Fall Rumble, Fall Brawl, and Full Freezers

Fall Rumble, Fall Brawl, and Full Freezers

As winter sets in here, I wanted to take a minute to reflect on the last month or so as an outdoorsman in NE Ohio; maybe the best month of the year to be an outdoorsman here…  Monster walleye both day and night close to shore, deer rut and gun season, and steelhead charging the rivers in full force, seriously, is there any place better to be in the world than NE Ohio in November?

My boat sold in early October and I was fortunate to be able to order the new 2017 Starcraft STX 2050 for November and have it rigged and ready to rock for the last open water of the season.  It was way less stressful to be able to rig it in the fall with less of a sense of urgency than typically in the Spring when major tournaments are looming.   Break-in went great, and I’m in love the new look of the red and black on that aluminum Trailmaster.   The 2017 Mercury Pro Kicker matches its big brother to perfection.

Mid November, img_6354I last minute put together a team and fished the Fall Rumble night tournament out of Edgewater. This was a 37 boat, mostly locals, tournament that I was able to make time for and couldn’t resist the opportunity to compete at night along the shores of Lake Erie.  I wish there were more night tournaments, because I guess I must be pretty good at it, every time I’ve fished a night tourney, I’ve always ended up in the top 5!  This one would be no different…  My teammates weren’t your typical tournament anglers, not yet that is… img_6601

Dan Smith, a great fishing buddy of mine and usually my co-angler in the NWT, had never fished for walleyes at night, nor do I believe he had ever captained his own boat in a tournament.  Neither of these were concerns of mine though, Dan is a rock solid mariner, and as good of a listener and learner as I know in new fishing tactics.  I was confident in what we were going to do and how to do it, I’ll go to battle any day with Dan in that scenario.

Ryan Soberay, a fellow OU bobcat I connected with at last years boat show and a guy I was able to fish with this past Spring rounded out the 3 man team.  This would be Ryan’s first ever tournament, but again, I was not concerned.  I don’t like to tout my own abiimg_6345lities, but one God given talent that I have is to recognize a good angler when I see it, and usually very quickly.  I don’t know what it is or how I do it, but even when I worked in Alaska, I could usually tell within 5 minutes of those guest walking off the airplane and way before they were even close to touching a pole what kind of angler they would be.   Anyways, Ryan has that mighty ‘it’ factor and I’ve known it of awhile.  The ‘it’ factor that money can’t buy, time on the water can’t develop, and all the boats, lures, rods, and reels world can’t earn you.   I knew the 3 of us together would make a hell of a team.

So on to the tournament, the tournament was out of Edgewater Park in Cleveland, OH.  We didn’t get a chance to prefish, and leading up to the tournament, the bite supposedly sucked around the Cleveland area.  The fish were there but just not biting.  What?  Cleveland, OH, mid-November, walleyes not going at night???  Hmmmm, we’ll see about that…   The bite out in Lorain and Vermillion area was supposedly really good though.  Man I did not want to have to run 25-40 miles at night over 50 degree water.  The day before the tournament, Mother Nature blessed us with a 25-35mph northwest blow.  My experience has told me that a blow like that will reset the whole lake, and anything that was going on before can be thrown out the window.  With that being said, we were staying in Cleveland area and keeping baits in the water on the good marks that Mr. Lowrance was so kind and reliable to show us.  I couldn’t believe the takeoff when I saw 75% of the field take off west for the long runs that were rumored, especially while we were watching the sonar lite up in the line for takeoff.  We literally set lines at takeoff and never put the boat on plane until it was time to come it.  The bite was solid most of the night with a hot stretch coming in the first hour or so of dark.   P10s and F18s did most of the damage trolled at faster speeds in the 1.7-2mph range.   I have to credit my rock solid team, good hook sets, and razor sharp VMC hooks for our bite to catch ratio.   I believe we were 14 for 15 that night.  If there is one thing I’ve learned over the last decade of tournament fishing, that’s how you do well in tournaments.  Get your bites to the boat, period.   We weighed 31lbs and finished in 3rd place in the 37 boat field, and we also cashed a bonus for 2nd place team with a boat purchased from Vic’s Sports Center.   Thank you Vic’s for supporting and sponsoring the event.  Congrats to the other top teams who made the long run to Lorain and had it pay off, you deserved it!

