I am just returning from my trip to Cave Run in Kentucky. My fishing partner (Chad Lapa) and I took the trip to try our luck and compete in the PMTT. This is something that has been on my bucket list for a little while now, so I was extremely excited to take the voyage.
We got down to the lake on Thursday afternoon which gave us a little time to get the boat in the water and start looking for good water (or in our case, rule out what we considered bad water). We did not get any lures wet in this practice run. We just trolled around looking for structure, bait, water temps, and ideas on how to attack the lake. Being my first time at Cave Run, I spent a lot of time also looking at my surroundings. It was probably my favorite thing on the lake as it is just absolutely beautiful. The shores are lined with forest and houses are almost non-existent...just stunning!
Friday was our real practice run. We got out on the water at sun-up and were able to put a good amount of time in areas that we thought looked decent the day before. We were working shorelines by casting as close as we could to shore and then retrieving back over deep water. We had four follows with one giving us a great strike on the figure-8. After an amazing fight, we lost the fish at boat-side. After fishing a little longer, we figured we had a decent pattern setup and gave ourselves the afternoon off to rest and sharpen our hooks (along with getting out of the sun - my sun block just could not handle the strength of the Kentucky “rays”).
Before heading to the rules meeting on Friday night, we decided to stop at a couple local bait shops. While the Cave Run Lake tackle shop was fun and had a lot of musky tackle, Crash’s Landing is the one I would recommend. I got to talk to Crash for a little and hear about all the friends we have in common. I also got a great kick out of hearing the first time he encountered weeds in a lake was at Chautauqua. Cave run has very few weeds (usually the spots that everyone is packed into during the tournament days). From Crash’s story, the little weeds they do have are fairly new to the lake.
After a few restless hours of “trying to” sleep, our tournament began! I really enjoyed seeing all of the boats lining up to get their tournament numbers and then seeing those boats take off to beat others to their fishing spots. I will never again think my boat is fast! Seeing 620vs and 621vs Rangers with 250/300hp motors on them crushed me at the hull shot and top speed. They were amazing.
We got to our spot to find the bait still holding tight to shore. Our pattern quickly got fish to show up as lazy follows. We tried everything but the kitchen sink to convert those follows to strikes, but it was not going to happen. Everything we tried could get them to follow...but that was it. We watched the bait move out of the area around mid-day and we tried to move with it. The day ended in ten follows, but no fish in the boat.
Virtual Weigh-in showed that we were not that far off of the field. There were only 16 fish caught for the field of 80 with nobody catching more than one (The first time in tournament history for this to happen). Hearing the top ten teams talk about their day was interesting as not many of them had seen other fish. The idea that one good fish would get us back into cashing and that we were seeing more fish than everyone else really gave us a good boost of confidence.
Sunday started off a little drizzly. We got to our spot, but the bait was not there. We gave the spot a valiant effort, but had no follows and just felt as if it was a completely different spot as compared to the past few days. We moved to our second spot to hope for better luck. We were able to get a couple to rise, but it was again rather lazy follows. At this point we fished the entire spot and started to have problems staying in a good casting position to the shoreline as the wind picked up. Also, we noticed that the sun was coming back out and thought it might be worthwhile to go back to our main spot to see if the sun would be warm enough to get the shad to come back in. It was a good observation/guess. Bait was back in the spot and we were able to get a couple to start following again. Around 11:40AM, we finally got our first strike for the tournament. I was casting a Wooly Bully Bucktail in the Green Goby pattern. The fish hit a good distance away from the boat and started to really give a great fight. Once it got close enough to see the boat, it went into a barrel-roll which really scared me that we were going to lose it. Chad took one quick swipe with the net and we made the call to the judge boat! It was a 34.5” fish. We got back to fishing, but ran out of time to find our second fish (Sunday ended at 1PM).
There ended up only being 8 fish for the 80 teams caught on Sunday...a total of 24 fish for the entire tournament. Only two teams had two fish caught. This was a lot lower than I would have expected. To make the top ten, all that was needed was a single fish at 38”. First place was won with two fish - 37” and 38.50”. They were casting crankbaits. The big story of the weekend was a 50.75” fish caught on Sunday. It is the biggest fish caught at Cave Run in tournament history.
