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Hoarders, Volume I

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September 12, 2014

blog-keychain

You know that you’ve gone to too many fishing events when your key chain features a bottle opener from a trolling motor company. A trolling motor company whose product you’ve never owned.  This is bad.  Need to simplify my life.

Last Updated on Friday, 12 September 2014 07:21
 

Ye Old Esox Shoppe

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September 11, 2014

blog-rh02

While nothing beats the combination of smallmouths, cheese curds and a bottle of Spotted Cow beer, the Wisconsin retail experience ain’t bad either, particularly if you get a chance to stop by Rollie and Helen’s. Green Bay may be Titletown, but their musky shop turns the burg of Minocqua into Toothytown.

I’m a sucker for tackle shops, but between travels and Tackle Warehouse there isn’t much left in the domestic bass world I haven’t seen. That’s why it’s so nice to go someplace like Rollie and Helen’s, where I haven’t seen even a small fraction of the gear for sale. All I can say is that if you don’t know whether you should buy a Funky Chicken, a Fuzzy Duzzit or a Gooch’s Tallywacker, there’s nothing (except your bank balance) preventing you from buying all three. And a word to the wise – if you’re making bass crankbaits and selling them for five to ten clams apiece, you need to enter the musky biz, where apparently anglers don’t balk at having a boat full of thirty and forty dollar oddities.

Top Bait Namesblog-rh01
Northland Booty Call

Double Cowgirl

Squirrelley Burt

Deadly Naked Believer

Creeptonite

Frankenspitz

Papa Chubby

Swim Whizz
 

Top Colors

Reverse Loon

Vomit

Munky Butt

Elvis

Hulk Hogan

Whitetail Eelpout

Zug Island Special

UV Sheepshead

Atomic Carp

Dark Vader

Ottawa River Mooneye

Nuclear Bee

 

Unfortunately, there wasn’t really anything for me to buy, but I am further convinced that if I lived in musky country I’d be an addict.

 

Last Updated on Thursday, 11 September 2014 07:57
 

A Taste of Mustard

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September 9, 2014

Normally I’m not the type of guy who thinks that you can only catch fish if your Senkos have 41 pieces of flake, and that 40 or 42 will cause them to pass it up completely. Nor do I believe that you’ll often catch 20 fish with a brand new swimbait while the one that’s been fading on the dash of your pickup will draw a blank. There might be times that happens, but they’re few and far between. Yes, many times they’ll pass up green pumpkin in favor of black-blue, or vice versa, but the times that they’ll pass up green pumpkin for green pumpkin with red flake are far fewer.

Nevertheless, sometimes you get hit over the head with a lesson hat color does make a difference.

Last Saturday, while fishing with my friend TJ Mongolia in northern Wisconsin, he caught several aggressive smallmouths in a row on a Rapala DT10 in the Hot Mustard color, and also hooked 15-20 pound muskie on the same bait.

blog-hotmustard01a

Meanwhile, I cast a variety of moving baits with no results. I’m not completely stupid, though, so eventually I tied on a DT10 of my own. He’d told me that the primary forage in the lake was Yellow Perch, so I attempted to match the hatch with a crankbait in that color.

blog-hotmustard02a

He continued to catch fish. I continued to cast and retrieve.

Finally he suggested that we switch rods. On my first cast I landed a smallmouth. A few casts later, another. Meanwhile he caught nothing on the perch-colored bait. There was one additional difference – the reels had two different gear ratios. When he tied a Hot Mustard colored DT10 on the rig that had been producing nothing, we quickly found out that it was clearly the color that made the difference. We sat in one spot and caught a few more smallmouths, as well as some bonus walleyes. While you can never be one hundred percent certain that the color switch is what made the difference, I’d say we got some prima facie evidence in this instance.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 09 September 2014 12:43
 

The Postman Always Bites Twice

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September 3, 2014

blog-mailbox

Here's another element of the Robbins family collection of signifying lawn art: A mailbox in the shape of a Pop-R.

