Last Updated on Thursday, 27 October 2011 20:42
October 27, 2011
“It is better to look good than to feel good.”
--Fernando Lamas (as played by Billy Crystal), circa 1985
“It is more important to talk like you know how to fish than to actually catch fish.”
--Joe the Bass Pro, 2011
So you want to be a bass pro? Of course it helps to be able to catch little green and brown fish, but if you want to have a future in this sport you’ve gotta master the patter, the lingo, the jargon. When you finally bring in that 40 pound stringer and the TV cameras converge, you want to act like you’ve been there before.
This hit home to me after Paul Elias claimed victory at Guntersville last weekend. While everyone else seemed to fixate on the effectiveness of the Alabama Rig, I focused on its name. Doesn’t it sound so much cooler to say “I’m fishing a new rig” than to say “I’m fishing a new lure”?
October 25, 2011
When BASS held their “Greatest Angler Debate” in 2005 (the type of inquiry they should make more often, in my opinion – what real sport doesn’t have these types of arguments among pundits?) the final bracket came down to Rick Clunn and Roland Martin, with Clunn emerging as the victor.
Six years and a lot of hardware later, there can be no doubt that Kevin VanDam belongs in that uppermost echelon of tournament anglers, if not at the pinnacle. Then there were two…now there are three.
My question to you: If we’re building Mt. Bassmore, who’s the fourth bust we have to carve?
Why four, you might ask? Well, I suppose it’s partially due to the fact that the original Mt. Rushmore consisted of four people. Besides, it’s my inquiry, and if we extend it to five or six or seven, not only do we dilute the field, but we allow ourselves the namby-pamby option of escaping from our own vacillations.
Who ya got?
Bill Dance: probably the most popular TV bass angler of all time, he chose to cut his tournament career short. He finished in the top ten over 50 percent of the time, and won nearly 10 percent of the time, but he only fished 78 BASS events. I don’t think his body of work is big enough to make it. Never won a Classic, either. Then again, neither did Roland, but 9 AOY titles makes up for that.
Hank Parker: Parker’s body of work is greater than Dance’s (104 tournaments to 78). He won fewer times (5 to Dance’s 7) but has two Classic titles to make up for that, one of only a handful of anglers to win multiple Classics, but if you use that as your criteria, you’d have to consider George Cochran, who won multiple Classics plus an FLW Cup. Cochran has a longer tournament resume, but I don’t think his legend and achievements, however great, approach those of some of his contemporaries.
Denny Brauer: Brauer is roughly a contemporary of Cochran and his list of achievements is also extensive. Lots of BASS wins (17), a Classic title, and some success on the FLW Tour when he fished it (first angler to be on the Wheaties box, first angler to appear on David Letterman). Much to Tommy Biffle’s dismay, Brauer is also the competitor mostly closely identified with flipping, the most consistently important big fish technique of the last 30 years.
Larry Nixon: If you’re going to include Brauer on the short list, you’ve got to include Nixon, too. Like Brauer, he’s won a Classic and he also owns two BASS AOY titles. He’s not far behind Brauer in BASS wins (14 to Denny’s 17), and also has 3 wins on the FLW side of things, thus evening up the overall tally. Nixon gets points for persevering with the trusty plastic worm, the most fish-catching lure of all time, while others have largely ignored it. Has he lost visibility because he’s yet to win a major title at FLW?
I think those are your four leading contenders for the fourth spot.
I suppose a case could be made for Mike Iaconelli and Skeet Reese, both of whom have won a Classic and an AOY title. Their numbers at BASS are fairly similar – 6 wins in 165 events for Skeet and 6 in 163 tournaments for Ike. Skeet is ahead of Mike in money finishes (128 to 110) and top tens (57 to 49) which has led to an additional $700k in BASS earnings, but Mike has done more on the FLW side of things, including a Tour win and an EverStart win. Either way, both of them have only really been in the public consciousness for a little over a decade. Can you really say that they’ve had a greater career than a Nixon or a Brauer or a Cochran? Their media personas may carry them further, and they may have had more impact on the recent changes in the sport – in fact, they may have already clinched Hall of Fame credentials – but I think they get ousted for the same reason as Dance and Parker: their body of work is nowhere near as full as the Martin/Clunn/VanDam triumvirate.
So do we hold the space or fill it now?
Last Updated on Wednesday, 19 October 2011 09:31
October 19, 2011
My belt holds up my pants and my pants have belt loops that hold up the belt. What the #@%& is really going on down there? Who’s the real hero?
I’m a fan of big boat batteries. Every time I’ve tried to save a few bucks and put off-the-rack, flooded, water-sucking batteries in my boat I’ve ended up regretting that decision and eventually replacing them with big ass AGMs. Currently my Puma FTD has four of the big DEKA monsters that cost over $200 apiece. By virtue of writing this, it’s highly likely that they’ll all take a dump the next time I launch the boat, but so far they’ve been flawless. Crank every time, never run out of trolling motor juice, never need to immerse myself in a vat of bilge compartment battery acid to check water levels.
