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Granite State Journal 2012: Unlucky in Love

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June 7, 2012

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The poor 13-inch smallmouth pictured here no doubt regrets his choice of a bedding spot. On top of that, he’s probably in bad need of a little Chapstick.

Lake Winnipesaukee is filled with gravelly shoals, protected pockets and sandy points, all of which make  fantastic spawning areas, but this bronze booger had the bad luck to set up shop next to a boathouse in the area of the lake known as “The Barber Pole.” Unfortunately for him, the renters of the house that included that boathouse included three bass anglers and their families.

Hanna and I were the first to show up on Friday May 25th and before we’d even dropped the boat in the water she’d pitched her tube in front of him, twitched it once, and reeled him in. When our friends the Halletts arrived shortly thereafter, their 10 year old son Fisher couldn’t resist the temptation either. Later in the week Grace, the wife of my friend Duncan, decided she wanted to catch her first fish and she too put the steel to him in short order.

Now he’s in serious PTSD mode, never straying far from the bed, but whenever someone walked the dock he am-scrayed behind the nearest rock in short order.

If fish could think, he’d no doubt be wishing that a bunch of bird-watchers, a chess club or a chapter of PETA had  shown up instead of a bunch of grubby bassers. This year, he drew the shortest of all short straws.

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Last Updated on Thursday, 07 June 2012 08:10
 

For Whom the Bird Flips (it flips for thee)

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May 31, 2012

OK readers, I know one of you has bit the bullet and purchased the hollow-bellied bird bait pictured here, known by the trade name “Flipin the Bird” (www.flipinthebird.com). I may be a sucker for new tackle, but I haven’t pulled the trigger on this one yet and want and honest opinion from someone who’s shelled out $11.99 for a red winged blackbird, a grey finch or a white chested tree swallow (I didn’t make those up. They’re straight from the product descriptions). Retail-paying customers only, please – no paid shills, “pro-staffers,” company officers or TV spokesmen need apply.

Of course, bird patterns aren’t new – Arbogast made redwing blackbird Jitterbugs and Hula Poppers decades ago and SPRO already has a “baby duck” pattern. That last pattern proved prescient at the recent PAA tournament at Old Hickory, when Steve Kennedy caught a bass that had a partially digested baby duck visible. He spent the evening trying to match the hatch.

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Seriously, though, if this Flipin the Bird deal provides some sort of action or profile that’s markedly different than the other hollow-bodied frogs on the market, I’m willing to give it a try. Hell, if I catch a few on it, I don’t care if it comes in parakeet, penguin or blue-footed booby. I’ll take a dozen of each.

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Looking for Carl Spackler’s Cinderella Story

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May 29, 2012

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One thing that I really enjoyed about Chris Lane’s Classic victory was the fact that it was a life-changer. Here was a guy who four or so years ago considered quitting the sport, convinced that it was no longer fun and not sure if he could hack it. Now he’s got the trophy, the money, and he ain’t giving either one back. Nothing against those who have already achieved greatness, but after years of dynasties it was refreshing to see someone new break through.

Now we’re at the midpoint of the Elite Series season and if things stay true to form we may see some other newcomers break through. Check out the following:

Angler of the Year

  • No one in the top nine of the AOY standings has won the AOY award.
  • Gerald Swindle (currently 10th) is the highest ranking angler to have won AOY.
  • KVD (11th) is the only other angler in the top 20 who’s been AOY.
  • Skeet (26th) is the only angler between 20th and 30th who’s won it.

Classic

  • No one currently in the top ten has won the Classic.
  • KVD (11th) and Alton Jones (14th) are the only anglers in the top 20 who’ve won a Classic.
  • Chris Lane (22nd) and Skeet (26th) are the only other anglers in the top 30 who’ve won the big dance.
  • Brandon Card (4th) is the only angler in the top 10 who hasn’t even been to the Classic.
  • Three more anglers in the top 20 haven’t been to the Classic – Britt Myers, Jeremy Starks and Kyle Fox.
  • Three more anglers between 20th and 30th have never fished a Classic – Bradley Roy, J Todd Tucker and Nate Wellman.

