Feb 6th: The drive to Louisiana is a long one. I have broken it up into a two day drive. When I arrive, the weather is warm, in the upper 70's. But the forecast is for a massive cold front to come thru with severe thunderstorms and wind, with some hail. The forecast is right, with winds sustained at 30 and gusting to 50. The area gets almost 4 inches of rain. Not sure what this will do, the river is already higher than last year, with the bayou and swamps full. I don't think it will be as easy as last season when the water was low, and the swamps dry.
A good friend comes over as we are unloading our gear. He ask if we have heard about Snickers Pro John Sappington. He informs us that he had a bad boating accident the day before while on the river. There is ferry crossing on the river which are cable driven. As the ferry begins its journey across the river, the cable become tight, and will surface just above the water line. John did not see the cable or the warning lights, hitting the cable head on. He remains in ICU at an area hospital with 3 broken vertebra. He was wearing a helmet, which probably saved his life as he was clotheslined. This gives me shivers as I think about it. Good news is that John will not be permentally injured from the event, but will have to wear a head brace halo for several months.
I manage to get on the water in between the wind gust and storms, just long enough to see how the river was: its high and muddy.
Tune in tomorrow for first full day on water.
Feb. 7th: Today, the temps have fallen. Its in the upper 30's when I launch, with bluebird skies and a brisk wind. I've decided to make a long run first thing, look for cleaner water. The river is really flowing, with most of the bayou flooded. What's strange about this is that most are either gin clean or red mud. Not much in between. The place is still confusing, like a big corn maze on water. I manage several fish today, not much size. And not much in pattern. One here, one there. I talk to my buddy Chris B. at supper. He has just arrived, having fished the BASS Tour event on Smith Lake. It comments it was tough there, and I can't give him much to go on here other than the conditions. Tomorrow, there is a big annual regional tournament going out on the river. It will be interesting to see what kind of weights come in with the river high, muddy and flowing. I plan on going to a whole new area tomorrow, start from scratch.
One note, I feel like I'm in a Sienfield episode at the hotel I'm staying. Its full of Mexican migrate workers and there is a major train track right next to it. Between the Little Mexico and the nightly passing of a train at 9, 12, 3, and 5 PM, its Pedro Grand Central. The train is so close, its makes the bed shake and the whistle seems as though the train is coming thru the wall. We had Chihuahua Express bus line make a pick up and drop off for Mexico tonite.
Feb. 8th: Brrrr, was it cold today! The weather man predicted it would be sunny and close to 50. Wrong. It never got much above 40 and windy with clouds. My feet are numb. And to top it off, the water temps are falling like a rock, and so is the bite for me. Today was by far the worse day on the water. I made a long run, and will say that the barge traffic on this river is like rush hour on I95. The long run only produced more muddy, cold water and little fish.
Feb. 9th: The weather finally broke today. It was sunny and in the high 60's. Forecast is for warm but wet. Supposed to rain the next 3 days. Just what a high, muddy river needs. Today my friend Allen, who is fishing as a co-angler will join me. Unfortunately, it was another slow day. I have one more day to peice the puzzle together. It will be a short day at that with pairings meeting tomorrow night. I haven't talked to many, but all seem to be saying the bite is tough.
Feb. 10th: What a miserable day. Co-angler Chris Koester fished with me all day. They called for occasional rain, we got almost an inch. And it was a cold rain. I managed a few fish today. but can't decide if I will make the long run to get to it. The forecast is for rain up to an inch tomorrow. I have a small area close, if it hasn't muddied up, that I think if I stay and fish, can scrap out a few bites. Its a tough call. The pairings meeting was long, with allot dealing with the rules and locations of the ferries. The accident with John Sappington has brought more concerns. I heard at the meeting that John is home now, still has a long row to hoe. My co-angler tomorrow has never seen the river, having driven in today from S.C.. I wish I could be more positive for him. We will just go fishing and see how it goes.
Feb 11th: Rain and more rain. It was pouring down as we launched and blast off. There is so much current in the river, it makes it hard to stage for blast off. The river rose some today. Forecast tomorrow is for more light showers. Today, I managed 3 keepers for 81st place. The conditions were right for my spinnerbait, but it just didn't happen. They actually caught them better than I expected. Still several really big names blanked, like Clunn and Nixon. The bite is tough. I'm not sure where I will start tomorrow. I pretty much beat my little area up today for the fish I weighed. To make a jump in the money, I have to gamble some. It was funny today, my co-angler had not been on the river. When I ran to my little canal, I ran thru several cuts, canals, then narrow bayou's, openings in a long pipeline, continue on. When we reach my first stop he says "How did you ever find this place, and how did you ever get back to it". Unless you are here, you cannot appreciate how confusing this place is, like a big water maze. Time to prepare for tomorrow.
Feb. 12th:Second day of the tournament begins with a cool brisk wind. I have decided to make a long run today, gamble on a canal I prefished in to turn on. My co-angler is from Kansas, and I tell him to bundle up. As we prepare for the trip, my co-angler makes the comment "he hopes we get to fish longer today." He continues, "yesterday we broke down after running for about 30 minutes, after getting back running, we ran back to the ramp, took out, and went to Wal-Mart in town to service truck. Later we got a restart from Bill Taylor, ran another 30 minutes to fish on an hour or so". I hope to give us atleast 7 hours fishing today.
The ride is pretty rough, there is at least 10 barges I met or pass on the trip. This river has the heaviest barge traffic on any river I have fished. As the day progresses, I am catching more fish, just 13.5 or slightly less than the required 14" size. Strange how that works sometimes. I manage 2 keepers today at 6 lbs.
Since there is no area to dock your boats, FLW allows us to trailer our boats.
The weigh in line is short, obviously another tough day. After all is done, they announce that I have secured 75th place, last check slot. But just as I am ready to receive it, they announce there was a tie for 75th place. The tie breaker is broken by the days largest weight, which I did not have. That's the fastest $2500 check I have ever had and see gone. First place out of the money is tough. Good news is that my buddy Chris B has made the Top 10 cut and will fish the last two days. Chris has been hot of late, good luck.
I call home, its not snowing as forecast. I break the news to my wife about the tie. Bright side, I got good points, bad side, points don't pay the bills. It continues to rain, all me gear, truck and boat is a wet muddy mess.
I did have an interesting meeting with an owl today. The bayou and swamps are full of owls, you are constantly hearing their eery screeching thur the cypress trees, It can be alarming and somewhat scary to be way back in a bayou and then have one holler out of now where breaking the silence. Today, while fishing, I was casting a spinnerbait around some cypress knees and a huge owl came from no where and tried to take it. When he missed it, he turned around and tried to land on top of my trolling motor while I was standing there. The owl came to rest just above my head on a limb, only arms reach away. It was really weird but fascinating to see such a nocturnal, shy creature up so close. Only thing I can think of is either the owl was very hungry or had been hand fed some by humans. I was so taken by it, I took the time to actually take a picture of the owl. The owl continued to follow my every cast with the spinnerbait as I moved from tree to tree. and he limb to limb. Tomorrow the forecast is for more clouds and rain, but with warmer weather.