Well, its over, we are back home safe and we even have a bit of a story to tell. The Ludington NAIFC Qualifer was just as fun to fish as the others, but this one came with a few more struggles.
We left Sheboygan at 2am Friday morning to head to the other side of the big pond, Ludington, MI, down and around Chicago, then back up along the east side of Lake Michigan. That in itself was interesting. Adam "Shoey" Schumacher my partner had 2 hours of sleep, while I had about 6, we drove into Chicago following the directions of the GPS, expressways to tollways to the skyway, and 14 dollars later we were through. $14!!! To drive on your roads!! Hmmm. At one point we missed the continuation of the express way and managed to make it into down town Chicago, with a trailer, not fun. But we hopped back on the interstate and the rest was easy travel all the way to Ludington, MI.
Day 2, Saturday started of before sunlight, at BIG BOY, a real BIG BOY! It was awesome. We then headed to the launch once again, the previous night we received 3 more inches of snow and winds were near 20 mph with gusts of 30-35 mph. If this was not pre fishing there is no way I would have been out on the ice. We unloaded all the gear, the snowmobile, the quad and drove onto the ice, 300 yards later, the snowmobile was stuck, to much snow for such a low riding machine. The quad didn't exactly love it either but it was able to continue. We messed with the snowmobile for a little while, we even had one of the "Ice Men" Myron Gilbert stop by and offer us a tow strap, which we did have already but we certainly did appreciate the offer. We were eventually able to tow the sled a bit to get it unstuck and then just keep moving fast to make sure it didn't sink down into the snow again. The sled died once again, out of the blue, dead. Talk about frustrating, windy, colder, snowy, and a now stuck and non running snowmobile in the middle of the lake. Some days you want to scream. After some choice words for it and some pondering we willed it back to life and took off once more, all the way to where we wanted to try and fish, we made it, after about an extra hour of messing around. We drilled our holes and began to fish, it was not long and I had pulled up three 8 1/2-9" bluegills out of the same hole. We quickly packed up and felt good about that location for the next days tourney. We traveled everywhere across that lake that day, but nearly every time we needed to move we had to hook the strap up to the snowmobile to tow it to free it from the snow, I am sure it was quite a funny operation to watch. The wind was brutal, it would swirl the snow around everything, my glasses were covered in snow even when I wasn't facing the wind, and the fishing was not great either. We packed it in around 1:30pm. We figured we were not learning anything anymore, and it just wasn't our day. We had discussed other options of how to fish the tourney the following day without the use of the snowmobile, you must stay within 30 steps of your partner at all times and that included on the machines, and the sled could not move slow without sinking into the snow and the quad could not move fast because of the snow. It really was not going to work for us. When we arrived back to the truck and trailer we decided we would give something a test run for the following day. We hooked up the trailer to the back of the quad and Shoe was going to ride on that as I pull it across the ice, we pulled onto the ice and quickly realized that was not going to work. We now had the 4-wheeler and the trailer stuck on the ice. Myron Gilbert said to us earlier in the day, "If it wasn't for bad luck you guy wouldn't have any at all." He was not kidding. We did eventually get the quad and trailer off the ice, the equipment loaded up and we started to brainstorm what we were going to do the following day. The rules meeting was that night, the community of Ludington was so cool, they had all kinds of raffle prizes, they had a chili cook off, they really did a fantastic job of welcoming us into their city. After the rules meeting we went back to the hotel and retied jigs, thawed and dried equipment and watched the Green Bay Packers stomp the Atlanta Falcons, which was nice, and went to bed.
Day 3, Sunday was much nicer weather wise than Saturday, up at 5:15am to load up, check out and get to the launch for the tourney.We decided to attach a long rope to a shelter we had with us, and that was going to get us both across the ice, Shoe driving the quad and me riding in the shelter. We arrived in line, were inspected, allowed to travel to our fishing spots and we got our holes drilled. Where we started fishing that morning we had fished later in the day on Saturday, only pulling out some small perch, but we noticed many many other teams had stopped here too, so we were going to find out what they were catching. Once we could begin to fish we quickly had to very small bluegills in the bucket, but it then died for us. We spent about 25 minutes in that spot before making the decision to travel to where I caught those really nice bluegill the day before. When we arrived to the new spot we found the gills were not there, lots of little perch were, some shiners, but no gills, then I hooked into something big, or at least bigger than perch and shiners, but lost it after only a few seconds. 15 minutes later I again hooked into a nice fish, I called Shoe over to help with it, we landed a 1.07# Crappie, a really nice fish and a surprise to us because we had not caught a crappie once during pre fishing, plus this is where the bluegills were supposed to be. I hooked up with one more nice crappie but lost it at the bottom of the hole. We caught a total of 5 fish, 4 small bluegills and the one crappie. It was tough, we had one thing going for us though and that was it was tough for everyone, including the locals. We traveled back across the lake before weigh-in time and checked our fish in. Knowing that we would have to hope for a whole lot of bad luck from other teams in order to place well overall. Shoe did say he thought I may be in the running for "BIG FISH" again because of the size of the crappie. I figured being it was about a pound someone would have a bigger one. Weigh-in began a little after 3pm and the buckets being weighed were not heavy, 3 pounds here, 2 pounds there, we knew we had only a pound and a half of fish but it was encouraging to see others had a rough day too. We were called up to have our bucket weighed and they always weigh your big fish first, our was the crappie, 1.07# was now the big fish for the tourney, with about 20 buckets left to weigh. I was told by Tony Boshold that they had a "pounder" or two in their teams bucket so I trusted he may have beat me. His team was called and their big fish weighed, .92#. With only three buckets left to weigh Shoe and I started thinking we did it again. We won "BIG FISH" for our second tournament in a row! We did, and it is a great achievement, big fish is always a bit more luck, we need to work on placing in the top ten, getting our total weights up, but "Big Fish" is cool too. We finished right where always have, 33rd, right in the middle or so.
That was our weekend, fun and frustrating sum it up, we will be off to Monticello, MN in just a few days for another one and we can't wait. We could use all the luck we can get this time.