Just a bit of frustration is starting to sink in.
It was still pretty dark when I arrived at the public access a little before 6AM. It was cloudy, cool but not cold, and quite windy, which had everyone a bit put off. I brought a raincoat but didn't have a bib. I was surprised that my partner Chuck's boat is one of the smaller tiller model Rangers. I had just assumed being the hardcore bass fisherman that this guy is that he would have a pretty good sized rocket ship. The boat has a non-divided main live well and a bait well, so it is actually more of a walleye rig. When we got out on the water we discovered his aerator pump wasn't working, so he kept his fish in the bait well and I had to continuously scoop fresh water into the main livewell where my fish were throughout the day. It worked out as all my fish were alive at weigh in. The tournament blast off was at 7AM and we headed for the big water in the middle basin of North Long. North Long runs pretty much East to West and has 3 pretty round bays and is not small with almost 6000 acres of water. The way the wind was blowing I thought it would be much rougher once we got into the middle basin but it wasn't as bad as I thought it would be.
We started on a mid-lake hump where my partner had found a school of big fish. Neither of us got a bite. We then moved to another hump close by that already had a boat on it. We saw them land one fish as they were drifting their way slowly with the anchor down. We didn't get anything but weeds.
Next we headed to a fairly protected shoreline to try some reeds. Almost right away I lost a small fish on a swim jig and that was all we got there. Next we moved out to the weedline and on our second stop started getting some action with the noise of Brainerd International Raceway in the background. I got my first fish on a pumpkinseed Monsoor swim jig with Zoom Speed Craw Trailer. I think I next caught one or two shorts. My partner was landing keepers on a texas rigged craw tube and I made the switch to a black/blue JigNpig. I caught two nice keepers on my first two casts. After that the fish seemed to shut off. The wind seemed to increase while we were on that weedline. I would say it was gusting over 30.
We then hit a couple of weedline spots on the North End of the middle basin. My partner filled out his limit and I got two more keepers plus about 4 shorts on the swim jig.
Next we headed out to the humps we started on. The clouds had started to break up and the wind came down to about 15mph instead of 20-30mph. My partner landed his best fish of the day on the first hump, but that was it. Eventually I filled my limit and got my first cull. We then ran back to the weedline where we had caught the bulk of our fish, but didn't get anything except one short for me. I don't remember where we went next, but we got nothing there. We then headed to a cabbage weed bed on the southern part of the middle basin. I caught a couple of shorts on the swim jig and Chuck got his craw tube bit off by a pike.
With about an hour left with the sun completely out and the wind dying down we tried a nice looking steep break on the North end of the middle basin without any luck. Next we headed into Merrifield Bay (the east basin) and went dock fishing. My partner was skipping a jigNpig under the docks with a baitcaster and he was sure good at it with extremely accurate casts. Meanwhile I was struggling to get accustomed to my new St. Croix Avid Spinning rod rigged with bass tube jig. Chuck managed to cull up slightly a couple of times and caught a couple of fish that would have helped me. On one of the docks I made a bad cast got hung up and broke off. This allowed me to switch up to a bubblegum Zoom Super Fluke which I am much more comfortable throwing around docks because the hook is not exposed. Chuck let me get first crack at a likely looking spot and I caught yet another short. We kept moving around hitting docks. We came to a spot where there was a boat lift about 35 feet out from the end of a dock. Chuck had a fish pick up his bait and spit it, while I was casting into the shadow made by the lift. After a couple of jerks of the Fluke I had on a 16.5" which was my big fish of the day. It was also the last fish of the day for us.
My partner weighed a respectable 13-7 which was only good enough for 7th. My partner had won the two previous club tournaments at North Long in 2006 and 2004 with weights in the 14's. The winning weight on this day was 15-11 with 2 other bags in the 15's and 2 bags in the high 14's.
I was pleasantly surprised to hear 11lbs 01oz with a big fish of 2lbs 9ozs. I thought I had somewhere just under 10lbs. From past history I figured that 11lbs would get me a solid finish in the middle of the pack, instead on this day it was only good enough for 17th out of 24.
As I said before this is starting to get a little bit frustrating. I am catching fish from the back of the boat, but the size of fish I am catching just isn't cutting it compared to everyone else. This tournament I caught all but 1 fish on a bass jig which is known to be a bigger fish bait, but I caught my big fish of the day on a Super Fluke.
I now have a 15th, 16th, 17th, and 23rd place finishes. This tournament moved me ahead of the other club rookie, who didn't fish North Long. I am currently in 17th place and well back of 16th place and that is out of 22 people that have fished a minimum of 3 out of the 4 tournaments. (Place is figured out with the lowest score thrown out so only 3 tournaments at this point count for a persons points.)
Our 5th tournament is not until September 20th at Serpent Lake and the last tournament of the year is October 4 at Mission.