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I Paid Retail (and I’m glad I did) – Baby Got Back Heat

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March 3, 2015

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With each successive cold-weather Classic, I learn a few new tips about how to stay warm in miserable conditions. This one comes via JM’s Steve Bowman – put a heat wrap across your lower back and one across your neck. They last eight hours and keep your core comfortable. I suppose you could add even more if you wanted, although there’s probably a limit to their incremental benefits. If necessary, stock up on biscuits and gravy in the months before you’ll be outside to create extra surface area.

Just remember to take them off before you go through airport security. Otherwise they might suspect that you’re a suicide bomber or an FBI informant. I’d rather think of myself as a human Hot Pocket.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 March 2015 06:41
 

Tackle Served Right

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February 27, 2015

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One of the highlights of my Bassmaster Classic week occurred a few hundred miles before I arrived in
Greenville. I spent a day at the home of fellow Inside Line writer and Bass Fishing Archives creator Terry
“Tater” Battisti. I use the term “home” loosely because thanks to an understanding wife, Tater has
managed to turn it into a small museum/library of bass fishing history. If you need a Honey Hole
magazine from the 80s or a book on spoonplugging by Buck Perry, his crib should be the target of your
burglary.
Part of the motivation in stopping over was the chance to visit Aberdeen Bait & Tackle in the nearby
town of (you guessed it) Aberdeen. I’d received their emailed list of rare and discontinued lures for a
few years, but until Terry moved to North Carolina I had no idea it was an actual brick and mortar store.
It is, and if you find yourself within a few hundred miles of the place it’s worth a detour, assuming you
like oddball stuff from your childhood. If you’re looking for Norman Super Scoopers, spinnerbaits from
the 1983 Bass Pro Shops catalog, or Slug-gos older than Tyler Swift, this is your place. Every mom and
pop tackle store should try to be more like them, rather than being a mini megamart. Even if the supply
of old stuff is already claimed, it pays to focus on being a little bit different.

One of the highlights of my Bassmaster Classic week occurred a few hundred miles before I arrived in Greenville. I spent a day at the home of fellow Inside Line writer and Bass Fishing Archives creator Terry “Tater” Battisti. I use the term “home” loosely because thanks to an understanding wife, Tater has managed to turn it into a small museum/library of bass fishing history. If you need a Honey Hole magazine from the 80s or a book on spoonplugging by Buck Perry, his crib should be the target of your burglary.

Part of the motivation in stopping over was the chance to visit Aberdeen Bait & Tackle in the nearby town of (you guessed it) Aberdeen. I’d received their emailed list of rare and discontinued lures for a few years, but until Terry moved to North Carolina I had no idea it was an actual brick and mortar store. It is, and if you find yourself within a few hundred miles of the place it’s worth a detour, assuming you like oddball stuff from your childhood. If you’re looking for Norman Super Scoopers, spinnerbaits from the 1983 Bass Pro Shops catalog, or Slug-gos older than Tyler Swift, this is your place. Every mom and  pop tackle store should try to be more like them, rather than being a mini megamart. Even if the supply of old stuff is already claimed, it pays to focus on being a little bit different.

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Last Updated on Friday, 27 February 2015 06:10
 

I Paid Retail (and I’m glad I did) – Hotfoot

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February 26, 2015

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At each February Bassmaster Classic I learn a little more about how to stay warm in extreme conditions.
Some of these lessons come directly from the anglers, others come through trial and error, but by the
time the 2020 Classic rolls around I should be good to go in anything better than 40 below with 40 mph
winds.
During this year’s final practice day, when the temps were consistently in the 20s and 30s, my feet were
cold, despite heavy socks and 800 grams of insulation in my Gore-Tex boots. I thought maybe it was a
fluke, but when I had time to run by the store on Thursday evening before the start of competition, I
made the executive decision to invest in some insurance against cold feet over the next three days. For
the princely sum of $99.99, I bought a pair of ThermaCELL remote-controlled heated insoles.
When Friday’s first day of competition dawned in the single digits, I wasn’t sure that the insoles were
working. Even with the remote set to “high,” my feet never got never felt like they were resting on a
toaster. More importantly, though, they never got cold. My feet were warm throughout the event, and
that was one less thing to worry about. I highly recommend them.