One day one of the Redheaded wife's co-workers came into work and described seeing this new mailbox that he said was perfect for us, describing one exactly like ours. She asked him where he'd seen it. He responded by describing the general location of our house. Yes, Virginia, we have a winner.

Overall, the mailbox has suffered through the brutality of rain, snow, sleet and hail pretty well. The eye on one side is faded, but otherwise the body is intact. Still, I cannot for the life of me figure out how one of the tines of the front treble broke off. It has the makings of another Jeff Foxworthy joke: "If you've ever upsized the treble hooks on your mailbox, you might be...."

Last Updated on Wednesday, 03 September 2014 07:40
 

We’re Number Two (let’s not try harder)

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September 2, 2014

blog-wave

There’s a fun article by Louie Stout in the new issue of Bassmaster called “The Intimidators: 10 Great Fisheries That Should Scare You.” I’ve spent many hours in a bass boat, in everything from glass-calm conditions to waves that would make Leonardo DiCaprio and Kate Winslet forget about the thrill of oceanic romance, and the further in the rearview mirror that my twenties move, the more I prefer the former.

While I expected to see Champlain and the Great Lakes on Stout’s list, I was slightly surprised to see my home waters, the Potomac River, at number two. I say surprised because while the Potomac has clearly shortened the life of some of my vertebrae, it doesn’t regularly produce the kind of tanker-sinking monster waves that some of the big bowls show off on regular occasions. After all, it’s just a river. Can’t you hide in the creeks or run the protected side?

Well, you can, but you can’t, either.

As Stout quoted Denny Brauer as stating, “When the wind blows against the tide, the waves really stack up, and you can’t get a rhythm and wind up spearing them.”

Having been there, done that, yes I’m man enough to admit that there have been a few times over the past 20 years that my bilge pump has come in handy. There’s nothing quite so deflating as zigging and sagging, popping and topping along for five miles, only to misjudge one and fill the boat with river water. You know it’s going to happen, too – as you come off that last one a bit too fast, you see yourself falling into the next wall. If you’re lucky, you’ll just clip a bit of spray. If you’re not, you’ll knock the wind out of yourself. Fortunately I’ve never been so unlucky (or so unnecessarily brave) as to knock off a trolling motor.

Someday, if all goes well, I will live on a lake that makes Louie’s next top ten list – something like “places that are always glass calm and where limits come easy.” Then again, if he ever compiles such a list, I hope that he doesn’t publish it, but sends me an encrypted version for my own use. My spine will thank him profusely.

Last Updated on Tuesday, 02 September 2014 09:44
 

Hackney by a Landslide

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August 27, 2014

blog-hackney

On the Sunday night of this year’s Bassmaster Classic, perhaps six or eight hours after Randy Howell received the trophy, one intrepid member of the media kept working at the Birmingham Sheraton bar. He had a pocket video camera and was going around asking various pros a series of harmless but goofy questions.

The answers, many of which are unprintable here, would likely be inadmissible anyway for alcohol-based reasons, but in general they were all over the place…except for the answers given to one question.

When asked which other Elite Series pro they’d like to have with them on a desert island, without missing a beat nine out of ten answered “Greg Hackney.”

They probably didn’t answer that way on the basis of his good looks or his knowledge of show tunes. Rather, to a man, they said he’d be able to forage for sustenance. He’d sneak up on something tasty, kill it, and grill it over an open flame.

Not one hundred percent sure why I’m repeating that anecdote here except to say that the dude is a badass. Still, we don’t really know much about him – even for a bass geek like me, I know little about his family life, his background before he became a bass pro, etc. He’s a serious bass ninja but assuming he closes the door on the AOY, we’re going to delve into every nook and cranny of his memory. He’ll be happy if he wins the title, but after a few months of intense scrutiny, he may wish for that desert island after all.

Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 August 2014 10:00
 

Don’t Forget. If you’re on your bike, wear white.

