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The Aucilla Comes Through Just in Time  by Bill Prince (Blackwater Bill)

    My team, The Floating Hawgcatchers, needed three pounds of bass on our virtual stringer to tie, and few more ounces to win if no other team caught a fish that would cull for them. Of course the other teams would be fishing too at the same time we were. The Georgiariverfishing.com community has an almost year long fishing tourney for us people that are nuts about river fishing. The table below will give you the details on the 2005 rules:

1. Only black bass count (largemouth, smallmouth, shoal, spotted, redeye, suwanee and guadalupe)
2. All bass must be caught in a USA river, creek or stream using a rod and reel with artificial bait (no live bait).

3. All fish must be weighed (preferably digital scale) and photographed. Then the picture and weight must be reported on the GRF Tourney forum.

4. All fish 3# and over must be released alive.

5. Your top 3 fish count towards your score (and your teams score). 6 people on each team.

6. You can join the tournament at any time. However, no fish caught prior to your joining will count. They must be caught after you have stated your intentions of joining.

7. No "paid" guide trip fish count.

8. Tournament ends the last Sunday of November

9. No prize, just fun, fellowship and bragging rights!

     Now my son (Cullfisher), who is now 29 years old had   come across the GRF web site back in February, but it took us until April to decide to join the tourney and we only had two members for our team at first, me (BlackwaterBill) & him.

     As time went by we talked to our fishing buddies, folks we had fished rivers with for a long time, accomplished fishermen. They were kind of skeptical about the honor system and decided to wait. In the meantime I took one of my five grandsons to Georgiaís Flint River with me on a 3 day float over Memorial Day weekend. Even though he was only ten years old at the time he wanted to compete, so he (Fishingmachine) became the third member of what the tourney founders had labeled the Floating Hawg Chasers. We gave that some thought and asked the tourney moderator (Braveswin) if he would change us to The Floating Hawg Catchers (FHCs), a name that we felt made a more positive statement.

     Along about here, it would pay us to let you know that there was a team called the Suburban Bass Assassins (SBAs) who had been formed at the first of the year, and that team was in first place with around 70 pounds on their stringers at the time we started out at the end of April. Those old boys were good fishermen but they had reached a plateau. In river fishing once you get a three fish stringer of 12 to about 15 pounds , it gets very hard to catch a cull fish and when you do, it usually just adds an ounce or two. So we took a deep breathe and took off after the SBAs and five other teams all of which had some weight on their stringers and full six man teams.

     We put the first three fish we each caught on our stringers on the board then slowly began to cull one or two off as we made trips to the river. One of our friends that hesitated to join the tourney fished with us and caught shoal bass on two different trips of over four pounds. This is a 4-11 shoal bass caught by GetTheNet after he hesitated to join the tourney and before he actually came aboard:

     He could see that if he had joined the tourney he would have moved right up among the leaders, so during June he signed on as GetTheNet. GTN began to make waves in the tourney right away and by early September had moved up from being the last of maybe fifty six fishermen in the field into the top ten. We also (during August) had picked another friend who entered as Bullfisher. After a few weeks it became apparent that due to some personal conflicts, Bullfisher would not be able to fish hardly at all so he withdrew. A bank fisherman named Scott wanted to join the tourney and was offered to us by Braveswin in August, so Scott was added. Turned out he caught about ten pounds off the bank then bought himself a kayak and by the time the tourney was over Scott finished in eighth place overall. A gifted fisherman who lives in Athens, Georgia, Scott was a godsend to the FHCs.

Not a great photo, but a 3-8 caught by Scott while bank fishing

     As we entered September, the FHCs still only had five members but had closed the gap on the SBAs. The last of our friends that had hesitated to join the tourney was TrickyG, an accomplished river fisherman, but his business and home issues had kept him off the river for most of 2005. He decided to join the FHCs in mid-September and made one float, posting a little over six pounds that day, a tough windy day with a slow bite. We didnít know it then but that turned out to be the only day TrickyG would fish before the tourney ended on November 27. Those six pounds that he added would be critical as we fished on.

TrickyG during his one day on the river and one of his fish

    In addition to the wonderful surprise lift in stringer weight we got from Scott, Fishingmachine, now having turned eleven years old, was turning into a real force. Floating with five other GRFers over Labor Day weekend, Fishingmachine had the big fish of the day two of the three days. He had a 4-9 largemouth on Friday and a 4-11 shoalie on Sunday. He already had a 2-4 shoalie on his stringer since the Flint River trip in May.

 

Fishingmachine with his two Labor Day weekend trophies, a 4-11 shoalie (left) and a 4-9 largemouth

     Meanwhile, I had crept up to fifth place in the tourney by the end of October and GetTheNet had come up to third. Lo and behold, Scott was eighth. So with a late start and an incomplete team for two thirds of the time in the tourney, the contest was turning into a two team race between the FHCs and the SBAs. For a few days in late October the FHCs actually passed the SBAs as we made to about seventy thee pounds. That was a short lived time in front as being the great competitors they are, the SBAs culled a few more pounds and made it up to seventy seven plus pounds going into the last weekend which would be over the Thanksgiving holidays.

