Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Pool 2 - Mississippi A Guided Adventure and a New Personal Best

This adventure started out innocently enough:  I met with another local angler, Rich Lindgren, at the Northwest Sportshow this past spring and asked him about navigation on the Mississippi.  Naturally, the lake ice was beginning to get a little softer and knowing that there is a year-round catch and release season on Pool 2 and I was getting antsy to get out.

Well, information is sometimes better processed by seeing and doing rather than hearing, so I asked if he knew an area guide that I could head out with.  Not with an emphasis of finding specific spots, but to learn more about navigating on the river, at least enough to have confidence to head out on my own.  All of my personal experience thus far has been on small rivers like the Sauk and Snake - no big deal.  No barges, minimal deadheads during highwater, and certainly no wing dams!

For a little background, growing up, my family would routinely boat on both the St. Croix and Mississippi rivers - but this was twenty years ago and if you think a 12 year old is going to be paying attention to what wing dams look like then you'd better think again!

Back to the story, he recommended Josh Douglas.  I got in touch with him and we decided on a date just after the start of May, figuring that the worst of the flooding would be behind us (well, that was my idea, anyway.  haha).  When all was said and done, between prolonged high water periods, a ridiculous current, and cold water we waited to head out until just before bass opener.

This was my first guided trip so I was a bit nervous and didn't really know what to expect.

We met up at a gas station close to the launch and were on our way down river shortly after.  Prior to hitting the main channel, we quickly went over wing dams and closing dams and how to spot them in the current and using GPS mapping.  I just recently picked up my first GPS unit this past winter, so that was some good info to have.  Before that, I'd had the Navionics app on my phone which Android would sporadically have arguments with, not to mention that looking at your phone can be a little distracting while you're running - I'm sure my insurance agent would be less than thrilled to hear about that.

We talked a little bit about barge traffic and locking, which made sense since we met one while we were running to our first spot.  Incidentally, I don't remember the wake from a barge being quite that massive.  Of course, back in the day, we would be on plane and I thought catching air off of those was fun.  Fond memories.

We got off the channel and hit our first spot, an area where pre-spawn smallies would be setting up.  Josh asked if I was comfortable dragging a beaver, and up until then my experience had been pitching this texas rigged bait to docks and veggies in the summer (and any other time I was in/on open water).  He gave me a quick run down of what to expect as far as feeling and how to make sure the bait was still on the bottom.  All good stuff.  We started down the bank to a nice looking area, overhanging bushes with a rocky bank.  I was using a G. Loomis/Shimano combo he had set up, which is a sweet little combo.  Good sensitivity as I felt every time the bait would come over a rock. 

It didn't take long to find some takers.  The first fish was a nice 3.48lber, which was a new personal best for me!  

3.48 Smallie - Personal best
We caught a few more in the area before having to move.

Our next spot was an isolated shell bed and getting to it was a chore to say the least.  I always thought the pictures of bass boats shooting massive rooster tails in shallow water was more for show than anything else, but, nope.  It's not!  Once we managed to get to the bed, the fish were less than cooperative so we moved on pretty quickly.

Our next stop was another rock covered bank, similar to the first spot we had fished.  And this...  This turned out to be an exercise in patience.  I landed a couple in quick order and toward the end of rip rap there was a fish that was very adept at picking up the bait and moving it away in about the same amount of time that it took me to reel down and swing.  Including one instance when I swung and cracked Josh upside the head with the rod.  Oops...  (Sorry about that, dude..)

Locked in and not about to quit until that brownie gets stuck.
I also found out how quickly time really goes when you set up to catch one fish, as I have a tendency to be stubborn at times and this was no exception - I was going to stick that buck.  As it turned out, it wasn't to be as we just plain old ran out of time.
One of the dudes at our last spot.
At the end of the day, I had learned a ton about the river and I had learned a new technique that I was able to put to use up on the Snake the following week. 

I call that a winner in my book!

If you're interested in getting together with Josh, here is a link to his; Website and Facebook page.