The weekend of January 26-27, 2013 will forever be on my mind. It was a sad and happy weekend all at the same time. I traveled to Iowa with friend Aaron Berg to fish the Recycled Fish Hardwater Open on Big Creek Lake just north of Des Moines, Iowa.
On Saturday the 26th, we lost a great young man to the dangerous waters of Lake Superior, Jim Hudson. Jim and I worked together as Ice Team members from 2007 to 2010. He had been a guest on Outdoors Radio with Dan Small and I many times in the last 5 years and he was respected as a world class fisherman and ambassador for the industry.
I canít say that I knew Jim personally, I never met his wife, who everyone adores as well, and I never had the chance to fish with him, but he always had an open invitation for me. Jim can be seen on a bunch of fishing shows, both local and national, and he was a published outdoor writer and a top team member with Clam Corporation. Jim will surely be missed by all who knew him, knew of him, watched him or listened to him. Contributions to a memorial fund can be made by logging onto www.giveforward.com and search "Hudson Family".
With the thought of Jim on everyoneís mind, it was time to fish a tournament on Sunday morning. The weather was not kind to us that day, with a dreary, damp morning filled with freezing rain showers that lasted for most of the day. The wind would pick up now and then, usually just as the rain would let up and we began to think it wasnít 'too bad.'
We had spent the previous three days, Thursday through Saturday, pre-fishing across the entire lake, eliminating water, checking the abundant brush piles and the deep water creek channel on the south end of the lake. While pre-fishing, we had stumbled into fish in 40-feet of water all the way up to seven-feet of water, most of them bluegills, averaging seven- to eight-and-one-half-inches. A few white crappies were found in the 40 feet of water but seemed reluctant to bite consistently.
By Saturday mid-day we began to narrow our search to 'deeper' water brush piles for the crappies and the 'mid' level piles for gills. We quite often would drill over a brush pile and simply camera it to see what lay beneath. The Aqua-Vu Micro was really a great tool for this for a couple of reasons. Number one, it is very portable, itís always in the pocket of my jacket, if we felt we wanted to look at something it was always there. The other advantage we had using the Micro over a full size camera is we were much less obvious. Even from a distance you can see someone holding a full size camera, with a 1/4-inch thick cord running down the hole. With the Micro, it looks like you are checking your phone; itís so small that it does not give away what you are doing to everyone that can see you.
We looked for holes that had been drilled out recently in places we had not seen people. Many of those places were brush piles that were not on the DNR map, and they were not nearly as pressured as the DNR marked piles either. We did our best to cover our tracks; one way was avoiding the small piles of snow that were formed on the ice. You could basically follow the tracks of a snowmobile or ATV across the lake by looking at the snow mounds. If we wanted to avoid being followed, we avoided driving across the snow. I have snow chains on my ATV, those also marked the ice, again creating a bread crumb trail for others to follow, if we wanted to throw off others or avoid being followed we would send Aaron, whoís ATV did not have chains over to an area to check.
By the time Sunday morning rolled around we knew our game plan and had back-up plans ready to go. The goal was to hit a brush pile in 30-feet of water, one that we had noticed had not been touched in many days besides by us. Then we wanted to head out to a brush pile in 17-feet of water, again an area that was not touched other than by us. We had two other spots we could have used to gather our fish, we used one of them.
When the tournament began at 8 a.m. we were alone on the brush pile we wanted, and within 14 minutes we had 6 crappies and 5 bluegills in the bucket, if the tournament would have ended at 8:15 a.m. we would have already had our maximum 10 fish (5 Crappie-5 Bluegill).
We fished that spot for about a half hour, until basically there were no other actively eating fish on it. We then moved out to where our #2 spot was located. It was occupied by another team, so on to #3. It had not been touched that morning and what we were about to experience will stick with me forever.
We open up the crib, drilling a series of holes within 8 feet of each other, Aaron was first to start fishing as I put away the auger. I didnít have a chance to touch a fishing rod for about the first 5-6 minutes we were there. All I was doing was removing the transducer and landing fish for Aaron. Fishing was hot! I finally had a chance to start fishing and we proceeded to catch every fish but one that we will register at the end of the day. Nearly every 7th or 8th fish we caught was an upgrade from the next. Plus there were bluegill AND crappie on this crib, and while pre-fishing it we were only aware of the bluegills.
The day continued and we moved around a few other places, not really sure what to do at that point knowing we had a great bucket of fish, and that we would most likely be unsuccessful at upgrading from what we have.
At 1 p.m. we weighed in, having upgraded one fish between the hours of 10 a.m. and 1 p.m., we knew we were going to have a relatively heavy bucket, at least for the lake were fishing. Our big fish was weighed first, 1.05 lbs., a crappie and we won big fish; the rest of the bucket was then added to the scale. The total was 7.30 lbs., a .73 lbs. average weight of each fish. It was the heaviest average I have ever had at a tournament.
We won, we went to Iowa to experience something different, spend time with friends and make new ones, with the hope we would at least do 'well' and we come out and win. What a feeling.
Success never comes alone, I must thank Cory Yarmuth for the Lakemaster chip hook-up and Steve Burkart for the additional mapping. As always all of my great sponsors played a major role as well.
I have to thank Rod and Laura Woten for their generous hospitality, Aaron for putting up with me in the truck and on the ice all week and of course my wife for letting me follow my passion. THANK YOU EILEEN!
The other 24 teams were all great, Teeg and Ben ran a very nice tournament, and Aaron and I fully intend to come back to defend the title.