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everythingthatswims

My Take On What The Milford Bass Were Doing (LENGTHY)

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Recently, I competed in a tournament on Milford Lake, out in Kansas where @Bluebasser86 resides. I could talk for quite some time about the tournament itself, but I think most of you know enough about it already, so I won't go into detail about the format. I will say, those were some strange smallmouth out there, they didn't read the smallmouth rulebook.

 

We only had one practice day, so our competition days were also used to dial in the lake further, because one day can only teach you so much about a place. Much of this post is going to be about how I adapted to changing conditions throughout the week, I am really proud of my decision making and how well things panned out. I am working on treating each tournament day somewhat like a day of fun-fishing, where I would never try to force something even though "it worked the day before". I think we can all learn to be better tournament anglers and fishermen in general if we are willing to go with the flow a little bit while out on the water. I have kept an open mind and adjusted lot this year during tournaments, it has helped tremendously. (and yes I know I'm not even close to the first to say this!)

 

Competitors are allowed to talk to one another about the lake, so my tournament partner Casey and I shared information about our practice day. We both spent about half of our time shallow, and half of it out deep. I started on the north end of the lake, and spent about 3 hours there. I didn't catch a single bass, but Casey found some topwater smallmouth action on the south end by the dam where he started, so I headed that way. We both assumed that the smallmouth would be in the 20'+ range this time of year, but we spent a considerable amount of time fishing deep without a single fish to show for it.

 

It seemed like most of the (catchable, for us) smallmouth were in less than 10', topwater seemed to be the best way to catch them because you had to cover a lot of water, but if you did locate an area with some concentrated fish, a ned rig and football jig were good ways to get them to bite. Our practice day was fairly windy and overcast/rainy, so the topwater bite produced well. Casey was catching his fish on a whopper plopper 110, and I was using a super spook. We determined that the best fishing was in areas with large rocks, some type of point either main lake or secondary, and immediate deep water access. Rock transitions in particular would produce bites, but you would also catch them away from those areas. The best topwater bite during practice was after 12:00, but it was windy and rainy.

 

I only caught 6 smallmouth on the first day of practice, which ran from daylight until 5:30, and only one of them was on a topwater. I didn't spend much time with the topwater, but Casey caught so many on it that I decided to make it my main game plan for the first day of competition. I made one really good discovery, a main lake point with all of the right stuff. It had good chunk rock that transitioned to gravel on the creek side of the point, and had a small flat in the 3-7' range, which then dropped off into 20' past a bluff that was about 10 yards out from the point. I caught one small fish on a ned rig, and a few casts later a 3lber on a football jig. Oddly enough, both fish were up on the flat, not off of the bluff like where you would think a summer smallmouth would be in 80 degree water. This further solidified the idea that we had about the bass being relatively shallow (at least when they were feeding) I left the spot after catching the nice fish, and decided I would start there on day one.

 

Day one of competition was a night and day difference in terms of weather conditions. It was fairly calm, but still overcast, so I assumed the topwater bite would be stellar. I started on my main lake point and caught a 3lber on probably my 5th cast of the day with a super spook, I was pumped about what I assumed would be a great day of topwater action. I ran some secondary points in the creek that produced fish in practice, and it was pretty dead everywhere I went. I went back to the main lake point and caught one more keeper before we had our half-time, this time on a super spook jr, a downsize that ended up being a very good call. Despite what I thought were "ideal" topwater conditions, Kansas bass are so used to the wind that they get pretty lazy if it isn't blowing. It makes sense though, bass are very in-tune with their environment, so when something that is usually consistent changes, they are going to be sensitive to it, and it is all relative.

 

I decided to start on that point again after halftime, and hooked a solid smallmouth on the small spook, but it jumped off. I was using 14lb mono, and after jumping that fish off I switched to braid with a leader, these fish were being very timid about eating the bait, and when a fish barely touches a hook, the braid helps it stick even if you don't react in time with a hook set. 5 casts after losing the first fish, I hooked one about the same size and got it in the boat. I caught a small keeper shortly thereafter on the spook jr, and then had 4 different blowups on consecutive casts in a small area (still on that same point). I picked up the ned rig and made a few casts into the area, picking up my 5th fish for the day.

