Renegade Bass Q 3&4 – Lake St. Francis

This entry will read more like a Diary as it involves many days of preparation leading up to this two day event on Lake St. Francis.  These two tournaments will play a huge factor on who makes the Classic and who is left on the dock.  When Len and I originally saw the schedule for this season we were very hesitant to even fish the series this year due to the “Double Francis” weekend, we aren’t strong on rivers and are Largie fisherman.  Neither of which bodes well at this body of water.

We had set a gameplan on how to approach our 5 days of practice so we could really focus in on what we needed to do with the time we had.

Day 1 of Pre-fish
We decided to fish the areas we fished last time on the Franny to check on things and see if the fish were still holding in these areas.  We started off on an area we plucked our whole weight from last time Renegade was there.  Not 15 minutes in Len jumps off a giant smallie with his spinnerbait.  I mean giant.  Ok.  5 minutes later he sets into another.  Landed this one that was dwarfed by that other one.  Your typical 4 pound Francis Smallie.
We played around there on some of our old waypoints and confirmed the fish were there landing about 5 more Smallies.  We moved around on that area and widened our waypoints to other areas that may hold fish for us later on.
We moved out to a stretch of a bit deeper water and began to drop-shot a bit.  I immediately picked up a Smallie.  Then nothing.  Circle back, nothing.  Odd.  We slid out to even deeper water and the constant pecking of Perch and Gobies was alot to bear.  Len and I are not deep water fisherman in the least and this would be a massive struggle for us to develop a deep water pattern.
We then slid onto another flat with a nice shoal on it.  Oddly enough all we could find off this shoal last year was smaller than average largemouth.  Same thing this year.
We decided to have a looksie for some of the elusive giant Largemouth that Francis can kick out.  Into the Cane we go.  Armed with the heavy artillery we began to plunk.  Ian who had joined us for the day had struggled all day until we got him on the bow and then he was into them and didn’t want to go home.
We found numbers and some decent size while flippin’.  I ended the day with my best largie of the year so far.
At the end of Day 1 we did some calculating.  Had Len landed that first smallie we would have been in the 19 to 20 pound range quite easily on the day.  But our fears with these two areas being abused leading up to the event are real, very real.
Day 2 of Pre-fish
We had decided today was a day to do some major exploring.  We had marked off areas we wanted to take a look at.  We began with Largemouth along a bank of undercut.  It looked fantastic but held only smaller fish this day.  We waypointed the “Cherry” spots and will likely visit it again on tournament day.  We did come across a funny sight.  This stretch is famous for the boats doing their runs back and forth loaded up with cigarettes.  We came across a sealed bagged carton of cigs floating.  Just odd to see.
We put a pile of time in the Ranger running around this day.  Checking out water we had never been even near before and just didn’t see a whole lot that we liked.  From a distance spots look to have lots of potential until you drive up to them to find very shallow water and what we call “eelgrass”.  One area had some undercut bank and while poking along a spotted this fella.  We has sunning himself until I flipped my jig at him and he went ballistic!
Franny Bowfin!  Cool Fish.
We worked the backside of one island that had some great looking weed, rock and sand mix.  No fish there at the time but that is the formula for success for Smallies and will get re-visited likely on tournament day.

We spent the rest of the day looking at more areas to explore but just found more what we deemed as “junk”.  It is such a daunting task to try dissect this lake.  It is massive.  You could fish it your whole life and never fish it all.  Some days eliminating water is just as much a success as finding new areas to fish, and that is what we accomplished for the most part on Day 2.

Day 3 of Pre-fish
Today was the day to locate some areas to fish just in case the wind blows and makes fishing further off areas impossible to reach.  Lake St. Francis is very shallow and when it blows it gets VERY nasty.  Finding areas that hold Smallmouth nearby was the plan.  I spent 5 hours on the bow of the Ranger while Len drove around.  Simply looking for that magic mix of weed, rock and sand.

We found an area that looked productive though it was barren mid-afternoon.  It was waypointed with thoughts of hitting it again the next day first thing.  At 6:30 that evening we found an area that had it all.  Sand leading to boulders leading to weed that fall off into deep water.  This also had to be hit first thing to see if the Smallies were home.

We had hit a few of the massive reed beds that exist on Francis just to break up the day.  Mid sized Largemouth were fairly consistent.

The Smallmouth puzzle was still a bit of a mystery to us.  We seem to have no issue catching them until about 9am then we struggle.

