Last Updated on Wednesday, 05 March 2014 11:35
March 5, 2014
Big-time tournament lakes typically have no shortage of good tackle stores dotting the shoreline, but often those aren’t the only tackle-buying opportunities. At venues like Sam Rayburn, Okeechobee and Kentucky Lake, you can usually find at least a basic selection of tackle in places that don’t normally sell tackle elsewhere. This is the case at Guntersville, too.
From the window of my room at the Wyndham in Guntersville, I could look out upon not one but two gas stations that advertised tackle sales. If you’re getting into town early or late, before the traditional shops are open, and you need a pack of worms or a lipless crankbait (or five), it’s one stop shopping – lures, gas, ice and some of James Overstreet’s favorites pickled quail eggs.
For the record, I did not buy any tackle from either gas station, nor did I buy (or sample) the quail eggs. I did get a few snacks from them to take on the water even though Wal-Mart or the Piggly Wiggly were probably cheaper. I believe in supporting those who support us. In fact, if someone were to come out with a plan providing tax incentives for non-traditional tackle merchants, I’d lead the charge.
March 3, 2014
After driving up to Guntersville from Media Day in Birmingham, I quickly dropped my bags off in my hotel room and made a beeline for The Tackle Trap in the neighboring town of Boaz. It’s a store whose website (www.tackletrap.com) I’ve surfed for quite some time, in particular noticing their selection of high-end items. For example, they have a tremendous selection of Megabass rods, not just the Orochi XX series like I have (see here), but also the harder-to-find ones with names like “White Python Evoluzion Hedgehog (slant bridge model)”) that peons like me have only dreamed about. They didn’t even make me wash my grubby paws before handling them.
They had a good selection of Mike Bucca’s baits, along with some other Alabama staples. I purchased a pair of the Hog Farmer Alabama Rigs like the ones that people are using to sack Castaic-in-its-heyday-quality limits on Chickamauga lately.
They also had a solid cast of characters, as all good bait shops should. They were sitting around, swapping lies. I interviewed a few for the Bassmaster.com blog. Not surprisingly they all expected that the tournament would be won on “a trap.”
February 27, 2014
I would’ve had no one to blame but myself if I’d left Birmingham without visiting the famous Mark’s Outdoors. For those of us from outside the state of Alabama, the store is probably best known for their annual tournament on Lay Lake. It draws 500 boats, including many of the top tour-level pros, features tremendous giveaways, and most importantly it has a conservation component – contestants are given a bag of bass fry to release at their starting spot, thus replenishing the resource.
The tournament won’t occur for a few months, so I had to content myself with shopping. Fortunately they had a lot of products that I can’t get near home to fill my shopping cart – 4x4 Jigs, Davis Bait spinnerbaits and Kyle Mabrey’s Yellow Hammer Rigs – plus a few other items that caught my fancy. All in all, a good stop.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 26 February 2014 06:24
February 26, 2014
One of the great injustices of the world is that my Bassmaster Classic obligations typically prevent me from attending the Classic Expo, which in my opinion is the greatest shopping/visiting droolfest on the planet. Since I started working Classics for B.A.S.S. in 2010, I believe that New Orleans in 2011 was the only year in which I actually made it to the show, and that was for a grand total of 15 or 20 minutes before it closed, not even enough time to get my credit card heated up. The last occasion in which I spent more than a de minimis amount of time (and money) at the Expo was 2009, in Shreveport. Conventional wisdom says that the economy sucked in 2009, but you wouldn’t know it from what I dropped there.
Since I know going into Classic week that I’ll be near the Expo but not able to visit it, I endeavor to hit as many local shops as I have time for. This year, in both Birmingham and at the lake there were ample options and I made it to four. I might not have spent a huge sum, but I came away with a decent haul, and over the next few days I’ll document those experiences.
The first shop I want to highlight is Simmons Sporting Goods in Bessemer, just outside of Birmingham. I went there on the recommendation of my friend Lee Byrd, who lives in Alabama and is something of a crankbait freak. He also fished the 1990 Classic and a couple of All-Americans, and as a general rule if he says something I believe it. “Go to Simmons,” he said. “Ask to see the WEC crankbaits.”
WEC crankbaits are manufactured by Ed Chambers, owner of Zoom, and there are only a few places you can buy them. Sure, they show up on ebay for usurious prices, but oftentimes in oddball colors or models that you don’t covet. I’d been told by someone close to Chambers that he makes whatever strikes his fancy, in whatever colors and numbers he chooses, and then stops until the urge strikes him again. I’d obtained a few of the E1s through Kevin Short and Peeper Baits (www.peepersbaits.com) last year, but I’d never seen the full array in the flesh…or rather in all of its balsa glory.
I browsed the pegs at Simmons and found some stuff I “needed” before asking the woman behind the counter if I could step back there and check out the ample supply of WECs she had on the rack. “Oh, I’ll have someone take you to the rooms in the back,” she said, and called a clerk on the intercom to escort me back. There were two rooms, stacked to the gills with WEC products in every available shape and color. I don’t know how many tens of thousands of dollars they represented, but you could probably buy a pretty nice house in Bessemer if you sold them all at retail.
I tried to do my part, buying lures I probably didn’t need.
Tackle stores, my personal field of dreams. If you build it, I will buy it.
