Thats what I get for mentioning that we have had a mild February so far. I guess I ticked off Mother Nature because she used everything she had against all the contestants of this weekends Baffin Bash
Torrential rains, high winds and cold temps were the rule of the day on Saturday. At blast-off, the winds were purring at about 15mph out of the north which really wasn't much of a problem as we headed south. At least the north winds took some of the sting out of the raindrops.
My partner (Wes Reed aka X-TremeBoy) and I headed to our first wade spot of the day and I was pleased to see no one there when we arrived. The water was slightly off color but not bad with the winds whipping like they were.
We were excited about our prospects and I was extremely confident that we could manage some weigh fish out of this area. The Bash required a twenty inch minimum length limit on all trout brought in.
Things started out slow for us and the only excitement for the first couple of hours was a couple of redfish and a flounder that hit our dark assassins.
Another couple of hours ground by and we managed a few decent trout but none over the magical 20" mark. Finally, around noon after no weigh fish and a stumble over some rocks which filled my waders and my confidence in this spot were dashed. Wes was not in much better shape as he developed a leak in his waders and was in about the same shape as I was.
We discussed possiblilities and decided to hit a couple of spots in the back of Baffin. We eased up to one spot to make a drift over some deep rocks and saw another boat just finishing up a drift over the same area. It turned out to be Capt. Danny Gonzales
and his patner Steve Morales.
They had three weigh fish in the box and were doing there best to pick up that fourth one to fill their limit (4 fish per team per day). We congratulated them on their fine day and encouraged them to pick up that all important 4th fish.
Wes finally came through for our team with a long 25 3/4" fish that was a bit on the lean side but our first weigh fish of the day. It was 2:10pm with a 4:00 weigh in deadline looming as well as an approximate 1 hour run back to the ramp.
Wes hooked up again soon after that with fish number 2, a fat 21"er and things were getting a little exciting in our boat. On the very next drift, we both hooked up and lost 20"+ trout suffering tremendous heartbreak.
Then it was time to make the decision on when to head in. We were in Wes' 22' Majek Extreme with a 225 Yamaha HPDI. The boat was fast and I had no doubts that the boat had what it would take to get us back in time. I told Wes I figured we could fish right up until 3:00 and we could get back with 5 or 10 minutes to spare. That was under ideal conditions and if you recall, conditions were somewhat less than that.
We made our last cast at 2:55 and prepped everything for the ride back in. At 2:56 we were on plane for what turned out to be the roughest, scariest boat ride I've ever experienced.
We hugged the north shoreline and were protected from the winds for the most part. As we raced behind the Tide Guage Bar, we encountered the first of our problems. Ahead of us, we saw what looked like a dense fog, unfortunately it wasn't fog but a driving heavy rain. Our speed dropped from 65 to 55 because the rain felt like small hail when it hits your face at that speed.
Hindsight is 20/20 but I will make it a point to get a full face helmet for occasions like that in the future.
We passed CatHead and blasted thru Compuerta Pass, still on schedule but it was going to be close. The margin of error was no longer 5 to 10 minutes but closer to 3 to 5.
At marker 130, we merged into the ICW along with a few other hearty souls and met up with problem number two........ High Winds.
The wind speed picked up significantly to a steady 25mph with some unbelievable gusts. The usual calm waters near the spoil islands were whipped into 2 to 3 foot waves. Each channel marker we passed was followed by about a 10 second pause before the next one was visible.
Visible isn't the best word for what I could see as the stinging rain and winds had me down to a one-eyed squint. I tried to use my sunglasses for a little relief and they worked for about 5 seconds until they fogged up making things worse.
The final 8 miles were a test of wills as Wes and I along with 2 other tournament boats, one captained by Capt. Scott Hibbetts
made our way up the ICW.
Many times, all I could make out was the propwash of Capt. Hibbetts' boat and I was grateful for that. My GPS was rendered useless as water beaded up on the surface and I could barely see it.
Finally, green marker 39 passed on our right side and I knew we were home free....... with 2 minutes to spare. I was never so glad to set my feet on dry ground ad I was that day.
After weighing our catch, we found out that another contestant, David Rowsey and his partner had serious boat problems in CC Bay and had to be rescued by the Coast Guard. They were safe and the boat was recovered later that day. Thank God everyone came out OK onthis day.
After day one, we were in 18th place and the team of Gonzales and Morales was in the hunt holding in seventh place.
We headed back to Rusty Pool's condo for a hot shower and some cold adult beverages. Later we ate at Doc's and were treated to a very good meal (I had the grilled tuna steak). Thanks to Rusty and his son Mike for putting up with us all weekend. Your generosity is well noted.
Day two forecast was night and day different from the previous day. I guess Mother Nature figured she had tested our resolve enough. Mostly cloudy gave way to mostly sunny in just a few hours. The waters which had been churned up the evening before were showing promise as they slowly settled out. Wes and I had high hopes and were back to fishing and hoping for the best.
Now catching solid fish on this day was no problem. Catchinmg fish over 20" was. We hung numerous fish in the 17 to 19 inch range but could not manage that elusive weigh fish.
Finally, with time running short, we hit our last drift fishing spot of the day. Lo and behold, there is the team of Gonzales and Morales and they had just boated their 4th fish. Awesome job guys. We wished them well and as they motored off to the weigh-in, I got my best strike of the weekend.
A solid 26"+ 6 1/2 pound trout finally made it to the box. Again, we caught numerous keeper size trout but no more over 20". We headed in, determined to not have the trials of the previous day. We actually made it with 8 minutes to spare on this day (shoulda made one more drift LOL).
Out of the 77 teams that entered, only 40 weighed fish. Wes and I ended up in 24th place with over 15 lbs. The back of Baffin was well represented as Capt. Gonzales and Steve Morales placed 4th with a healthy 36 pounds +.
Congrats to all who participated and to Capt. Ron Behnke and his crew for the fine work they did on this tournament. Oh, and could we please put in an order early for next years bash. Calm winds and warm conditions please LOL. Later, Aubrey