At each February Bassmaster Classic I learn a little more about how to stay warm in extreme conditions. Some of these lessons come directly from the anglers, others come through trial and error, but by the 
time the 2020 Classic rolls around I should be good to go in anything better than 40 below with 40 mph winds.

During this year’s final practice day, when the temps were consistently in the 20s and 30s, my feet were cold, despite heavy socks and 800 grams of insulation in my Gore-Tex boots. I thought maybe it was a 
fluke, but when I had time to run by the store on Thursday evening before the start of competition, I made the executive decision to invest in some insurance against cold feet over the next three days. For 
the princely sum of $99.99, I bought a pair of ThermaCELL remote-controlled heated insoles.

When Friday’s first day of competition dawned in the single digits, I wasn’t sure that the insoles were working. Even with the remote set to “high,” my feet never got never felt like they were resting on a 
toaster. More importantly, though, they never got cold. My feet were warm throughout the event, and that was one less thing to worry about. I highly recommend them.

 

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Almost Famous

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February 25, 2015

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Short of pulling a Kanye, there’s little chance I’ll ever grace the Bassmaster Classic stage. Still, it’s the sport’s most important event and as a matter of pure coincidence I spend my birthday at the tournament almost every year. I can live with that. In fact, if I can’t be fishing myself, there are few other ways I’d rather spend it.

Because of Hartwell’s distance from Greenville, I was assigned to the Bassmaster.com “lake team” this year, which meant that I didn’t actually attend a weigh-in until Sunday.Saturday, after the anglers went back to Greenville, I was in my hotel room, watching the coverage from the arena on my laptop. Our feed suffered some skips and delays so we were probably a couple of minutes behind what was happening live.

All of a sudden, my phone blew up with texts:

“Happy Birthday Pete!!!”

“Pretty cool what KPink did for you at the weigh-in. Happy BDay.”

“Happy Birthday!”

“Short hooked it up!”

“Is today your birthday?”

“Wow, that was awesome.”

….and so on.

I knew something was up, but didn’t know quite what. The Redheaded Wife encouraged me to keep watching the broadcast, which of course we did. It’s part of my job, so I was going to do it no matter what she said.

When Kevin Short graced the stage, after what was probably not the day he wanted to have, he described his time on the water. Then he made a special request of the crowd – that they wish me – “45 going on 12” – a happy birthday. I cannot imagine a cooler present. I know that my wife Hanna went out of her way to ask him, and I appreciate that tremendously. I also know that time on the Classic stage is incredibly valuable -- for Kevin to take some of his allotted time and give me that gift is something that I won’t forget. Last but not least, thanks to Dave Mercer for going along with this nutty plan rather than asking "who's that?"

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 25 February 2015 05:40
 

Open Wide and Gulp!

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February 17, 2015

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I'm a sucker for little regional lures, especially hard baits with cult followings. Over the years I've sought or acquired products from Wee Bait, Suddeth, Lohr's, Tapps and other non-mass-market cranks. Some of proved evasive, some have been good, others were just a waste of money. I'm just glad that I haven't fully embraced the swimbait culture, because that might require me to take out another mortgage on the house.

One of the lures that I've heard about, but never seen, is the Gulp Crankbait, a balsa plug from South Carolina. They were made by Jim Harter, who died just a few years ago, and it seems that they were especially popular around Hartwell. I wonder if any competitors will be using them in this Classic and I'll certainly keep my eye out for that. Even if that's the case, I doubt that any of them will mention it, because there's no money to be made.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 17 February 2015 07:55
 

Flag This One For Future Trips

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February 11, 2015

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Just when I thought I'd gotten over our two canceled trips to the Amazon, Kermett Adams pulled me back in.

