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Pete Weighs In


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Be sure to check the "Article Archive" on the home page for blogs prior to 2010. There's a mess of 'em!

Cool Stuff from Famous Fishermen -- Classic Balsa

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April 2, 2012


I recently had the opportunity to fish for three days in Florida with Lee Sisson, which was a treat unto itself, but the chance to pick Dr. Crankenstein's brain about crankbait history and crankbait design was priceless. He's certainly best known for his work in the early days of Bagley's, but over the past 40 years he's consulted with just about every major manufacturer. Now he's back with Bagley's as the new ownership works to bring the company back to their vaunted spot within the industry.

In addition to a great trip, I also left with some lovely parting gifts, includng the Balsa B2 pictured here. Receiving a crankbait from Lee is like gettng a light bulb from Thomas Edison, or Tang from one of the astronauts or having Tommy John examine your elbow -- it doesn't get any closer to the source than that. The BB2 may be his best known creation and in this color it has played a critical role in numerous tournament wins, most notably Takahiro Omori's 2004 Bassmaster Classic win on Lake Wylie. 

If you want one that's sure to work, look for this packaging, the sign that it's built correctly.

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Last Updated on Monday, 02 April 2012 07:48

Skeet’s Heat

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March 29, 2012


You don’t want to make KVD mad. That’s the party line in our sport.

If he catches 8 pounds the first day in an event where it’ll take 12 pounds a day to make the cut, you can almost take it to Vegas that he’ll sack up a 22 pound limit on Friday. On the off chance that he misses the money at one event, you have no choice but to put him on your fantasy team the next week because it’s almost certain he’ll fish through to Sunday’s final twelve.

To paraphrase the immortal pre-Hulk David Banner, “You wouldn’t like KVD when he’s angry” ‘cause that’s when he takes money out of your kids’ college fund.

The problem with this theory, of course, is that Kevin typically doesn’t let the steam build up for very long. A day or two, maybe an event, then he blasts ‘em again and world order is restored. But what if he spent nearly an entire Elite Series season on the wrong side of the cut? What would the result be the following season? Would it kill him or make him stronger?

We may be seeing that little experiment come to life right now, not with KVD, who got off to a strong start in Florida, but rather in the form of one Skeet Reese, who currently sits atop the AOY standings on the strength of consecutive top five finishes at the St. Johns River and Lake Okeechobee. Skeet’s 2011 Elite Series season wasn’t atrocious by mortal standards – he notched five checks in eight events – but it was certainly inconsistent. He didn’t earn consecutive money finishes until the two final tournaments and by that time he’d all but squandered his chances of qualifying for the 2012 Bassmaster Classic. If you’ve been around Skeet at all, you know he’s emotional, in a 360 degree sort of way, experiencing the highest of highs and the corresponding lows, so there’s no doubt that the off year chapped the heck out of his ass. The only thing that could make it worse was to have to stand at the Classic Expo in Shreveport, the city that hosted his 2009 Classic victory, and have to answer the following question over and over and over from otherwise well-intentioned fans: “Why aren’t you fishing this tournament?”

With that as a prologue, it shouldn’t surprise any fan of tournament fishing that he came into Florida with a Hulk-like head of steam, allowed to build up over the course of last year, with a little extra push in February.

Granted, a two-tournament surge might not mean anything at the end of the year. He could bomb at Douglas, or at Bull Shoals, or the rest of his year could be good but not great. Hell, maybe it has nothing at all to do with emotion. Maybe he did worse last year because it was his first year not rooming with John Murray, or because he had unreported mechanical difficulties or because his hairstylist was on vacation. Then again, it seems more likely that it was because of the consecutive heartbreaking experiences in the BASS postseason. I don’t know Skeet particularly well, but I’ve been around him enough, including in the boat with him during a Classic, to know that emotion affects him, for better or worse, more than most of the top pros. Despite the monotone on stage, he gets fired up and, like Mike Iaconelli, the other prime contender for KVD’s throne in recent years, he’s often able to channel it toward success.

That’s why his consecutive single-digit finishes mean so much, because he’s been there before. Two years ago, he reeled off (reeled in?) five consecutive top five finishes to start the Elite Series campaign, including wins at Smith Mountain and Guntersville, along with a near-miss at the California Delta. While he’d certainly shown his chops previously via his 2007 Angler of the Year title, no one, not even Kevin or Roland or Rick (a few of the other anglers who’ve earned Madonna/Cher/Pele single-name credibility) had ever gone on that type of run against that caliber of competition. Go ahead, check your Ken Duke Almanac, it’s true.