February 21, 2014
In the 10 Bassmaster Classics I've covered we've had Media Day at places great and small. In recent years B.A.S.S. has upped their game and the last few venues have been fantastic. This year they knocked it out of the park, holding it at the stadium used by the minor league Birmingham Barons. They parked the boats on the concourse and let us media vultures go to work. As I left the stadium to head to the lake for the next few days, I passed the brewery for Good People beer, a local brew. I've had one or two already this week, and if things go well I might partake in one or two more. Not a bad day's work.
February 21, 2014
February 21, 2014
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 February 2014 19:58
February 19, 2014
Some of you may know "Triton Mike" Bucca through his affiliation with Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits or as a result of his spotted bass expertise, but in recent years he's become most noted for his passion for swimbaits. Not only has he really dialed in methods of catching big southern spotted bass with the old tennis shoe, but he's started building his own. If you're at all attuned to this odd little subculture, by now you've heard of his Bull Shad. It's become popular from coast to coast, but here in Alabama they're having trouble keeping them in stock. I visited Mark's Outdoors outside of Birmingham on Tuesday morning and the pegs were all but empty. Mike has also received substantial orders from multiple Elite pros, but for sponsor-based reasons obviously he can't disclose their names. I can guar-an-damn-tee you that multiple anglers will have them on the decks at blastoff on Friday, and many more will have them at the ready in their rod lockers. Unfortunately, I kind of doubt anyone will own up to it if they win on his creation -- once again for paycheck-related reasons -- but if there's any justice in the world, the cameramen and videographers will be able to tell the tale visually.
Last Updated on Thursday, 13 February 2014 07:36
February 13, 2014
Remember when BASS first visited Amistad and it seemed like half of the Elite Series pros made speculative land purchases in Del Rio? Some kept them, others offloaded their purchases soon thereafter. The town has remained a magnet for current and former bass pros with more like Kurt Dove and Denny Brauer moving there in the subsequent years.
It took Ish Monroe 104 pounds over four days to win that first Elite Series tournament down there. Just a little less than eight years later, Andrew Young (not the former mayor of Atlanta) won the recent Central Open with 39 pounds over three days. Even accounting for differences in conditions, the news seems stark – 26 pounds a day to win then, 13 pounds a day now. Everyone’s wondering what happened to the once-great lake. It may just be a natural cycle or it may be something worse.
Falcon, too. There are obviously still some serious mules to be caught there, but we may never again see ridiculous catches like those that came when the Elites first visited there in 2008. At that event, a 25 pound limit didn’t do you much good, and in subsequent local events the weights were even higher. Now you hear top local sticks complaining about struggling to get a few bites a day. When I went there in November of 2012, the area by the dam was crowded with anglers dropshotting and shakey heading 4-inch worms, a stark contrast to the 2008 Elite Series derby where competitors like Ben Matsubu were welding two big Senkos together to make a Frankenbait.
All of this has me convinced that I don’t know where I’m going to retire. Fortunately (in one regard) my retirement date is probably a couple of decades off, but if we knew exactly where we wanted to be down the road we could probably scrape together the down payment for a little piece of land somewhere. The problem is that I don’t know where that is. For years, I’ve told my wife that we could retire early to Guntersville and she could work at the dog food factory by the lake. She’s never been there, but apparently I didn’t make that option sound all that appealing. Guntersville obviously continues to pump out monster bags, as we’ll see at the upcoming Classic, but what if the grass goes away? Will it still be great when I need it to be great?
I suppose this leaves us in the position of having to wait and see where we’ll want to be when the time comes, and even then it’ll be a bit of a gamble. I’m sure right now I’m missing out on a great real estate opportunity at some lake I’ve never heard of that’ll be on fire when I’m in my sixties, but without a crystal ball, I’m not ready to commit – even though I’d like to do so.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 12 February 2014 06:49
February 12, 2014
A friend of mine used to work for a snooty law firm in Orange County, California where your golf swing and your ability to mix a perfect dry martini were every bit as important as your legal skills, although nothing was quite as important as what you drove to work. Each day she arrived in a parking lot where the gleaming Benzes, Beemers and Jags outnumbered everything else.
One day an associate came to work bragging of his new Porsche.
“Which one did you get?” someone asked.
“A Boxster,” he replied.
“A Boxster?” the questioner sneered derisively. “That’s so entry level.”
I’m not a car guy, but I’m guessing that even the lowest Porsche on the totem pole can dust your Gremlin or your Chevette. Sorry homie, you can put it down but you probably can’t beat it down the street. Entry level or not, there’s still no substitute. Just ask Joel Goodson.
Last week I acquired two of the Megabass Orochi XX baitcasting rods – a seven-foot heavy and a 7’2” extra-heavy. I’d been eyeing them for a while online, anxious to try them out but afraid to make the order because I hadn’t had a chance to ogle them in person. Both retail in the range just south of three hundred bucks, not cheap, but about half of what the other Megabass sticks cost – and not all that much more than most high end bass sticks. Still, there’s nothing entry level about them. You get all of the Megabass craftsmanship and technology at about half the price, and built with American tournament needs in mind.
I can’t wait for the ice and cold to go away so I can take these Porsches out of the garage for an extended test drive. Have fun in your Yugo – I’m sure it’ll get you where you’re going, but with limited time to enjoy the sport, I’m looking forward to riding in style. I haven’t been this excited about a new rod in a long time.