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Pete Weighs In


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The Fairer Sex Fishes Too

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January 30, 2012


I’m hotly anticipating the episode of “Basketball Wives” when LeBron’s girlfriend and Dwyane Wade’s girlfriend join a Saturday morning recreational basketball league. Better get my Snickers bars ready, because I have a feeling I’m in for a long wait.

In the interim, though, I can rely on the East Texas Bass Anglers Club for a little bit of enlightenment in the form of some young women who like to fish. Pictured here are Stephanie Hemphill and Jennifer Reid, the significant others of Elite Series pros Clark Reehm and Keith Combs. The two ladies are among the founders of the recently formed club and the cool part is that they’re not riding on the coattails of their boat-wrapped and bearded ball and chains. In fact, they’re doing all of their scouting, pre-fishing and planning on their own, emphatically rejecting the boys’ help. Look for them on tour in a few years.

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Dream Teams

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January 30, 2012


I'm sure the cynics among us will suggest that the PAA's decision to have a team tournament this year reeks of desperation, a last-gasp effort to rekindle some interest in their league. The "glass half full" crowd, on the other hand, will say that such motivations had nothing to do with the move, and that instead it's entirely a forward-looking effort. Either or both may be true, but to me it doesn't matter. I like it. If you'll check out some of the daily stories written by my good friend Alan Clemons (admission of bias) at www.fishpaa.com, you'll see that this adds a new wrinkle to the sport -- all of these lone wolf, alpha males have to find a way to push the egos back a little. Otherwise, sometimes the sum of the two team members' skills will amount to less than their constituent parts.

I haven't fished a team tournament in years. For reasons I'll explain at a later date, I'm going to substantially ratchet back the number of individual events I fish this year, but reading the articles about this event -- and thinking about how much fun it might be -- I just may have to sign up for one or two local team derbies this year.

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Last Updated on Monday, 30 January 2012 08:56

Introducing the Arizona Rig

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January 23, 2012


My editor, Heidi Roth, doesn’t fish all that much, so she doesn’t have the topwater skills of the legendary Charlie Campbell. Still, as this picture shows, there can be no doubt – blondie can walk the dog.

Actually, given her rigging ingenuity, she can walk the dogs. So can you if you rig ‘em right. Guntersville may have introduced the world to the Alabama Rig, but the shores of Lake Powell produced what we in the biz call the Arizona Rig.

If the authorities on the circuits you fish have not yet banned multiple-lure rigs and the fish in your pond respond to canine appetizers, I urge you to give it a try.

In fact, I double-dog dare you.

(Italian Greyhounds not included)

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Last Updated on Monday, 23 January 2012 08:25


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January 20, 2012


I’m a big fan of Megabass lures, particularly the Vision 110, the Griffon and the absolutely tremendous Giant Dog-X. I’ve always assumed that the company was almost entirely the vision of one man, Yuki Ito, and that the products exclusively reflected his sensibilities and daydreams. Apparently I was either wrong or else Mr. Ito had a change of heart, because I recently discovered one product in their lineup that pays homage (pronounce it like the French) to a previous design guru, Fred Young.

For those of you who thought that shallow cranking began with the RC 1.5 and may not have heard of Young, his Big O was the balsa bait that set off the craze in the late 60s and early 70s. I’ve heard both Rick Clunn and George Cochran describe its importance in their careers and I’m sure other early BASS pros would have similar stories to tell. Anyway, Megabass has introduced a limited-edition Big O that updates the original. Some may say it’s overly derivative or not worth the money – those calls are yours to make, dear consumers -- but I thought it was pretty neat that they recognized the history and the productivity of this senior citizen of the crankworld.

If you decide to pony up the twenty plus bucks to get one of these remakes (as opposed to $5.49 for the Cotton Cordell version), you’re perfectly welcome to go with a traditional color pattern like chartreuse/black back, or you can act like the cool kids and buy Sexy Shad, but my money’s on the one pictured here, if nothing else because of the name, Bahama Milk Pearl.

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Last Updated on Friday, 20 January 2012 08:57

Retro Rod

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January 19, 2012


I’m headed to the boat show bassapalooza this weekend. If you don’t live in Florida or Texas or haven’t renewed your long underwear license for 2012 quite yet, there’s a good chance that you too will spend some time one weekend this month in a dusty arena listening to seminar speakers, kicking trailer tires, browsing Alabama Rig knockoffs and walking quickly by the Sham Wow booth.

I haven’t been to one of these shindigs in a few years. To be honest, a combination of factors have conspired against them: the internet has made the “new” factor of the tackle less wowing; the rise of a Bass Pro Shops on every corner has contributed to a lot of the independents going out of business; the deals have largely gone to hell; and I’ve been in places like Texas chasing fish instead of chasing products used to chase fish. Mostly, the shows have gone downhill. They were seemingly in a golden age when I first really got into fishing in the mid-90s and the past few times I’ve gone I’ve left the venue unimpressed…and often empty-handed, which is pretty unbelievable for a tackle addict like me.

