After a long weekend of attending the Formula 1 Race here in Austin, Kristi and I decided to relax on the banks of Decker Lake and try and catch some buffalo. Since we had started really early all three days of the race weekend, and the buffalo tend to not really start feeding hard until 10:00 am., we took out time getting ready in the morning and getting to the lake – arriving about 9:45. We found the lake a little up in level and a cool wind blowing straight into our faces (12-15 mph wind out of the North). We put up the Groundhog for shelter from the wind, let the dogs roam around for a while before leashing them to a picnic table, got the fishing gear out, and used the method blaster to put out 25 frozen balls of my oats pack from last weekend.
By 10:45 we had all three rods out with grits pack, 2.5oz. inline leads set up to be free running, 15″ Korda N-Trap Soft, Korda Kontinental hooks in size 6, a single K1-Baits Pineapple Ester Tiger Nut (dyed yellow for extra visibility) and a single piece of buoyant plastic maize (making the rig almost weightless in the water). Within a few minutes we had a couple of catfish type knocks – really fast pickup and drop back down, but no takes. Sticking to my usual timetable I re-baited at 11:30 and again at 12:00, I do this as I find that runs seem to come within the first 30 minutes of the bait being in the water (generally about four out of five casts this is true).
At 12:10 we had a “normal” buffalo bite which, after some issues due to weed, Kristi put the net under some 10 minutes later. This fish was 37lb 10oz. We took the pictures and slipped it back before re-baiting all three rods once again.
We were about to rebait again about 1:00 pm when the alarms signaled yet another buffalo this one being Kristi’s fish. She picked up the rod and started to get the fish moving towards us when it went solid in the weeds, after Kristi had tugged, dragged and pulled for a good 10 minutes she handed the rod over to me to get the fish out of the weed. I eventually managed to get the fish moving again and landed the fish and about 30lb of weed – another pristine buffalo weighing 33lb graced the scales – this one being a joint effort we counted it as half each.
Yet another hour passed and I was pulling a rod in that had got snagged in the weed when yet another buffalo bite started. Kristi picked up the rod and was immediately attached to a hard fighting fish, I literally dragged in a 50lb bunch of loose weed to get the rod I was on out of the way then went to net Kristi’s fish. This one also found the weed but not as badly as previously, so Kristi carried on bringing in the fish. While she was playing it the last rod indicated another bite, so I got on that one quickly to prevent it too getting in the weed. That did not happen and the fish buried itself in the weed within a couple of minutes of me picking up the rod. I decided to lay the rod down and focus on netting Kristi’s fish which was close by now. This one had about 15lb of weed wrapped around its head and ended up weighing in at 39lb 8oz – we thought it might be a new PB for Kristi at one point. While Kristi took care of the fish – unhooking, transferring to the sling and weighing etc. I went back to my weed snagged fish. By now the fish was free of most of the weed and came in pretty easily. This fourth fish of the day ended up weighing 34lb and made a nice double for the pair of us – no double pictures as we were still the only ones at the lake.
By now we were getting low on bait and planning to leave at 4:00 pm. so I had a couple more re-baits before the last bite of the day which Kristi landed at 29lb even.
No real monsters but a nice relaxed day after all the hectic coming and going of Formula 1.
With the recent spate of 50lb+ Smallmouth Buffalo coming from Decker Lake to other Austin Carp Angler members over the past three weeks, I decided after my long weekend at Luckenbach for the Harvest Classic Bike Rally (I work for a motorcycle repair and restoration shop), to head on up and fish the lake myself on Monday, October 21st.
Kevin and Chad had fished Sunday, when Chad had his 50lber, so I fished the same general area in the hopes that the buffalo were around feeding on their left over bait. I arrived about 7:00 am, and was set up with baits in the water by 7:30. The bait was grits pack on one rod, with K1 Baits Pineapple Ester Tiger Nuts, which I had dyed yellow to make them stand out. The second rod had grits pack, and one of the K1 Baits Concept boilies that we have been having success on recently, and the last rod had the same boilie, but with a small PVA mesh bag of crushed boilies. As usual at Decker, the swingers started bouncing as the fish moved on the baits; short lifts of 2-3 inches, followed by a slow drop back to the original starting position, as the buffalo suck and blow at the baits.
