Rough weather and the third annual Bob Steele Memorial Bass Tournament

September 12, 2012

As you may recall, Anne and Tony Izatt run a couple of bass tournaments each summer out of their summer residence in Newboro. The opening day tilt was a write-off for the gang: we were hopelessly upstaged by neophyte John Steele and his lovely fishing partner, Amy. To add insult to injury, Amy bubbled on that she had never held a fishing rod before, but the fish were coming in on every cast, it seemed. John added that his trolling motor didn’t work, so he was forced to drift down the middle of Clear Lake and hope for the best. Yeah, right. They had sorted through a dozen and a half bass for their six over three pounds, while the rest of us had to scramble to bag our quota.

But it was different this day. The Bob Steele/Possum Lodge Tournament isn’t supposed to run in the fall, but a series of postponements for vacations and rain left us to set out in near-darkness at 7:00 a.m. on a stormy morning with a 90% probability of rain on the weather radar.

Les and I decided to try to grab a fish or two and hide ashore during the lightning storms, so we feinted out into the lake to lure the other boats up to Benson, then looped back into the bay below the Marina in search of an elusive five-pounder. C-Dock produced a small bass on a hail Mary cast as we crept past the sleeping boaters.

Surely enough, we found a good fish under a tree, a four pound, 19 1/2″ largemouth. The lightning was beginning to sizzle, so we ducked back to the dock and took our our ease under the portico at the store. Word quickly got out about the fish. Everybody texts nowadays, even bass fishermen.

But after the storm things became a bit more of a challenge. The howling wind and occasional whitecaps restricted our choices of fishing spots. Perhaps I wandered too far from the tried and true, because another storm was stirring up the lake and we still hadn’t been able to replace two small bass in the well, one of which would have to go into our entry of six fish. We raced a squall to the dock.

That squall was quite an experience: I don’t normally operate my boat in weather where visibility is measured in inches. Sheets of water were flying across the bay at exceedingly high speed. Les held the hood of my parka against the wind so that I could at least get one eye free. The new Princecraft handled the rough water and crosswind fine, but I discovered that when you’re running for cover it doesn’t really matter whether you go around weed patches or over them. The Merc will happily chew its way home.

We heard that the American team had packed it in early.  Jim headed for his boat to rest for the party later and Tom drifted back to his cottage and its endless list of chores for the morning.

Mary Steele came in with her son John at the helm. They had had enough of the rain and wind, and headed for cover. It looked as though John wouldn’t be repeating on the winner’s podium this tournament.

Happy to have feet on the dock, Les and I stood around in the teeming rain until Tony made his way up the bay and landed, eyes agog. Apparently he’d been lost a lot of the way, but that might have been rain on his glasses because Les and I could see every bit of his tentative progress across the bay.

Tony and Jeff had their six, but some were small, so they weren’t optimistic. Les and I were growing more hopeful for the four-pounder, if not the overall lead in the tournament.

Finally at five to twelve Earle and Paul flew around the point and up to the dock. They both grinned as though they had bits of fine yellow down* all over their whiskers. Open came the well. Game over! The cavernous well looked very well stocked. Earle commented that they had found a school of fish, and had just sorted through them for the six which finned around in their pool in front of the massive outboard.

So Tony started the weigh-in with our boat’s catch. The 19 1/2″ bass set the standard and raised our score to 13 lb. Tony and Jeff weighed in a pound short. Paul and Earle took the trophy with a catch a bit over 15 pounds.

In reflection, the rough-weather day had given the old timers the chance to shine. Earle and Paul well earned their second Bob Steele Memorial Trophy and your scribe took the prize money for the largest bass. I must emphasize that my fish had only one puncture mark in its mouth when I released it. Earle’s protests that he had released the fish last week fell on deaf ears.

The rough weather (think Queen Charlotte Lodge on the coast of the North Pacific, only warmer) had made for an exciting day, and the gang cheerfully packed into the Lodge with the spectators for the remainder of the day. Eventually Tony got the propane boilers started in the rain.

* like the cat that ate the canary.  Sorry.

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