Last Updated on Friday, 22 May 2015 08:27
May 22, 2015
On Day Four of the recent Elite Series event on the California Delta, eventual winner Justin Lucas elected not to run to his primary big fish area, which I assume would’ve given him the best chance of catching big Florida-strain bass. Instead he went to a place where he knew he could catch a reliable limit of the less fickle, but smaller, northern-strain green fish. It was strange to hear him say “It’s a giant!” for three- and four-pound fish on the Delta, but his eventual 16 pound limit (by far his smallest of the week) was enough to win by over 2 pounds.
As I watched the television production of the tournament, I had a feeling of déjà vu come over me. Where else had I seen an angler totally switch directions and play “small ball” on the last day of an event – defying conventional logic by aiming small-but-certain on big fish water to claim a win? After combing the recesses of my mind for a few minutes I determined that it had been on this same waterway, not the last time B.A.S.S. visited (in 2010), but the time before (in 2007).
In that prior event, winner Aaron Martens did not go to his big fish area on Day Four, choosing instead to stay close to the launch site and drop shot up a bunch of smaller fish from an obvious section of riprap. I recall the television announcers questioning his strategy, and the bass punditocracy might have imploded had it failed, but as with Lucas, it worked for Martens.
We hear all the time about anglers “swinging for the fences” or “chasing checks,” but that binary equation is probably too simple by half. There are no doubt many different ways to get the job done. Sometimes, playing it conservatively is the right call. Had Martens or Lucas gone with their fish from days one through three and flamed out, they probably wouldn’t be blamed for it, but they wouldn’t have the hardware, either. What separates good from great, and top twelves from wins, is knowing how to hedge your bets at the right time.
May 20, 2015
Every few months the Redheaded wife and I make a donation of clothing to Goodwill yet somehow end up with a net increase in clothing. Our closets overflow with things we don’t need and others we don’t wear but can’t give up.
Of course there are “go to” items as well. One of the longstanding staples for me has been my gray G.Loomis skelefish sweatshirt, which has traveled around the world and has probably absorbed 500 pounds of fish slime since I first got it in 2005 or 2006.
I thought it was just getting broken in, but others begged to differ. My wife in particular said on more than one occasion: “You have so many sweatshirts. Why do you keep pulling out that ratty one?” She obviously doesn’t understand the concept of “vintage” or “timeless” but I love her anyway.
I wore the sweatshirt to Day One of the 2014 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville and it showed up in the Bassmaster.com photo gallery, standing between media mogul Steve Bowman and an angler named Kevin Van-something. I thought the web dudes chose it because it was such a fine example of haute couture, but when I posted the pic to Facebook, I got several comments that said, in no uncertain terms: “Dude. Get a new sweatshirt.” Then, a few months ago the same picture showed up on Zona’s TV show and a friend texted me the screen shot. I had to face the truth
It took a while, but finally I gave in. The sweatshirt has been donated. Now, it’s time to start the decade-long process of breaking in a new Old Faithful.
Last Updated on Monday, 18 May 2015 07:31
May 18, 2015
As we prepare for this year’s version of the Toyota Texas Bass Classic this week, it bears noting that the Professional Anglers Association (PAA) is not part of the festivities. The PAA once served as a bright shining beacon of hope for professional bass fishermen who felt slighted or ignored by the major tournament organizations, but unless something truly unforeseen occurs it appears that it will now become at best an asterisk or a footnote in the history of professional bass fishing. That’s too bad, because I felt like they had some good ideas, and at various points in time they seemed to have momentum.
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Last Updated on Thursday, 14 May 2015 06:44
May 14, 2015
It may be a long way to the top if you want to rock and roll, but that doesn’t mean there’s only one way to get there.
I was reminded of that fact the other day when my friend Kevin Baxter was telling me about his friend Ben Parker, who in recent years has become famous for his platter-sized flutter spoons and more recently for a swimbait that he pours specifically for ledge fishing. Prior to that, Parker fished the Elite Series for a while, but it was only when he left the tour that his became a household name in the bass fishing world. Tournaments had launched his bait biz. Baxter contrasted that to the experience of Gary Yamamoto, who started his career by building an uber-successful custom bait company, and (while maintaining that interest) parlayed it into a long term tournament career. Two paths to success, two different levels of success, but both successful nonetheless.
