This last tournament on the St. Lawrence River was about as frustrating an experience as I can remember. I was on fish. They were in my area. They did not end up in my boat. I did not make a cut.
I was fishing with a drop shot rig. That’s usually something that gives me a really high hook-up percentage, and I land a high percentage of those that I hook. It works for me. Not this time, though. I had at least five or six really nice smallmouth on the end of my line that never made it to the boat.
During practice I thought it might be the hooks I was using. I changed to a different style. That seemed to help for a while. I thought maybe things were looking up. But when competition started I started having the same problems. I swapped back to my original style. That didn’t help.
A couple of really nice ones got off when they jumped. I almost never lose a fish on a drop shot during the jump. It just doesn’t happen. It did on the St. Lawrence. And I lost a couple when they headed towards deep water, pulling hard. The hook just came out.
Postspawn fish have somewhat soft mouths. I suppose it could be that they were pulling the hooks through. The fish I was catching were not all that far from the spawn. Maybe that’s what was happening. I don’t know, though. I mean, it’s not like I haven’t caught postspawn bass before — without these problems.
It certainly wasn’t my line, either. I was using Stren 6-pound-test fluorocarbon. It held really well. I never broke one off during the whole tournament.
Looking back on the whole experience I have to say that I have no idea why it happened or if there was anything I could have done to fix it. To be honest, I’d have to say that if I had it all to do over again I’m not sure I’d change anything. Like I said, the good ones were there. I feel like I was fishing the right spots. I just wasn’t putting them in my livewell.
I’ll tell you what, though, I’m not all that down and I’m certainly not feeling negative. Everybody who fishes has that kind of experience. It goes with the territory. It just wasn’t meant to be. That’s all there is to it. Someone once said they call it fishing, not catching. He was right.
Along that same kind of thinking, I want to say that the St. Lawrence River is one heck of a smallmouth fishery. It was a privilege to fish it. There’s no doubt in my mind that it’s one of the best in the country. The guys and gals who get to fish it regularly are very fortunate anglers.
So now the only thing to do is spend all my time getting ready for Lake St. Clair up in Detroit. If I can get on the fish like I did last week, things should turn around. I need a strong Top 10 finish if I’m going to be competing in next year’s Bassmaster Classic.