Swinging for the Fences in a Tourney

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Today CREW member Chris Coufal gives us his tournament recap for the Lake Travis Event in Texas. 

Written by Chris Coufal
Someone once said “don’t be afraid to swing and miss….because without swinging, you can’t hit a home run“.

My plan was to fish water that I knew wasn’t going to receive the added pressure of all the local traffic as well as the tournament field. My practice sessions involved several different launch points around the lake and during that time I was solely looking for the biggest bite I could find and a spot that would generate 5 bites. I had no interest in chasing 13-15” guads for a 70’s inch stringer. I knew that there would be a few resident fish on the bank, however my strategy was to locate a spot that would make the fish come to me. During practice I found 3 very specific drains that led to spawning flats and came out of some deep water. They had a mix of bottom composition transitions and several depth changes along the way that would allow the fish to move up and down as they got ready for “sexy time”.

During practice, I caught a few fish staging on them and a few fish later in the day on the flats they led to as the water warmed.
My strategy in my head sounded good, although I started doubting myself as it got closer to T-day. I knew that I was on the right pattern and group of fish, however I had some pretty big factors that limited my fishing time. After I checked in on tournament morning, I had a 45 minute drive to my launch point and a 45 minute drive to weigh-in. Once I arrived, I had to hoist my kayak down a rocky bank. Then I’d have to make several trips up and down this rocky bank as I loaded the kayak. Once everything was rigged up, I’d have to stand in the water to deploy my transducers since I wouldn’t be launching from my trailer. I brought trash bags and duct tape to tape up my legs/feet so that I didn’t have to be cold with wet feet all morning in the cold weather.

The launching and then loading at the end of the day each took 20 minutes. So basically I had 1.5hrs of travel time and 40 minutes of rigging and unrigging that ate up my time on the water because of where I chose to launch. This normally wouldn’t bother me, however I knew my bite would be an early and a late bite……and I would be missing the late bite due to travel time.

 

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My 3rd or 4th cast in my area resulted in a huge bite on a 1/2oz jig with a Grandebass Trophy Hunter Baits MegaCraw trailer in black/blue. I battled the fish for a few minutes and tried to play it out because I knew I had light line (12lb fluoro) on my jig rod due to 15-18ft visibility. I finally get the fish up to the boat and see it’s a 5-6lber and a 20+ inch class fish. In the words of Ike “It’s a GIANT”. In the excitement of knowing I had my kicker fish, I reached down to lip the fish instead of grabbing my net. The fish had other plans and made a last minute run…..popping my line and leaving me in disbelief. To add insult to injury, about 10 seconds later it jumps out of the water about 8ft in front of the kayak as a final kick in the teeth. Heart broken, pissed off and still in disbelief, I tie on another jig and get back in the game.

About 20 minutes go by and I’ve switched to a Norman DD22 crankbait that was painted a custom color my Dwain Batey over at Bait Werks Custom Lure Painting. My spot consisted of a pretty pretty deep drain that led to a spawning flat. Along this path, there were several contour changes that led to a hard bottom. The fish were stopping on this last contour change where the bottom composition switched to hard. I line up and make a perfect cast where my crankbait will run right into this spot as it works itself along the edge of the drain. I feel some resistance and I set the hook! As the fish start coming towards the surface, I can tell it’s a keeper, but not a large fish. The fish jumps once, spits the bait and swims away. Wow…..did that really just happen? Another keeper fish and I lost it.

I reel my crankbait in, check my hooks and make another cast. About 10 casts later my rod loads up and the fight is on. I think to myself “This is a big fish”! The fish comes to the surface and I see that I have another pre-spawn monster on my line. It was easily another 6lb class fish that was over 20 inches in length. I fight the fish a few minutes and try to take my time because I can see only 1 barb of the rear hook is in the fish. The entire time I’m screaming like a little girl “DON’T YOU JUMP”! As I start making some progress on the fish, she decides to launch out of the air, shake her bucket mouth and send my crankbait flying back at me. Oh My God…….Did this just happen for a third time? Did I really lose three keeper fish in a row with two of them being a possible big bass winner? I set my rod down, grab my head and just sit in silence.

After a few minutes of soul searching, wanting to quit and go home and complete mental schizophrenia, I gather myself and start casting again. How do you recover from such heart break? Is it possible? Fishing is just as much mental as it is technique, location and bait selection. I finish out my day and I’m able to put a solid 19.25″ fish and another small keeper on my scorecard. I look back today and wonder “what could I have done differently”.

Well for starters…..The right gear. I knew better than to throw that light of line for what I was doing. The second thing, never give up and always keep your head in the game. I was on the right bite……I just needed to slow down and take my time. I’m guessing my stringer would have been 90 to 92 inches and would have bested first place by 10 to 12 inches and set a kayak tournament record for that lake.

In the end though, despite the heart break, I learned a lot and I’m happy that my prefishing homework really helped me locate the winning spot. Time to move past this event and take what I learned into the next one and shoot for the win!

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