Lessons Learned Delaware River

The Delaware river is definitely, without a doubt the toughest fishery I have ever backed my boat into. When I say that don’t think I'm whining. I'm not complaining. I'm just simply saying that place was a tough one to crack. Going into the tournament I was 51st in AOY points and knew I had to at least make a Top 50 to keep my Bassmaster classic dreams alive.

Before the river went off limits 30 days prior to the tournament I actually spent 3 days on the Delaware. I rode around looking at what type of cover was available, which part of the river seemed to have the biggest population of fish, and trying to wrap my head around the 6-7 foot tidal swings. Pre-practicing for this one really helped me and I felt like I had a decent game plan before practice ever started.

My official practice for this tournament was a miss for the most part but I had one day where I had 6 bites and most of those bites came on high tide. I knew I was onto something that was a little different from everyone else. I had some places in a different part of the river where I had gotten a couple of bites in practice on low tide so my plan was to start there and run the tide up the river.

Day one of the tournament started out really slow for me. I had zero bites in my low tide places and about 9:30 or 10:00 I pulled up to a culvert that was separating the river from a drainage pond. On my first cast into the culvert my bait never hit the bottom and I caught fish # 1 - a 2 pounder. I had been watching that culvert all of practice but had not fished it because I thought it was too obvious of a place to rely on for the tournament. Turns out that culvert and one other one that I found would give me every fish I weighed in on day 1 and 2 and led me to a 39th place finish.

The second day of the tournament I had to really slow down and go to a more finesse presentation. Having the confidence of knowing that a fish lived there in the right tidal situation made all the difference in the world.

The lesson to be learned from all this is that not one single fish I weighed in in the tournament came from a place where I had bites in practice. The key was choosing a section of the river and learning it inside and out. After that bite from the culvert the first day I knew where there were more just like it.

Making that decision and not getting bogged down in my original game plan makes me realize I’m learning to compete. Sometimes, especially in these tough tournaments, you have to fish by complete instinct, and that's what I did this week.

My choice of rods was also a key on the Delaware. On Day One my fish came on a swing head jig and on Days Two and Three I used a shakey head with a sturdy Mustad hook. I threw the swing head with a little Zoom Speed Craw on a MHX-MB844, 7’ heavy action rod. My shakey head was a 3/16 oz. with a little Strike King finesse worm. The rod was a 6’10” MHX-DS822 spinning rod. I made both of these rods at my house with blanks from MHX and custom rod building supplies from Mud Hole Custom Tackle. Check them out at www.MudHole.com

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