I was fortunate enough to make the Washington TBF State Team and was able to fish Noxon Reservoir in Montana for the Divisonals. Even though this lake was only around two and a half hours from me, I had never fished it and really didn't know much about it. It was cool being able to fish a completely new lake from one end to the other. In the end, I did what I love to do and caught tons of fish on my way to a Top 20 finish.
I was able to spend three days practicing for the event. The first day was basically to run around the whole lake and see what areas looked good. I fished several areas and caught fish just about everywhere I went, but they were almost all small. Noxon is basically just a river and is pretty narrow. It reminded me quite a bit of Long Lake which I fish all of the time. The second day I tried to fish new areas and refine on what was working for me, pitching jigs to shallow brush and throwing a swimjig on the grassy flats while also looking for bedding fish shallow. The final day was a short day and I made a point to not fish anything I had already covered. It was a slow day and I eliminated a bunch of water.
The cool thing about me driving and idling all over the lake is that the lake will soon have an excellent map for Navionics users. Currently there are no charts for any brand of graph, but with all of the Sonar Charts I will be uploading, it is going to be excellent. Overall I was optimistic going into the event, I knew I could catch two pounders easily but still hadn't found the big fish that it takes to do well.
The first day I went to my shallow flat with grass and got a limit fast with a black and blue Dirty Jigs swimjig with a Strike King Rage Menace Grub trailer. I was fishing it on a Powell Max 3D 7'5" MH rod, 15lb test Seaguar Tastsu fluorocarbon and a Shimano Curado I reel. It was fast and furious and took me less than an hour to get an 8 or 9 pound limit. I then ran to all of the bedding fish I had found and also to the deeper logs and laydowns I had found and upgraded to 11lbs even on Day 1. I was way down in the standings after the first day, somewhere in the mid 30's but I knew I had a chance to upgrade the second day. Most of the guys who did well had caught big bed fish and there were several bags in the 14, 15 and 16lb range.
I decided to switch it up and ran to a different flat first thing. There were approximately ten boats there and everyone was catching them. I caught two small smallmouth there and my non boater did as well. I decided to run to my other grass flat and immediately started catching them on the swimjig. I had a little better day and caught way more fish but still nothing big. I had saved an isolated dock for the end of the day and told my partner we needed to save five minutes to hit it. I made one pitch with my Eco Pro Tungsten Heavyweight Flipping jig and caught my biggest bass of the day, a 3.5lb largemouth. That fish bumped me up to 12lbs 9oz and I moved up slightly in the standings.
My non-boater partner had a good shot at making the nationals for the Oregon team so I had to help him as much as I could to get him a good bag. I told him we would catch fish no problem and we did. I started off with the swimjig and after three fish, he decided it was time to switch to one. He picked it up fast and before long he had a limit and I had four. Then I started with the Eco Pro jig and caught a 3.5 and several others. We both slowly upgraded and had decent bags. I told him we would be hitting my dock again on the way back. As I made my first pitch under the dock I told him "look at the size of that bass right there!". Little did I know, the 5-6lb had grabbed my jig and swam under the boat. How I missed that I have no idea and I set the hook and it thrashed and jumped and spit my jig. Talk about heartbreak. I regrouped and made another cast and caught a 3.5lber to cull with two minutes to go before we had to go in. I ended the day with 14lbs 3oz and my partner had a 15lb bag and made it to Nationals.
Overall it was a great event. I had fun, caught tons of fish and finished 18th among some of the best anglers in the region. The city of Trout Creek and the Lakeside Resort there was great, all of the people were nice and everyone was excited we were there. Noxon Rapids Reservoir is a fun place and I will be back!