While cleaning out the garage over the weekend, I was reminded of my first fishing expo. Not even sure if you could’ve called it that. It was more of a swap meet or a flea market, not entirely bass-centric, held in a community center. I’m pretty sure the year was 1982 or 1983 and I remember the event distinctly because it was where I bought my first baitcasting rod – a 5’2” medium action Berkley Lightning Rod. It was a fairly new product then, and I remember that the vendor sold me on it by having me hold the pistol grip rod handle while he put the rod tip to his Adam’s Apple and talked. I don’t remember if the rod was sensitive enough to transmit his movements or if it was just that my 12 or 13 year old brain was impressed by the seeming audacity of his sales technique, but I was sold. One problem – the rod was $29.99 or $29.95, somewhere in that range, and after digging through my pockets I came up a few cents short. Our kindhearted salesman made up the difference and I walked out with the rod.

I still have it, all 5’2” of it. Not sure why I settled on that length as opposed to 5’6” or (even better) an even six feet. Maybe it’s because it most closely conformed to my height at that age. Or maybe it’s because that’s all he had, thus the discounted price. Either way, it may be in the garage but I think it’s been at least 20 years since I’ve used it. I don’t have a baitcasting rod in the current arsenal that’s even a lick under 6’6”, so I’m sure that if I tried to use the little Lightning Rod I’d look like I was trying to swat bees with a golf club in a phone booth. Proportionally speaking, however, it’s probably not a half bad stick.

As I thought about this purchase three decades ago, I was also reminded that the Lightning Rod is still in production, certainly not the same Reagan-era stick precisely, or the one Joe Piscopo received as a gift after his triumphant first season on SNL, but no doubt a reasonable facsimile. Has any major product in the fishing world remained so constant for so long? Perhaps the round Ambassadeur reels, but I’d bet that the bass market sells more Lightning Rods in a year than round Abus (oddly enough, both are now owned by the same parent company). So I headed back to the Bass Pro shops catalog to see what a lightning rod sells for in 2012. At first I came across the Lightning Rod “Shock” Series, which retail in roughly the $50 range. But a little more snooping and I found the base-level Lightning Rod IM6 rods, priced at $27.99, less than the price when I bought mine. Alas, they have no 5’2” model, but such is the price of progress and modernization.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 19 January 2012 09:28

G-Man in Retro Rags

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January 18, 2012


Fifteen years may not seem like much time, especially to those of us north of 40. I’ve got t-shirts that’ve been around longer than that. Crankbaits, rods and reels, too. Fortunately no underwear. But in terms of fishing culture and clothing, a decade and a half is a virtual eternity.

Check out the image here from the 1996 Bassmaster Invitational on Lake Gaston. If you blink, or squint your eyes to blur out any identifying characteristics, you’d likely have no idea that it’s Gerald Swindle, who probably wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this outfit in 2012.

I don’t know which is the most un-G-Man-like component of the ensemble – the socks, the sandals, the conservative shorts, the white long-sleeved shirt or the patch vest. Taken together they’re so incongruous that I half expect him to do a Marty McFly and start gradually disappearing from the pic.

It’s not just Gerald – he of the flat-billed hats, plaid shorts, gaudy jersey and matching kicks – it’s all of the bass pros. At some point this look became completely obsolete in our world.

I know I said above that Gerald probably wouldn’t be caught dead wearing this outfit. I suppose I’ll stand behind that, but on the other hand would anyone really choke on their Moon Pie if they saw him at a tournament site rocking the patch vest? It’s just retro enough that he’d be sure to get some TV time out of it. He might even take it one step further and show up in the primary color polyester jumpsuit. Please, though, don’t rock the socks and sandals look ever again.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 18 January 2012 08:22

Husband of the Year Thwarted at Every Turn

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January 16, 2012


I worked in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, DC for six years and grew to hate it. What had once been a quaint area of quirky shops and restaurants over time became one giant outpost of The Gap and a wide variety of chain restaurants. When I left that job in 2001, I vowed to go back to the neighborhood as infrequently as possible.

The wife, who moved here in 2004, made no such vow. DC is still a novelty to her. The near-gridlock traffic doesn't bother her. The difficulties in finding a parking spot aren't an issue to her. And she likes to shop at big-windowed catalog stores where the pumping bass line of the music makes your ears bleed. Accordingly, I should not have been surprised when first thing Saturday morning she suggested a shopping trip to G'Town to check out some of the new offerings in the world of women's wear. We had Saskatchewan-caliber temperatures, so fishing wasn't an option. The football games didn't start until 4:30pm, so I couldn't use them as an excuse, either. She offered to drive. In a moment of weakness I agreed to accompany her.