Another curious sidebar is that three superstars in the mid-30s – Ike (34th), Rick Clunn (35th) and Mark Davis, all past AOYs and Classic Champions – are currently bubble boys. They could make a push and continue to cement their legacies, perhaps even challenge for AOY, or they could easily fall out into the 60s or 70s. There are a lot of casts left to be made.

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Value Over Replacement Player (VORP)

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May 24, 2012

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I suppose it is human nature to want to rank things, to put them in some sort of qualitative order. While not a uniquely American trait, we seem to be particularly obsessed with this pastime. To wit:

  • “Restaurant X makes the 6th best grilled cheese in the state of Massachusetts”; or
  • “So-and-so was the 12th best heavy metal drummer in the 70s.”

I think we often assign rankings to things that are inherently unrankable – instead of providing some sort of quantitative analysis, we’re describing personal preferences. “I think this guy’s hibachi talents are unparalleled” or “Zamfir really is the master of the pan flute” are, more than anything, opinions.

Of course, sports is probably the venue for more rankingasms than anywhere else. Who is the greatest center fielder of all time or the best dunker or the best left tackle? Naturally, the phenomenon has spread to fishing, too. We have the BassFan.com World Rankings and an entire website devoted to the process in BassRankings.com to go along with ESPN’s now-dated Greatest Angler Debate. I can’t say that these endeavors are wholly worthless – after all, I spend more time analyzing and expounding on minutiae related to professional bass fishing than just about anyone else on earth – but the question for me is whether they are altogether impossible to perfect.

Think about it in terms of center fielders. How do you rank fielding skills vs. on-base percentage vs. home runs vs. RBIs vs. team leadership? Some of those may indeed be measurable, even adjusting for teammates and ballpark characteristics, but do we favor someone who is exceptional at one or two skills and mediocre at the others over someone who is merely “good” at all of them? It’s a values judgment that I’m not prepared to make. In fishing, where there are even fewer quantifiable variables, do we just judge someone against the average daily catch? If so, do you favor anglers like Ish Monroe, Denny Brauer and Kelly Jordon, all of whom win more than average but also experience the occasional bomb, or do you prefer those guys who never miss the check line, but never win, either?

Furthermore, in baseball, you can adjust someone’s stats to account for a pitcher-friendly or hitter friendly stadium. In a six or eight tournament season, with most of them during the spawn or post-spawn, such adjustments may be impossible. What if someone’s a tidal river expert and there are no rivers on the schedule? What if he excels in wintertime conditions and there are no winter derbies? Furthermore, six or eight tournaments is too small a sample size to give us back meaningful results – I know that the ratings services mentioned above provide rolling averages over a number of years, but it still may not be enough. Given the relatively small sample sizes, and the inconsistency of our equipment, how do you factor in a blown motor that boogers up a tournament performance or a missed lock that results in a DQ?  I appreciate the number crunchers’ efforts – anything we can do to improve and expand the coverage in the sport gets major gold stars from me – but they may have bitten off a bite of unchewable tungsten with this one. My best guess would be that we can rank anglers on certain skills, or an certain types of water, or under certain conditions – but an attempt to order all of the pros, across multiple tours, at a given time, is best suited for barroom conversation.

By the way, KVD’s still the greatest of all time. I love number crunching and I love these arguments, but that one’s not subject to debate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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What’s Next in Big & Tall Fashion in OKC?

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May 23, 2012

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Last week in this space I made light of Russell Westbrook’s press conference attire, a fishing lure themed shirt that clearly had never seen a drop of worm dunk or tobacco juice. Obviously, it did not bother the basketball star much (Stephen A. Smith tells me that Westbrook is a Pete Weighs In junkie, so I know he read it), because he led his team past the Lakers and into the next round of the playoffs. Notably, he made the following shot in the final game to completely demoralize Kobe and company:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iyLHuVwJUkc&feature=player_embedded

I have no idea whether he’s superstitious, but with a championship not far off the horizon it might behoove him to keep the fishing duds going. Obviously, his stylist won’t let him wear that same Izod collared shirt again, so the question is where to take it?