 

Since we only had to beat one fisherman, I decided to back off of the point, he had only caught one fish that morning and I knew he wasn't doing well.  I ran some new water but didn't discover a whole lot. I ended up advancing while Casey did not, he stuck with the topwater all day and didn't have much to show for it. Had the conditions been the same as practice, he probably would have crushed them, but the fish were in a completely different mood. That main lake point was the only thing that saved my butt, I caught all 5 fish off of it that day.

 

Day two was much better for me in terms of conditions, we had lots of wind, and it was overcast. I started on my main lake point again, prepared to throw topwaters, but that was definitely not going to happen! My trolling motor was barely staying in the water! I threw a crankbait for a few casts with no love, and decided to rig up a jerkbait. I hadn't caught any on it in practice, but it made sense to throw with all of that wind pounding the point, I figured there were probably some jacked up baitfish twirling around up there after getting smashed into the rocks by a wave. Whether or not any of that was happening, I did boat a keeper on the jerkbait fairly quickly. This was a huge confidence boost, because I hadn't been able to get any other reaction bite besides a topwater, and this gave me a different approach if there was too much wind on an area.

 

I headed back into the creek, and fished all of the same stuff as the day before. I had to shift back and forth between a super spook and an evergreen shower blows 125 (pencil popper). There was enough chop in some places that the spook couldn't stay on the surface, and that is why I made the switch. However, the spook still seemed to be the best bait if it was calm enough to keep it on the surface, so I used it when I could. I was getting a decent number of bites, but they were being typical smallmouth and blasting the topwater into the air most of the time. When I did manage to get a hook in one, they were quality fish (over 1.5lbs, not the 13, 14, and 15oz fish that many other anglers were catching). I had one secondary point where two fish swirled on my bait and didn't get hooks. There was a decent amount of wind there, so I picked up the jerkbait and fished back through the area, picking up my best fish of the day, a 2-6, right where I had a fish chase the topwater. Again, big confidence boost!

 

We had our halftime and the guy I was fishing against didn't have as much weight as me, but certainly wasn't out of it, and he had caught them well the day before. I was feeling great about the conditions, but it was hurting the way he was fishing, which was what I had hoped for with the weather shift. I went back out and ran the same stuff as the morning, picking up another fish in the 2.5lb range, this time on the super spook. After that , I had another fish swirl on my spook in the same place that I followed-up with the jerkbait that morning. I gave the fish about 5 minutes, then headed back down the bank to where it was, and bam-- caught it on the jerkbait, right where he was when he missed the topwater. That put me over 10 pounds, so I left the creek and looked for new water. I upgraded by an ounce but that was all, I didn't need it anyway, I advanced to the final round with about a 2 pound lead over my competitor.

 

Day three was VERY calm. I started on "my" main lake point, and could instantly tell that things had changed drastically. During the first two competition days, the hybrid striper and white bass were thick on every bank, you could constantly see them chasing baitfish, and had to catch about 10 of them for every one smallmouth. I didn't have a single one of those buggers chase my topwater, and I did not like it at all! I fished the secondary points that produced on day one, but had zero takers, the lake seemed dead. I started running new water and got into some sub-keeper sized smallmouth on top, and finally caught one that weighed 13oz, but that was it. We had our half time an hour early because of a thunderstorm. I knew my competitor would be ahead of me before coming into the weigh-in and I prepared myself for it. He had been fishing solely with a spinning rod, and calm conditions played to his advantage. When our weights were revealed, I was 9 pounds back, and I knew he wasn't going to slow down.

 

I hoped the storm would be followed by wind, but that didn't happen. I knew I had to make a big change. I started again on "my" point, and caught a 2 pounder on the small spook, but that was it for topwater. Part of me wanted to run my secondary points again, in hopes that the storm changed the fish's mood, but I knew I had to slow down and catch the fish that lived on that point. I had seen and caught quality fish each day there, I just had to figure out how to catch more of them.

