This is my second trip to California without coming home with a check. It's getting old. Clear Lake is the most beautiful place in North America, but I wish it was a little more generous. My dock strategy needs some serious adjusting. Don't get me wrong; I love to fish docks — pick them apart one cast at a time — but my fish haven't been holding up on them.
This tournament is a prime example of what happens and how it hurts me. I had a solid pattern going into the first day. I fished my docks with a jig and a Venom Salty Sling for a total of 16 pounds, 2 ounces. Friday looked good when I went to bed Thursday night. A limit looked like a sure thing. If I could push my weight up just a little bit I'd be in good shape to make the cut and fish on Friday. It didn't happen. I wasn't even close. My fish just didn't hold up.
The frustrating thing about that was the three keepers I did catch were the right size. They weighed over 11 pounds. If I had caught five of them I'd have been in much better shape. Six or 7 pounds would have put me well within the first cut weight. Even more frustrating was the fact that I didn't fish them out, or stayed too long in one place, or didn't try to manage my fish. The mistake I made was counting on them to replenish. They didn't do it. That's probably because my docks were the last staging spot before they went on the beds. I figured they'd be moving all day, every day from the docks to their final spawning destinations, and then other bass would take their place. That didn't happen. The weather had a lot to do with that. It warmed up nicely during the day but the nights were cold.
The bass didn't move as fast as I thought they would. (Actually, a lot of the guys were experiencing the same thing. We let the weather fool us.) Next time I'm going to have to find more docks. It's my only viable option. I honestly don't think I can fish a dock any more thoroughly than I already do, and not fishing them is out of the question. It's a matter of pride with me. I fish docks, period. When I leave one there's nothing left. Every spot, from every angle, is covered. Like I said, my only viable option is more docks.
Regardless of all that, however, California is in my rearview mirror. Smith Mountain Lake and Pickwick Lake are my next challenges. They're different fisheries — the bass are smaller and the fishing's tougher — but they're still two of my favorite places. Until then I'll be in Columbus working at Signcom trying to make enough money to keep this career going.