I really had a great time competing in the PMTT. I enjoyed the format, the competition, the environment surrounding the lake, and also the camaraderie that everyone had for each other. I took a lot away from the tournament. While leaving, Chad asked me what I thought about Cave Run. It took me a minute to think of the appropriate answer and finally said that the lake and I have a love/hate relationship. I have never fished a lake that made you be so perfect on your casts -- If you casted long, you were sure to snag on the shoreline. If you casted short, you would miss the ledge and be in no-mans (or is it no-fish) land. Also, being in 40 foot of water and snagging on a tree trunk while you are casting a 5-foot deep jerkbait will never make sense to me. Last, no matter how well you plan and execute your fishing, you will not always be rewarded.
I am glad to be home and will now start getting ready for our season opener. I normally complain about how tough the early season can be (I can usually be found fishing Chautauqua Lake on the opening weekend), but only have to think back to this past weekend to make me really appreciate what we have here in New York.
Great story Joe and way to represent the Empire State! The Cave is a neat little lake. Too bad you couldn't convert just one of your many lazy follows! Are you participating in any other events? I bet your own bed felt better than it ever has before when you got back... the ride home after a PMTT is awful. Where did you stay? (When I was there I slept in the bed of my partner's truck one night in the rain and on an air mattress outside of Garvin's the next.) Please shoot me some background pictures and images of your fish and I'll re-print your report in the next newsletter. Nice job.
Sunday I saw the string of postings that Chad posted on LOU. There is one or two other photos there. I was surprised to hear that so few fish were caught with that many fisherman. It sounds like you and Chad had more action than most of the other teams. Sorry to hear that you were not able to convert some of those follows into strikes. Sometimes it can be very frustrating.
Scott: We stayed at the Comfort Inn that was right down the road. I bet about 20 boats were in the parking lot every night. They had a nice area for parking along with some electric outlets outside.
I will make sure to send you some photos that I had from the trip. Unfortunately, the fishing picture was taken on the tournament's camera which is not the greatest resolution. They are still using a camera that stores photos on a 3.5" floppy drive!
Steve: Yea, it sounded like we were seeing a ton more than others. Even though we did not get them to convert, it was still a great time and a true experience.
I actually have 2 questions that I will be asking the Cave Run locals about next time I see them...if there was anything that they have seen to help convert the follows to fish and if most of their strikes go into barrel rolls (both of the fish we had on during the trip did this). I have seen this when I troll, but never so close to the boat.
It is actually a great question for all of you also...do the river fish in the Niagara act like this? I felt that the fights were stronger than the inland fish I normally target. I am thinking it is because they spend their life chasing bait around the lake instead of just ambushing anything that swims by the weed-bed they are hiding in.
Joe, Do you get the updates from Greg Thomas? I just got one today and he talks a little about those issues. Here is the text.
Now, lets get to the fishing!! Fishing has been very tough this spring but the warm weather is here and the weeds are finally starting to grow. Right now we are having water temps in the low to mid 60's and the fish seem to be coming off the spawn. We have contacted fish in several different ways. I have got fish jigging in 35ft of water and caught them trolling in as little as 3ft of water. This is something that I would like to mention. When your on the water remember that there are always multiply patterns going on at all times. The pattern that you should be looking for is the pattern that is targeting the most active fish. I have heard from so many people talk about seeing multiple fish in an area with now strikes and talking to people who caught a couple of fish and raised a few. The difference is the one fisherman found fish and the other landed fish. Both can be deemed a success but one the catching sounds way more fun. Just because you are moving fish doesn't mean you have found the catchable fish. So trying different areas or presentations throughout the day is very important. Remember follows are great but catching is way better.
Anyway with that said here is my predictions for the next week. With the weeds growing they are going to become a big factor. Now one of my favorite ways of fishing is trolling over and along the weed edges. Now this will work when the fish first move into the weeds, but as the fish get fished more a making contact with the weeds is key baits like bulldawgs, red October tubes and medussas along with crankbaits ripped out of weeds will began to out shine the trolling. While this is going on a wood bite will Also emerge with fish being caught jigging and cranking. Both patterns are very effective but they have to be thought about and applied. The most exciting thing about fishing is the ability to stubble onto something new. So think when you are on the water and watch for these patterns but keep trying new things. You might be surprised at what you stumble into.