Saturday, August 29, 2015

Fishing Through Curve Balls

I recently traveled to Lake Seminole in Sneads, Florida to scout for the last Bassmaster Southern Open tour event of 2015.
fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Jim Woodruff dam (background) created the 38,000 acre Lake Seminole

Being a multi-tasker, I also added to my list three other goals: re-learn the lake's massive stump fields and fishing quirks, record depth contours for Insight Genesis social maps, and find enough bass to successfully compete in the FL Bass Nation state qualifier tournament which I entered without any practice.  This qualifier tournament was my second to last chance to earn a birth into the Florida BASS Nation State Championship.

fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens

Lake Seminole is located north of Tallahassee, FL on the Florida /Georgia border.  It  was a five-hour drive to reach the boat ramp and it had been over six years since I fished Lake Seminole last. When I began boating around, I found a very different lake than I knew.  A mayfly hatch was in full swing, a strong northwest wind  had been blowing for several days, and the water was severely stained at the lower end near the dam.
Mayfly hatch on Lake Seminole had the bluegill happy

The conditions had eliminated much of the open water areas I previously knew to fish. I was forced to fish the limited wind protected areas and find new fish holding areas in my limited two days.  For a reservoir nearly 60 square miles (38,000 acres), the task was overwhelming.

fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Woodroof Dam creating the reservoir

Since it was summertime, I took the approach to tie on basic lures to cover the top, middle, and bottom of the water column.  Topwater plugs, spinnerbaits/ swimbaits, and worms were my first choice.

I scouted in the Chattahoochee river,  Flint, and Spring Creek sections of Lake Seminole. Water temperatures ranged 88-90F and locating solid groups of shad and bass was challenging. The hot summer water had fish scattered on the flats and my first fishing attempts were unsuccessful. The Chattahoochee River was stained, and the Flint and Spring Creek river arms were clear, almost too clear for the heat.
fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Stained water on Lake Seminole was common on the Chattahoochee river

In other areas of Lake Seminole, the exotic plant Hydrilla was choking out acres but making the water clear (FWC weed alert). Bass in the ultra clear water were spooky in the mid-day sunshine. Using typical clear water baits, I coaxed a lot of bass to follow my lures, but none would commit. Seeing three pounds bass follow lures all the way to the boat without striking made me believe the afternoon conditions were wrong to catch these bass after the sun began to blare. I would have to use the areas as morning fishing spots.
fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Hydrilla topping out and reducing access for boating 

Massive acres of topped out hydrilla
My second pattern was to try the deeper main channels and stained water areas. After a second day on the water, I mapped nearly 400 acres of contours for Insight Genesis social maps and figured out how to catch some bass in the process. A few nice fish were easy to flip up, and a few others hit the mid-water baits I scouted with.

fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Insight Genesis freshwater mapping software free with sign up

I felt I had performed a reasonable job of reacquainting myself with Lake Seminole after only two days on the water. I was going to fish the tournament the next day with some confidence, and a good deal of knowledge of the reservoir conditions.
When the morning of the Bass Nation state championship qualifying tournament arrived, I motored out into the lake ready to tackle the day.  I noticed on the Army Corp website that the reservoir discharge had increased 4 fold.

I arrived at my first spot on the main river and worked it over for an hour without a bite. I witnessed the water flow to be much faster, water higher, and all my stained water was replaced by clear, tannic water. The reservoir managers had needed to move water overnight due to heavy rain in Georgia, and this flushed the entire lower end of the lake.  Life had thrown me my first curve ball! The sudden change in water conditions altered fish behavior and locations.  I was forced to start practicing again after wasting an hour trying to coax bass in my area to bite.
fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Weather change threw me a curve ball

I fished many promising areas again and focused on efficiently covering the habitat, while at the same time looking for a sign of bass or fish activity.

By 9am the wind had died to present me with a mirror-calm Lake Seminole, 99F degree heat index, and sunny, cloudless skies.  This second curve ball made conditions even tougher!
fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Lack of wind produced slick water and slowed the bite down

I put my trolling motor down just went fishing through fishy-looking areas with a mix of plants. I managed to find one area where I picked up three bites on my spinnerbait.  I landed only one of the three bass, and gave myself a pathetic 33% landing average.  Later in the day I hit a bass flipping but failed to land it too. This dropped my landing average to a horrible 25%. To state the obvious, I had a mentally challenging day!

fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
My single bass was big enough to finish in 9th place
In the end, I brought only one bass to the scales in my state qualifier tournament.  However, since bass tournaments competitors fish under the same changing conditions, the weights are all relative. The champion was a local expert who weighed in 18-pounds for a five-fish limit, beating me by a large margin.
I was happy to see my bass was big enough to earn me 9th place, and a birth into the 2015 FL Bass Nation State Championship! This was great news on a hard fishing day.  The State Championship is scheduled this November to be near my home on the Harris Chain of Lakes in Leesburg, FL.  I should have a much better tournament with the ability to practice more.
My trip was successful on all accounts except my fish landing skills. I met my goals of re-learning the stump fields, scouting Lake Seminole's quirks, recording depth readings for Insight Genesis, finding aquatic plants and bass, and earning my birth into the state championship!  I had mixed emotions on the outcome.  I enjoyed the time on the water, but I was not happy with my poor execution of converting fish bites into landing fish.
I remain motivated on building my skills at adapting to on-the-water-conditions, and improving my conversion of hookup-to-landings.  Had I achieved a 100% ratio in the tournament I would have made a top-five finish.  I should have done better.....
Now that qualified for FL Bass Nation State Championship, I already started mapping the Harris Chain Of Lakes for Insight Genesis social maps and re-learning the location of this year's bass communities and aquatic vegetation.
fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Began practice on Harris Chain for State Championship

Having to share the water with anglers and aviators
In September, I'll join KISS (Kids In Support of Soldiers) for a packaging event for our military troops.
fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens

fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
In October, I fish my last Bassmaster Southern Open event of 2015 on Lake Seminole. We launch out of Bainbridge, GA, so I will need to learn some more stump fields to successfully navigate around that section of the lake.

Finally, In November after the Bassmaster Southern Open, I return my focus to winning the FL Bass Nation State Championship on the Harris Chain of Lakes, FL.  Accomplishing that goal will provide me the opportunity to fish the Bassmaster Classic!  

fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
I was taught by anglers much better than myself, and I still have much to learn, so I am always willing to pay it forward to other anglers who are wanting to learn more.
Visit my webpages "Angler Resource" for aquatic plant info, maps, water info, techniques, and more.

fishing tips from bass fishing on bassmaster opens
Thanks for following along!