After this past weekend’s “victory at sea” experience on the Potomac, I started to think that heavy batteries, while good in some respects, have their potential downsides. If even one of the big DEKAs were to somehow work its way loose, that’s a 60 pound SCUD missile bouncing around in the back of the boat – could do some serious damage to the fiberglass or the gas tanks, not to mention to the back of my noggin. And even if a projectile battery didn’t hurt me directly, when it got loose the likely result would be to render my boat a floating target for big rolling waves.
That’s why each of the last three boats I’ve purchased has had upgraded battery trays. You can keep the little plastic dish with the nylon webbed strap across the top. I just don’t see them lasting when you start pounding through the surf. I paid retail for them, and at about $100 bucks (give or take the cost of a few bags of worms) for a double tray, it’s peace of mind. My batteries will get me there and back, but the real hero is the forgettable tray that keeps ‘em from going airborne.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 October 2011 14:17
October 18, 2011
Twenty years ago, Kurt Cobain intentionally and ironically wore a shirt that read “Corporate Magazines Still Suck” on the cover of Rolling Stone. Three years later he was dead. Seventeen more years down the road and Rolling Stone is thinner and arguably more corporate than ever. Its degree of suckitude is subject to debate.
Don’t read too much into the fact that I’ve chosen the image seen below to define this piece. Although some if not most of the corporate fishing magazines have always sucked, and likely always will suck, some are pretty damn good (and it should come as no surprise that this piece is hosted on a website whose primary purpose is fishing tackle commerce). I write for a couple of them on occasion, so I guess I have to say that, but it’s true. Despite shrinking page counts and reduced advertising budgets, they’re still the gold standard – if you’re a writer and you get published in FLW or Bassmaster or the vaunted pages of In-Fisherman (forget Field & Stream, that’s crazy talk for a hack like me), or if you’re an angler and you’re featured in one of them, you’re likely to go into full-on spazgasm mode.
Last Updated on Monday, 17 October 2011 12:37
October 17, 2011
This past weekend didn't turn out to be as idyllic as I'd dreamed. I entered it in 2nd place in an Angler of the Year race, 9 pounds behind the leader after five events, and managed to beat him decisively over the course of two days....by 8 pounds.
I missed AOY by 1.24 pounds over 6 events (7 days on the water) and via 20/20 hindsight I can think back to numerous opportunities to make up that deficit.
I'd like to blame my shortcomings this weekend on the fact that we had 20-30 mile per hour winds all day on Saturday, with gusts of 40, but truth be told some people caught decent bags that day while I struggled to box three swimmers. There were whitecaps rolling through the "protected" area where the Redheaded wife and I fished, and the ride back across the river was a little bit hairy. "I don't like it when we're between two waves and the land disappears all around us," was her direct quote. It was one of those times when I remember why I spent a little more and bought a 20 foot boat instead of the 18 foot pocket rocket.
Two boats did not show up on Sunday. One had speared a wave the prior day that ripped his windshield off. The other must not have had a clean set of britches after he soiled his good pair coming to weigh-in Saturday.
Luckily Saturday's tornado-caliber winds gave way to Sunday's breezes that could best be characterized as "strong to very strong." The wife and I camped in an area all day and I had a puppy limit. I coaxed out the bite I needed, too. As my frog cleared a small mat of grass, it was engulfed in a violent strike. I set the hook -- and the line broke at the reel. That's a new one for me. Perhaps the fish was a big snakehead, but if there's a bass swimming in the Potomac right now with my black frog in his lip, I'd like him to know that he ruined my weekend as much as I screwed up his.
No matter what, there's always someone who has it worse. As the picture shows, my friends Russ and John tried to navigate a shallow flat on Saturday to escape the winds and rolled snake eyes. Unfortunately it happened at 2pm, with the tide still going out. At 7:43pm, I got the text that they were floating again and headed back to the ramp. Like true competitors, they showed up again for more on Sunday.
October 13, 2011
A few years ago, a close friend of one of one of the veteran BASS pros told me that if Aaron Martens had been under his tutelage AMart would have at least one Bassmaster Classic trophy on his mantle.
"I could tell him what he's doing wrong and why he's losing fish," the consigliere said after the Pittsburgh Classic, before explaining that his loyalty to his friend prevented him from doing just that.
I was reminded of this brief exchange recently when a fishing partner tried to net one of my tournament fish and missed on the first scoop. It’s something that has happened to me four or five times this year, with four or five different tournament partners. I get the fish to the boat and either: (a) they’re too tentative; (b) they’re too aggressive; (c) they whiff completely; (d) they do their best Hank Aaron and try to knock the fish off with the net; or (e) they make a swipe, get the lure’s treble hooks embedded on the outside of the net, and are suddenly left with the quandary of what to do with a fish that is still flopping but not quite captured.