At around 8:15, the rod with the tigers produced a full-blown run. When I picked up the rod, it was like striking into a snag; the rod taking on its full curve, and line slowly ticking off the drag. I knew then that I had a big buffalo, as the smaller ones (up to mid-thirties) tend to be a little faster, and more aggressive. Slowly but surely, I got the big buff closer to shore, and when it rolled about 30 feet out, I knew it was at least a good fifty. The fish came easily to the net, after its initial roll on the surface, and on the scale, it went 54lb 2oz. At last I had cracked the 50lb barrier at Decker (something that had eluded me for the past two winters).
After recasting all three rods (which I tend to do after each fish at Decker), it was not long (9:15) before I had a jerky take on one of the boilie rods, followed by a lively fight with a 24lb 4oz buffalo. Since the boilies were not consistently getting me takes (they were getting picked up but not hooked), I switched to two rods with the tiger nuts, and left one on the boilies.
The swim went dead for a while after this, so I re-baited several times, before 11:00 on the nose, I had yet another screaming run on the tigers, and yet again when I picked up the rod, it felt like I was pulling in a pile of weeds. This fish did not seem to put up any resistance, just feeling heavy like a bunch of weeds, until it was about 40 yards out. At that point, the fish decided to wake up, and immediately pulled off 50-60 yards of line on the drag. I suspected that I had a mid-thirty, that had run through some weeds and the weeds had fallen off. However, this fish did not want to play ball, going on at least three more runs of 30-50 yards. Thirty minutes after the initial run, I actually saw the fish about thirty feet out on the surface, and immediately pegged it at around the fifty pound mark again. It took another ten minutes before the fish came to the net, and three times when it got to the net, it turned and went back out to around 30 feet, but eventually it succumbed to the net, and the beast was mine. That fish took me 45 minutes to land, and when I picked up the net, I was sure it would be my second fifty of the day. On the scale, the fish went 49lb 15oz, and no amount of shaking or bouncing put it over 50lb.
I re-baited all the rods once again, this time with tigers on all three, and did not have to wait long (12:30 ish) before another slow steady run on the rod that had been last one on boilies. I felt that this was yet another big buffalo, as it was slow and plodding around. I could feel that the fish was heavy, since when it was not pulling, it took a lot for me to move it. This time the fight was around twenty minutes, and at one point, I saw the fish, and could tell it was massive; looking very long and deep in the body, like my PB from earlier in the year. Netting the fish was relatively easy, but picking up the net was not. I had to reach down in the net and unclip the hook-link, so I could lay down the rod, and use both hands to lift the net. I put the fish on the carp cradle, and removed the hook. I then put the fish on the scale, and watched as the needle swung all the way around to 62lb 6oz. I was jumping and screaming on the bank, as this was my second 60lb+ fish this year. I then remember that the lake record was less than 60lb, so I immediately checked in with ACA, to get someone to help with photographs and officially witness the fish. Kevin and Chad were free, so I sacked the monster, wound in the other rods, then got back in the water, up to my knees, to keep an eye on the fish (boy that water was chilly).
When Kevin and Chad arrived, we pulled the fish, and re-weighed it, (it showed lighter on the scale as it was in a sack, rather than the weigh sling). However, after doing the calculations, we settled on 62lb 5oz, measured her at 40 inches long, and 36 inches in girth (my 64lb 4oz PB was 44 inches long, and 35 inches in girth). Kevin took a lot of pictures of the fish, the measurements, the scales spinning around to the eventual weight, and the fish going back in the water.
After Kevin and Chad left, I re-baited and waited; not that I needed to catch anything else, as I was on a high from catching such a huge fish. Eventually I had one more run, and after a relatively easy fish, netted another buffalo. This one went 31lb 12oz, making a grand total of 222lb 6oz; consisting of a 20, 30, 40, 50 and 60, all in one session; I mentioned that to Kevin, and he called it a “Straight Run” (poker term) which I immediately countered with “Record Run”.