There are thousands of people out there looking to get a toehold in the fishing industry and most of them think they’ll be the next KVD, the next Skeet Reese or the next Randy Howell. More of them should think they’ll be the next Gary Yamamoto or the next Ben Parker, or the next guy who comes up with some other industry-changing idea or invention.
If you have your mind set on being a tournament pro and only a tournament pro, then by all means go for it, but if you just want to be somebody in the fishing industry there are lots of different routes and lots of different end points that all lead to a place called success.
Last Updated on Sunday, 10 May 2015 17:52
May 11, 2015
When I first bought a bass boat in the mid-90s, they came with locks so flimsy that it seemed like a hard hookset would jar them all open. At hotel parking lots, you feared for your gear because a moderately resourceful and stealthy thief with a screwdriver could rob you with minimal effort. Since then, of course, there have been numerous technological efforts aimed at snuffing out ne’er do wells. Some boats, like my Bass Cat, come with alarm systems. For those which do not, there are the Loc-R-Bar and other aftermarket items of that ilk.
Despite the other changes, for a while the locks themselves didn’t improve. Then came the Southco versions pictured above. I’ve had them on my last two boats and while they’re pricey, I’d say they’re worth it. They lock precisely, sit flat and seem far less susceptible to run of the mill thievery than their predecessors.
Just one problem, though – few co-anglers can figure them out. On first glance, there seem to only be two ways to align the locks and have them sit flat. There’s the locked position and then there’s 180 degrees away from that position. Nevertheless, I’d say that most first-timers in my boat spend far more time than necessary trying to get them locked and end up failing miserably. They could be PhDs in engineering, or noted scientists, or renowned neurosurgeons, and they still come up short, spinning the thing around in circles before eventually leaving it either 90 degrees off and sticking up (ripe to be damaged or to sprain an ankle) or else unlatched. I can’t figure out why it’s so difficult, but apparently it is.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 06 May 2015 17:36
May 7, 2015
Ray Hanselman of Del Rio won all three of the Texas Rayovac tournaments this year. What are the chances of that happening for any angler? Probably slightly less than the possibility that you’d solve a Rubik’s Cube while blindfolded, with one hand behind your back, after drinking 12 tequila shots.
The Texas Rayovac competition is stout, with the best of the best of local sticks on each pond, along with the cream of the Texas crop and a smattering of past and current tour pros. It’s a gun fight every time out. Moreover, he won them on three very different lakes – Amistad in the desert, Sam Rayburn in the piney woods of east Texas, and Texoma on the Oklahoma border. To anyone who follows the sport at all, it’s mind-boggling.
I was trying to think if there’s something to compare it to in another sport, in terms of likelihood, and couldn’t come up with an apt analogy. Have there been similar streaks in fishing? I suppose there have been some comparable achievements. Years ago, Andy Morgan won five Red Man events (precursors of the BFLs) in a six tournament season and finished second in the sixth one. Roland Martin won three consecutive B.A.S.S. tournaments spanning the 1980 and 1981 (Okeechobee, Toledo Bend and Eufaula) right after finishing 2nd to Bo Dowden at the 1980 Classic in New York. Kevin VanDam won two Bassmaster Elite 50 tournaments, as well as the Bassmaster Classic, in a row in 2005. Denny Brauer won four tournaments in a five tournament stretch, including the Bassmaster Classic, between April and August of 1998. And of course Skeet Reese had five consecutive top five finishes, including two wins, to start the 2010 Elite Series season.
All of those guys – Morgan, Martin, KVD, Brauer and Skeet – are first ballot Hall of Famers, known by either their first or last names alone. Hanselman, who is certainly a decorated and accomplished veteran, is less known outside of his home region. Maybe that’s why it seems so unbelievably impressive to those of us looking in from afar.