Kermett makes what I consider the best prop baits for big peacock bass, bar none. My wife caught two 19s on them, and I had an 18 and a 20, along with numerous smaller fish, and they don't look much worse for wear. Meanwhile, one angler on our trip fished a more historically popular brand and after a couple of 7 pounders his baits looked like they'd been run over by a road grader. Meanwhile, my friend Mike Phillips used another mass-marketed model and lost two teen-class fish because the subpar hooks bent out on the hook set. That doesn't happen with the K-Lures -- they're built to last and built to put fish in the boat.

Because they're made to exhibit world class durability, you really don't need to buy all that many. Get a few different colors in each of the two sizes and you're set. Throwing them on 65 pound braid, it's not like you're going to lose too many. Nevertheless, I've amassed a bunch of them, and with no Brazil trips on the immediate horizon they're sitting unloved in a Plano box on a high shelf. Despite all of that, I was still tempted to buy the one pictured above off of ebay -- not sure if it's one of a kind, but it's something I don't own and you never know when it might be the only thing they'll hit.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 February 2015 08:44
 

Loomis Delivers Again

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February 9, 2015

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I bought my first G. Loomis rod in the spring of 1997 from a small, long-gone Virginia shop called Delta Tackle. I hadn’t gone in there looking to buy a rod, but the owner, Ken Arnold, started talking about how the company was “mission driven” and offered to let me demo one for a couple of weeks. That was an offer I couldn’t refuse, and of course after that time expired I plunked my credit card down and took home the rod. It was an IMX model 783 (6’6”, 3 power) casting rod and I believe it cost a bit over 200 clams. I really shouldn’t have spent the money, but I didn’t look back or consider returning it.

That purchase was just a gateway drug. While I just about always have that 783 in the boat today, since that time I’ve also added eight more Loomis rods. I’ve typically stuck with the IMX and crankbait series, finding them superior to other sticks in their class, and while I’ve fished with the NRX and GLX rods, I haven’t quite been able to push myself up into that cost category yet.

Now Loomis has a new conundrum for semi-value-oriented consumers like me. This month they’re introducing their new E6X series of rods. My brain keeps wanting to refer to them as P90X, which of course is an exercise program, not something as heart-healthy as a fishing rod. As a result of having some friends in high places, I had a chance to take one to Lake Picachos in January. He provided me with a model 894C (7’5”, 4 power) and I definitely put it to the test in Mexico. I flipped with it, as intended, but also used it to swim a jig and power a ¾ ounce spinnerbait. It’s perfectly balanced, extremely light, and held up to every test I gave it. A few hundred fish later I’m sold.

….And it retails for $199.99, which is the highest price point in this series of rods. They start at $179.99. Any place in that range is less than I spent for my first Loomis, 18 years ago. Obviously they are trying to expand their footprint, giving younger and less financially-secure anglers a chance to enter the Loomis family. They’ve also spiffed up their normal understated look with some bright rod wraps and graphics. Just as Ken Arnold told me in 1997, though, they’re still “mission driven.” Just when I thought I had enough rods in the garage, this might’ve convinced me to buy a few more.
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Last Updated on Monday, 09 February 2015 08:16
 

Bigger Bolder Screens

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February 5, 2015

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In the spring of 2003 I stood in a tackle shop in California and laughed at a Lowrance big screen color graph. It was a 10 or 12 inch unit and I couldn’t imagine that any bass angler was going to shell out the $2,500 bucks that it would take to get it out the door legally.
At the time, my boat had two Lowrance X-75s and I thought they were the greatest thing since the scuppernong jelly worm. They were 3.65” by 3.65”, black and white, with no GPS. Except for adding GPS, I couldn’t imagine having much more, or spending much more. Nor could I imagine that the average basser would want to dig deeper in his pockets for more electronics.
As I laughed, Tour pros Kenyon Hill and OT Fears stood beside me and gaped. It was clear that they intended to find some way to get these units…the sooner the better.
Obviously, I was on the wrong side of history. Now most of the pros have moved to 10 and 12 inch screens, often loading four of them on a single boat. The only people with 3.65”x3.65” relics? Whoever bought the boat that I was running in 2003. Even a confirmed technophobe like me has run 8 and 9 inch screens front and rear on the past couple of boats. I’ve more than embraced color units and I find a certain amount of comfort in having side-imaging.
I’m sure that at some point down the road I’ll consider my current electronics to be hopelessly outdated. That said, while I’m not laughing at the Raymarine E165, I am standing with my mouth wide open, a bit of drool hanging from it. Raymarine’s new flagship model boasts a previously unheard of 15.4” screen. I’m sure we’ll see it on some of the pros’ boats, possibly as soon as the upcoming Bassmaster Classic. Cue up the jokes about watching TV during slow fishing periods, but it appears that this arms race will continue. Eventually, we’ll just run out of space and need to bring an additional boat along behind us to tote our screenage.

