Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 July 2015 08:07
July 1, 2015
Not everyone is thrilled with the rise of Navionics chips and Google Earth. Talk to most of the old timers in the bass game, those who predate fluorocarbon, tungsten and Red Bull, and you’re likely to hear a familiar refrain: “Force any of these young guys to fish with just a paper map and a flasher and they’d be lost.”
That may be the case, but it’s not really fair, because mapping chips, side-imaging electronics and all sort of other helpful technologies DO exist, and are available to every tournament angler. Nevertheless, there is a valid point to be made about the over-reliance on “video game” technology on the water – it has led some people to believe that it’s the technology getting the job done, when an angler’s instincts, skills and experience still play an outsized role in tournament results over the course of a tour-level season (unless you paid, borrowed or otherwise obtained a killer set of waypoints).
That’s why I was so happy to see John Cox do so well on this year’s FLW Tour. Not only does the dude fish out of a non-sparkly aluminum boat, but he doesn’t have a single transducer on it. No down-imaging. No side-imaging. No CHIRP, whatever that may be. Of the 150 or so anglers on the FLW Tour this year, most of whom have two, four or even six big screen graphs on their boats, only one finished better than Cox. It wasn’t like they fished an all-shallow-river schedule, either. With lakes like Chickamauga on the slate most wouldn’t have dreamed of making a cast without their onboard TVs.
I don’t know if Cox is a cheapskate, a Luddite, a contrarian or some combination of the three. I’ve never met him. Maybe he doesn’t need the added hassle of stuff breaking or otherwise complicating his efforts. No matter what his rationale, it seems to me like the equivalent of taking to the court in the NBA wearing a pair of Chuck Taylors, or stepping into the batter’s box against a Major League Pitcher without a scouting report. He's shown that mindless consumerism doesn't catch fish by itself. Call him The Natural.
June 29, 2015
When I am made king of the fishing empire, my first non-negotiable edict will be to ban fans from any hotels, rentable lakeside cabins, or lodges that cater primarily to fishermen. While I have yet to break a rod in one, it’s just a recipe for disaster.
Yes, I know that they keep the room cooler and circulate air, which is particularly important if you have an unhygienic or flatulent roommate, but I’m willing to invest in nose plugs, sweat a little bit more or pay more for A/C in order to avoid the risk.
That is all.
June 26, 2015
Am I the only one in the bass world who has not been converted to the cult of micro guides? When they came out a few years ago I figured they were probably a trend or a fad, but enough anglers continue to use them that I feel that I must be missing something. I have a few rods with them, I just don't see the advantages.
I understand that they're lighter than conventional guides, but I've not recently picked up a well-made rod (read: almost anything from mid-level on up from a respected manufacturer) and thought that it was too heavy. Maybe they get you some extra distance, a few more casts during the day or a little less fatigue at the end of the day, but I'm not feeling it. The disadvantages, on the other hand, seem clear. First, they make it more difficult to use a braid-to-fluoro setup. Second, and perhaps more significantly for my aging eyes and diminished reflexes, they make it near impossible to string up any line, but particularly braid, in a heavy wind. Those two reasons are enough to dissuade me.
I'm willing to be convinced otherwise, but it's going to take some serious Glengarry Glen Ross salesmanship to get me to convert wholesale.
June 24, 2015
I'm not exactly sure when I bought this 3700 series tackle bag from Bass Pro Shops, but I know that it has made the trip to the Amazon twice, to Mexico six times, and to many of the best bass waters of the US as well -- everywhere from the Cal Delta to Okeechobee to Bay de Noc, with lots of stops in between.
It's a great size. It fits under the seat in front of you on the plane, doesn't take up too much room in the boat (can even fit in some rear storage compartments) and if you pack it right it'll hold a ton of stuff. To be blunt, if you can't fit all of the tackle you need for a day on the water in this bag, you don't have a clue what you're doing. Nevertheless, I repeatedly strained it to its breaking point, and finally it gave up the ghost. Halfway through our trip to Mexico the bag developed a sizeable tear next to a seam which requires its retirement.
Now begins the search for a replacement. If I had a brain in my head, I'd just drive up to BPS or get on the internet and order another one, but that's not my modus operandi, so I'll probably search around for a while, seeing what options have emerged in the past decade or so and then settling on a contender. Happy travels to all.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 23 June 2015 04:57
June 22, 2015
Shortly after Phil Marks prematurely introduced the world to the 10XD crankbait via his FLW win at Sam Rayburn, my friend Scott Secules obtained one through underhanded methods that I will not detail. He nicknamed it "The Dog Toy." I figured it was more novelty than anything else, with usefulness limited to a narrow sliver of lakes and seasons. Nevertheless I carted a few of them on semi-recent trips to Falcon and to interior Mexican lakes, increasing the weight of my luggage but not my catch.
