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Bad weather brings big tourney win

As compared to last weekend, this weekend is totally different.

You can catch some fish on these cold, bright, cloudless days but it is diffcult work. Last weekend a front passed. We happened to be on the water during the passage of this front, fishing a local bass club tournament. It rained. Then it rained hard.

The wet forecast the night before kept some away, but 18 dedicated (maybe partially crazy) guys showed up to cast for cash. We were on Lake St. John out of Spokane Landing. The lake level was still low. No surprise there.

All of our lakes and rivers have been low since spring.

We took off just before the sun came up, but the sun refused to shine that day.

I headed to an old, reliable early morning spot that usually produces a three- to five-pound bass. A three-pound fish hit the jig on approximately the sixth cast. That’s one in the live well and four more to go. Most bass tournaments implement a five-fish limit.

This was the first time I had fished Lake St. John in several weeks. During that trip, I found a lot of two- to three-pound bass off a stretch of shoreline I rarely fish. I made the short boat run to that area.

As the early morning hours clicked off, the skies were growing darker instead lighter.

I used a really odd pattern I discovered several weeks ago involving a lipless crank bait called a Rat-A-Trap and jigs in a couple of different weights with different style trailers attached to the hook.

I was fan casting the trap between, around and under the piers. An occasional fish would smash the lure on a drop and rip retrieve but more often than not, the fish would short strike the lure thus showing its location.

That’s when the back-up lures came into play. I would pitch a jig to the fish that short struck the trap, but it took five or six presentations and changing lure weights to catch the fish. But you could catch them.

I counted up to 14 bass caught on that stretch and quit counting.

Well on this day the bass did what they are notorious to do. They were nowhere to be found in that area.

The sky continued to grow darker. Bass tournament fishing is all about making the right decisions. I decided to make a one hour stop and go run up the lake hitting every place where big fish used to live over the past three decades or so.

I ended up catching only one other fish that weighed a whole 15 ounces. About that time my cell phone text message alert began beeping. I checked my messages. It was more than 16 texts from friends saying they were at home watching the radar and to take cover.

A strong line of severe thunderstorms was headed straight for us. I have been on these area lakes so many years. I know where the empty piers are located — a place to duck out until the lighting quit. I heard thunder in the distance and continued fishing while watching the clouds. The storm grew closer.

I headed for “duck out” pier No. 1. Someone was already sitting under it. No problem. I headed to my second choice. Someone was under it too. Lighting crackled overhead.

It was time to take whatever cover I could find. I pulled under a pier with an overhanging roof that was just large enough to get about half my boat under. The storm hit. It rained so hard you could not see 25 yards. I took that time to text back saying all is well.

I had ducked out and would wait the storm out and then continue fishing. The rain continued, but the lightening let up.

I picked my jig rod up and made a pitch cast to the pier next door and boated a 1 1/2 pound fish, hmm. That’s a cull fish, because I figure these bass would go on a feeding frenzy as soon as the rain let up.

A couple casts later I boated a 2 1/2 pound bass, then a 2 pound fish and another 2 1/2 pound bass while sitting under this dock that I would have never fished during this tournament.

I ended up winning the tournament last weekend with five fish at 14 pounds and some change. Not a huge weight but it was enough.

I quit counting the numbers of weigh fish caught somewhere in the low 20s. I have somewhat of a joke I repeat often, and I had posted this on a social network the day before the event. “When it rains, fish the piers. The fish will be under the piers getting out of the rain.” They were that day.

Have a Merry Christmas and we’ll see you on the water.

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