Here's a Braveswin largemouth that added 1-5 to the SBA's on November 6, putting them in the lead by about 3 pounds

     Plans were made and laid and executed as the last week-end unfolded. Two of the SBAs made a trip to South Georgia while others fished in middle and north Georgia. Scott was fishing near Athens while four of the FHCs made the trip down to Perry Florida, where our plan was to fish the Aucilla, a river that I had scouted during August. Here is the link to an article that I wrote summarizing that scouting trip which includes some high water photographs. The FHCs had an advantage because two of our fisherman on the Aucilla had some relatively smaller fish to be culled.

 

We made up this handy pocket reference (left) so we would know where we stood in case we had the good fortune of catching some cull fish. We even had an advance party to go check out the logistics and maybe fish a little.

 

At GRF, we are always looking for good omens. We took the sign on the left (in the middle of a town in N. Florida) as a good omen and the one on the right as a bad one.

 

As a matter of fact, there was a bear sighting on this trip as well as the wild turkeys, wild hogs, alligators, and tourists. Here is a small gator(left) and some typically gorgeous Aucilla River scenery to the right.

While the advance party did not cull there were some nice fish caught on Thanksgiving afternoon. Here's Fishing Machine with the first fish of the trip.

 

We managed to cull three of the fish on Friday, with Cullfisher getting two and Fishingmachine one. Fishing machine with a 3-2 cull fish and the release.

 

 Cullfisher and Hunter show off Cullfisher's 2 Cull Fish

  

 Not a cull but a nice one and it gives you the father-son nature of GRF

     Those three fish added three pounds and two ounces and got us into a dead heat with the SBAs who, needing larger fish, had not culled despite catching some nice ones. Saturday was tough. A front came through and despite fishing hard from dark to dark, no culling was done in Florida or Georgia by either the FHCs or the SBAs.

Here's what conditions were like up in middle Georgia for SBA member Braveswin

     Now we are mostly all churchgoing people but we asked forgiveness and went fishing on that last Sunday, the last day of the tourney.

Here's one of groups at the put in

     The last set of events are so unreal that you almost had to be a part of the action to realize the intricacies of how it all played out. The FHCs abandoned the Aucilla after the culless day on Saturday and went over to a nearby river that Fishingmachine and I had tried late in the day on Saturday with promising results, a good number of fish but no culls. We gave it our best with all four of us fishing the same water from daylight till 10AM or so. We caught a string that any four man group would have been proud of. Cullfisher caught an 8-8 bowfin, and Fishingmachine caught a 5-7 bowfin which dragged his yak around for awhile.You can imagine the excitement when we would look around and see that kind of action and the it would turn out to be a bowfin that was pulling the yak around.

 

Mudfish Galore: Here is the 8-8 bowfin (right). Can you imagine GetTheNet & Cullfisher's excitement when he locked up with this monster, and how disappointing it was to find out it was the dreaded grindle and not a cull fish.

     No cull fish were to be had it seemed on this river so we pulled out and moved. Remember now the SBAs are fishing in Georgia in various rivers, fighting the same front that we had dealt with on Saturday and with colder temperatures.

     Cullfisher and GetTheNet went to Nuthall Rise and launched their final assualt of the tourney in the Aucilla while Fishingmachine and I went to still a third river in the vicinity of Perry to try to cover all bases. Again Fishingmachine and I caught a good string of fish but no culls. As we approached the take out to make the agreed time to pull out, 2PM, and start back home to Georgia, my cellphone rang with a call coming in from Cullfisher. GetTheNet has done it he says. On the last cast he would make in the 2005 tourney, GetTheNet hooked and landed a 5-5 largemouth just across the river from the Nuthall Rise ramp. Whooohoooo!!!!

 

The tournament winner, caught right by the boat ramp!

     Cullfisher went on to say that the leading fisherman on the SBAs, BasserDrew who finished fourth overall in the tourney individually, and had led his team to the brink of victory, had caught a 5-3 shoalie which was his first cull since May due to already having such big fish on his stringer.

 BasserDrew, one of the originators of the tourney, had led the overall standing for much of the year. A fierce competitor and superb fisherman, BasserDrew had for a little while given the SBAs a 3 ounce lead that day.

     However, onto the stage comes GetTheNet with a 5-5 largemouth and seven cull ounces for the FHCs and yes, a one ounce lead that would be confirmed as the winning margin in an almost eleven month tourney. Sometimes truth is stranger than fiction. The fact is all the GRFers that fished this tourney are real winners, all teams are winners and the FHCs were just fortunate to hold the top position for a few hours on the last day. There is excitement building on GRF as we go through this month of December 2005 preparing to embark on another tournament in 2006 with a few rule revisions and likely more teams than in 2005.

     This article would be incomplete without a mention of the individual performances for GRF fishermen during 2005.
Our GRF fisherman of the year is our beloved, ever positive Shoalieman who put 17 pounds and 11 ounces on a three fish stringer.

     

Here's The GRF Angler of the Year with a 6-1 Largemouth

     Following Shoalieman is one fine finesse fisherman admired by all for his skill and wit, Fishing Addict, who landed the largest fish in the tourney at 7 pounds. I am posting below the final team and individual standings as a testimony to a community of fishermen who love, trust and respect each other. We encourage other likeminded people who love river fishing to check out the Americanriverfishing.com board in their state and get involved. If your state site is not up yet then join in with a neighboring state and get involved there. Itís free.

Final Team Rankings (above)

 

Top Ten Individuals (above)

 
 

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