Saturday, May 3, 2014

2014 Spring Trip

Fishing Time:  Thursday through Monday (May 1-5)
Weather:  Clear to partly cloudy, breezy to windy every day
Moon Phase: 15% Moon
Location:  Sand Hollow and Quail Creek Reservoirs
Best Baits:  Jig/trailer, crankbaits, small plastics (drop-shot)
Who Went:  The trio (Rick, Bobber John, Me)
With water levels continuing to drop at Lake Powell the trio agreed this was the year to branch out on our annual spring trip and try fishing a couple new reservoirs that consistently produce big bass.  Sand Hollow and Quail Creek Reservoirs are just outside of St. George, Utah and have a reputation for producing some of the biggest bass in the state. 

We have been very lucky on past spring trips with great weather, but like all good things they usually come to an end.  The temps were warm, but the wind was miserable throughout our entire trip.  We were able to take advantage of a few calm moments, but for the most part it was breezy to windy the entire time.  Here is the day to day recap…

Thursday:  My alarm went off at 1:30 AM and Rick was in my driveway by 2:00.  We loaded the boat, picked up the Bobber and were headed south by 2:30 AM.  We arrived to Sand Hollow around 8:00 AM to warm weather and no wind.  Things were looking great.  If we only knew what was ahead.  We dumped our gear at our dedicated camp site and immediately launched the boat.  We headed straight to the shallows where the bass would typically spawn, but only found a few cruising bass and a lot of empty spawning beds.  Must have missed the spawn by a week or two.  We casted towards the rocky dam and I was able to land one bass on a deep diving crankbait and had another one hooked that felt really nice, but he came unbuttoned.
Our final stop was in deep water dragging small Texas rigged plastics or drop shot rigs over the top of the grassy bottom.  Rick and Bobber got into a few and we saw a couple boats near us landing a few, but none with any size.
The morale was already dipping on the first day and thoughts of big spawning bass at Quail Creek had our minds wandering, so we loaded the boat and headed over to take a look.  I have never fished Quail Creek and was pleasantly surprised to see how much awesome bass structure and cover there is throughout the lake.  The lake is also very clear water which makes sight fishing fun and easy. 

After launching the boat we immediately started seeing big bass in the shallows.  Some of them were absolute tanks, but most of the bass were cruisers and not guarding beds.  We were unsure if the spawn was about to begin or if we had already missed it.  Our first thought was that it hadn't started yet.  We fished for a couple hours learning the lake and finding a few bass on beds.  Unfortunately the cruising bass were not interested in feeding and the bite was really tough.  Rick picked up a nice 3 lb 12 oz bass off a bed, and I picked up one more off a different bed, but that was all we caught the first day at Quail Creek.
The wind picked up around 3:00 PM and didn’t stop the rest of the day or night.  It put a damper on any thoughts we had of night fishing Sand Hollow from the boat.  We did end up walking down to the dam and made a few casts in the dark from shore.  I landed one small bass and Rick missed one.

Friday:   Woke up to more wind on Friday morning and fished deep water at Sand Hollow catching a few more small bass.  This didn’t keep our attention long and we headed to Quail Creek by late morning.  We found one more nice bass at Quail on a bed during a break in the wind and Bobber was able to hook him on a jig/trailer, but as I was about to net the big bass, he spit the hook and swam back to his bed.  After a couple casts Bobber had him hooked again only to be disappointed once more as the fish surfaced, shook the hook, and swam back to his bed once more.  The wind picked up again and we were forced to move on.  We fought the wind all day long, but didn't land a fish at Quail Creek.

We loaded the boat with our tails tucked between our legs around 5:00 PM and headed back to our Sand Hollow camp site.  BUT... the day wasn’t a total bust.  As we pulled out of Quail Creek State Park heading towards our camp site at Sand Hollow, Rick spotted something weird walking across the road.  I heard him yell “Gila Monster!” I immediately jumped out of his jeep to get a better look.  Sure enough Rick saw the Gila Monster just as he was crossing the road and it ended up being the highlight of the trip.  After some research we learned that there are approximately 450 Gila Monster specimens in Utah and we were lucky enough to run across one.  We took video and photos of the mythical creature before leaving him alone.  Definitely the coolest animal I’ve ever seen in the wild in Utah.

Saturday:  The wind broke for a few hours in the morning and we took advantage of the sight fishing at Quail Creek.  First we stopped at Rick’s boss’s house where we had a 1-lb shipment of fresh Michigan leeches delivered.  Rick and Bobber are both from back east and swear that leeches trump all plastics for fishing back east, so we were all excited to see how the Utah fish reacted to them.

We saw monster bass swimming all over in the shallows, but still no signs of any new beds being made.  We soon realized that the bass we found on beds were probably the late spawners and we probably missed the spawn by a few days to a week.  The big cruising bass didn’t have any interest in anything we offered, including the leeches, but we continued throwing to them all morning anyway. 

I brought my new GoPro video camera on this trip and we wanted to get some good underwater footage, so we strategically set the camera underwater facing the spawning bed of the 3 lb 12 oz bass that Rick caught on Thursday.  After dragging baits through the bed numerous times without getting the bass to bite I still felt good knowing I got some good underwater footage of the bass guarding his bed.  Or so I thought.  When I pulled the video camera from the water, I realized I had it on camera mode and only took one photo of myself messing with the GoPro and no video footage was filmed.  I was a bit upset to say the least.  Not long after, half the leeches we had left hanging off the side of the boat flew off into the lake as I motored across the water and scattered leeches all across Quail Creek.  Not one leech was left.  Not that big of a deal except we paid $125 to get them to St. George on short notice.  Now Bobber was furious and thoughts began to surface of why we didn’t go to Lake Powell. 

