When Tony called me and asked if I wanted to join a 5 man team to participate in the inaugural Team Toad Slam tournament on Lady Bird Lake in Austin my initial thoughts were too pass. Bass fishing isn't my specialty. Don't get me wrong I've bass fished before its just been a really long time since. He went on detailing the plans to camp out, grill and have a couple cold ones the night before. I thought about it some more and decided it would be a good time and a good experience with some good people.
We all pulled up to Joe's Crab Shack bright and early for the captains meeting to find 115 people in total participating in the tournament. This was a very good turn out for the first Team Toad Slam kayak tournament. After the captains meeting broke up the teams dispersed to the launch sites to begin the day.
We made the decision we would stick to the launch area at Joe's. We weren't the only team launching there. This was all new territory as we were out-of-towners and did not pre-fish the area prior to the tournament. Regardless we set off with the knowledge and research we had for the area. As we paddled off we initially stuck together and began working a set of concrete pilings not far from the launch point. That is when Ozzie drew first blood and immediately hooked up with a bass. However the fish went 13.5 inches, short only 1/2 inch to submit. Regardless we were all pumped and ready to tackle some monster fish!
We worked the pilings thoroughly without any more bites and began to explore the shoreline. The overhanging trees and brush made for excellent areas for bass to lay up. Tossing a frog right along the shoreline Ty hooked up with a nice bass! As Ty reeled in his fish we could tell this one was going to put him on the board. 17 inches and 30 minutes into the day we were all feeling encouraged.
And that is when the action stopped. We all vigorously worked the shoreline, structure, docks and drainage pipes with no action what so ever. This went on for hours. The sun began to beat down on us and I personally was beginning to feel defeated. It was midday and we fished and paddled a good portion of the lake. Switching from Texas rig, to crank baits, to swim baits, nothing was pulling in that tournament winner.
Not only were we not catching fish but now I have the game warden pulling up to me to check my fishing license. No worries for me though. Having a fishing license is like having a cell phone. Its a must for me every year. After finishing up with me the wardens began to head over and check out Brian's credentials....but not before he hooked up with a nice fish!! The wardens see him and backed off to let him finish his battle. I paddle up to him to see he's got a good one. This guy was a chunker! However in this competition weight didn't matter. This was a CPR (catch, picture, release) tournament and the only thing that mattered was length. Regardless it was our teams largest fish of the day coming in at 18 inches. After a couple quick snaps with my DSLR Brian released it back into the water. Don't worry the game warden didn't forget about Brian. They pulled right up to him as well as Ozzie to check and see if they had their license. No worries for these guys. They know the rules and always stay legal and safe while on the water.
We had been working the shoreline for the majority of the day but the fish that Brian landed was caught in deeper water about 15 to 20 yards off the shoreline. He was fishing with a Senko wacky rigged. That is when I made the switch. And am I glad i did because not long after I hooked up! This was a keeper fish that was going to make the cut. Not the big fish I was looking for but I was on the board with a 17 incher. It appears we found a good pattern that may produce several more fish.
And produce more fish it did. The current and wind was allowing me to drift in a westerly direction giving me the ability to cover more ground. I repeated the drift and landed another large mouth. This guy was a bit smaller measuring in at 16 inches. "Tourney X" is the application we used to upload our images. There are strict rules. We had to use a hawg trough board, fish placed up against the board and bracelet with team # clearly visible in the pic. All good rules to keep the people as honest as possible. The cool thing about Tourney X is the ability to "cull" a fish and upgrade your catch if you land a larger fish. Unfortunately this fish wasn't going to be culled as it was an inch smaller then my first fish.
I continued on fishing this pattern which appeared to be producing. Sure enough I land another bass. It looked promising as I reeled this fish in. Shaking her head I felt I may have a chance at culling. This fish wasn't a monster but did allow me to upgrade measuring in at 17 3/4 inches.
Now this was fun. I wasn't catching any monsters but I was having a ton of fun catching fish. A change of pace at that. I was far away from the salt and out of my comfort zone but I felt at home on Lady Bird Lake.
The day was coming to a close and we had 3 solid fish submitted. We knew we weren't going to win the tournament but that didn't matter to us. We were all having a blast fishing on this gorgeous lake. If you are ever in Austin I recommend getting out on the water on Lady Bird Lake. It's a no motor lake that has some great water activities. Whether its kayaking, paddle boarding, paddle boating, fishing or rowing it has it all.
We pushed back to the launch to grab a drink and meet everyone back at the weigh-in. There was some tough competition as 40 fished over 20 inches were submitted. Big bass of the day came in at a whopping 25.25 inches! We finished 13th out of 24 anglers! Not bad for a mostly all saltwater team. A great trip with some good people. Couldn't be prouder of the team and definitely looking forward to next year!