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August 25, 2014

blog-boatcrash01

Maybe as I get further and further away from my comparatively careless/naïve 20s, I’m just more sensitive to it, but it seems to me that each year we have an increasing number of fatal or near-fatal bass boat accidents. I’m sure that there are a number of factors contributing to this, including: (1) the horsepower race, where everyone and his Uncle Leroy feels they have to have a 250 horsepower beat; (2) the increasing prevalence of the internet and social media, which enable word to spread more quickly, and (3) the glorification of fast rides and busting through 8-footers at full throttle, via the tournament circuits. Certainly the influence of those factors varies from crash to crash, and in some cases they may not play a role at all, but I’m sure that in most of them they have at least an indirect impact.

Even if the number is not increasing, the images of them – via social media, GoPro cameras, etc. – seem to be greater in number, and that etches the gory ones in our mind. Earlier this summer there was a bad accident here in Virginia on Smith Mountain Lake. More recently there was one of California’s El Capitan. Many of us will never forget the video of a BFL boater running an Okeechobee boat trail before coming nose-to-nose with another bass boat, with ugly results.

To be quite honest, I’m surprised that there aren’t more of these accidents. You don’t need any sort of training or license to buy a powerful bass boat, just half-decent credit. They don’t have brakes and there are no painted lanes on the water to keep you in a particular spot. We’ve all had near misses – a broken hot foot spring or an encounter with a drunk pleasure boater – that should give us pause. Similarly, most of us who’ve been around the game for a while can recall someone who swamped their tub, hit a big rock, or got sideswiped by a little old lady in a Buick on the highway.

I’ve had the new boat up to nearly 80 miles per hour, but for a variety of reasons I tend to spend much more time around 40 than I do above 65. Nothing worse than the sound of fiberglass crunching except, of course, bones getting snapped.

blog-boatcrash02

Last Updated on Monday, 25 August 2014 08:47
 

Horace Greeley Would Be Proud

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August 22, 2014

blog-havasu

 

Dribs and drabs of information about the 2015 Elite Series scheduled have filtered out to the press. Some of the longstanding rumors have been confirmed, others have been modified and still others have yet to be confirmed or denied. We know for a fact that BASS will go to the Upper Chesapeake as well as make a western swing to Lake Havasu and to the California Delta.
Based on what I saw in Philly, I’d love for BASS to visit 8 or 9 completely new venues, but for a variety of reasons that’s probably not practical. I know that many of the Elites are already concerned about the amount of truck gas they’ll chew up next year. Still, I can’t help but be excited about the Havasu event. It’s not truly new – BASS has been there three times before, but the last time they visited was for the 2003 Western Open. Arizona pro Josh Bertrand, who may be a stick there, was ineligible to fish that tournament because he had just turned 15 two days before the tournament started.
Eight current Elites participated in that event, with Clifford Pirch finishing the best out of all of them, in 2nd place. Five years earlier, nine current Elites fished a BASS Western Invitational there, and Skeet Reese was the best finisher of the bunch, ending up 4th. Nine years before that, eight current Elites fished the Arizona Invitational , with Clunn coming out on top of the others in 8th at event’s end.
While the current Elites who fished the 2003 and 1998 events were all originally from the West (except for Kota Kiriayama and Yusuke Miyazaki, who are both originally from Japan), Gary Klein was the only nomimal westerner who fished the 1989 tournament. The three winners of the BASS Havasu events, Jack Gadladge, Mike Baldwin and Ted Miller, last fished BASS events in 2005, 2003 and 1992, respectively.
I’m sure many of the western Elites have fished it outside of competition, but this would seem to me to be one of the more even battles, especially for those who’ve only been there once, because previous BASS events were held in November and January. Of course Dean Rojas, who lives spitting distance from the lake, would seem to be a pre-tournament favorite, but he didn’t dominate in the 1998 and 2003 tournaments, fishing 43rd and 20th. Based on what little I know about the fishery, it wouldn’t seem to set up for some of his strengths, but I’m willing to be surprised. No matter what, it’s the one event I’ll have circled on my calendar in a darker shade of ink than all the others.