The wind was still whipping and luckily Rick landed one nice bass on a spinnerbait or we may have just packed up and went home.  We actually talked seriously about it with wind in the forecast the next two days.  BUT, we stuck it out and made the best of it as usual.
Sunday:  Woke up to a somewhat calm morning and hurried to Quail.  The water was glass for about an hour.  Fifteen minutes into sight fishing we found a monster crappie hugged up tight to some deep underwater brush.  Bobber John threw a leech right above his head and the big crappie came right out from the brush and inhaled it.  It’s the biggest crappie I’ve ever seen at 16-inches and 2 lbs, and a great way to start the morning.
A half hour later I pulled a nice chunky largemouth from some cover.  Things were starting to look up.
Then the wind remembered it was supposed to blow and made up for forgetting with a vengeance.  

We tried to hide and fished as best we could, but it was tough.  I wanted another chance at getting some GoPro footage of the spawning bass that Rick caught, so we fought the winds and sent the camera down.  Rick wanted to see if the leech could entice a bite.  The water was so choppy we didn’t even know if the bass was still there at this point, but Rick started tossing the leech where he thought the bed was.  No bites.  I gave it a try with a jig/trailer and on my third cast I felt the undeniable thump of a largemouth jig bite.  I swung and missed.  Rick was fighting ferocious wind with the thruster motor trying to keep me in line to make a couple more casts. I casted to where I thought the bed was and felt the thump again.  I reeled in the slack and set the hook.  This time it stuck and I landed the same 3 lb 12 oz bass that Rick caught the day we arrived in St. George.
Now the question was… did any of the action get caught on the Gopro video cam?  Did I even turn it on?  I pulled the camera from the depths and it was still logging time so the first trial for success was made. Unfortunately you can’t see Gopro footage until you sync it with a laptop, so the suspense of not knowing lasted until I got home.  You can see how it turned out by clicking on the link below...

After catching the bedded bass for the second time we called it quits at Quail Creek and went to our Sand Hollow camp to take a break from the wind.  After an hour of relaxation we were so bored we launched the boat on Sand Hollow in gale force winds.  We tied off to a buoy out in 20 feet of water.  The buoy worked out great after spending 4 straight days of fighting wind with the thruster motor, we finally got to relax.  We worked our small plastics over the grass in 20 ft of water and it turned on for a minute.  I landed 4 bass in 4 casts, and Rick and John both landed a couple more.  It was enough action to keep us interested for the rest of the day.  They were all small, but we kept a few for a fish fry later that evening.  We ended the night fishing the rock dam and Rick picked up one more small bass on a jerk bait to add to the frying pan.

When we got back to camp, Rick filleted the bass, bobber got a fire going, and I prepped for cooking.  We battered and fried the bass in oil and it made for some fine table fare as we sat around the campfire and talked about all the things that went wrong on this trip.
Bobber went to bed early and decided to crash in the boat.  Around midnight Rick realized we needed to put the leeches in the lake.  Leeches apparently need fresh water at all times (annoying), so we took the Bobber on an unexpected trailer ride over to the boat ramp and deposited the leeches in the lake.

While we were at the docks I pitched a jig around and picked up a small bass, so Rick grabbed his rod and we walked the shoreline in the dark pitching jigs for a couple hours while the wind continued to get worse.  I hooked one more bass right next to shore and almost launched him right onto the bank before he fell off.  That was the only other action we had.  Bobber slept in the boat on the ramp the entire time as if nothing happened. 
Monday:  We woke up to nasty wind and low morale.  The forecast called for severe dust storms.  That didn’t sound good.  Instead of fighting it for the fifth day in a row we slowly packed up camp and headed home a day early.  You can only handle so much wind before it breaks you.  We thought about hitting another lake somewhere along the way home, but the wind only got worse as we headed north.  By the time we arrived at my house it was blowing a dreadful 30-40 mph.

Conclusion:  We were all really excited to fish new water this spring and I still feel the two lakes could be awesome fishing with the right conditions, and we know there are huge bass down there cause we saw them everywhere.  If only they would have bit a little more often.

Everyone also felt that Lake Powell would have been a better choice for the spring trip.  The wind was brutal and made fishing very tough at times, but even when the lakes calmed down for a moment the fishing never picked up to our expectations.  Or to what we usually experience at Lake Powell.

Quail Creek:  This lake definitely has some giant bass and most likely the biggest bass in the state.  Its tough fishing, but one fish there could be the fish of a lifetime.  We saw plenty of bass we felt were over five pounds, including one that may have been pushing double digits.  Unfortunately we just couldn’t get them to bite.  My guess is if you hit this lake during the spawn you could have a lot of fun with the clear water and big bass.

Sand Hollow:  I think we hit this lake during a transitional period with the fish just finishing up their spawn and going deep to rest (not eat).  This made it tough to entice bass with any size into biting.  The only way we consistently caught bass was deep water fishing and they were all small.  I would like to give Sand Hollow another try either pre-spawn, spawn, or after the initial post spawn period.  I think our success rate would be much better. 

Another spring is trip in the books and the GoPro was a fun addition.  After getting home and seeing the footage I got the urge to make some videos and start my own YouTube channel.  This way my readers can subscribe and watch the videos to go along with the blog posts.  Click on the link below to check it out and subscribe...

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