ACA hosted a Fish-in at Emma Metropolitan Park from September 20-22nd. We all had high hopes, since the fishing has been above par in Austin for about the past month or so. Getting water front sites at Emma was a challenge, since so many people had been camping in the park, trying to get in some last minute fun in the sun before our temperatures start to cool off. Since we had to pay for lakeside spots ahead of time in order to ensure we had them for the fish-in, a few us ended up on the bank a day or two early. We ended up having quite a few fish in the cradle over the next few days, one to remember for sure.
Kurt and Mike were first to hit the bank on Wednesday afternoon. The rest of us had obligations that kept us away for at least a day or two more, so we were all glued to our group chat waiting for them to report back with catches. They ended up with 20+ fish that night, ranging from 10-24lbs. This included Mike’s absolutely stunning fully scaled mirror, at 10lbs 12oz! After a night like that, I had planned on leaving for Emma at my first possible convenience the next day. I hardly slept the night before, as is the norm for me the night before a session.
I made it to the lake about 1pm the next day. The fishing had slowed, but I was still optimistic about what the late afternoon, and evening would bring. I quickly got my lines out and started to build my swim with range cubes, manna, and sweet corn soaked in some K-1 Perfect Plum. Kurt had brought his kayak, so with Mikes help; we made short work of baiting up. It wasn’t long before the first fish was in my cradle, a massive 56lb grass carp! This fish was huge, bulging out both ends of my cradle. Not only was the fish super long, but it was a fatty to boot. The only problem was the cedar knot (hidden by the grass) I busted my knee one while stepping down to the water in order to play the fish. I didn’t notice the damage it did at first, with a fish that large in the cradle. After a while I happened to look down, and noticed my knee was swollen all the way to my ankle. I rebaited my lines, packed some ice into a Ziploc, elevated my leg, and hoped for the best. The things we do for fishing, right?
Friday turned out to be a wet one. We were expecting rain, but nothing like what we got. The remnants of hurricane Manuel had blown in, coupled with a cold front the same day, making for some classic Texas thunderstorms. It poured most of the day, with very small breaks in between storm cells. Just enough time to step out from the bivvie to stretch your legs, and rebait your lines. The rain finally eased up in the afternoon, giving everyone a chance to move around, and set their minds to fishing again.
I had a fresh batch of oats pack ready that had been brewing since Thursday evening, made with K-1 Fruity Pineapple and Juicy Tutti Frutti, which I have found to be a deadly combo. I rebaited my lines, and launched about 15 method balls into my swim. Fish started to crash almost immediately. It was clear that it was going to be an interesting night. Fish hit the bank pretty steady until about 2am. Again, it was mostly teener commons, and of course a bunch of grassers. At about 1am, just as I was about to pass out in my bed chair, I had a screaming run on my margin rod. It was an awesome fight, from a fish that had some spunk. When I slid the net under the fish, she went sideways, and I saw that it was fully scaled, I flipped out. The result was my very first fully scaled mirror, at 15lbs 2oz. Everyone was asleep at that point, but that didn’t stop me from knocking on a few bivvie doors to tell everyone about it. I was completely elated, and I still am.
I left on Saturday afternoon, a day early, due to my busted knee from the 56lb grasser. The swelling had gone down, but it was definitely time to put it up at the house. Everyone else continued to fish until Sunday afternoon, catching fish until they left. We had some out-of-towners come out for a bit and break a few PB’s. Keith and Kristina managed to catch a lot more fish by Monday for his birthday weekend, but that’s another story that I will let Keith tell.
Most of my fish fell to K-1 Tutti & Pineapple Sweetcorn, and K-1 Tutti Maize, popped up with Enterprise K-1 Imitation Corn, to keep if off the silt. I also had a few commons, and one of my buffs, fall the K-1 concept boilies I spoke about in my most recent post, Hit the Ground Running. Another successful session with K-1 Baits on the hair!
Until next time, keep em in the net!
