A trip to normally sunny Lake Powell last week turned into the most interesting, and coldest fishing trip of my life. The following is a blow-by-blow account of the adventure from the perspective of a crazy tournament bass angler.
People say tournament bass anglers are addicted to the sport. I don’t know about that, but dealing with weather is just part of the price a bass angler pays to have the opportunity to catch, weigh, and release all those beautiful green and brown bass.
Due to a winter storm warning, my wife, Jeri, urged me to travel to Utah B.A.S.S. Nation fall tournament slated for Nov. 1–3. Saturday evening, a precursor to the main storm that visited Utah on Tuesday and Wednesday, dumped several inches of snow on the mountain passes, and in short, made the drive to Bullfrog a monumental task.
Late that evening, I arrived at the Defiance House Lodge in Bullfrog, after taking my boat and truck through a car wash mid-journey because they looked a couple of filthy, frozen popsicles. Ten dollars in quarters bought me enough time to clean half of the ice from my vehicles. The rest seemed like it was welded on.
After a great night’s sleep (with the heat turned to high in the room), I awoke to an 1//8 of an inch of solid ice covering my truck, boat, motor, and boat cover. Apparently, a combination of rain and extreme cold at Bullfrog, caused a mini ice storm.
The temperature read 22 degrees in the truck (after chipping ice off the door handle so I could get inside). Getting the cover off the boat, however, was another challenge. It wouldn’t bend. I was forced to slide it off the boat, drag it onto the patio of my hotel room, break pieces of ice off, and prop the cover on the patio railing to thaw.
Although the sun shone brightly, a stiff wind made it feel like the north pole and I put on thermal underwear, three coats, a balaclava, and heavy gloves. But, of course, it was impossible to fish with heavy gloves on my hands so I put on half gloves that exposed my finger tips to the biting cold.
Amazingly, the fishing wasn’t bad. The water temperature was 66 degrees which meant that when I landed my first bass (a 14-inch smallmouth bass), the fish felt like it had just been snatched from a hot tub. I found myself wanting to hold on to the fish just for the warmth it provided.
Later Monday afternoon, I caught a couple 10-inch largemouth bass and almost killed them because I used them as hand warmers for as long as I could before returning them to their hot tub.
Tuesday got even colder and in the late afternoon, a massive north wind sent outside temperatures plummeting to 20 degrees.
Wednesday morning on the water, I began feeling my finger tips by around noon, though I still managed to catch some smallmouth bass on deep-running crank baits and tube jigs. Even in full sun, I never took off any of the three coats, and wore my balaclava all day long.
Some of the participants in the weekend tournament didn’t even launch their boats until Thursday morning.
As I write this column, it’s Saturday evening, following the second day of the tournament. The fishing has been tough but most anglers have weathered the storms and the cold and have caught fish. The photo used in this column was taken after I removed my coveralls, and my three trusty coats that I wore all day.
The weather has steadily improved as has the fishing. The bass and stripers are eating in preparation for the real winter in a couple of months. I can honestly say that through it all, Lake Powell still draws me like a magnet. Even now, I can’t wait to get down here again … hopefully not under ice.
Disclaimer: No bass were harmed in the writing of this column or in the tournament.