Now that they’re stationed in OKC and not Seattle, the waders seem a little excessive, don’t you think?

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And now that he’s gone the golf shirt route, a t-shirt would be a step back. He could try to upgrade, but a bow tie is just a bit too much.

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It’s gotta be patches. Definitely patches.

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A pair of Woo shoes from Bass Pro Shops might be a nice finishing touch.

 

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 23 May 2012 09:10
 

Start-to-Finish

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May 22, 2012

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Wandering the pier at National Harbor on Sunday, waiting for the final day weigh-in of the FLW Tour’s Potomac River tournament, I saw Jay Yelas and I did a double-take.

When I think of Jay, the image that comes to mind is of him in his black/white/red Skeeter jersey, coupled with a pair of black pants or shorts. That was his uniform back when he and KVD were the two fastest-rising stars on the BASS circuit, before the whole Busch AOY flap and his move to FLW. Seeing him in his Chevy jersey with a Ranger logo prominently displayed threw me for a loop.

From what I can tell, Jay doesn’t have a mean or malicious bone in his body, and seems to be generally respected by his peers, so there’s no need to fault his decision to change boat sponsors or tours. It was, I’m sure, a business decision. But it made me wonder, is there any longtime successful bass pro out there who’s kept the same general stable of sponsors for the entirety of his career? I’m not talking about minor deals, but rather the large ticket items – boat, motor, rods, reels, baits.

Off the top of my head:

Denny Brauer? Left Daiwa for Ardent reels.

Rick Clunn? Was with Glastron and Skeeter before joining the Nitro team.

Roland Martin? After his much-publicized split with Ranger, went to Triton and now runs a Nitro.

Larry Nixon? Also left Daiwa for the Pure Fishing umbrella.

Again, none of this is meant to cast blame on either the anglers or the former/current sponsors. Everyone may have had valid reasons for terminating the partnerships. But in an increasingly competitive industry, one that occasionally seems less stable, it’s harder and harder to keep the band together over a 20 or 30 year run.

The one guy who has managed to keep his team intact, though, is KVD. On the one hand, that’s not surprising because if you were Strike King or Nitro or Mercury, wouldn’t you fight like hell to keep him happy, at any semi-reasonable price? On the other hand, I’d figure someone would have come along and poached him with an offer he couldn’t refuse. From what I can tell, Nitro, Merc, Strike King and Quantum have all been with him for the two-plus decades he’s been around. Looking back at old photos, it appears that at some point he was with Trilene and now he’s not, but even though line is critical, somehow it just doesn’t feel as essential to his image. Similarly, I seem to remember him being on the Chevy pro team years ago (is that correct?) and now Toyota is a centerpiece of his operations – still, it just feels like he’s been stable with respect to his core, in a way that others haven’t – or wouldn’t.

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Alex, I’ll take “Things You’ll Never Read on a Bass Fishing Website” for one thousand

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May 18, 2012

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If you’re over 30 and don’t at least occasionally peruse the New York Times and the Wall Street Journal, you’re missing out. Then again, they may not be the best place to go for fishing advice. While both grand papers occasionally dabble in the piscatorial arts, to the best of my knowledge neither has ever explained advances in swimbait strategies or how to snell a flipping hook.

With that in mind, I was intrigued by a recent rod “review” the WSJ ran.

Specifically, the piece detailed the award-winning fly rods from England’s House of Hardy and it used some language that I’ve never seen before in rod reviews.

