My First Solo Crappie Tournament
Let me start out this story with a disclaimer: all events in this very long recollection are real, unfortunately.
I have not had my flat bottom boat/motor in the water in over a year. Going into this tournament, I knew that I would lose some valuable time on the water to get my boat and required items together. My thoughts were I would be in the water a couple hours later than everyone else. I realized later that this estimate may have been a little premature.
I arrived at the boat ramp in Pickensville, AL around 5:25 am this past Saturday. I was fishing in 2 of a 3 part tournament. The tournament had three groups participating: Unity Baptist Church, West Alabama Crappie Club, and Tenn-Tom Crappie Club. The three groups would have their own rules and regulations, but would share a common launch time, weigh-in time, and scales.
I knew that it would take me a while to get my motor running and I had no desire to be tied up at the dock yanking on a pull string while so many, better prepared fishermen unloaded (did I mention a bass tournament was using this ramp too). I decided to get my boat prepped and tested as much as possible out of the water.
I began with transferring my gear from the truck to the boat. I had stayed up late the night before trying to get my equipment together. Fortunately, my wonderful mother-in-law agreed to babysit the kids for me so I could fish, so I took the kids to her Friday night. The trip took a couple hours and put me late getting home.
At this point, I have everything loaded and begin testing my trolling motor and depth finder. The depth finder has some display issue that I am not familiar with. The screen powers on nice and dark, but the read out is very, very light. Adjusting the display contrast did not help. Well, depth finder is out for the day.
I begin testing the trolling motor. It doesn't work. I happen to have a test light with me so I start troubleshooting the lines. I find a short in the line and begin to repair it. Once repaired, I test the trolling motor again... IT DOESN'T WORK!!
I disassemble the trolling motor and confirm that the upper unit/switch is working properly. When you turn the controller arm, it directs the power properly down to the lower unit. At this point, I am doing all my work in a parking lot with my boat still in the trailer. Okay. No trolling motor today. Let's put the boat in.
Four hours after I arrive, I put the boat in the water around 9:30 a.m. I tie it up to the dock and begin the yanking process. It took a little effort, but I finally get the motor running. I let the motor run for 5 minutes. My thoughts are to let it get warmed up and burn any old fuel out. Let the cobwebs get blown out so to speak. Cut the motor off, cranked it with a single pull, no problem. I am ready now.
I pulled out from the dock and headed to the right. I went 300 yards or so and powered the motor off. My thoughts were if the motor craps out, the fast moving water would bring me back to the boat ramp. I began getting my poles ready. Before I was done, the current had pulled me back almost to the boat ramp. I started the motor up and began heading back to where I had stopped originally.
About 30 seconds into this trip, the motor dies. I yank, yank, yank, breathe... yank, yank, yank, yank, breathe... ah man!!! I yank and huff and puff and before I realize it have floated completely past the boat ramp and I am almost into the main waterway. The same water way that has had multiple barges go by with several metric tons of rock. Great.
I break out the wonderful paddle that my friend had given me the week before and begin. I cross the heavy currently (which was a feat in itself) and finally make it to the bank. One of the Unity Baptist men come and check on me. He helps me get my boat tied up and my gas tank out. I have decided I need fresh gas.
I head to the gas station (leaving my boat behind) to mix up some fresh gas. Luckily, I brought extra oil for just an occasion. I get the fresh gas back to the boat and begin bleeding the lines and hook it back up. I am feeling good about this. This will work, I know it.
I yank on the motor off and on for an hour or two. I completely wear myself out, bruise my knees and butt from the various ways I try to crank the motor. I have time to restring two crap rods (having found the line rotten during this entire fiasco). Finally the motor begins to show life. It will run a few seconds fully choked. After a few more starts, the motor comes to life.
I take it to the ramp and let it run for another 10 minutes. I start and stop it a couple times to see how it will run. After this, one of my buddies follows me back toward Rivermount ramp in case it has issues again. He suggests I fish a little spot his boat cannot fish. I let the boat float against a log and begin fishing the non-moving pocket of water on the other side of the log that happens to have some other brush and crappie cover on the other side. I GOT A BITE!!!
I continued to fish the bank before moving on to the next area. In route, I manage to hit a small piece of debre that was floating in the river. This small piece of wood managed to shear the pin which I had made that morning out of a nail. This is one of the reasons I did not want to use a nail. Given I could not locate a steel roll pin for the hub, I had to make due with what I had.
My day ended with a friend pulling me to a ramp close by and dropping me off at my truck so I could drive to the other ramp that was close to my boat.
I am sore, my legs and butt is bruised, and I am very tired from my fishing trip. I have walked away with more knowledge than I had and now know another good reason to prefish (just to make sure my stuff works).