NWT Sandusky Recap and the growing Buddie family…

NWT Sandusky Recap and the growing Buddie family…

This last week or so sure has been an exciting one, and certainly one I will never forget.  Actually, its been a wild month in all.   I bid my airline schedule to be on reserve the 1st-14th of April, as that was the best way for me to ensure I would have the 15th through the rest of the month off so that I could fish the NWT and be around the week of due date for Baby Buddie #2 – April 30th.  Those couple weeks of reserve took me to some cool places including Maui and Vegas to name a few.  But also the nice part of reserve was that I didn’t get used everyday and that allowed me to spend some quality time with Stella and Julia as well as get my final tournament preparations and baby prep complete before the chaos began.

NWT practice was tougher that I expected for Erie middle of April.  There have been a billion tournaments over the years in April on Erie, and it was usually 1 of 2 ways those tourneys were won: pulling crankbaits or spinners around the islands or reefs of western Lake Erie.  So the first couple days of practice, this is what I did.   We caught fish, but in this day of social media, it didn’t seem I was getting the numbers or size that it seemed others were on.  I know better than to let that bother me, and I just continued on doing my thing.  So one of the mainIMG_4885 areas that a lot of people were focusing on was the ‘Can’ area around the reef complex of western Erie.   The appeal of this is there are a ton of fish in the area, and you have a chance of getting a pre-spawn fish.  These pre-spawners are full of eggs and weigh an extra pound of two over post-spawn fish.  This extra weight is gold in a tournament.  However, with a full moon on tournament day triggering the spawn and it being later in April, I figured the chances of getting multiple pre-spawners on tournament day were slim.

This year, I know from fishing in mid-March around here, there were a lot of fish spawning all the way through March.  These early spawners were the ones that I wanted in the tournament, fish that were had spawned weeks ago and had already started to fatten back up.  I started looking for these fish around the islands, North Bass, Middle, and Kellys.  We found them, but with wind shifts and no rain throughout the week, the water got really clear and fish were moving around a lot day to day.  What worked yesterday wasn’t working today, and probably won’t work tomorrow.  That seemed to be the theme.  When we found fish in clean water, which was hard to do, we had better luck on spinners.  The dirty water fish were firing better on crankbaits: flicker minnows, bandits and husky jerks all seemed to be doing the trick.

I got some good reports from some local guys out of Lorain 2 days prior to the tournament, so I thought this might just be the jackpot I was looking for that was away from the crowds of tournament fisherman.  I headed that way the last day of practice.   Sure enough, as soon as I set up on some good marks in Lorain, I had a double of 29″ers that were THICK.   5 of these a day in the tournament and it would be game over.   I decided to run down to Avon and graph my way there to see if I could find any more of these fish.  The fish were few and far between on the way down there, but just when I got off the east side of the point, I could see fish stacked in there 15-20′ down.  My Lowrance sonar showed me they were BIG too.   I set up and popped a couple, big ones too.  It was simple, put crankbaits 15-20 down in the water column and they fired.   After this, I knew I was coming East in the tournament, I would be all alone out here, and have a chance at a really special bag.  The problem is that these fish were firing on these spots on an East NE wind, which is typically good for this area.  When wind and weather changes, it can really make it tough on those early season fish out East.  But I said ‘Who cares?  I’m going.’   I knew I could muster up ~35lbs a day around the Cans and cash a check, but that wasn’t going to win it.   I figured with these kind of fish in the area, the winner would come from the east somewhere, and I wanted to give myself a chance to be that guy.  If you connected 2 days in a row out east, it was doubtful anyone in the western basin could compete.

IMG_4929So day 1 came and I made the run out East.  With no wind and just a few rollers from the NE the night before, the fish had scattered.   I tried both Lorain and Avon, and the marks were much fewer and far between than yesterday.  I still caught a couple fish, but they weren’t the size or the quantity that I was looking for.  A couple of my teammates and one other boat that stayed in the Lorain area all day did muster up decent bags, but not the game changer bag I had hoped for out there.  I pulled the plug early and ran back to the Huron area where I had dropped some waypoints on some good marks I had found on the way out that morning.  It just didn’t happen for me, not my day and we only weighed 13lbs, I was out of it.   After seeing all the big bags that had come in that day and not seeing many boats out east at all that day, I was starting to regret my decision.

Day 2 I figured with all the fish around the islands and cans, I wanted to give my co-angler a good day and figured we would just go fishing.  We cruised the islands and Can area graphing and fishing various pods of fish.  At one point we even left a nice pod of fish we were catching out by D can to see what else we could find.  We tried both spinners and crankbaits this day, and had better luck with crankbaits, both bandits and husky jerks high in the water column 8-13′ down.  It was fun to catch and cull out some fish for 33lbs on day 2.  Clarence and Keith, my co-anglers, were both awesome rock solid fisherman, it really helps to have guys like that in the boat.

So after the final weigh-in, we started to find out what some of the top finishers were doing and where.  It turns out the winner was out east off Cranberry Creek area between Huron and Vermillion.  I just knew it if you connected outIMG_4926 there 2 days in a row it would be tough for anyone else to compete.  One other boat in the top 5 was in that area as well.  I even thought about stopping in that area on day 1 on my way back from Lorain.   Woulda, coulda, shoulda… And I know that 2 of the other top 5s were on the NE corner of Marblehead, which is the eastern end of the islands area.  I think they theme of top boats was that they were fishing crankbaits deeper than most, either on snap weights or longer leads, maybe that’s the part I missed.    But it was a little reassuring that I at least took a swing for the fence in the right direction going east, I just didn’t connect…  I’ll do it again if I get the chance too.

On to the good stuff…  I was a little on edge during practice this week and the tournament as my wife Julia and I were expecting our 2nd child on April 30th.  There is no way I would have been able to fish a tournament of this magnitude that close to dueIMG_5036 date if it weren’t a local tournament.  I knew at any given moment that if she went into labor, I could fire the Mercury Pro XS 250hp and take the beast Stracraft STX 2050 screaming at 58mph across the lake and be at the hospital in no time.   Baby girl Nora Ryan Buddie joined us at 3:08am Sunday morning 2 days after the tournament.  Julia was a champ in the hospital going through labor and both her and baby Nora are home and doing great.  Stella goes into beast mode every once in a while as most 2 year olds do, but overall she is adapting nicely to her role as big sister.  I love it how Stella is fair skinned bleach blonde and Nora is darker complexion black hair just like her beautiful mother.  They look so different yet are both so incredibly cute, I am a lucky man.  I am home the rest of this month with the girls and most of next month as I have vacation.   I do have some availability in later May for charters if you want to get in on some killer Erie walleye fishing.IMG_5057

I would love to fish the NWT Winnebago next month, but at this time I need to stay home with these beautiful girls and take care of them.  There will be many more tournaments in the future to look forward to including the Sturgeon Bay NWT which we are already signed up and getting really excited about.  Thanks for following and reading up, now I’m ready for a nap!