This past Monday Keith and I decided to fish Decker Lake for a shot at some massive smallmouth buffalos. A good friend of ACA called about a week earlier reporting that the buff were already rolling in and feeding. This was a surprise for all of us, since our “buff season” doesn’t normally start till around October. We weren’t complaining one bit though, as we look forward to returning to Decker Lake every year.
I had already made the statement that this season would be when I finally got my 50lb+ buff. I have been waiting for the weather to start cooling down, as any Texan will tell you, our summers are like hell on earth. Fishing slows to a crawl, and blank sessions are a common occurrence. It became clear that the dry spell was over, since before the week was over, all our landing mats were covered with the sweet slime of victory!
Mike, Kurt and Melissa were the first ones to make it out to Decker on a Saturday. Mike was into fish within a couple hours. They landed eight smallmouth buffalo that day, ranging from Mel’s 26lbs 4oz to Mike’s 41lb 4oz lunker! Melissa managed to break her smallmouth buffalo PB twice that day! Her first PB was a 26lb 4oz, directly followed by her current PB of 31lbs 2oz. Needless to say she was ecstatic. Mike landed 5 fish that day, which is outstanding for a 6 hour session. It was obvious the buffs were feeding heavy, since while I was there visiting, Mike and I had to remove a 16mm ground bait from a buffs gills because he had sucked it all the way back, which told us they were really having at it. Keith and I had planned on fishing the next day, so it was extremely encouraging to see them having an awesome session.
Sunday morning rolled around, and Keith and I were on Decker’s bank by about 7am. As I said, we were very optimistic. My first two runs resulted in a pulled hook, not the start I was hoping for. While I was frustrated about the pulls, we were confident that there was fish in the swim, and they were feeding. I shook it off, and continued to rebait my lines, as did Keith. Keith had first blood, with a 38lb 8oz fatty. About 30 minutes later he landed another that went 34lbs 4oz. Not long after that, I had a screaming run, which resulted in a 21lb 12oz basketball of a buff. He was a short little guy, but he was fat. Keith landed two more, 31lbs 2oz and a 28lber. That was four fish to my one; I had to step it up.
Keith and I were both fishing some new concept boilies from K-1 Baits, which are really doing the business! Not just for buffs, we also landed three commons, 11lbs 8oz, 11lb 10oz and a 6lber, at a venue that is known for the occasional common. K-1 really got it right with this new concept boilie! Our hopes are high for the upcoming pre-spawn with such effective bait in our arsenal.
I switched to the K-1 concept boilies across the board and rebaited. Making sure I bombed one out there, with the hope of dropping my bait right in front of the big girl I was after. As soon as Keith and I got comfortable, my middle rod took off, which is the one I had bombed out there. Right when I picked up the rod, I knew it was a big fish. It felt like I had just set the hook into a brick wall. I started to play the fish ever so gently, as I did not want another hook pull, especially with what felt to be a very large buff. As soon as Keith grabbed my net and prepared to net my fish, one of his rods ripped off. He dropped my net and set to playing his fish. It was quite the moment, both of us with a fish on, the excitement was palpable. I grabbed my net and stepped into the water to net my fish. The buff had made her way over my right rod, and turning her away from it was almost impossible. When I finally got her close enough to net, I pulled my rod back with one hand, and slipped the net under her with my other. When the fish went sideways as she was going into my net, I could see how massive she was, and I flipped out. I was completely overcome with excitement, yelling at Keith “OMG she is HUGE!”. When I picked her up out of the water, it was clear she was over 50lbs. I set her down in my cradle and began to flip out LOL. Keith put her on the scales, 54lbs 4oz! It’s hard to explain the feeling of a new PB, but I imagine for most of our readers, I don’t have to. I had set out to land my 50lb+ this season, and I managed it during my very first session. I was completely elated, still am. Keith’s buff was a little 22lb 12oz fattie. Keith closed out the session with one more fish, another little fattie of 21lb 5oz.
Big thanks to K-1 baits for an outstanding concept bait! Everyone at ACA feels privileged to have access to their recently developed baits. All of which have not only been effective, but out fish anything else that we fish alongside it as part of our testing.
Until next time…keep em in the net!