Finally a top ten finish at my favorite lake in the whole world.
I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent fishing and studying Black Lake. Situated in St. Lawrence County in Northern New York, it’s the site of the first tournament I ever fished, the first fishing trip I ever took, and the very first entry of my fishing weather journal. I have had incredibly good days there, that have been followed by the worst finishes I have ever had since I started fishing tournaments. For whatever reason, this lake has just not been kind to me when the whistle blows and it’s go time.
Correction. Hasn’t been. That all changed this past weekend when my buddy Danny and I beat out nearly 400 other anglers to take a top ten finish in the one event that has meant more to me than any other. It won’t qualify me for the Bassmaster Classic, and I can’t say that our check had a coma in it either. But the hours of preparation, studying, learning that lake, learning the patterns, the behavior, the weather. This tournament was a prime example of why practice is important, but paying attention is equally vital.
I’d been watching this for a week. Making sure the temps were consistent, monitoring the wind, the rain, and the pressure. I knew that Friday and Saturday would set up very different. Friday saw strong winds out of the North, Northwest. While Saturday was the exact opposite with howling winds blowing from the South East and heavy rains all day. Black Lake is a river system of sorts. There’s a main channel that flows from North to South with a pretty decent amount of current. This made the main lake water pretty dirty. The bays were more protected, but I knew the fall temps were pulling the fish out to the points on the main lake. We had hoped to find some fish still in the grasses around Conger Island and Pins Island, but this wasn’t the case. We also knew that the points where we caught fish on Friday would set up different on Saturday, but would return again Sunday when the winds went back to being NNW. That was really great news for me because I knew a lot of guys probably wouldn’t pay that much attention to the two days and the conditions would be completely different. Turns out I was right.
Our first and favorite spot was taken first thing in the morning. But while roaming at 9 am we saw that it was open and we took it immediately. Location was everything. This point had exactly what we were looking for in the conditions we had: wind blown point, shallow water with drop offs to the main lake channel, rocks with grass mixed in, near summer holding areas. This was the key to finding the fish. Our Humminbird graph was really vital in showing us where the fish and schools of bait were located. And our Fishidy app gave us detailed information about the lake that we weren’t able to find anyplace else.
This week was the first tournament I fished all year where I had only spinning gear on deck. Here’s a list of each set up:
Dobyns Champion 703 SF Spinning rod. This is a medium action, seven foot rod, but it has a really great tip and loaded up incredibly well. I paired this rod with a Shimano Stradic spinning reel, and ten pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon. I used this set up to pitch a 5 inch Baby Bass Senko, rigged wacky on a Lazer Trokar Weedless Wacky 1/0 hook, weightless. We pitched the bait up in real skinny water (6 inches or less) and slowly floated it down the ledges. Cruising fish would smash it in less than a foot of water, while our biggest fish waited at the bottom in 12-15 feet of water for it to fall to them.
Dobyns Savvy Series 703SS Spinning rod. This is another medium action, seven foot rod, that I rigged with a Quantum Smoke spinning reel, 8 pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon line, and a 1/0 Lazer Trokar Drop Shot hook. For bait I used a Jackall super cross tail shad, a Berkley Gulp nightcrawler 6 inch green pumpkin, or a 4 inch black senko rigged wacky.
Dobyns Champion 703 SF Spinning rod. This was the same setup as above, but with a white 3/4 oz Strike King Sexy Shad spinnerbait, tandem, gold and silver. It probably sounds crazy to a lot of people that I was using this to throw a spinnerbait, but I needed to slow-roll it SUPER slow, and my casting reels were pulling it too quick.
All our keepers came first in a short window from 9-930 am one right after another, and we never culled. Every fish we caught the rest of the day was too small to keep, so it was crucial that we got the bites we needed and that we didn’t lose any of them. That’s a testament to having the proper gear. I also have to give credit to my partner this weekend. Danny also did a ton of research and our success was a testament to our ability to share knowledge and work together to find the best plan of attack. It was a great victory for us both. It’s not easy beating 400 other anglers, many of them locals. It’s probably the most gratifying finish I’ve ever had. Special thanks to The Log Cabins for putting on such an amazing event, and to Cedar Grove cottages for the great accommodations.
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