 

I picked up the 1/2oz football jig that I caught one fish on during practice, and caught a good fish on my first cast! I had a limit within the next 5-7 casts, and proceeded to have one of the craziest flurries of bass catching in my life. Within an hour, I had passed the biggest bag of the event by over a pound! It felt like it was all coming together, and I was feeling like it was "my time". I continued to catch fish on that point, until things slowed and I was only catching fish around 2lbs, when I needed a bite around 3lbs. I opted to leave and let the spot rest for a while, then come back for the remaining hour of fishing time I had. Upon my return, I caught two fish on the jig, but neither would cull out a smaller one. I switched to the ned rig, and got two more bites, but again, no cull.

 

I really thought it was my time, but I ended up getting beat by 4 ounces. I didn't lose any fish, and didn't make any regrettable decisions. We both smashed them and unfortunately there can only be one winner, I just got the short end of the deal. The only thing I would do differently if I had a replay is to stay on that point for the whole time, but those fish were pretty sensitive to pressure, so I still think giving them time to rest was the right call. I had a blast out on the water, and was blown away by all of the support I got, especially from BR! Hoping to get another crack at it before my time at WVU is up!

 

 

The one thing that ruffled my feathers was how many locals wanted to come up to the college competitors and tell us how much "stuff" we were "missing". For one day of practice on an unfamiliar lake, I think we had a pretty good showing, we were all dialed in on similar stuff. It's easy to talk about how much is being overlooked while you are parked in a chair watching it on a t.v. screen :wacko:

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Good job dude!  I'll bet that you'll get another crack at it before you leave school :).  

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@everythingthatswims ~ Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to post that.

Looking forward to the next chapter and your next adventure.

Congratulations again.

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

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13 minutes ago, A-Jay said:

@everythingthatswims ~ Thank you for taking the time and making the effort to post that.

Looking forward to the next chapter and your next adventure.

Congratulations again.

:smiley:

A-Jay

 

No problem! I love re-living it, and I get to re-analyze some stuff too. Plus, I'll have a bunch of stories I can go back and read when I'm an old salt.

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1 minute ago, everythingthatswims said:

No problem! I love re-living it, and I get to re-analyze some stuff too. Plus, I'll have a bunch of stories I can go back and read when I'm an old salt.

You know I can relate to that ~

Besides, time is on your side. 

:smiley:

A-Jay

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Thanks @everythingthatswims for the great write-up. Someday you ought to consider doing some outdoor writing. Your summaries are excellent, better than many of the " Seasoned " outdoor writers Ive read. Thanks for including us in your fishing adventures. Best wishes for your continued success !

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Excellent write up @everythingthatswims! I had to work on the days of your tournament and missed the coverage. I did keep up, somewhat, with the posts on here about it and I was rooting for ya. You did an awesome job of figuring out things on a lake you'd never been before and only had one practice day. That says alot about your abilities and knowledge of the fish. Congratulations on a good finish even if it was 2nd place. Not too many people get the opportunity to compete in that event, much less get that far up in place. I have faith that not only will you be able to compete in another one of those before you leave WVU, but you'll also come out on top with a 1st place Championship victory! Best of luck to you in your future and one day I would like to see you competing on the pro level, if you want to that is. God Bless you brother! 😎

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Great job and awesome write up! 

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Nolan, I congratulate you on your savvy assessment of conditions, your upbeat attitude and your great effort.

 

How about beside majoring in biology you study journalism as well - you write an excellent account of your experiences.

 

I look forward to seeing you hoisting trophies in the future.

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Good call on going shallow, you might not have seen a single smallmouth the entire event if you'd stayed out deep. I can count on 2 hands the number of smallmouth I've caught in Kansas deeper than 20', they just don't seem to go out deep except during the winter months when they're basically uncatchable anyways. I don't know why, I suppose it's because a majority of the food is shallow, or maybe because it's easier for them to outcompete the abundant wipers and white bass up shallow than it is in the open water. Kind of surprised you didn't get on any largemouth when you started up north, that's where a lot of tournaments are won on that lake, but it's also time consuming to find them and figure them out since there's so many fewer of them and there's plenty of big smallmouth that getting on the largemouth doesn't always guarantee anything. That lake and those fish are so weird and can be so specific that it really takes a long time to learn how to catch the better fish out of it, you guys did good to get the ones you got with such a short time to figure it out. 

 

The wind on that lake is something else isn't it :)

 

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Well done and what a ride.....am hoping so much to have that kind of ride up at Cumberland.  Feel like I have a chance.