Fortunately I packed on a few extra pounds over the holidays, because otherwise the swirling winds might've dumped me in the river as we walked from the car to our first stop, a designer eyeglass shop. Next we were on to Athleta, a store specializing in women's workout gear, not to be confused with Lululemon, a store about eight steps away that also specializes in women's workout gear. After about an hour of waiting for her to select items, try them on and pay, I was a little lightheaded, but I soldiered on. As we headed down M Street, though, my eyes were drawn to a large window with the words "Tackle Box" prominently displayed. My hopes were buoyed: "Finally, something good has come to this neighborhood" and "Maybe they'll have some things that Tackle Warehouse doesn't." Alas, it was not a tackle shop at all, but rather a restaurant, a faux-hip fish house no doubt catering to people who don't even own any tackle. If they do, it's probably not any good. They had a lot of fried stuff on the menu, which is all well and good, but ultimately it's a poor substitute for good fishing equipment. Once again I left Georgetown unimpressed.

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Last Updated on Monday, 16 January 2012 08:21

The In-Fisherman Formula

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January 13, 2012


I've twisted my brain inside-out the past couple of days trying to remember the old In-Fisherman formula for fishing success, circa 1985. My old copies of the mag got thrown out somewhere during one of my many moves over the past 20-plus and it's been bugging me.

I found an online statement from Ron Lindner, in which he presented the equation as:


(Fish + Location + Presentation = Success)

The In-Fisherman website remembers it the same way:

Successful fishing involves understanding three essentials:

F = Fish
L = Location
P = Presentation
The importance of each of these essential elements varies from trip to trip and from hour to hour. The challenge is to place the correct value on each of these three elements at the right time. Master this and you'll take a huge step toward catching fish consistently.
Your objective is to catch fish. Sometimes it doesn't make sense to work on fish in a negative feeding mood when you can switch locations or species and catch fish. Make the right decision for each angling situation you face.
Understanding F (the fish) leads to L (location). Then, P (presentation) leads to success-catching fish.

But I'm sure that's not the whole deal.

If I remember correctly (and I have a ridiculously good memory for useless stuff that no one cares about), the equation was:


(Fish + Location + Presentation + ????? = Total Success)

Can anyone help me out with the "EA"? I know it had something to do with the enjoyment of nature and your surroundings. "Enthusiasm and Appreciation"? "Enjoyment and Atmosphere"? And why did they get rid of the word "total"? Or do I have it backwards and "total" came later? When and why did "EA" go away?

I'm sure someone out there knows the answers. Please advise.

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Last Updated on Friday, 13 January 2012 09:10

Sight for Sore Eyes

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January 11, 2012


I’m a big fan of polarized sunglasses, wear ‘em every time on on the water. In fact, I like the old glare busters so much that I have multiple pairs scattered throughout the boat, the tow vehicle and the garage in anticipation of the squashings, dunkings, breakings and regular-old-forgettings that seem to befall the average angler. I may not have the peepers of sight fishing savants like Shaw Grigsby or Dean Rojas, but at least I look the part.

Unfortunately, I almost learned the hard way that polarized sunglasses may not be the ideal sight-enabler in all situations. I packed a pair of them on a recent (non-fishing) trip to Mexico, where I intended to sit by the pool, mainline girly frozen umbrella drinks and wade through a bunch of books. To enable the latter part of this plan, my wife bought me a Kindle Fire.

Day One of operation laziness, I plunked myself down by the pool, put on the shades, fired up the Kindle and….nothing. Took the glasses off and I could read the device easily. Apparently the lenses did their job a little too well for this task. My wife had no such problem with her Kindle, as she was using non-polarized specs. I was about to head off to the resort gift shop and grossly overpay for a pair of ugly shades I’d never wear again when the wife remembered that she’d packed a second pair that were also non-polarized.

The crisis was averted, but I spent the rest of my pool time looking a little too much like MC Hammer.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 11 January 2012 09:13

Baby New Year

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January 9, 2012


Have you ever seen a bass so emaciated, so clearly in need of a couple dozen cheeseburgers to bulk up? Hell, I'm not even sure it's 100% purebred largemouth -- someone might've snuck a few snake chromosomes into this ugly bastage -- but at the time I caught it, I thought the little booger was the most beautiful thing in the world.

Here in Virginia, January 7th is a pretty iffy date for fishing. We could be buried under one of our occasional snowmageddons or it could be 66 and balmy, like it was Saturday. When you get the latter forecast, you just pray and hope you don't have a prior obligation to rearrange your sock drawer, to paint the dining room or to celebrate some family milestone, because it's time to hook up the boat and go.

Saturday I spent the day on a local lake chunking and winding, catching one bass here, one bass there. The scrawny weakling pictured here wasn't the first of the day, and fortunately he was far from the biggest, but in this neck of the woods all January bass are bonuses to be savored and remembered. This 13-incher might've weighed a solid 5 or 6 ounces, but considering the alternative, he was every ounce a trophy.

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