Last Updated on Monday, 04 May 2015 15:05
May 5, 2015
As I filled a Plano box with deep diving crankbaits for next month's trip to Anglers Inn in Mexico, my phone pinged with the arrival of an email from my friend Ray Kawabata. We met Ray on our first trip to the Amazon and I've often marveled at his commitment to multi-species fishing, but this one takes the cake. He'd sent me a pic of a 16 pound spring Chinook salmon that he'd caught on the A-number-one El Salto crank, a citrus shad Bomber Fat Free Shad. He might need a new set of trebles, but I'd say he's ready to join us next month. Luckily, he's already booked and won't need to get in cranking shape upon arrival.
Last Updated on Friday, 01 May 2015 04:44
May 1, 2015
I fish a lot of shallow grass and it’s a constant battle to keep the trolling motor at the proper depth. I often want the bare minimum in the water to keep it from getting bogged down, but at the same time I want to avoid any sort of blowout or other surface disturbance. The regular adjustment mechanism isn't difficult to use, but it's inconvenient, so over time I've looked for various alternatives.
The low-tech solution is to put a plastic Gatorade bottle under the scissoring bracket when you need to prop the motor up, and then remove it when you don't. This was good until you kicked the motor up a notch and the prop came flying out of the water.
The supposed high-tech solution was a product called a "Power Gator," a mount that went up or down incrementally with the touch of a switch. Great idea for a couple of reasons.. First, you could suspend the motor at a given level for however long you wanted it to stay there. Second, you could deploy the motor from your seat, saving time upon arriving or departing a location. Unfortunately, it didn't survive the rigors of day-to-day fishing. After it crapped out a few times, I scrapped the thing.
Now I have a new gizmo called a Quick Slip that is somewhere in between high- and low-tech. With the flick of one lever, the shaft of your trolling motor is freed to go up or down. Flip it back and it's secure. Much easier than the old knob, with nothing to break. I saw it on Kevin Short's boat and had to have one. I ordered it and it sat in the center console of my Suburban for a few months until Clark Reehm recommended it, at which point I removed it from the plastic and added it to my MotorGuide.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 29 April 2015 06:51
April 29, 2015
In nearly 20 years of tournament fishing at the club and Federation level, I’ve managed to acquire enough trophies and plaques to fill up more than one wall of our basement. I never really think about this shrine to far too many hours spent on the water, but my wife – who spends lots of time down there on our exercise machines and watching TV – probably couldn’t help but notice them staring her in the face.
Accordingly, when she won a club tournament in 2013 on Virginia’s stingy Lake Anna, she was justifiably anxious to get the hardware recognizing her accomplishment. Her win was momentous for another reason – with it, she became the first woman in the organization’s history to take home the first place trophy. Later in the year, she placed in the money again which should've equaled another plaque. She wanted an “I Love Me” wall of her own, and had one all picked out. Unfortunately, some administrative difficulties got in the way. Normally the presenting organization doled out the awards a few months after the season ended, but in the winter of 2013/14, various scheduling problems meant that no such ceremony occurred.
I would’ve forgotten about it. She did not.
Our poor friend Russ Shetley, who had taken on the thankless job of organizing our grubby ranks, took her abuse like a champ. Every time he sent out an email on any topic, he got a three-word response from the Redhead: “Where’s my trophy?”
Finally this week he delivered, and all is once again right in the world. There was no limousine ride to the dinner, no red carpet, and no thanking the Academy, but she got her awards and that’s all she really cared about. Russ, you are once again safe….until she wins again.
April 24, 2015
The hard bait color options available to bass fishermen these days are nothing short of amazing. The days of choosing between "red head, white body" and "yellow shore minnow" are far in the rear view mirror. I own some works of art by custom painters like Phil Hunt, Kelly Barefoot and Dwain Batey, but I might have to add something from the production lineup made by the folks at Japan's Imakatsu lures. Check out this "Bigroid Nonkee" swimbait. I have no idea what the name means, but the lure itself is closer to taxidermy than the admittedly primitive topwaters and cranks that our grandfathers used.