Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Tardy to the Drum Party

I was actually caught off guard.  After finding the right time to ask the boss lady if I could go for big reds this weekend, she looked at me with a sharp glare... "It's not that I don't want you to go.  I'm just so tired of you coming home and whining like a baby about getting skunked again and again."  Cringing from the salt that just got dumped on my festering wound I thought "so that's a yes?" 

This would be my 7th trip in a monthMany Eastern Shore regulars as well as several first timers watched me strike out over and over as their reports of successful trips, I admit, drove me wild with jealousy.  The ill-fated timing... that one bad knot... the enslaving wind forecasts... and all the tiny on-the-water decisions that cut me with every could-have-been replayed themselves as my frustration got worse and worse.

But with so many friends cheering me on, I finally made it to the big drum party.

Photo courtesy of Joe Underwood ©2013

An entourage showed up at the Wise Point boat ramp on Memorial Day morning and we scouted the area thoroughly.  In the mix was mister YakAttack himself, Luther Cifers, and his son Tyler who had just graduated two days before.  Luther was on a mission to get his soon-to-be Virginia Tech Hokie on a big red. 

One of the stars of this spring's drum run, Joe Underwood, hooked up first on the troll.  I immediately turned around and paddled toward the school.  After spooking two reds right in front of me, I tossed my swimbait passed the area they were going and hooked up with the quickness.  It shot straight at me as I furiously reeled in the slack line.  I saw the giant go under the kayak and rush off in the opposite direction I was headed.  While spinning the kayak, I thumbed the spool a little too hard and *pop*.  Expletives exploded out of my mouth as I slammed the rod tip into the water.  Immediately, I grabbed the trolling rod and start casting, but no dice.  After things settled, Joe landed a nice 47"er and I started feeling a little déjà vu from a few weeks ago where I busted off a big red while others landed theirs. 

But the day was young and the search resumed.  Joe was flanked by Luther on one side and me on the other when he made visual contact.  Since he already landed one, he let his true character shine by backing off and letting Luther, me, and a few others take our shotsI couldn't see the fish from my angle, but I noticed a difference in the surface ripples and put my swimbait out in front of it.  I hooked up again.  And broke off again, even with looser dragI didn't have time to lament at that moment since I knew the fish were there.  An almost panicky feeling came over me as I grabbed my other rod.  I fan casted the area and paddled in the direction the school was going, but again, we lost them.  After lingering in the area, a little while later William Ragulsky picked up a nice one on the troll and much to Luther's delight, Tyler got a 42" while casting.  

Photo courtesy of Luther Cifers ©2013

I decided to put away the rod and reel that broke off twiceAfter putting a lot of pressure on that 30# braid over the last two years (e.g. big reds and sharks at Sandbridge) I should have changed it out earlier.  My 50# spinning set up became the go-to and when I hooked up while blind casting, it held up to the test.  It was one of those hook ups where I hadn't even started cranking yet.  Just as I was closing the bail, the line came tight and the acappella from my drag grabbed everyone's attention.  Part of me wanted to tighten it up, but after the last two hook ups, to say that I was nervous would be an understatement.  When I finally had it in my lap and stretched it to the end of my 4ft ruler, a sigh of relief came over not only me, but everyone else there who knew about the overweight monkey on my back.  

Photos courtesy of Joe Underwood ©2013

As the day progressed, the wind's crescendo put a sour note on our search for more big reds.  Alex Britland and I met the notorious Wicked Pissah himself, Joe Maccini, in the back of a creek slinging little puppy drum with his spinnerbait on every cast.  

We crashed his party of one and proceeded to hootin' and hollerin' with him about how fun the little reds were on light tackle.  The action was literally non-stop.  Had I not forgotten the tagging kit, I would have ran out of tags fairly quickly.  I even pulled out the big 10wt, which was intended for the big girls, but was still fun with little reds up to 19".  

Loading up at the end of the day and not cursing the parking tag hanging from the rear view mirror was much needed.  When I pulled up at home, I was half way tempted to pretend like I didn't catch anything just to see how my wife would react, but my big goofy grin gave it away.  I know we're in it together when her sigh of relief from checking one off the list is as satisfying as my own.