Here are a few examples:

  • “Moore's Law is the leitmotif of the modern age”
  • “Productivity is not really a fly-fisherman's goal. Instead, neophilia is the driving force.”
  • “A 15th-century German treatise shows how hard this was to achieve with natural materials: a slender blackthorn or medlar shoot was fixed to a tapering ash or willow stick after months of curing, drying and heating.”
  • “The fibers are amorphous”
  • “When Richard Maudslay, descendant of the inventor of the lathe, became chairman of Hardy after a career in power engineering, he brought the idea of "finite element analysis," a mathematical tool that simulates stresses in materials so that new ideas can be quickly tested.”
  • “Working with 3M, Hardy tried impregnating the resin with 100-nanometer silica spheres, in effect lubricating the carbon fibers with minuscule bearings.”

Even if I was obsessed with fly fishing, I’m not sure that I’d buy one of these sintrix sticks based on the article, but I still enjoyed the grandeur of the language – at the same time both more and less precise than “this flipping stick has just the right amount of tip and the rest is all backbone” or “my cranking rod has a parabolic action.”

 

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Last Updated on Friday, 18 May 2012 08:08
 

Baller or Basser?

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May 16, 2012

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In the midst of the never ending NBA season, OKC Thunder point guard Russell Westbrook is taking a lot of grief from the fashionista-heavy hoops crowd over the shirt he wore the other night -- a collared Izod adorned with fishing lures that retails for somewhere in the neighborhood of 175 clams.

The baits may be a little dated (would kill to see him covered in Alabama Rigs), but I’ll give him credit for trying. Say what you will about his rags, and the glasses, too. I still think they’re better than Dwyane Wade’s skin tight shirt and LBJ’s man purse.

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Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 May 2012 09:09
 

I'll Have The Hangover Suite, Please

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May 15, 2012

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I've seen my share of ratty fishing hotels over the years -- cigarette-burned comforters, vermin in the room, shady characters in the parking lot -- but on my recent trip to Erie, I experienced what can only be called the exact opposite of those fleabags. Bill Hilts from the Niagara County tourism office completely hooked up a group of grubby outdoor writers by housing us at the Barton Hill Hotel and Spa in Lewiston, NY.

We didn't have time for the hotel's cocktail hour, nor did I have a chance to fire up the old fireplace. Manicures and pedicures would have been wasted on our crew, but I might have spotted the editors of Field & Stream, In-Fisherman and Bassmaster headed for a mud mask facial.

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Last Updated on Tuesday, 15 May 2012 10:12
 

Not In It to Win It

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May 14, 2012

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After a week away from home – the first half at Lake Erie for a fishing trip, the second half in Illinois for a funeral – I got a little worried that the BassKitty sitting in the garage might have forgotten how to run. Therefore, even though I only had a few hours free, I felt it was in both of our best interests to hit the Potomac on Saturday morning. This was especially important because the FLW boys started practice on Sunday, so if I waited any longer no blade of grass would go untouched as the river was enveloped by gaudy wrapped boats.

I launched at 5:30 and was at one of the river’s biggest community holes by 5:45. There were already three boats there. When some smaller tournaments blasted off at 6:00, more showed up. Then a larger tournament commenced at 7:00 and still more flooded the area. At its peak, I’m sure there were over 30 boats within eyesight, and the beauty of it was that everyone caught fish.

blog-intowin02My best guess is that I was one of the few non-tournament boats in the vicinity, and I sensed a calm in myself that I would not have had last year, when I was still in competitive mode. If someone got “too close” to me, I was fine with that. If someone cut off “my path,” I redirected the boat. If someone else caught a 4-pounder and my biggest was 3 ½, so be it. For the first time in a long time, I didn’t do a mental calculation of what my best five would’ve weighed. It was a peaceable moment. I’m certainly not putting down tournament fishing – if it still gives you a stiffy, go for it – and to their credit, no fistfights broke out among the jersey-wearers. I ended up with somewhere between 20 and 30 fish, mostly swimming a jig, and I’m guessing some of the Senko-doodlers had many more, but when I left a little bit after 11, I was satisfied that I’d had a productive day.

Of course, my alleged goal – to run the boat – went unfinished. I made a run to my spot and a run back to the ramp, and then tried to blacken out a section of the map on my GPS chart. So be it.

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Last Updated on Monday, 14 May 2012 07:21
 


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