My buddy Chet Williams called me last week and asked if I wanted to fish the Colorado Walleye Association’s Fall Classic at Horsetooth Reservoir. I immediately said yes and we started working on a game plan knowing neither of us knows the Horsetooth well. He’d fished it a week early and caught few walleye fishing vertical with jigging raps. I’ve fished it twice, once with Chad LaChance earlier this year, and again a few months later… both times chasing smallies.
Knowing we wouldn’t have much time to pre-fish we both started gathering what information we could that might help us. We used the history function on Google Earth looking for low water years that could possibly help us find some structure we didn’t know about. Usually this is an awesome tool I utilize before fishing a new body of water. The problem is with the water being so low right now we couldn’t find anything to help us out. I looked through old articles and anything else I could find hoping to get a little better feel of the reservoir knowing there’s nothing that replaces time on the water.
We were able to get out a few hours on Friday to do a little scouting. The spot where Chet caught fish a week early was crawling with fish! Our goal was to stick one walleye then start looking for more areas we could fish on tournament day. After a handful of smallies we decided to go looking for more spots banking on this spot. After a few hours we had nothing… couldn’t get away from the smallies, couldn’t find walleye.
The morning of the tournament we decided that our game plan would be to grind it out at that one spot. Not ideal unless the spot is money, but it’s all we had. When Chet had fished it a week earlier he said the fish would cycle in and cycle out. It would be no man’s land for a few minutes then there would be a flurry of activity. The same exact thing that happened in the same spot yesterday minus catching walleye. Neither of us felt extremely confident in the game plan but we felt like we could grind out a few bites and with everyone talking about how though the fishing had been a few walleye could win this tournament.
The start of the tournament was delayed after a blanket of thick fog had covered the entire area. At one point you could barely see the other boats 20 feet in front of you. As the fog began to lift they started playing the national anthem with the American flag dancing in the wind. Almost in unison everyone on the water removed their hats and placed their hand over their heart.
A few minutes later Chet dropped the hammer and we were flying up the lake in route to our spot in his Ranger. We pulled up to the spot and starting staring at Chet’s electronics hoping to coax at least a few eyes into biting. For about two hours we stared at Chet’s fish finders watching fish move in around bait and ignore our jigging raps, blade baits, and plastics.
After a couple hours going fish-less I decided to throw a gulp minnow on a drop shot rig. Not sure if many walleye anglers drop shot but over the years I’ve caught countless walleye on a drop shot rig with a gulp minnow. Also thought it might be good mojo to throw Gulp on Chad’s lake. Well it worked I started catching smallies anywhere from 25-35 feet of water. Catching smallies didn’t help anything but to be honest catching a fish period was a welcome break from jigging through schools of bait with no love. After a while I switched back to jigging hoping our game plan of grind it out would pay off with a few shots at walleye.
At about the four hour mark we decided it was time to look around. We’d had quite a few boats pass by throughout the morning and everyone else was struggling too.
The rest of the tournament we moved a few times then ended up back at our spot hoping to grind out a few bites. When you make a game plan like we did it’s either make or break. A few bites in a tough tournament and that game plan seems genius, no bites and you look like a team of stubborn bozo’s who bet on the same lame horse 5 times in a row. Long story short if it was a bass tournament we’d have had a blast… It was a walleye tournament and we zeroed.
After the tournament I hung around the weigh station to see if anyone else was able to find walleye. Although most of the anglers I spoke with had also zeroed I assumed that with almost 40 boats competing at least a handful of folks found walleye, and they did including a few big shouldered fish in the mid 20’s. Almost everyone I spoke with that weighed fish was trolling deep water… two things that I definitely need to work on.
I’ll be going through what we could have done differently until I’m preparing for another tournament. Tournaments give all of us an opportunity to learn and be a part of an awesome community which is great, but I won’t blow smoke up anyone’s ass I fish tournaments to win regardless if it’s a walleye tournament, bass tournament, or kayak tournament.
Thanks to everyone at the CWA that made yesterday’s tournament possible! If you’re on the fence about fishing tournaments with the CWA I highly recommend it. Yesterdays check in, safety inspection, weigh in, etc… everything was seamless. Overall the only way yesterday could have been better is if Chet and I didn’t keep betting on that lame horse!
P.S. This is unrelated to fishing and this article, but wanted to throw this out there. Go Broncos, the raiders suck!
Photo Credit: Mitch Peterson