Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Wrong Strategy or Simple Greed!

The plan for Saturday's MTT Tournament was set, leave work early on Friday heading up to Mille Lacs for a possible hour or two of pre-fishing.  Stopping at Bill's for a possible last minute update I stopped for gas before meeting my partner, Mark Applen at his fish house.   The tournament rules meeting was at 7:00 at Hunter's Point Resort.  The organizers had a pretty nice set up with grilled brats and burgers available and an outside bar pouring drinks and serving beer.  My friend Joe Stanfield coined a new title for a common cocktail I enjoy, a Captain Morgan with Diet Coke.   He calls it a Skinny Pirate and about 80% of the bartenders figure it out.  When I ordered it Joe's way, the lady loved the name but couldn't figure it out.  Pointing to the bottle of Captain, she smiled............coming right up.   The rules meeting started, 2 flights leaving, 1 - 50 at 7:00 AM and the second 51 - 70 at 7:30.  We were officially #47.  No culling was allowed meaning once a fish is in the live well, it stays there.  Our limit on Mille Lacs is 4 fish each so each 2 man team could catch 8 fish however only the largest 6 fish could be entered.   The legal slot on Mille Lacs is under 18 and 28 and over.  The rules were specific, any fish on the 18 inch line and you would be disqualified.  Any fish on the 28 inch line would count.   Fish under 13 or dead fish turned in would result in a 0.12 pound penalty.   You must be recognized as in line for the weigh in before 3:00 (or 3:30 if in the 2nd heat), the official time was determined by the Tournament Director, no ifs, ands, or buts!  Winners would be announced at 4:30.  Deciding to relax rather than pre-fish we headed back to the ice house for a walleye and smoked rib dinner.  It was a pretty early evening as we had to be up by 5:30 and at Hunter's by 6:15.

Waking up at 5:30 we were greeted with a familiar loud hum of at least a billion lake flies that hatched through the night.  The trees, cars, houses, anything withing 100 feet of the lake was literally covered with these rather benign but annoying insects.  BTW, I do mean a billion.  This is one of the largest bug hatches I have seen in years, verified by the tremendous amount of carcasses floating on the lake.  Although a royal pain, we did manage to load and launch our boat arriving at Hunter's Point with plenty of time to spare.  All the boats staged just outside of their breakwater as the "Official" pontoon broadcast the National Anthem over the marine band radio, channel 68.  Boats were to parade by the pontoon single file and in order and away we were off.  Our strategy was to head back to the winning reef we fished last year.  About a 10 minute ride we arrived to an empty hotspot, fabulous!  Last year there was a tournament boat parked on our spot, although he did leave early.   Mark started with a short snelled leech while I long lined a crawler.  Within 5 minutes we had our first keeper fish, a nice 17 incher.  The next 2 hours were incredible.  By 9:00 we had 5 in the box, had caught over 15 walleyes and were well on our way to a respectable tournament limit.  The bite was definitely hot.  Our plan was to keep those fish over 16 inches, get our 6 then head out to try the flats for a 28+ fish.  Debating to keep that 15.5" inch fish, we decided to through it back as we "knew" we could get that last fish to meet our high expectations.  Having laid down a pretty good set of GPS tracks Mark was on the front of the boat when this huge muskie swam by.  I caught a glimpse of it's tail and my estimate was 48 inches plus.  Muskies are always exciting to see but not this time.  The slot fish simply stopped hitting for about a half hour after the muskie swam through.  When the fish decided to start biting again, all we could catch were those in the over 18 to 26 inch range.  With 5 fish and only larger fish hitting, we decided to go for broke and head to the flats for a big fish.  Noticing no one was on the Midget Flat, we cruised  over and started marking fish like crazy.  Missing a couple I finally felt something nail my crawler rig.  Feeding it line for a few seconds I set the hook and she was a hog.  As it came into sight it looked like the tourney winner.  Quickly landing the old girl a measurement revealed we'd have to stretch her another 2 inches to contend.  A quick picture and back she went along with the last of our hopes for that first place.  We weighed our fish at exactly 7.77 pounds, well maybe that number was lucky.  In the end we finished 16th out of 70 boats, with a pound separating 16th from 6th.  Our decision to throw back that last 15.5 inch walleye cost us the money.  Disappointed in our hearts we screwed up.  Never the less our "real" score would have put us in the top ten finishers 2 years in a row.  Oh well, I think there is a saying about being a "Legend in our own mind", that's us!  Next year we will definitely remember what we didn't do.  The first picture is the 26 inch walleye we coaxed out of the Midget and the second one is the bugs resting on a boat in the harbor.  It was a ton of fun as we did catch over 20 walleyes.

The plans are to head back up on Sunday to see if the hot bit is still on.

1 comment:

Duane said...

"Skinny Pirate". I like that!
Oh, and I've always been a legend in my own mind....