line, and it had a break to it that would allow shallow fish to pull slightly out to ride out the front. We worked this for about an hour, and I couldn’t take it anymore, only boating two bass just short of the 14 inch minimum I headed for calmer waters. Many of the other anglers had the same thought as I couldn’t find any calm water that did not already have a boat or three on it. This sent me back to the wind working several locations that I was able to shake fish off in practice, however, today with the wind it was virtually impossible to tell you had a strike with bottom bouncing baits and casting a crank bait or spinnerbait was difficult. The frontal conditions suggested that any type of reaction bite would be very tough to find. My last hole, in my milk run, was also the same style bank line. However, it had a point at the eastern side that would block the rollers. This point did not block the wind much; however, it did reduce the wave action and controlling the boat was much easier. This area also had a break line; however, there were two places on that break line that had scattered brush in 7-9 feet of water. This brush turned out to be a life saver for me. On the first brush top, I managed 6 fish in 10 casts to it and four were keepers. Needless to say, this got me very pumped. I was looking forward to the next set of brush piles just up the bank. I probably caught 20 bass in all; however, I never did put the fifth keeper in the boat.
I wrote not too long ago about how you have to catch five in order to be competitive in tournament bass fishing. While the bite was very tough for everyone, this tournament was no different. With four bass, I fell just a little over a pound out of the money. I still managed 18th place on a new body of water on the worst conditions possible, so I’m proud of my finish but at the same time disappointed in that I did not weigh a limit.
Our next event is on Lake Tyler, again another lake I have not fished or even seen. It’s off to do my research and get ready to try it again. While I love a tough tournament, I’m hoping for a little warmer weather conditions. The Lake Tyler tournament is the second weekend of March and if the weather straightens out and the stars align this one is probably going to be a slugfest.
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