Dribs and drabs of information about the 2015 Elite Series scheduled have filtered out to the press. Some of the longstanding rumors have been confirmed, others have been modified and still others have yet to be confirmed or denied. We know for a fact that BASS will go to the Upper Chesapeake as well as make a western swing to Lake Havasu and to the California Delta. 

Based on what I saw in Philly, I’d love for BASS to visit 8 or 9 completely new venues, but for a variety of reasons that’s probably not practical. I know that many of the Elites are already concerned about the amount of truck gas they’ll chew up next year. Still, I can’t help but be excited about the Havasu event. It’s not truly new – BASS has been there three times before, but the last time they visited was for the 2003 Western Open. Arizona pro Josh Bertrand, who may be a stick there, was ineligible to fish that tournament because he had just turned 15 two days before the tournament started. 

Eight current Elites participated in that event, with Clifford Pirch finishing the best out of all of them, in 2nd place. Five years earlier, nine current Elites fished a BASS Western Invitational there, and Skeet Reese was the best finisher of the bunch, ending up 4th. Nine years before that, eight current Elites fished the Arizona Invitational , with Clunn coming out on top of the others in 8th at event’s end. 

While the current Elites who fished the 2003 and 1998 events were all originally from the West (except for Kota Kiriayama and Yusuke Miyazaki, who are both originally from Japan), Gary Klein was the only nomimal westerner who fished the 1989 tournament. The three winners of the BASS Havasu events, Jack Gadladge, Mike Baldwin and Ted Miller, last fished BASS events in 2005, 2003 and 1992, respectively. 

I’m sure many of the western Elites have fished it outside of competition, but this would seem to me to be one of the more even battles, especially for those who’ve only been there once, because previous BASS events were held in November and January. Of course Dean Rojas, who lives spitting distance from the lake, would seem to be a pre-tournament favorite, but he didn’t dominate in the 1998 and 2003 tournaments, fishing 43rd and 20th. Based on what little I know about the fishery, it wouldn’t seem to set up for some of his strengths, but I’m willing to be surprised. No matter what, it’s the one event I’ll have circled on my calendar in a darker shade of ink than all the others.

 

Last Updated on Friday, 22 August 2014 05:10
 

Happy 10th Anniversary to Me

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August 19, 2014

blog-anniversary02

I can’t let August go by without writing about an important milestone in my career as an outdoor writer.
Ten years ago this month, I was writing (for free) for my Federation’s website, maybe churning out one
short article a month, and now I’m fortunate enough to write for outlets like Bassmaster. It all happened
because I got frustrated writing (for free) for my Federation newsletter and decided that if I was going
to continue to do that I had to see some sort of benefit out of it. I decided to ask for a press pass to ride
in a competitor’s boat during the 2004 Bassmaster Classic. At the time, there was no formal observer
program and little did I know that most members of the media would rather saw off a finger than sit and
watch someone fish in crappy weather for eight hours. When I was approved for a media pass, I figured
I’d summited some sort of professional mountain.
Then I was confronted with the list of the anglers who still had open spaces. I’d previously fished with
Chad Brauer several times, so I opted to ride with him on the official practice day as an ice-breaker
[Memo to self: never ride with someone on practice day. It’s worse than watching someone fish a
tournament, with no offense meant to Chad]. For the first day of the tournament, I was given several
options, but eventually narrowed it down to Tommy Biffle and Aaron Martens. For no real reason, I
settled upon Martens. Biffle went on to have a good first day, but AMart, you may recall, burned about
3 ounces of gas and sat under the Buster Boyd Bridge using all manners of oddball lures – horsey heads,
mini-swimbaits, hair jigs, stuff like that. But for a last minute fish by Takahiro (the famous “I knew it”
five-pounder), Aaron would’ve won.
When I got home, I realized that I was sitting on a story with a wider potential interest than just my
Federation website, so I cold-emailed Jon Storm, then the editor of Bass West, with a draft of my article,
which he bought. That would be my first published articles in one of the glossy mags. Before it was
published, though, Jon decamped for BassFan (I remember his parting words to me: “It’ll probably get
published. I hope you eventually get paid.” It did and I did.) A few months later he called me with a
question about something he was writing for BassFan. After that, I hounded him relentlessly for writing
opportunities and he gave me an ever-increasing number of them.
One of the BassFan assignments was the briefly-lived “On Tour With Lucky Craft” column, through
which I met industry mover and shaker Doug Cox. The column went away, but I continued to pester
Cox for work with his clients. Cox and Steve Bowman (from JM/BASS) subsequently produced a coffee
table book chronicling the first year of the Elite Series. A year or so later, Steve asked Doug if he knew
anyone who could help him cover an Elite Series event on the Potomac. I’m sure Doug’s response was
something along the lines of “Well there’s this guy who keeps on pestering me....” Now, about eight
million words with BASS later, here I am.
That day in the boat with AMart seems like a million years ago, but at the same time it also seems like
I wrote the article yesterday. I can still remember specific pictures and word sequences from it. On the
one hand, I’m grizzled, and every conversation with a pro doesn’t excite me the way it once did. In fact, I
dread some of them. On the other hand, just about every day there’s something I want to write about. I
hope it stays that way forever. I’m not going to denigrate all of the hours and effort I’ve put in – at some
time while you’ve been watching Monday Night Football or working on tackle, I’ve been sitting over a
computer in complete brain-lock – but as I write down all of the steps and coincidences that it took to
get me to this point, I’m amazed at how fortunate I’ve been.