To be honest, I never really had faith in the monster bait, so I only threw it a little, and when I lost one in a deep tree pretty much decided to go back to what used to be the deepest of the deep divers, lures like the Fat Free Shad and the 6XD. On this most recent trip, however, the 10XD became my Great White Whale, a lure I was desperate to catch a fish or two on. As the pros have increasingly made it part of their arsenal, I've gained a bit of confidence in it through osmosis.
On our final morning at El Salto, our guide took us to a spot where a deep creek channel ran along the tip of a point. "You won't catch many here," he said. "But if you do, they should be good ones." Then he instructed me to tie on the 10XD. I didn't want to take off my 6XD, so I put it on a second cranking rod that I'd been using for spinnerbaits and swim jigs, with braid. I started casting and reeling fast, sweat dripping down my face.
After five or so minutes with no results, I'd almost given up on it again when this 8-pounder decided to dislocate my shoulder. Big bait, big bite, bueno. Over the remaining 10 minutes before lunch, I added a 4-pounder and a 5-pounder on it. This was getting fun. Unfortunately, that afternoon I lost the lure in a deep abandoned commercial fisherman's net. Next time I will go back with more, loaded for bear.
June 18, 2015
In October of 1990, my late friend Harold Pack was in the top ten on the amateur side of a Bassmaster Top 100 event on Buggs Island heading into the last day of competition. For that day he drew Ken Cook, who’d already won five B.A.S.S. tournaments and would go on to win the Bassmaster Classic the following summer.
Cook was out of the running at Buggs (he eventually finished 97th with 2 pounds 2 ounces, while David Fritts went on to claim his first B.A.S.S. win with 40-03 over 4 days). As Harold told the story in subsequent years, Cook was gracious, recognizing that Harold had a chance to place high or even win, and asked him where and how he wanted to fish.
“I looked him in the eye and said ‘Two Words,’” Harold later told me, somewhat cryptically. “House foundations.” He knew of some pre-impoundment structures in the mouth of Eastland Creek that he wanted to crank or – more likely in the Packman’s case – comb with a Carolina Rig.
Unfortunately they did not catch them on the house foundations and Harold finished 9th.
A few years later, in the pre-Navionics era, Harold took me back to where he thought the foundations were located and despite an earnest effort, we never found them. We did catch some fish flipping nearby flooded bushes, perhaps his least favorite way to fish.
After that, some of my friends and I would make passing references to Harold’s day with Ken Cook. When one of us asked where we wanted to fish, no matter where we were the other would inevitably respond: “Two words: House foundations.” It didn’t matter if the best bite was in the matted grass less than two feet deep, or if we were fishing a natural lake, that was the one and only correct response.
The joke’s on us, I guess, because since that time I’ve caught a bunch of fish on old house foundations, cemeteries and even whole buildings on lakes in Virginia, Texas and Mexico. Just last week, at Picachos, we caught quite a few bass tossing the old C-Rig up to the edges of flooded structures. Others, like the one pictured above, were exposed by the rapidly dropping water level. Each time I see one, whether I catch a fish or not, I’m reminded of Harold. I still quote him almost daily and think of the great times we had in the boat almost as much. Twenty five years after his day with Ken Cook, and five years after his death, he remains a cornerstone of my own fishing history.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 17 June 2015 12:37
June 17, 2015
In the years that Yamamoto has allowed me this little corner of the internet, I’ve used it to meet a lot of great people from around the globe – some of them in person, some of them just virtually. With apologies to many of you, all of whom I love like my favorite flipping stick, the A-Number-One blog reader of all time is one Terry Conroy of Massachusetts. While many of you log on weekly or even daily, he’s the only one we’ve met through the blog who has joined us on our exotic fishy travels.
The first time we met face-to-face was in the Dallas airport on the way to El Salto in 2013. “Let me get this straight,” his wife had asked. “You’re going to Mexico to fish with some people you met on the internet?” [In my mind, it kinda reminds me of the commercial with Jake from State Farm: “She sounds hideous!”]. Obviously the experience was not too hateful, because he’s joined us down there again the subsequent two years and has become a good friend.
On our first trip, he broke his personal best multiple times, ultimately landing in the 9-pound range. This year, however, they must’ve served up some special south of the border Wheaties on the plane because on his first afternoon he joined the double digit club. He later added a 9 for good measure.
