by Bret Amundson
I’m the first to admit my shortcomings when it comes to wetting lines and bending rods every summer. But I like to do it and I’m finally getting back out to doing it more like I did when I was younger. There’s just something about floating around on a hot summer day trying to tempt one of our finned creatures into chomping down on whatever we’ve presented it with on that particular day. It’s relaxing, it’s challenging and, as the old adage goes, a bad day fishing still beats a good day working.
But what happens when you up the stakes? I’m not talking about a friendly buck on the first fish, (but I’m also not talking about a $25,000 first prize either-that’s on a whole ‘nother level).
I traveled up to Brainerd earlier this week and had the chance to tour Camp Confidence (look for that story coming soon). Afterward, an invite to fish in a “fun” multi-species league night was given and I accepted. I grabbed my rods and my camera and then jumped in the boat with Jim Eide and Mandy Uhrich from the Rodbenders League.
While this was a “fun” league, it didn’t keep me from not trying to stop the action to take pictures of the fish that came in. This may have been only the second time I fished in any sort of “competitive” atmosphere, but I learned the first time that you can’t catch fish if you’re not fishing, so keep the line in the water-no matter how “relaxed” the situation might be.
Immediately I found myself struggling to cut some old line as I tried to tie on a new jig. The braided line was too much for the scissors I was using and it just wouldn’t cut it. Maybe I was using right-handed scissors with my left hand? That always stumped me as a kid.
Anyway, the expected ribbing came from my boat partners and I tried to get it finished up as quickly as possible.
Soon that jig would be swiped clean with a snap from a feisty pike and instead of retying, I went to my other rod-rigged and ready with a white spinner bait.
Eide and Uhrich would run the gamut of lures and spots on the lake, but the fish just weren’t cooperating. Based on the final weigh-in, we weren’t the only ones having a hard time on the Whitefish Chain that night.
The strong winds, gusting over 30 mph, would keep us from fishing some of our favorite spots, but we did venture out to one particular honey hole. It would require throwing into the wind with a baitcaster-not always an easy task. Luckily backlashes were few and far between-unfortunately so were the fish. Just before heading to a new location, I felt a “thwomp” and my rod bent as I set the hook. I watched as the line tightened and started coming towards the boat, faster than I was reeling. I tried to keep as much tension as possible, but just as the net was dipping into the water, the hefty bass headed towards the surface, jumped and spit the hook a foot out of reach. While I looked like a pro on the 14″ northern pike throughout the night, this would have been my first contest fish.
As the close of the night neared, we fished one last spot next to the landing. It proved to be the best shoreline of the night and Eide was starting to catch fish on nearly every cast. They may not have been enough to get us into the money, but it felt like it kept us from getting laughed at-sort of. We were the only boat with 3 guys, (versus 2 for everyone else), so we should have had an advantage.
Realistically, I might have only given us a .57 person advantage, instead of a whole fisherman.
We finished in the middle of the pack, while a couple boats that landed some bigger pike finished ahead. Just a couple of nice largemouth were found overall by the league fishermen. All the fish were weighed and released; some trash talking took place and everyone packed up and headed home for the night.
A “fun” night of fishing, but not the lazy Saturday afternoon of fun that you and I might be used to. That being said, I’ll be practicing my hook sets for the next league night I’m invited to!