I can’t let August go by without writing about an important milestone in my career as an outdoor writer. Ten years ago this month, I was writing (for free) for my Federation’s website, maybe churning out one short article a month, and now I’m fortunate enough to write for outlets like Bassmaster. It all happened because I got frustrated writing (for free) for my Federation newsletter and decided that if I was going to continue to do that I had to see some sort of benefit out of it. I decided to ask for a press pass to ride in a competitor’s boat during the 2004 Bassmaster Classic. At the time, there was no formal observer program and little did I know that most members of the media would rather saw off a finger than sit and watch someone fish in crappy weather for eight hours. When I was approved for a media pass, I figured I’d summited some sort of professional mountain.

blog-anniversary01Then I was confronted with the list of the anglers who still had open spaces. I’d previously fished with Chad Brauer several times, so I opted to ride with him on the official practice day as an ice-breaker [Memo to self: never ride with someone on practice day. It’s worse than watching someone fish a tournament, with no offense meant to Chad]. For the first day of the tournament, I was given several options, but eventually narrowed it down to Tommy Biffle and Aaron Martens. For no real reason, I settled upon Martens. Biffle went on to have a good first day, but AMart, you may recall, burned about 3 ounces of gas and sat under the Buster Boyd Bridge using all manners of oddball lures – horsey heads, mini-swimbaits, hair jigs, stuff like that. But for a last minute fish by Takahiro (the famous “I knew it” five-pounder), Aaron would’ve won.

When I got home, I realized that I was sitting on a story with a wider potential interest than just my Federation website, so I cold-emailed Jon Storm, then the editor of Bass West, with a draft of my article, which he bought. That would be my first published articles in one of the glossy mags. Before it was published, though, Jon decamped for BassFan (I remember his parting words to me: “It’ll probably get published. I hope you eventually get paid.” It did and I did.) A few months later he called me with a question about something he was writing for BassFan. After that, I hounded him relentlessly for writing opportunities and he gave me an ever-increasing number of them. 

One of the BassFan assignments was the briefly-lived “On Tour With Lucky Craft” column, through which I met industry mover and shaker Doug Cox. The column went away, but I continued to pester Cox for work with his clients. Cox and Steve Bowman (from JM/BASS) subsequently produced a coffee table book chronicling the first year of the Elite Series. A year or so later, Steve asked Doug if he knew anyone who could help him cover an Elite Series event on the Potomac. I’m sure Doug’s response was something along the lines of “Well there’s this guy who keeps on pestering me....” Now, about eight million words with BASS later, here I am.