In the spring of 2003 I stood in a tackle shop in California and laughed at a Lowrance big screen color graph. It was a 10 or 12 inch unit and I couldn’t imagine that any bass angler was going to shell out the $2,500 bucks that it would take to get it out the door legally. 

At the time, my boat had two Lowrance X-75s and I thought they were the greatest thing since the scuppernong jelly worm. They were 3.65” by 3.65”, black and white, with no GPS. Except for adding GPS, I couldn’t imagine having much more, or spending much more. Nor could I imagine that the average basser would want to dig deeper in his pockets for more electronics. 

As I laughed, Tour pros Kenyon Hill and OT Fears stood beside me and gaped. It was clear that they intended to find some way to get these units…the sooner the better.  

Obviously, I was on the wrong side of history. Now most of the pros have moved to 10 and 12 inch screens, often loading four of them on a single boat. The only people with 3.65”x3.65” relics? Whoever bought the boat that I was running in 2003. Even a confirmed technophobe like me has run 8 and 9 inch screens front and rear on the past couple of boats. I’ve more than embraced color units and I find a certain amount of comfort in having side-imaging.  

I’m sure that at some point down the road I’ll consider my current electronics to be hopelessly outdated. That said, while I’m not laughing at the Raymarine E165, I am standing with my mouth wide open, a bit of drool hanging from it. Raymarine’s new flagship model boasts a previously unheard of 15.4” screen. I’m sure we’ll see it on some of the pros’ boats, possibly as soon as the upcoming Bassmaster Classic. Cue up the jokes about watching TV during slow fishing periods, but it appears that this arms race will continue. Eventually, we’ll just run out of space and need to bring an additional boat along behind us to tote our screenage.

 

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I Paid Retail (and I’m glad I did) – The Bag Man

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February 4, 2015

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Once you accumulate as much tackle as I have, the battle turns from acquisition to organization. Then, when you start to travel a bunch, the key becomes transport. For most excursions, my boat functions as a 20 foot rolling-then-floating tackle box, but it’s not too useful when I head to places like Brazil or Mexico.
The Mexico trips seem simple, but they consistently present their own challenges. The first time we went, we whacked ‘em on topwater. The next time, they barely bit on top at all, but we caught the snot out of big fish on Chatterbaits. Last year, we didn’t catch more than a fish or two on Chatterbaits, but we went through 150 Senkos. This year, we barely Senkoed at all, since the bass were super aggressive in eating moving baits. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, your guide asks if you have something in particular and of course you left it at home. This requires that most of your luggage be comprised of fishing tackle. Fortunately, at Anglers Inn they do your laundry every day so you don’t need much in the way of clothing.
You can’t bring hooks on the plane, so you have to check your lures, which presents challenges of its own. You can’t just throw a bunch of Plano boxes in a duffel bag and hope for the best. They’ll rattle around and possibly crack under the weight of someone else’s luggage. As a result, I’ve been searching for the perfect bag to check. I may have found it in this Super Magnum Tackle Bag from Cabela’s, which I just purchased on sale for less than 90 bucks.
In the main compartment, it holds 12 (yes 12) 3700-size boxes, or slightly fewer if you use the double-wides. It also fits three 3600 boxes and two 3500 boxes in external pockets. I figure that I can take 3 or 4 trays of baits and terminal tackle, a spinnerbait binder, and then fill some double wide Planos with no dividers with other gear like toiletries, spare line, soft plastics and extra trebles (Hint for the unseasoned: Don’t store the trebles with your underwear. It can only result in very bad things). Then I can carry my clothing and my reels in my carry-on. As long as the tackle bag weighs less than 50 pounds, it seems like an ideal solution, leaving the wife the opportunity to put just her clothing, her reels and the remaining soft plastics in her checked bag and carry on. She tends to bring more clothing while I tend to favor more tackle, so hopefully this will balance us out.
My endorsement of this bag is for long distance travel only. If my co-angler ever shows up with it on tournament day, loaded to the gills with every Hellbender and Helicopter Lure he’s accumulated over the years, he will promptly be directed to the bank, or else we will have a very expensive anchor.