Of course it’s premature to gauge whether Skeet will go on a superhuman tear like he did to start off the 2010 season, but if he does I’ll be forced to reevaluate where he stands in the current pantheon of superstars. Based on last year’s stumble, I’d all but written him off as a long-term contender for KVD’s throne. Maybe that wasn’t fair – primarily because that’s an unrealistic standard to set for anyone, but also because maybe Skeet’s talents need to be measured differently than Kevin’s. Rather than counting on him to be good all the damn time, rarely missing a check, we should accept his occasional “off” events, or even “off” seasons, and revel in it when he goes on a blistering tear. It’s a different sort of greatness.

Of course, if he does go on a streak like his 2010 rampage, we’ll need to come up with a name for his efforts. When David Fritts was on fire in the early 1990s, they called his spurts the “Fritts Blitz.” There are so many words that rhyme with “Skeet” and “Reese” – surely someone can come up with a nickname for the phenomenon.



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Last Updated on Thursday, 29 March 2012 08:04

Bass Gas

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March 28, 2012


Scientists at the University of South Florida have conducted some critical research among the fish that inhabit the nearby waters and have concluded that -- well, there’s no polite way to put this – fish can fart.

As Science Magazine reported, the researchers used a torpedo-shaped robot to sample ocean sounds and came up with “barely-audible, cricket-like noises they think could be nighttime fish farts….The probable farts were recorded shallower than 40 meters, and were most likely a group of fish, including menhaden and herring, releasing gas from an internal buoyancy organ called a swim bladder.”

And all these years I thought it was my co-anglers in the back of the boat making all that noise.

For our purposes, this may be important because the scientists believes it’ll help them better identify spawning concentrations. If it proves to be true, how soon do you think it’ll be before the pros mount a device on their boats (akin to a Color-C-Lector/PH Meter/Biosonix/Hydrowave) called something like the Fart-O-Meter? And will the garlic in our scents be replaced by eau de baked beans?


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A Staggering Sponsorship Opportunity

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March 26, 2012


Hello Patch Pirates, Patch Maggots and Wannabe Pro-Staffers,

It’s been a while since we’ve talked. Surely in that time you’ve sent out eight- or nine-thousand resumes to everyone from top dog tackle manufacturers to feminine hygiene companies to your local bail bondsman. With any luck and a little bit of insiderness, perhaps you’ve snagged that 10 percent off discount you’ve always wanted.

But don’t think I’m here just to knock down your dreams. I’ve also located a tremendous target for the sponsor-hungry among you. It’s the one company whose mission is so closely intertwined with the world of bass fishing commerce that I’m surprised no one has snagged them yet.

It’s none other than www.patchvest.com, purveyor of the very garments you’ll need to display the many endorsements you’ve acquired.

What? You wear a dye-sublimated jersey? That’s so 2010. C’mon be like the cool kids and wear the vest  that’ll mark you as a true professional, not some Roland-come-lately pretender. They’ve got ‘em in every color under the sun, in sizes up to the big boy (or girl, not saying we can’t give this deal to a lady angler) XXXL. Come and get you some of that.

Once you’ve inked the deal, there’s only one question left to answer, and it’s something of a Zen Koan: Should you wear a www.patchvest.com PATCH on your www.patchvest.com VEST? Or would that be redundant? Kind of reminds me of the Mitch Hedberg joke: “I once saw a forklift lift a crate of forks. And it was way too literal for me.”

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 27 March 2012 09:46

Pertinent Facts About the Elites*

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March 20, 2012


Some of you look forward to the Victoria’s Secret catalog. Others eagerly anticipate your Fantasy Football draft guides. A few among you still expect Ed McMahon to show up with your oversized check from the Publishers Clearinghouse sweepstakes (for the record: he’s dead). And I’m sure some of you get completely jacked when Reader’s Digest annually compiles their top submissions to “Laughter, the Best Medicine.” In my house, though, there’s one mail day that trumps them all – the day when I receive my Bassmaster Elite Series Media Guide.


The little spiral-bound booklet is chock full of little factoids about who won what, when and where, but that isn’t the media guide’s prime appeal. Mostly I like to see what makes the pros tick, and in particular the little asides that describe what makes them interesting off the water.

Here are ten good ones I culled from this year’s book:

1)      In his spare time, Mike McClelland dabbles in ventriloquism.

2)      Brent “Brody” Broderick has filed for 22 different patents in his lifetime, including one for a trolling motor that runs on algae and distilled spit.

3)      Over the course of the 2006-2007 tour seasons, Pete Ponds embarked on an effort to grow the world’s longest toenail, to be submitted to the Guiness Book of World Records. Unfortunately he stubbed a toe at a Waffle House in Georgia, thus ending the quest.

4)      Tommy Biffle played an integral but uncredited role in Lionel Richie’s 1984 video for the song “Hello.”

