Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don't Mess With Mother Nature

Jim and I had our last bass tournament yesterday (Saturday) and, since it was a night tournament, we decided to go to the lake early in the afternoon and fish for recreation prior to the tourney. We began fishing at roughly 1:00. It was mostly sunny with big white clouds scattered about and although rather hot, it was a nice day. We caught a few bass and at 5:00 headed to the ramp where the tournament boats would launch. I went up and talked to the director, signed in and paid our fee. At this point, it was still a nice day with those big puffy clouds occasionally hiding the sun.

The tournament started at 6:00 (scheduled to end at midnight) and we were number five in the line-up for launch. We ran wide open to our first spot where we've caught big bass in the past, although always when we're not fishing a tournament. It's funny how that works. Anyway, we fished that spot, moved to our second, and later our third location. While fishing in our third spot, the wind picked up considerably and we noticed some dark clouds approaching the lake. We kept an eye on the sky and continued fishing. Jim was using a 10" worm fished slow on the bottom and, after a few casts, he hooked a nice bass. He said it felt like a keeper and yelled for me to grab the net. As I've mentioned before, a keeper on this particular lake has to be at least 20" long. Any fish less than that must be returned to the water immediately. We got the fish in the boat and quickly put it on the board. The bass measured 19 and 3/4 stinkin' inches! No amount of coaxing gave us that last 1/4 inch. I even tried to get the fish to stick his tongue out so we'd have 20", but he wasn't buying it. Alas, he went back in the water. That 1/4" is all that stood between us and the weigh-in. 

While we were trying to wrangle that extra bit out of the fish, those dark clouds had moved closer and they brought a friend - lightning. I don't know about the rest of you, but I am not naturally insulated against electrical shock, particularly in the form of a lightning strike. There was no rain, but the wind was blowing and the lightning began to dance wildly. Radar appeared to show the storm moving through in a relatively short amount of time, so we took shelter under a highway bridge that crossed a narrow portion of the lake. After 20 minutes or so, the clouds moved off and it appeared to be clear behind the storm. We had about 40 minutes of light remaining and decided to move to our fourth spot before it got dark.

We arrived at our next location, got in position, and began fishing. It wasn't 15 minutes before we noticed more dark clouds quickly approaching the lake - another storm. This time Mother Nature wasn't fooling around. We felt the sprinkles begin and the lightning flashed like explosions in the sky! Previously, we had been in a cove at one end of the lake near that highway bridge. Now we were on the main lake in open water with fishing rods in our hands and lightning doing the devil's dance. The 40 minutes of light we should have had evaporated to darkness. Jim and I looked at each other and we each knew enough was enough. No tournament is worth becoming a crispy critter. Before we made it back to the ramp, the rain hit full force, the thunder rolled, and the lightning put on a Fourth of July display! We saw 6 or 8 boats making a run for the other ramp. When we got to our ramp, the parking lot had virtually emptied.

We were only able to fish 2 of the 6 hours the tournament was supposed to last. And while Mother Nature did run us off the water and we missed having a keeper by 1/4 of an inch, the good news is we qualified for the regional tournament in October. That was our ultimate goal. The even better news is the regional tourney is being held on a different lake and we won't have to contend with that tough 20" minimum size restriction. Size matters. Remember? Oh, did I mention the chance of rain for Saturday was 30%?

A nice day to be on the water
Look at the pretty white clouds
The first boats arriving for the tournament
Some tournament anglers waiting for the start
The earthen dam built to create the lake
Cool cloud above the lake
A hitchhiker we picked up in the middle of the lake
More cool clouds
The first storm approaching and the bridge we used for shelter
The beginning of the second storm
The last we saw of the sun just before the second storm hit


TexWisGirl said...

great photos and, of course, narrative. glad you didn't end up as crispy critters but sad that fish wouldn't stick his tongue out for you. but you did catch some phenomenal cloud shots! and a hopper hitcher! :)

Samantha said...

Great cloud and lake shots!
Sorry to hear about that 1/4 inch..that's just mean!

Clif said...

No keepers but you qualified for the next one?

Dawn said...

Good story:) And Darn that fish for not sticking his tongue out just a bit longer!
Way for dodging lightning bullets- and YAY for making it to the next round!!
I never knew Fish Stories were so interesting- and eventful;))

heyBJK said...

Clif, we qualified for the regional based on total points for the regular season, not a single event.