Congrats to Jerry the Nibbler.
Travel with me and I can’t guarantee you’ll catch a 10, but you’ll be around ‘em. Patch don’t lie.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 16 June 2015 07:34
June 16, 2015
The beauty of El Salto is that not only are you constantly within a short distance of the bass of a lifetime, but that the fish school up in the summertime. If you can find ‘em, they’re usually hanging out with some friends.
On our first afternoon at the lake, our guide Chichi took me and the Redheaded Wife to three spots in five hours, and thanks to his little belt clicker we know that we caught 142 healthy green bass, all on big crankbaits and 10-inch black and blue worms.
The wind blows hard during the June afternoons, but luckily the tree pictured above was sitting on the shallow side of a point jutting off of a tip of an island. Our guide tied the boat to it and for a while it seemed like just about every wind-aided cast of the worm was rewarded with a strike. It probably wasn’t quite that fast and furious, but it was good enough that if you went two casts without a bite you figured something was wrong.
No GPS, no maps, a constantly fluctuating water level – but the Anglers Inn guides have this place wired. If you can find the tree, you deserve to catch a few dozen of your own. Of course, by the time you get there the water could be 10 feet higher or 10 feet lower, so in all likelihood this won’t be the magic tree anymore. No my brother, you must find your own.
Last Updated on Monday, 15 June 2015 09:16
June 15, 2015
When Hanna and I met Ray Kawabata of Seattle in the Amazon in November of 2011, we enjoyed his company very much, but I surmised that there was at least a 50% chance that we'd never see him again. He's a fisherman, after all, and as a tribe we're not necessarily known for our reliability, truthfulness, or ability to plan beyond the next cast. To Ray's credit, however, he kept in touch, sending me pics of the big salmon, steelhead and tuna that he caught, and occasionally commenting on articles that I'd written. He seemed to take particular interest in our trips to Anglers Inn El Salto, so I was pleased when he joined us there last week.
I think that the effort proved to be worth his while, as Ray put on a show for the ages. He topped his personal best largemouth with a 7-13 on the first full day, and then obliterated it several more times with a quartet of 9-pounders and a pair that pushed the scale past 10. Most of them were on a big black and blue worm, but one came on a Rapala DT10.
We joked that he probably shouldn't come back, because his initial venture in search of Mexican bass is going to be hard to beat. Nevertheless, I have no doubt that we'll see Ray again, probably in Mexico but hopefully elsewhere, too.
Last Updated on Friday, 12 June 2015 08:48
June 12, 2015
One of the cool things about having been in the fish biz for over a decade is that I’ve gotten to see people change, mature and fulfill their dreams. As I wrote recently, not everyone can become KVD, but if you apply yourself there’s a role for just about everyone with a passion to get a piece of the action. In other words, you can become the KVD of a particular industry sector.
When I first met Kevin Baxter he was a snot-nosed teenager (with the gravelly voice of a 50 year old who’d puffed two packs of unfiltered smokes for 35 years), trying to make a go of it on the TV production side of the industry. We worked together for former tour pro Mike Auten (who himself had changed roles fluidly) on TV shows like “Classic Patterns” and “Lost Lake.” He did the hard work, carrying a big camera outside on less-than-perfect days and then editing the hundreds of hours of footage. I just added a few fancypants words at the last minute.
At the time, he was sort of living the bachelor dream, traveling around the country with the best fishermen in the world, working hard but also having a blast – fueled by caffeine and adrenaline. He could’ve channeled Peter Pan and done that until he reached retirement age but Baxter chose a different route forward. In some ways it’s a harder path, but it kept him in the game while allowing him to grow up fast.
The change was evident last week when I called him about some baits. Actually, I texted him first – after a quick back and forth he called me. “Now that I have a two year old, I can’t be texting and driving,” he said. “I don’t want to end up the poster boy for one of those unsafe driving campaigns.” For a dude who I remembered as a happy go lucky teenager, it was a remarkably concise way to change my image of him.
Yes, he has grown up, gotten married, had a little boy, but just when you though he was out, the industry pulled him back in. Now he’s a leading force behind TackleExperts.com. If you need any tackle at all – particulary ledge staples like they use on Kentucky Lake – he’s the man to call. As he’s grown up, so have the lures. Need 7-inch BassTrix, hard-to-find Ben Parker swimbaits or spoons the size of a hubcap? Call Baxter. They carry an extensive selection of GYCB gear, too, so make a big order. Momma needs a new pair of shoes.