Once you accumulate as much tackle as I have, the battle turns from acquisition to organization. Then, when you start to travel a bunch, the key becomes transportation. For most excursions, my boat functions as a 20 foot rolling-then-floating tackle box, but it’s not too useful when I head to places like Brazil or Mexico. 

The Mexico trips seem simple, but they consistently present their own challenges. The first time we went, we whacked ‘em on topwater. The next time, they barely bit on top at all, but we caught the snot out of big fish on Chatterbaits. Last year, we didn’t catch more than a fish or two on Chatterbaits, but we went through 150 Senkos. This year, we barely Senkoed at all, since the bass were super aggressive in eating moving baits. Just when you think you’ve got it figured out, your guide asks if you have something in particular and of course you left it at home. This requires that most of your luggage be comprised of fishing tackle. Fortunately, at Anglers Inn they do your laundry every day so you don’t need much in the way of clothing.

You can’t bring hooks on the plane, so you have to check your lures, which presents challenges of its own. You can’t just throw a bunch of Plano boxes in a duffel bag and hope for the best. They’ll rattle around and possibly crack under the weight of someone else’s luggage. As a result, I’ve been searching for the perfect bag to check. I may have found it in this Super Magnum Tackle Bag from Cabela’s, which I just purchased on sale for less than 90 bucks.

In the main compartment, it holds 12 (yes 12) 3700-size boxes, or slightly fewer if you use the double-wides. It also fits three 3600 boxes and two 3500 boxes in external pockets. I figure that I can take 3 or 4 trays of baits and terminal tackle, a spinnerbait binder, and then fill some double wide Planos with no dividers with other gear like toiletries, spare line, soft plastics and extra trebles (Hint for the unseasoned: Don’t store the trebles with your underwear. It can only result in very bad things). Then I can carry my clothing and my reels in my carry-on. As long as the tackle bag weighs less than 50 pounds, it seems like an ideal solution, leaving my wife the opportunity to put just her clothing, her reels and the remaining soft plastics in her checked bag and carry on. She tends to bring more clothing while I tend to favor more tackle, so hopefully this will balance us out.

My endorsement of this bag is for long distance travel only. If my co-angler ever shows up with it on tournament day, loaded to the gills with every Hellbender and Helicopter Lure he’s accumulated over the years, he will promptly be directed to the bank, or else we will have a very expensive anchor.

 

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 04 February 2015 07:50
 

Where Have You Fished, Joe Dimaggio?

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February 3, 2015

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While searching ebay for the Tifa Michael, one of the earliest versions of the “Rico”-style topwaters, I came across this other lure from the same Japanese company – the Marilyn Micro Erotica Walking Spoon.

It’s a trout lure, not a bass bait, so I wouldn’t have been interested in this one-hooked spoon no matter what, but I admit to being absolutely befuddled by the name. I understand the “micro” part, since even the largest version of this spoon weighs only about one-tenth of an ounce, but I have no clue what “erotica” and “walking” signify. Even the term “Marilyn” would make sense, if it had a skirt, but it doesn’t. No wonder it hasn’t sold.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 February 2015 05:32
 
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