Fishing the Wild Carp Classic was something I could not miss and while it represented a rather major outlay of rather limited funds I was powerless to resist the opportunity. The Seneca River is well known for its amazing fishing, both for size and numbers, and makes an excellent venue for tournaments.
Planning for the event started months in advance with the acquisition of bait and tackle. None of our team had fished this tournament before and had no idea what to expect. I spent a lot of time studying the water temperature and flow patterns in relation to past winning catches and even went so far as to do out the odds of winning in different sections. In order to get the water condition data I used the USGS Water Data to look up the conditions from past tournaments and look for trends on where the fish seemed to be given the temp and the flow. The final result was that I had a very clear idea of where fish had been caught in the past and where we would want to fish given the choice.
I also took on the task of getting us more keep sacks incase we managed to get a lot of fish all at once. It seemed to be that I should be able to make keep sacks for cheaper than I could buy them so I set about looking for some netting. After much deliberation I settled on some ace style netting from Joann’s, which was really cheap after a 60% off coupon. I think I ended up spending less than $4 per sack. My design was basically a really big drawstring bag, about 36″x48″. My fall back plan was to get NGT keep sacks which are by far the cheapest available and don’t require sewing, but it did not come to this as mine worked fine.
Finally the time had come to make the treck to NY. I met my teammates (Joe and Ali) in NJ and we proceeded to head to Baldwinsville. The hardest part was fitting all of our stuff into the truck – we had enough bait for a month! This trip did not go as planned as we sustained a blowout on the right front tire. Luckily the spare had air in it and we got it changed in short order.
We finally made it to B’ville and arrived to see that there was a lot of water flowing through the dam. Alot of water. And a lot of carp right near the dam.
With so much water going through we felt that it was likely that the fish would be following it upstream and that if we could get a peg that was near there we might do well. After looking at all the pegs this was indeed the case with our first picks being pegs 4 and 5. Down stream there were also a few good choices and we felt that if we got one we would be in good shape. Now all there was to do was to get Joe his fishing license (which he had misplaced) and wait for the peg draw.
Waiting for the peg draw was a killer – I thought Joe was not going to make it and burst a blood vessel right there. After what seemed like a year or two we were up. I gave the fun task of drawing to Joe and Ali as I tend to not do very well with drawing – luck is not my strong point. Maybe I should have drawn…we had a choice between 36 and 47. This we had both written down as being less than ideal, but I made a quick decision to go with 36. As it turned out this was a good call as the poor team who ended up with 47 only got 3 fish! Maybe my degree in fisheries ecology finally came in handy?
We arrived at 36 which was a nice looking area in a park with grass to right near the water and only about a 2 foot drop off to get in. In the water things did not look so nice. There was a shallow ledge that went out about 15′ or so and then a drop off into over 20 feet of water with really heavy current that hit the bank at just this point. Along the far bank was an island with the entrance to a backwater – by far the best looking spot, but not easy to fish due to the current.
The first night we decided to get some bait in and fish the close bank. Bad idea. The next morning all we had caught was a channel catfish and had not even had a run that we could consider a carp. What made matter worse was the teams to both sides of us had started catching fish. We had to do something and I will say that at this point everyone was feeling a bit worried that the headlines would read “Team Century Finishes Dead Last with zero ponds”! I moved my pod next to Joe’s along the lower edge of our peg in a spot that allowed my to fish the far bank near the mouth of the backwater. Joe fished right below this and Ali continued to fish the upstream side. The reason I was in the middle is that I had the most powerful rods; the Century C2-Ds, which allowed me to cast 8oz of weight nearly 100 yds and mostly hold bottom.
The the afternoon things were not getting better; but then I had a run! It was not a big fish but it was a carp and moral gained 100 points. After that things slowed down again and we could do nothing but wait and hope the fish would move up later in the day. Luckily they did and around 5pm we had two runs back to back which resulted in two mid twenty commons! To say that we were happy with this would be a huge understatement to say the least.
Fish continued to trickle in over the next twenty four hours with a good number of high teens and low and mid twenties gracing our nets. Our biggest fish came around our 2nd midnight. We were all asleep trying to recover from fishing for the last 30 hours when my alarms go off and Joe yells that there is a fish, but I am already stumbling out of my brolly and running to my rod. It must have been something to watch as Joe and I are both shaking from having been woke up! I did not have my glasses or head lamp and was going by feel. The fish felt like a good one and luckily stayed out in open water. After a good fight it was in the net, all 28lbs 4oz of it.
We had been baiting little and often with 18mm and 24mm CC Moore Live System Boilies since arriving and this fish fell to one. It seems this bait takes some time to get the fish down, but when they do they can’t get enough and will be drawn in from a distance. In fact, over the course of the tournament, many teams catch rate fell over time, while ours kept increasing and all the fish were full of live system. If we had gotten a better peg I think we would have had it made with this bait!
