CDA Tournament Recap

Although it felt like the dollars spent were many, Coeur d’Alene Lake was absolutely beautiful, and Harrison was an extremely hospitable little town. I give a thumbs-up to the Lakeview Lodge and the Osprey Inn, both were awesome places to stay. Jordan still can’t get over how everyone said “Hi” and it felt like you knew them after a day or two! Thank you to everyone who made the drive. We had a great club dinner, and the weather turned out to be okay, although Saturday late morning it did rain a bit…Mel Williams definitely won the “Best Husband” award (you’ll have to ask him for details!). Otherwise, the weather, view, hospitality, and food were stellar…Now, onto the fishing…
 
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Ben Hanes and Jordan Hanes, 1st Place – 35.68lbs.
 
J and I arrived late Wednesday night, and had the pleasure of driving the ultra-snaking road between the north end and Harrison. It was a crazy drive, as we were already tired. I was able to get out mid-morning on Thursday and begin tackling this lake I had never been to. From pre-tournament map study and general knowledge of prior tournament victories, I began intentionally exploring “Harrison Slough,” i.e. Big Bay. By 1 p.m., I felt confident that I had somewhat digested what was going on, and found 2 areas that were producing fish. Because we were about to have a 2-day tournament, I wanted to explore more waters because I felt Big Bay wouldn’t hold up…I then explored the St. Joe and its sloughs, and despite having caught an almost 7lb largemouth during practice, I felt as if the whole southern end was blown-out cold and high, with a lot of debris, from the winter run-off from the St. Joe river…It reminded me a lot of back home: you just KNOW when the Yakima River is blown out…You just KNOW when the Reach is blown out. I left the St. Joe area lacking a good feeling of consistency…But that 7 lber made me itch…
 
Day 2 pre-fish; I attempted further to explore the St. Joe, and “Little Bay.” I REALLY wanted to fish down south, as I knew any fish I caught would be pre-spawn and fat. I managed to find some promising stuff around Benewah lake, along some reeds north-ish of the entrance bridge, and some warm-water rip rap near the mouth of the St. Joe…. Ultimately, I felt things were beginning to come together. With my river knowledge of current breaks and temperature variations, along with my younger-years knowledge of “dollar-pad” fishing and spawning habitat for largies, I went into the tournament feeling…like 30lbs over 2 days was really possible, and that was my/our goal.
 
Day 1 tournament: Everything went south. Jordan and I were grumpy from a severe lack of sleep from allergies, and it was cloudy and rainy. We decided to start in “Little Bay” because it was very promising after a brief go-through from the previous afternoon…In the opening morning, we did catch a couple (swim jigs), but it didn’t quite work out like I had hoped. After that, we ventured into Big Bay (Harrison Slough), only to find out 2 boats were sitting on a point/dock I had previously thought was the best area. So, we just ventured further down and decided to fish a stretch that had lots of wooden planks lining the bottom, and the largies seemed to like that! Power fishing 7-inch Senkos and weightless Fat Ikas, we caught a lot of largemouth in short order, but size was a problem. Because of the cloudy conditions and poor sight-fishing conditions, we decided to venture south, hoping for the big pre-spawn fish around the St. Joe…Unfortunately, falling water levels practically prevented us from entering one slough (knowledge from the Reach also told me fish EXIT sloughs with falling water), so we just simply ended up wasting time, and weighed 16lbs.
 
Day 2 tournament: Lessons learned from the prior day, we decided to stick it out in the Harrison-area; there is a reason so many tournaments are won there: there’s lots of fish! J and I just grinded it out, we started in the same wood-plank area and caught a good fish, then moved to the dike and got a good one on a swim jig, and then proceeded to locate bed fish fairly early with the sunny and calm skies. With a Power-Pole, weightless Fat Ikas, and drop-shot homemade (cut?) minnows, we were able to catch 3 solid bed-fish that led us to a cool little win, as J and Baby Senko won’t be able to fish tournaments any more for a while! Props to Jake Anderson for executing an extremely good bag on day 1, and Brian Oles for finding a HUGE fish on day 2!
 
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I was hoping to get a single full day on Friday 5/19 to pre-fish one of the largest lakes in the entire Northwest. One I’d never been on. I spent a few evenings looking at the chain lakes as I knew I just wouldn’t have time to pre-fish any other part of CDA. My Google earth map study consisted of making navigation trails through a few different chain lakes so I could quickly and safely navigate to the backs of them. I wanted to fish flats in May because we all know a lot of fish will be shallow and looking to spawn, be spawning, or have just gotten done and still in the area.
 
Thanks to work, I was stuck with only 3 hours of pre-fish. I gave myself 1 hour in 3 different lakes. Harrison, Thompson, and Black. Only one of these areas looked like a winning type of area.
 
Starting near the Harrison launch point on tournament day, we were able to secure a nice limit of smallmouth by 7:15am. I marked a couple bedding smallmouth and largemouth I’d leave for the next day. From 7:30am-3pm I wanted to explore the other lakes I marked via Google Earth but never got to practice on.
 
Swan lake produced two good largemouth both over 4lbs as well as my first ever pike. This gave us almost 21lbs. We tried to explore Medicine and Cave Lake after that, but couldn’t get through the culvert. Largemouth were caught on Senkos and swim jigs. Smallmouth were caught on drop-shots.
 
The next day we stayed near the ramp and it took until 9 a.m. to secure a 13lb limit with Jaime anchoring our bag with a largemouth she caught on a Senko. I lost a 5lb bedding smallmouth and went upriver knowing I’d return to catch it later. I made a mistake in my time management and went back up to Swan lake. With a noon weigh-in, this was not a good call. I didn’t catch anything, and didn’t give myself enough time to get back down to fish for a last-minute upgrade. This is why I really enjoy club angling. It exposes your mistakes, and offers learning opportunities you can grow from instead of worrying about how much the mistake “cost”. Our time management and LMB bed fishing are items to work on.
 
The lake was gorgeous, dinner with the club on Saturday evening was a lot of fun, and it was a great time with family.
 
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I received some advice for this tournament from multiple sources to fish the “Big Bay” because that is where most tournaments are won. I took the advice but made multiple mistakes…And we all learn from our mistakes! And, that is what I want to do…learn.
 
When I first started fishing out of a float tube down at Bateman’s Island, I would consistently catch 12-14 pounds with many other fisherman out there, and it was because I would absolutely pick the place apart, and that was my major mistake in this tourney: I fished it way too fast. I was very lucky to take 3rd place and even luckier to catch the big fish.
 
This was one of my favorite tourneys because of what I learned…And of course because of the big fish!

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