That day in the boat with AMart seems like a million years ago, but at the same time it also seems like I wrote the article yesterday. I can still remember specific pictures and word sequences from it. On the one hand, I’m grizzled, and every conversation with a pro doesn’t excite me the way it once did. In fact, I dread some of them. On the other hand, just about every day there’s something I want to write about. I hope it stays that way forever. I’m not going to denigrate all of the hours and effort I’ve put in – at some time while you’ve been watching Monday Night Football or working on tackle, I’ve been sitting over a computer in complete brain-lock – but as I write down all of the steps and coincidences that it took to get me to this point, I’m amazed at how fortunate I’ve been.


 

Last Updated on Tuesday, 19 August 2014 04:12
 

The Fresh Prince of Bass Air

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August 15, 2014

blog-ike

 

Hometown victories are nothing new in pro bass fishing – off the top of my head I can remember tournaments where Scott Rook, George Cochran and Tommy Biffle won while sleeping in their own beds each evening. Robert Lee did it about 57 times on the Cal Delta. But none of them won in Philly, so none got quite the raucous hero’s welcome that Mike Iaconelli received this past week as he demonstrated a mastery of the Delaware River. Even if Jason Christie had won the Grand Lake Classic last year, the public celebration would’ve been a polite “golf clap” compared to the deafening chants that greeted Ike.
Ike said it was particularly special and gratifying to win at home. So did Ott Defoe, who received a slightly less ear-piercing cheer when he won at Douglas earlier this year. I wonder, though, whether the “specialness” is not just a factor of claiming the trophy in front of friends and family, but also a huge sigh of relief. After all, for every pro I named above who has gotten the job done, there have been plenty of highly-qualified local pre-tournament favorites who crashed and burned when the tournament started. Maybe they succumbed to the pressure. Maybe they fished history. Maybe they took a major league gamble. No matter what the reason, it seems like the local boys are just as likely to finish 90th as they are to win.
The Delaware’s tides may have enhanced Ike’s advantage, but either way he closed it out like a pre-meltdown Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams. Not as easy as it sounds, and far better than feeling like you missed the best chance of your career for another win. He hadn’t won a regular season Elite Series tournament in over eight years – the temptation to push too hard would’ve been hard to resist, and the disappointment of not capitalizing might’ve been crushing.

Hometown victories are nothing new in pro bass fishing – off the top of my head I can remember tournaments where Scott Rook, George Cochran and Tommy Biffle won while sleeping in their own beds each evening. Robert Lee did it about 57 times on the Cal Delta. But none of them won in Philly, so none got quite the raucous hero’s welcome that Mike Iaconelli received this past week as he demonstrated a mastery of the Delaware River. Even if Jason Christie had won the Grand Lake Classic last year, the public celebration would’ve been a polite “golf clap” compared to the deafening chants that greeted Ike.

Ike said it was particularly special and gratifying to win at home. So did Ott Defoe, who received a slightly less ear-piercing cheer when he won at Douglas earlier this year. I wonder, though, whether the “specialness” is not just a factor of claiming the trophy in front of friends and family, but also a huge sigh of relief. After all, for every pro I named above who has gotten the job done, there have been plenty of highly-qualified local pre-tournament favorites who crashed and burned when the tournament started. Maybe they succumbed to the pressure. Maybe they fished history. Maybe they took a major league gamble. No matter what the reason, it seems like the local boys are just as likely to finish 90th as they are to win.

The Delaware’s tides may have enhanced Ike’s advantage, but either way he closed it out like a pre-meltdown Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams. Not as easy as it sounds, and far better than feeling like you missed the best chance of your career for another win. He hadn’t won a regular season Elite Series tournament in over eight years – the temptation to push too hard would’ve been hard to resist, and the disappointment of not capitalizing might’ve been crushing.

 

 
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