13 hours on the water.  Lots of water looked at.  It really is an amazing body of water to just look around on.  That day we saw Smallies, Largies, Pike, Bowfin, Carp, Shad, Bullheads, Suckers, Sheephead and even an eel.  The eel was a giant!

Day 4 of Pre-fish

We awoke to reading the Ford’s thermometer at 8 degrees!  Sure felt like fall that morning.  Our buddy Phil joined us for our limited day on the water.  With only a half-day we decided to hit the two Smallie spots we located the evening before.  Pulled into the first area and had a quick limit of Smallies weighing about 14 pounds.  Paydirt.

Average sized Franny smallie.

Hit the second area and it was void.  Scratch.

Then 9am hit.  And the jokes began.  Well it wasn’t really funny anymore.  We didn’t move another rod from a smallie that day.  Though Len did get a decent pike that he was hoping was a bruiser Smallie.

I have to admit that Lake St. Francis is the most humbling body of water I have ever fished.  At times my head was spinning so bad on Day 3 that I wondered if I even had a clue as to how to catch fish anymore.  The sheer size of the body of water is overwhelming but once you start to really cover water there is literally TONS of dead water.  The biggest issue is finding those key areas that are holding fish and believing in them.

Day 5 of Pre-fish
The day before last years event on Francis we made a big mistake.  We stuck two 5 pound fish.  A huge no-no.  We didn’t have much choice then as we were still in search mode somewhat.  That would not happen this year.

We decided to widen our search from our original go-to areas. We managed to locate a few more largies while fishing hookless and Len had an absolute giant largie chase in his crankbait, we put it at 6 plus pounds.

The wind picked up badly around noon so we decided to pull the plug and get some rest for the two days ahead.

Tournament Day 1

We made our run to our go-to spot.  Smallies in the morning to fill a quick limit then onto the Largies in hopes of finding those kickers that make all the difference.  Well after 2 hours on the Smallies with panic setting in we had an empty livewell.  Onto our Largie pattern.  We picked our way through 18 Largies weighing in for a pathetic 11.07.  A devastating day mentally.  We lost ground in the attempt to make the Classic and were now sitting in 42nd overall.

Dock talk was as I suspected all along.  The deep water smallies were leading the way.  Bob and Darren Izumi weighed in 24.76 of Smallies with a kicker at 6.13 for the win.

That night we spent some time with two other teams at the hotel.  Great guys and the laughs we had made the day a little easier when we put our heads down for the night.

Tournament Day 2

We awoke to having no firm decision as to where to go and what to do.  Scary thought at that point.  We really didn’t have much choice in the matter but to rely on what we had and hope that the Smallies had moved into the areas we’d had them before.

A very wise Albert Einstein once said.

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

We should have listened to that fella.

Our Smallies were nowhere to be found again, of course.  So to the Largies we went.  We plucked away again and had our 5 fish that I was embarassed to present at the scales.  Our worst weight ever at 8.15.  Devastating.

Jamie Hearty and Chris Patacairk won with 20.70 on a tougher day for most weight wise.  I’m thrilled for Jamie and Chris, two great guys.

We now sit in 49th overall in the Classic running.  More than 5 pounds out.  The Classic is nothing but a distant dream at this point.  As we predicted way back in March, Francis could kill us.  And it did.

Looking back on the two days I’m proud of a few things as hard as it is to believe.  Throughout the two days Len and I did our best to stay positive as hard as it was.  It was the most humbling two days of fishing I’ve ever experienced and at the end of it we didn’t sulk in the corner, we weighed in our fish told a few jokes about it and smiled.  I can tell you it wasn’t easy but we did our best to do it.

The post tournament analysis will take a few weeks to be fully digested.  You have to be able to learn from these things I think.

What is really sticking out is the fact that we as a team really stink at fishing for Smallmouth.  We were unable to pull our heads from the sand and see why those guys drifting the current in deep water every time we saw them and never clued in to that being what we may need to do.  Those guys handed us our lunches all weekend.

Our inability and refusal to attempt to fish deep water is severely hampering any successes that could come our way.  It’s been proven time and time again yet we still refuse to make that adjustment.

It is a bitter pill to swallow but there is noone to blame but ourselves.  We are our own worst enemy.  The most difficult part for me personally right now is the feeling of letting people down.  Family, friends and folks who read this site who randomly email me to wish me luck are all in that group.  All I can know is that each day we did our best with what we had to work with at the time.

The Ottawa River tournament in a few weeks has turned into a fun fish with hopes of maybe cashing a cheque to end the season.

Oh look, the sun came up today. Birdee was right, life goes on.