Bass Fishing Tournament: Lake Palestine

bass fishing tournamentFishing a bass fishing tournament on a lake you’ve never been to is tough, especially when competing against good anglers who have logged many hours on the lake.  The draw wasn’t the competition between myself and the other anglers, it never is.  Tournament fishing is really about you, and that’s what gets me fired up – trying to best my best.  The winner is always the angler that made the least amount of errors throughout the whole process.  That includes their plan created before the tournament, identifying and making the correct changes while fishing the tournament, and executing the plan error free.

I recently fished a bass fishing tournament at Lake Palestine in Chandler, TX – it was the first stop of The North Texas Kayak Fishing Championship series.  It was a last minute decision to join 49 other anglers at Lake Palestine, a lake I had never seen or fished before.  The morning of the tournament I found myself among some of the big names in Texas’ kayak fishing scene, many of whom know the lake really well.  I heard a lot of anglers talking about about where to go and even had an invite from one of my Jackson teammates who was also fishing the tourney, but I had my plan and I was sticking to it.

IMG_4972Every pre-captain’s meeting is the same, you see a bunch of smiling faces, a lot of chatter about the conditions, and if you listen well enough you may hear a small group of anglers talking about something that’s been working for them.  The afternoon weigh-in is a bit different, arms are folded, there’s very little enthusiasm, and you hear a lot of stories about the one that got away.  Some anglers get so wrapped up in the result of their errors that they forget to take a look at what caused the fish to get away.  Being analytic once something negative happens out there is how you don’t allow a dark cloud to hang over you.  If you can identify how it went wrong you can fix it, and possibly make a run for the number one spot.

This event was a roadrunner event, meaning the participants could drive to and launch from any legal launch location on the lake. With the water temps in the low 60’s in the Northern part of the lake and it being 3 days after the full moon in March (bass spawn) I decided to head up that way.  A few days prior I looked for areas on a lake map that gave me options.  I looked for shallow flats and areas with a hard bottom.  I also scoured the internet for any clues on where to find vegetation.

At the launch I encountered two other kayak anglers, one guy was really friendly.  I ended up helping him unload his Pro Angler from his truck bed.  After a short conversation I was on my way to my first spot.  Three casts in I hooked into a bass that was 22-24 inches in length.  She ran right at me after being hooked and for some reason my quick turns of the reel handle wasn’t quick enough.  She gave me a quick glimpse of her before shooting past me and getting off the hook.  Trying to figure out what went wrong, I looked down at my reel and noticed I Texas rigged a plastic on a setup with a low gear ratio reel – a consequence of getting ready in the dark.   My next fish was also lost, but this time from a poor hookset.  It didn’t help that my transducer was in the water, the 16-17 inch bass came up and bumped the lure out of its mouth on the bottom of my transducer – how do they know to do that?

bass fishing tournamentI was a bit frustrated at this point, it didn’t help that I was sharing a spot with a pretty good angler that was driving the hook into a couple fish on the backside of the island I was fishing.  His fish were causing all kinds of commotion on their way to his net.  I knew better than to let that get to me, I had to buckle down and act like he wasn’t there – I had to fish my plan and he wasn’t part of it.  After beating him to a shoreline next to the island he spoke and moved on, eventually totally out of the area.  I temporarily moved on after figuring the fish needed time to settle down, both of us working this island probably had them a little spooked.
I made a long paddle to a place that offered protection from the wind and current, or so it seemed on the map.  I was hoping to find clearer water, but the clarity was about the same and the hydrilla was thick.  The motorboats were also in there thick.  I threw out a couple times, but knew it was time to move after a guy on a boat set the hook on a fish that was all of 10 inches, bent down to released it, then told another boater it was huge, but got off.  I laughed all the way back to my previous spot.

bass fishing tournamentWhen I arrived I noticed I had about an hour and a half left to fish.  I moved onto the island and began targeting a fish I saw earlier positioned on a bed.  I caught an 18” male that was guarding the bed, but I couldn’t get the larger female to commit.  She was smart, she kept mouthing the edge of a 2 inch plastic I rigged on a drop-shot and moving it off the bed.  When I rigged the same plastic on a 1/0 worm hook she wouldn’t touch it.

As much as I didn’t want to leave a possible $400 big bass, time was winding down.  I thought I’d try to quickly catch some better fish, then come back if I had time.  I moved on and began working the grass line around the island where I picked up a small bass measuring 12 ¼ inches.  It was crunch time so he had to measure.  A little further down I set the hook on a 20 ¼ inch and a 19 inch bass on consecutive casts.  I thought I could make a run for the top three, but just as quick as the bite started, it shut off.  I spent the last 20 minutes trying to get the big bedding bass to bite, but it didn’t pan out.

Overall the fishing was tough, out of 50 anglers only 11 caught five or more fish. There were nine anglers who caught a single fish and fifteen that didn’t catch at all.  The winning length was 96 ½ inches, second place measured 92 ¾ inches, and third place angler had 86 ½ inches.  I finished 12th with 69 ½ inches, either of the lost fish would have placed me among the top three.  Like I said earlier, tournaments go to the angler who runs their plan with the least amount of errors.

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