Aug 9: The drive upstate NY was pretty boring. My usual traveling partners are not fishing the B.A.S.S. Opens, well, not the Northerns, so I'm solo. I will be staying with Dustin Wilks, a fellow NC, who is fresh off his Lake Wylie Classic appearance. I remember the first time I met Dustin, around 1999. I had my Ranger boat for sale, he was a young kid fresh out of NC State with a degree. He called me up, was interested in the boat. I met him and his father at Harris to test out the boat. I listened as he told of his aspirations of joining me on the Bassmaster trail, something I hear alot from young kids. But I could tell pretty quick that Dustin was special. He had the skills of a well honed professional, and the young good looks that sponsors like. I told my buddies on the trail to remember his name, because he will be a force. It didn't take long for him to make his mark after he bought my boat, qualifying for the Classic his first year on the trail.
The Hudson River is tidal, with a drop of over 4 feet each tide swing. I have some experience on the Hudson River. There was a Bassmaster Tour event scheduled there, I had pre-practiced one day on the river when 911 happened and the event was canceled. The main thing I remember is how rough it gets when the wind blows against the tide, what is called a "buck" tide. Good name. Today, I will really struggle just to get bit. I manage a few small keepers, but did spend alot of time running the river during low tide to see what is available. The main pattern in the past is flipping the chestnut fields, which is a thick form of floating weeds. I find little success doing this. One thing I notice, the river will fish small, with boats everywhere.
Aug 10: Today went better. I managed to locate one small grass bed up river that I think I can catch a small limit. With a little luck, maybe early, then go look for a bigger fish flipping the many wing dams, pilings and old barges. I really don't think it will take more than 10 lbs a day to win here. The place is not like tidal rivers I have fished before, like the Potomac, it is hard to catch numbers and good fish. A typical fish will weigh around a pound.
Aug 11: Today is the last practice day and will be short with the pairings meeting tonite. I plan on going way south and explore the vast chestnut fields. I still do not gain any confidence in them. I manage a couple nice largemouth flipping some old barges, around 2 lbs each. It is a long way from my intended area up river. The forecast is for rain and more rain the next couple days. It begins raining at the pairing meeting. Talk at the meeting is that it is really tough, with most struggling to get bites. My first day non-boater partner is from PA. We will be next to last going out, boat # 161. I tell him be prepared to be fishing grass and more grass.
Aug 12: First day of tournament. Forecast is for flooding rains, up to 10 inches in the next couple days with severe thunderstorms. My partner ask me what do we do if it comes a bad thunderstorm. I tell him "usually just grin and bear it" while still fishing. And the rains come !! Man does it ever. I bet we get over 2 inches in less than an hour. With some bad lighting. At one point, it is raining so hard, I can't see my bait hit the water, nor hear myself think from the large drops hitting my rain hood. The wind has the rain blowing straight into your face. Its so hard, that weigh in becomes a task for BASS officials. As the picture shows, you couldn't see the stage. At the end of the day, my co-angler makes the comment about got to experience severe weather way too up close.
My day goes pretty well, having landed a limit alittle less than 9 lbs. It puts me in the hunt for the cut, placing me in 24th place first day. There will be two stories today, one of course is the rain. But the other is the leader had a limit that weighed over 18 pounds. Remarkable under the tough conditions this river is providing.
Aug 13: The day does not start off good. My second day no-boater is a no show. I am in the first flight, something I was happy about since I hope to get to my little grass bed first. Without a partner, I am forced to pull aside, wait till the field is gone, and get repaired with an observer. About mid way into the blast off, my partner shows up, I am not very pleased with him with the lame excuse he gives. What could be so hard, all you have to do is show up, climb in a boat and go fishing. Luckily, I will still be the first to reach my up river grass bed. It will be a hard run up river, as the rain is pounding down. I can barely see in front of me, but find my area. It doesn't take long for company to arrive. And get this, one guy pulls right in front of me, only casting feet away and cuts me off the grass line. Before I can jump his butt, another boat comes in and does the same to him. The respect and sportsmanship is not what it used to be. By 30 minutes, I am surrounded by boats. Only one of the boats was in the bay yesterday, so he has a right to be here. It quickly becomes apparent that I will have to make a decision. Stay and fight the crowd, or move on. I choose to move on to plan B further up river. It will turn out to be a good move, as I catch another limit, smaller than first day, but actually move up in the standings to 21st place. I am within striking distance of the top 10 and a good payback. The story today is how tough it has gotten. Limits are few, and the cut weight small. Tomorrow, only the top 50 will fish, so it should make for less traffic. My third day non-boater is from Texas. I am worried about my area up river, with the river on the rise, and the creeks turning red with mud.
Aug 14: Least the rain has stopped today. The little creek we are taking off from has turned from crystal clear to red mud. I am worried that the mud line up river will have reached my grass beds. My worst fears will come true. Before I reach my area way up river, I begin seeing large trees and trash streaming down river. The further I go, the more mud I hit. I really have nothing else, so I will continue up and see if some of the bays are still fishable. It will be a long day, as the mud as filtered into all my areas. I struggle to catch one little keeper smallmouth. Everyone who was fishing north got hurt. The guys who made the long runs south will dominate the last day. I will finish in the money, with a much smaller check that I think I would have gotten if the river had remained clear.
I call home, the forecast for NC had been for Hurricane Charley to hit our area. Hurricane Charley had already reaped death and destruction to Fla, and had the east coast in its path. My wife tells me it has been downgraded to a tropical storm, but will be driving home in the rain. I feel glad we were spared, but much sympathy to Florida residents. They get hit bad.