Alberto couldn’t stop 114 inches!

For the first trip in a while, nothing fell off the truck or the boat; no tires blew out…and no animals ran into me! I made the trip to the Stick Marsh in Florida, stayed in the basement of a house in Melbourne Beach without incident.

Well, there was the tropical depression Alberto….

It only took 15 hours to make the 11.5 hour trip after sitting in Atlanta for 2 of those hours, then all of the cars braking before turning on their flashers with each drop of rain through Georgia; and there was a lot of rain.

I woke up late the only morning I had available to pre-fish (when you set the clock, check am vs. pm), but still made it to the water in time to fish an hour for the one night stand. It didn’t take me long to find a pattern that worked in the canal, the same pattern I had used in LaCrosse the week before; a weightless black w/blue flake Yamamoto Senko tossed toward the shore. I was letting the (swift from water and wind) current pull me along the short side of the marsh while flipping the Senko into weeds and grass, and caught 5 decent bass in that hour. I wanted to try other lures, but for that hour, I used the lure to learn where the fish positioned themselves.

I had never really fished this type of water, so I was happy to find them so quick. During the rest of the morning I came back to this side of the Stick Marsh to learn more about how they related to the grass, the floating vegetation…surprisingly, not to the wood…and to the current. I felt confident that I could be fairly competitive with this technique, but I wanted to see what else was working.

I talked with a couple of local guys, they were throwing top water with little to no success. A couple more were throwing small weightless worms (maybe I had gotten it right) into the weeds and grass, but I never saw them catch anything.

Spinner baits, frogs, crankbaits…chatter baits…nothing. Smaller worms, other color Senko’s, jigs….nothing. Creature, swimbaits….nothing….back to the black Senko; fish, fish….hmmmm. Close to 90 inches; not great considering what I expected in Florida, but competitive.

I quit early that day to spend time with my Joy. She gives up so much of our time for me, knitting across the southeast as I fish waaaaayyyyy too many days; and encourages me each day to push myself. As much as I wanted to cover more water, to try other waters I thought…90 inches…and she is at the beach alone…and we didn’t get any groceries, just snacks….and she is always sacrificing herself for me….

An hour later, we were at the New England Eatery and Pub (if you get a chance, go) having Lobster Rolls, Ahi Tuna sandwiches, shrimp dip, key lime pie…and laughing with our waitress, with each other.

Then off to the beach, picking up shells; kicking in the sand and water as Alberto came closer and closer. It was a great day! I am certain I don’t tell her enough how much I appreciate her….but I do.

Tournament day:

Woke up early (clock was on am, but woke long before it).

Went outside – pouring rain – winds; kicking!

Drove to the Stick Marsh boat ramp, unloaded the Hobie in the rain; spoke to the guy next to me. We agreed that we were both old enough to know better than to be out in this weather, but we launched anyway.

Pedaled to the area where I had the most luck, waited till time (steady pedaling); flipped the Senko, twitched the rod once and hooked a 15+ inch bass. Made a few more flips, slightly twitching the rod; fish.

I did mention Alberto?

Well, the wind picked up and I was in an unprotected area. So my Hobie suffered the full force of every gust, forcing me to constantly pedal to keep from being swept to the back of the marsh. And I pedaled for the rest of the day, only stopping when the wind became so strong that it pushed me into the grass and bushes; pinning me there. On one of those occasions, I looked to my left – five feet away – to find a pair of eyes watching me. Just watching me, not moving like the other 5 or 6 alligators had done.

Even crossed paths with one eating a bird!

I am sore from being in my kayak for the first time ever – fighting the wind was crazy.  but had I not been in the Hobie PA, I may not have made it back to the ramp.  Some of the guys paddling all day looked abused!

Reality:

The results will show that I didn’t equal my 90 inches from the day before.

I finished 20th, the larger fish didn’t bite for me…a weightless Senko in 20mph winds is not effective.

I had tried more weighted baits without success early, so in an effort to combat the wind, I put the Senko on a ned rig setup. I wasn’t sure how it would work, but then once upon a time, no one had ever tied a chunk of wood to their line and “walked” a spook across the water (for the record – nothing hit the spook either). Not that my ned rigged senko equals the Zara Spook…but I did catch fish all day; just not large enough to match the 114 inches that won!!!!

114 inches!!! IMPRESSIVE!!!

My Joy kept trying to tell me I didn’t suck (which I kept saying I did – 20th…dang it). She kept telling me “the weather was awful, rain and high winds”…”you have never fished this type of water”, true…”you found fish”, ok – small ones…”you did better than most”, but sucked (my words).

It just wasn’t my day.

But 114 inches!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

INSANE!

Later I enjoyed conversation at the Marsh Landing restaurant with Tim Beers, Matthew Kasparek and Brad Case; learned more about Florida bass, techniques and the area. Enjoyed some shrimp and grits, ribs and an awesome peanut butter pie (try it if you get there).

Note to self – have those conversations ahead of tournaments!

It wasn’t my day, but it could have been worse. Nothing broke or went flat, and I had an amazing time with my biggest fan.

The ride home:

We stopped at the White Sands Buddhist Center. On the path to the center, we passed a sign:

Every Step of the Journey is the Journey.

Will never get into religion unless pressed, I believe in tolerance for all beliefs, races, creeds….tolerance…but at a point in my life, a dark place I had to push hard to remove myself from, I found peace in the simple truths of Buddhism and still do.

So I did find solace that by being 20th…not really the placing, but by learning something new…I had grown, I had moved forward…I had taken steps in my journey. And for today….that is good enough.

Author: Mike Cheatham

Me…Mike Cheatham email…mikecheathamfishing@gmail.com something to know……….fished my whole life; now from a kayak….

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