Don’t laugh. (e) has happened to me twice this year. I suppose it could be an honest mistake, the result of a fish zigging when it seemed more likely to zag, but at the time I was not laughing nor was I particularly forgiving. Fortunately, none of these externally-non-netted fish escaped. I would’ve been pissed. Hell, I was pissed anyway. I consider myself sort of a netting zealot. Within seconds of my partner setting the hook I’m ready with the net, lunging/extending/recoiling as necessary. I might even be a netboy savant of some sort.
Anyway, I couldn’t understand why these (typically) less-experienced partners weren’t giving it their all and why they weren’t getting the job done 110% of the time (that would add a pound for every 10 pounds I landed). Then it dawned on me: maybe in my All-American quest to pass the blame, I should’ve been looking inward. Am I doing something wrong while fighting the fish? Am I so excited to finally have one on the line and near the boat that I’m suffering a brain fart at the moment that matters most?
Unfortunately, the heat of battle (even with a two-pound fish) is not the best time to assess your own weaknesses. You’re too focused on getting the damn fish in the boat to see if you’re getting the damn fish in the boat properly. This is where a bass coach/advisor/technician would come in handy. Every other sport has film study, everything from swing coaches to gait specialists to pitch angle gurus. Why is fishing so far behind? Why isn’t someone available to make my mechanics more efficient?
October 12, 2011
As PAA President Dave Mansue pointed out on my Facebook page a short time ago, I am both an angler and a lawyer. Ergo, I cannot help but lie occasionally, even to myself.
I had told myself after the last Tackle Warehouse order that there would be no more pre-Brazil tackle acquisitions. I had already spent enough on peacock bass baits to send three children through expensive private colleges. I was probably near (if not over) the 44 pound float plane luggage limit. Still, when Kermett Adams of klures.com told me that he had a new color available, how could I possibly say no? If it means going commando for a day or two, or leaving the deodorant and toothpaste behind, so be it. Everyone on the trip will have to suffer for the good of the team.
[And yes, I know they speak Portuguese, not Spanish, in Brazil, but the title is what it is.]
October 11, 2011
Warehouse workers partaking in the decennial inventory at Pete Weighs In facilities in Palatka, Florida and Kuala Lumpur have located a stash of PWI patches that were previously thought to have been devoured by a pack of ravenous echolocating shrews (they were given away by their ultrasonic squeaks and subsequently exterminated).
We’re making them available (the patches, not the dead shrews) on a first-come, first served basis. Just shoot an email to
with your address and patch size (just kidding – they’re one size fits most) and I (or one of my trusty staffers) will drop one in the mail post haste.
Remember, though, there’s a bargain to be made: You don’t have to sew the patch on your vest or floppy hat, just keep it with you and when you catch a big fish, climb Everest or win an Academy Award, get one of the paparazzi to snap a quick photo for posting on the website.
October 5, 2011
Forty years ago it was “plastics.” Now all of the TV hucksters are telling you that you need to invest in gold. Devalued dollar, rising commodity prices, all that mumbo jumbo.
You can go that route if you want, make some talking head rich while you try to preserve value, but if you really want some bear-trap-solid financial advice, listen to me (remember, as Gregg Easterbrook would say, “All predictions guaranteed wrong or your money back.”) It’s time to invest in a different material. That commodity is balsa.
Look at full-time opinionator and most-time pro angler Kevin Short: He took the half-ounce piece of balsa pictured here, valued on the open market at somewhere between 20 and 25 clams, and turned it into a hundred grand at Pickwick last year. I’m sure along the way it has also earned him a few extra checks, some additional scratch to put diesel in the truck, but when I say a hundred grand I think you get the picture – this bait, and this genre of baits, is MONEY.
He did not offer me the bait pictured here (or any of the three bajillion other WEC E1's he had in the boat). Apparently he expects that his investment will continue to appreciate.
October 4, 2011
For those of you who are quickly tiring of this blog's contents -- mostly food, anti-microbial underwear and rants against the powers-that-be in the world of fishing -- today I'm going to give you a special treat:
[Wait for it]
[Still there? Or are you thinking about Funyons?]
Some real fishing info you can use.
When I got into Kevin Short's boat on Saturday morning, the first thing that caught my eye was a spinnerbait. Since I'm normally attracted to bling, that's not all that unusual, but what made this spinnerbait special is that it didn't have a high-tech sillcone skirt. It was old-school flat rubber, like the first spinnerbait you bought off the rack in 1979.
Thinking back on it, any time I've seen a spinnerbait with a skirt like that in recent years it's either been tied to the end of a river rat's line, or from some place where a river is the dominant fishery. I've used the Mr. Hooty from Louisiana, a state which also produced flat-rubber baits like the old Humdinger. Short goes modern on the lure frame and blades -- he uses War Eagles, in my opinion one of the best safety pin fish catchers around -- but for the Potomac he gave one a little bit of the custom touch.
Rivers. Flat rubber skirt. Tip for the day.