We also used some really bright hooks baits which really produced fish during falling light periods when we got some really quick runs with them. At other times they still worked but tended to produce smaller fish. Thats not to say that a double stack of 24s only caught large fish as we were able to catch a 4lb fish this type of huge bait! That being said the corn we tried only produced smaller fish so take from that what you will about bait sizes.
We used a variety of rigs but all were given the “palm” test to check for their ability to flip and hook the fish. If there was any doubt if the rig was not 100% we clipped on a new one. The lead arrangement were either lead clips or inline with some of the leads we were kindly given during the event as we ran out of the larger sizes! I always used a full length shock leader to try and minimise the chance for cut offs due to zebra mussels. This precaution paid off and I suffered no losses and also provided some security when casting 10+oz. The hooks I used were Ashima C900 Long Shank and Gamakatsu G-Carp Hump Backs. I missed/hook pulled 2 fish the entire 64hrs. These hooks are the real deal!
On every cast I put on a new PVA stick to keep the rig from tangling. There is nothing more annoying than reeling in your bait after it has been sitting out there for the better part of a day and discovering that the hair has gotten twisted around the hook and would never be able to hook a fish in a million years. What I put in the stick varied with what I was using on the hair at the time, but was mostly a base of Live System Stick Mix, crushed boilies, and some pellets. The whole mess was dipped in a liquid booster to increase the scent trail.
I spent a great deal of time on the selection of the rods and line I was using. As I mentioned before the rods I was (and am) using are Century C2-Ds. I really can’t say enough about these rods. They really appeal to me as they are no nonsense in and are very understated with no gimmicks or un-needed additions. Everything about them is put there for performance and it really comes through in how they perform. In this application I was able to use their ability to cast a absolutely massive amount of weight while still playing fish well and not pulling the hook. The 13′ was also really handy to keep fish out of snags along the bank which was a constant concern. The line I was using was Ashima Gangster in the 0.375mm size, and it really did the job and put fish on the bank and the only time it broke was when it was twisted around the propeller of a passing boat and I had to break it off.
Speaking of boats we had a few problems, all on Saturday. As I just alluded to I managed to have a boat wipe out both my rods and then start dragging my whole pod into the water. Luckily I got to it in time and was able to break off the lines. This resulted in an insanely expensive loss of shock leaders and other terminal tackle. I don’t think the boater had a clue that I could be fishing where I was and I would guess it was a surprise when they discovered all that line hanging from their prop. I considered back leads but between the snags and the current I felt that this was a sure way to have issues so just kept an eye out for boats that might be in too close. Joe had a much more exciting incident with a rower that got his head caught on Joe’s line. I would have thought that this would be cause for an apology on the rowers part (they know about the tournament) but no; this guy started making comments and it got a bit heated before they moved off down the river. Fortunately this was really the only issues we had…except for the jet ski that decided to do circles at top speed in front of us. Never a dull moment with boaters around.
On the natural history end of things I had left my net in the water (ever hopeful that a run was at hand) and when I pulled it up much later discovered a water snake had become hopelessly tangled in the mesh to the point where it could not be budged either forward or backward. I ended up having to cut the netting to get it out…my new net was no longer. Oh well. The other thing that was the Eurasian water chestnuts. These things are like landmines for anyone with bare feet and get stuck in the nets and are really sharp. The highlight was really, I have to say, the mosquitos. They swarmed and would attack you both day and night. Luckily they were a slow species that was easy to kill and my reflexes are still better from all the carnage.
By Monday we were starting to feel the strain of fishing non-stop. I had pretty much taken over the nighttime fishing (being younger and stupider) and was a some what on auto pilot. For some reason there were periodic pulses of debris that would float down the river. This included whole trees, large branches, mats of weeds, and dead fish that would drag the lines into each other and result in everything having to be hauled in and recast. It was lovely, but luckily it passed after a while. We continued to catch a scattering of fish over the last hours of the tournament, with the name of the game to catch bigger fish and increase our overall weight. We were closing in on all twenties when all was said and done with our final weights being 28.4, 24.4, 24.3, 23.11, 23.10, 23.5, 22.15, 21.9, 19.11, and 19.7lbs.
Overall we felt good about our performance. The pegs which were our first choices were good producers which was both good and bad – bad in that were did not get one – and good in that our watercraft was sound. The hardest part for me is the luck that comes with the peg draw. During my normal fishing I don’t often rely on luck (if I did I would not catch much) and work really hard to find locations where the fish will be feeding. With this ability striped away half of the equation is gone. In the future I am looking forward to fishing events such as the Connecticut Carp Open where you can pick your peg within the entire river in the state – I think watercraft will be a very important part of this event!