That was way more than I planned on blogging about that tournament, but there was just too much to like about the way it shook out!  On to the other outdoors of this last month…

Julia told me that during the last few days of November and that first weekend of December, she was going to take the girls to Chicago to visit their cousins, go shopping, and that I would be on my own for 4 days.  You’re going to leave me all alone for all that time, really?   I mean honey, I love you and will certainly miss you and the girls, but you are telling me I get 4 days on my own to fish and hunt with zero regard for sleep, domestic duties, and parental duties?  I love you even more.

img_6617I have never claimed to be the most diehard trophy deer hunter, but I do enjoy laying out a few of these tasty critters and stocking up the freezer.  With big Northwest winds the first day and a half of my man-cation at home, I figured this would be good time to try my luck hunting.   Dan, who owns about 60 acres down near New Philadelphia, was gracious enough to let me hunt his property and I was able to harvest 2 nice does on the trip.  Not trophies by any means, but solid mature does that would stock up the freezer and that I was proud of.  Mission accomplished, winds were dying down, time to go Brawling…

By ‘Brawling’, of course I mean the very popular and ever growing Fall Brawl Lake Erie Fishing Derby that 1600 people entered this year.  Basic gist of the Brawl: Fish as much as you want during the 5 week event, biggest fish wins.  In years past, I’ve always been jealous of the big salmon derbies up on Lake Ontario for $20k and wondered why we couldn’t or didn’t have something like that for walleye on Erie?  Well, thanks to Frank Murphy and a die hard core of Erie anglers, we got it.  This years Brawl was HUGE with $20k being top prize; it’s awesome how much it has grown over the years and amazing to think about its potential in years to come.

So, after years of competing and observing the Fall Derbies, I’ve come to know that the winning fish ALWAYS comes in the last week or so as those fish pack on major weight at the very end of November.  This was the last couple days of the Derby, my deer tags were fulfilled, the boat was ready, Mother Nature was cooperating, and a very beatable 12.88lb fish was hanging onto the top of the leaderboard.  My brother Kevin and I had about 48 hours to try to get it done and zero regard for our physiological need for sleep, it was time to
hang a hawg.

The first night, we stayed inside breakwall in Cleveland as it’s loaded with big fish, bait, and protected from the 6-8’ rollers that were still coming out of the NW.  The bite started off slow, but we were able to get into an active pod fish after we pickup up our other buddy Kgone at the dock.   Some fish fish were coming over the side of the
boat, and then the fatty came.  The type of fish that you are looking for, those obese ones that are thick all the way from head to tail, the ones you only find in late late fall through early spring.  Man she was fat, but was she long enough?  I didn’t have a scale, but I put her on the bump board, and she was only 28.5”, not quite lonimg_6624g enough, another inch I believe at that girth and we would be in business.  This fish was worthy of a trip to the scales, but I was pretty sure she wouldn’t crack the top 5 money fish.  We fished until the wee hours of the night, and I think the only thing that saved me from falling asleep on the drive home after a day that started in a tree stand in central Ohio, and ended well past midnight on the shores of Lake Erie, was the fact that we had a hawg to take to the scales in the morning.  I slept a few hours, then was off to Erie Outfitters to weigh the fish.  As I suspected, she was a little short weighing in at 11.83lbs, but still ended up being good enough for 8th place out of a 1,600 person field, not too shabby.

After the weighin, it waimg_6632s back home to hook up the boat and head back out on the lake.  Kevin and I hit up Huron for the legendary December day bite there.  It didn’t disappoint but nothing the size or girth we were looking for.  So we decided that the girth of the fish the night before was an omen to throw the boat on the trailer and head back to C-town for the night bite in search of the fat girls.  We got some pigs, just not quite what we needed.  I’m not a fish counter or into posting numbers of fish, but man we caught a lot.  It was a blast and a hell of a couple days during one of the best times of year to be on Erie.  The day after the derby I had a charter that ended up with some great fish out of Himg_6633uron.

The next day I was thrilled to get my girls back home and it was meat processing day.  Between a cooler full of walleyes and 2 deer, we had our work cut out for us, but Julia and I made it happen with even a little help from our 3 year old daughter Stella.   Freezers are full, and it looks like winter is here.   What a way to perhaps end the 2016 open water season!  I’m still hopeful we get one more warm spell and I get another crack at Erie before the ice locks us out, but if not, I can hang my hat proud of everything in 2016.

I’ll end on a quote from my 3 year old Stella after we finished meat processing day: “”Mommy, we don’t gut a fish we catch a fish and we don’t catch a deer we gut a deer!”