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great job young man! nice write up, interesting to read the decision making prices that goes into winning a tournament. wishing much success to you in the future.  for fun the bigger girls are starting to load up on shad in the brush pile on LAY.😁 here in Indiana the bass I have been catching are decent size but not very fat.

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@everythingthatswims I had such a blast watching and following you when I could. You have a very bright future and look forward to seeing where this goes. Great job and great write up.

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Great job ..... Thanks for sharing.

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Thank you for taking the time to write up your tournament experience from each day. Unfortunately I didn't get to watch the last day live but I kept up through the thread in the Tournament forum. Congratulations on making it to this tournament and fishing so well. I can already hear myself telling someone in the future: "Are you talking about AOY Nolan Minor? Oh yeah, great guy and great fisherman. He was on Bass Resource, his handle was @everythingthatswims (cool name, eh?) and he was on the WVU fishing team. Members called him 'ETS' which had a nice ring to it, kinda like 'KVD' doncha think?".

 

Looking forward to following your career. LET'S GO MOUNTAINEERS!!!!!!!!

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Congrats and thanks for all the details

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Thanks @everythingthatswims.  I enjoyed your writeup and I also appreciate how much you shared your thought process while you were fishing.  It made for great viewing.  Looking forward to seeing you on that stage again next year.

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Great write-up Nolan! I didn't get to see the entire thing live but I did take an "extended lunch break" to watch as much as I could! You knew exactly what your pattern was and you stuck to it, I don't think most of us would have even found the pattern! :lol: 

You're a natural in front of the camera man! Can't wait to see you get back out on the tournament trail next year! Hope you can still enjoy some time off before going back on that school grind! 

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17 hours ago, Will Wetline said:

Nolan, I congratulate you on your savvy assessment of conditions, your upbeat attitude and your great effort.

 

How about beside majoring in biology you study journalism as well - you write an excellent account of your experiences.

 

I look forward to seeing you hoisting trophies in the future.

I actually just made the switch to a marketing major. I never could have predicted it when I entered my freshman year with no boat and zero experience even driving one, BUT it seems that my life has headed in a direction where that degree will help me a lot more than the one I had been pursuing. I no longer see myself with a career as a fisheries biologist or something similar. I will always be a total fish nerd (and I will surely miss getting to study them), but considering the opportunities that lie ahead, compared to what I have heard from those in the field of fisheries management, the change was necessary.

 

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Luckily we had a pretty wet week last week so I got to watch quite a bit. I found myself cheering you on like the hometown football team on Friday night lol. You experienced something most only dream of and was full of pressure and handled it like a seasoned vet. You showed true class throughout the whole event highs and lows. Great things await you Nolan. Thank you for allowing us to be a part of it.

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Congratulations man. Just saw what you have been busy doing the past bit. Truly an awesome accomplishment. 4 ounces away proves that you definitely had what it took to win the national championship. That is an awesome hard-earned accomplishment.

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Great write up and congrats on having an outstanding competition season! The live coverage sure makes the viewer feel like they are sitting right in the boat with you. Well done!

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On 8/23/2018 at 10:08 PM, everythingthatswims said:

I actually just made the switch to a marketing major. I never could have predicted it when I entered my freshman year with no boat and zero experience even driving one, BUT it seems that my life has headed in a direction where that degree will help me a lot more than the one I had been pursuing. I no longer see myself with a career as a fisheries biologist or something similar. I will always be a total fish nerd (and I will surely miss getting to study them), but considering the opportunities that lie ahead, compared to what I have heard from those in the field of fisheries management, the change was necessary.

 

Offtopic, but what have you heard from the people in fisheries management?

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36 minutes ago, IndianaFinesse said:

Offtopic, but what have you heard from the people in fisheries management?

Lots of work for little pay, and jobs are hard to come by. I wouldn't stand out much in that field either.

 

With a marketing degree I think I will be able to set myself apart from those who will be looking for the same jobs as me. Not to mention the connections I have made and am making in the fishing industry.

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14 minutes ago, everythingthatswims said:

 

With a marketing degree I think I will be able to set myself apart from those who will be looking for the same jobs as me. Not to mention the connections I have made and am making in the fishing industry.

 Good luck!  I work at the fringes of the marketing industry and it is a meatgrinder.  

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