Too bad there's no rest for the weary as I'll be after number 4 soon.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Tourney Hullabaloo to Near Citation Blue

The Luther Cifers and Tina Shank crew put on another fantastic tournament.  The laid back atmosphere with ego free competition matched the shoot-the-breeze, camping, and cookout ambiance.  

It was once again all for a great cause.  Actually two great causes...
  Heroes on the Water and Project Healing Waters will receive the money raised by the tournament.  

Almost 90 attendees

The food is one of the things that make this tourney stand out.  The ribs and ribeyes for the captain's meeting, a whole pig after weigh-in, along with a ton of other yumminess is kind of unheard of for tourney food.  The other thing that really sets this event apart is the fellowship.  The campfire "after party" was definitely one of my favorite parts, even in the rain.

As far as fishing goes, Joe Underwood was nice enough to invite Richie Bekolay and I to a spot he found the day before.  

We found plenty of fish, but my biggest bass only went 16.5".  Richie went on to win the Slam division with a 20" largemouth, 13.75" crappie, and 9" sunfish.  

Me, John Oast and Richie Bekolay with his trophies and a brand new Trident 13

I somehow got lucky and snagged biggest fish of the day.

31" Grass Carp

I won an 8' Park n Pole.  Photo credit: Aaron Dryden

After a good night of passing around bottles and telling fishing lies, I stumbled out of my tent the next morning and hit the road.  Two and a half hours later, I launched at Rudee inlet to resume my search for saltwater citation species number three.  Recent stories of big bluefish up to 38" got my hopes up...

Unfortunately, I was only able to reach 35.5".  I say unfortunately because I want that citation so bad, and coming up half an inch short really hurts... but I really shouldn't be upset at my new personal best blue.

Hopefully they'll stick around for little while longer, but I have my doubts.  
Crossing my fingers…

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Shutter Happy

That fickle temptress, Lady Luck refused to play any role in the last several attempts to achieve my recent objective.  Big red drum have been caught by several kayakers this spring, making my failed endeavors that much more exasperating.  

However, some of those unsuccessful fishing days did turn out to be great "nature days".  Putting my angling frustrations aside, I took the opportunity to get shutter happy on the local wildlife.

First up is a rare shot of a posing Rob Alderman.  Normally seen in the Outer Banks area, it is a rare sight in these neck of the woods.

Next, Lee Williams got us all excited while pointing out a big...
"made you look."

And I guess I shouldn't complain too much since I did find a few bluefish in Rudee inlet and some decent flounder up to 18" as well.
I also had an amazing experience with a dolphin.  As I was trolling along, one breached on my starboard side a little towards the rear.  It came up about 15 feet away.  Then again about 10 feet away.  Then again.  I kept paddling along as it cruised up beside me.  You know you're close when things get all slow motion and you can see it's eyes looking back at you... checking you out... I can almost hear it in my mind... "wutcha doin'?  Ain't no red drum here, dude".  Then Richie Bekolay, who was trolling on my port side, reminds me that I should have my GoPro on.  Of course, it was the day I didn't bring my remote and by the time I reach forward, turn it on and start recording, my new buddy was gone.

The highlight of nature day was this bald eagle. 
(Click photos for larger view)

 I was grateful to Kevin and Lee for pointing out the majestic creature.  He had been munchin' out on a 47" almost dead striper that had washed up on the marsh.

And speaking of local wildlife, there's a good chance you'll run into this guy on the Eastern Shore during this time of year.  His annual migration to this area has been well documented over the last several years.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Impromptu Bronzebacks

Timing is everything.  And as of late, my struggles to get that timing right have resulted in me being stood up on my last 4 dates with Big Red.  The Eastern Shore can be so unforgiving to some, but my persistence will be rewarded... eventually.

This weekend, between bleach, caulk, birthdays, leafy gutters, weed, and mommy-daddy time, I found a couple of hours to look for smallies on the near by James River.

I muttered profanities at the wind on several occasions, but the elation of connecting with quality smallmouth overshadowed that quickly.

In two and a half hours I managed 6 smallies.  
19.25", 19", 16", 15", 13", 12"
All on a white/chartreuse spinnerbait tossed around current breaks.