5)      Prior to going pro, Kenyon Hill considered a career as a folk musician. He was once rated as the third best dulcimer artist in the state of Oklahoma.

6)      Zell Rowland speaks Mandarin Chinese fluently.

7)      Gerald Swindle and his wife LeAnn have invested much of his tournament winnings in a llama farm outside of Syracuse, New York and they intend to retire there when he’s done competing.

8)      Dustin Wilks can recite the name of every “American Idol” contestant from every season in reverse alphabetical order.

9)      Rick Morris breeds champion toy poodles at his Virginia home.

10)   Fletcher Shryock is close to receiving a PhD in South American Literature. His yet to be completed dissertation is about phallic imagery in the poetry of Pablo Neruda.

 *Note: Some may not be entirely factual.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 21 March 2012 06:37

Separated at Birth -- San Diego's Finest

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March 20, 2012

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Frog master Dean Rojas and golfer Phil Mickelson 

It's closer to reality than you might think.

From the Oakley website: “It has been a challenging and rewarding journey to the top echelon of the sport” said 39-year-old Rojas, who first tasted the elite level of competition as a teenager on the Crawford High School golf team in San Diego, where he grew up. “Phil Mickelson was on a rival high school team and twice I faced him in match play,” said Rojas. “I was a scrapper with a decent short game but he was just incredible.”


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Last Updated on Tuesday, 20 March 2012 08:05

Separated at Birth? Elite Series Edition

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March 19, 2012

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Veteran James Niggemeyer and rookie Chris Zaldain

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Last Updated on Monday, 19 March 2012 09:24

Leaving the Club

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March 16, 2012

Tomorrow morning my bass club will blast off for their first tournament of the 2012 season, and for the first time since September of 1995 my name will be absent from the roster.

It’s not that they kicked me out, although over the years there could have been a few (non-Wellmanesque) conflicts that might’ve justified a separation. It’s merely that my heart wasn’t in it anymore.

That’s hard for me to write. As recently as a few years ago, the day the tournament schedule was issued was a big one on my calendar. I planned my life around it. Everything else took a back seat to an 11 tournament schedule of low-dollar affairs, and I worked hard to massage my leave from work to practice for all of them as much as I could. At times I alienated non-fishing friends and family in the all-consuming pursuit of little green fish.

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Last Updated on Friday, 16 March 2012 12:05

Whatever Floats Your Boat

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March 14, 2012


After three days of Florida fishing, I realized a few things about the boating industry. First, the Sunshine State must be the center of the universe as far as hand-controlled trolling motors are concerned – it seemed that every other boat had one, regardless of whether the operator was an old codger or a young gun. I doubt I see a dozen of them near home in Virginia over the course of a year, but I easily exceeded that my first day on Kissimmee.

Second, if I could have a percentage of Power Pole’s sales in Florida alone, I’d probably be a very rich man. In the Mid-Atlantic they’ve become a popular item over the past few years, but you typically only see them on newer boats. Not so in Florida where every bass boat, whether it’s new or was built when Forrest Wood was in grade school, has one or two of the shallow water anchors. It’s not just bass boats, either – we saw them on bay boats, glorified jon boats, and of course the flats boats for which they were originally designed. I wouldn’t have been surprised to see one on a canoe. I half expected to see them sold at local Wal-Marts.

Finally, the state is an absolute graveyard (or retirement home, as the case may be) for every brand of boat under the sun. You see your typical ancient Rangers, Javelins and Pro Crafts, as you might expect, but the waterways and front yards are littered with oddball brands, too, names like Terry, Tidecraft and of course Cajun. We only saw one “Super Snapper,” though.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 14 March 2012 08:13

Bait Done Right

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March 13, 2012


The last time I was on the Kissimmee Chain of Lakes was in 2006, when I served as a media observer for that year’s Bassmaster Classic. The field launched from a modern ramp facility on the upper end of Lake Toho. It was fine for that purpose, given the event’s significance and grandeur, but it wasn’t an authentic Florida experience – a little too much Disney, not enough swamp.

Fortunately, when I returned to central Florida this past weekend for a little “research” with famous lure designer and angler Lee Sisson, I was treated to a Kissimmee launch site that absolutely overflowed with the character the Toho facility lacked. The ramp by Leo’s Bull Shed, shown here, was nothing fancy, but just look at the building. This is exactly what you envision when you think of an old on-the-water bait-n-ice emporium.

Every chain barbecue restaurant from Maine to Montana would pay top dollar for a few of the boards, signs or licenses plates at Leo’s. Johnny Morris probably has a team of employees scouting the countryside looking for similar pieces to populate and decorate his eight bajillion Bass Pro Shops outlets. Unfortunately, places like this are rapidly dwindling, paradises paved one by one to put up a parking lot.

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