May 4, 2011
In the winter of 2009-2010, I blogged extensively about various trips to trophy bass locales – El Salto, Mateos and Falcon – both before and after those trips occurred. Despite being around a lot of log donkeys, I did not match or exceed my personal best largemouth that winter. Oh, I caught plenty of fish, including some big ones, but didn’t eclipse the one I’d landed at Falcon in April of 2008. So despite having three awesome excursions, there was a tinge of letdown. I guess that’s one of the things that keeps bass fishing interesting – the lack of guarantees.
Now I’m getting ready to head off to Erie later this week and I wonder whether I’m setting myself up for the same sort of manufactured disappointment in the face of objective success. In other words, I’m obsessed by the question of whether I will catch a personal best smallmouth. Right now, the leader on my ledger is right at four pounds. I’ve caught more than my share of threes, but no true big’uns. Alan Clemons went on this same trip last year and said that on a “bad” day they caught 50-60 big brown fish, including one over six pounds and more four-pluses than they could recall. What could go wrong? I suppose the wind could blow enough to keep us off the water all three days, or I could come down with some sort of bubonic plague, but short of those sorts of disasters keeping me off the water, I’m told that a new personal record smallmouth is pretty close to a steel trap lock this week. Still, the question remains – if I go up there and catch three-pound smallmouths until my arms are sore and my thumbs are cleaned of skin down to the bone, will that same tinge of disappointment creep in or will I be able to see success measured by a different standard?
May 2, 2011
I know that spinnerbaits are yesterday’s news – replaced by swimbaits, wakebaits and all of the other stuff the cool kids are throwing – but I guess I’m still kinda old school. I like chunking and winding the old safety pin and rely upon it a fair amount over the course of the year. While I don’t rely exclusively on any one brand, War Eagles have been a big part of my arsenal since I first heard about Mike McClelland winning back-to-back Central Invitationals on them in the mid-90s. Back then I used to order them directly from the company in Rogers, Ark., via a mimeographed sheet they sent out. Five bucks a pop, if I remember correctly.
In the intervening decade and a half, they haven’t changed the product all that much. Sure, they’ve added some new colors, new blade styles and a few new models like the Screaming Eagle (1/2 ounce bait on a ¼ ounce frame), but for the most part they’ve been slow to “modernize,” apparently subscribing to the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” school of thought.
In recent weeks I decided to invest in a couple of their new Laser Trokar Spinnerbaits. Other than the upgraded hook, they differ from their predecessors in that they have a painted head (most of the originals were just plated) and a twisted wire line tie instead of an R-Bend. At $7.49 (from Tackle Warehouse), a buck-sixty more than the standard model, I figured they were worth a try. After fishing the dogsnot out of a single one for a day and a half on Buggs Island – through 15 or so bass, an equal number of hang-ups and countless run-ins with buck brush and pole timber – my initial impression is that this one’s a winner, worthy of the War Eagle name and my hard-earned dinero. It ran flawlessly, never needed to be tuned, looks great in the water and the bass appeared to take a shine to it.
I’m enough of a believer that once I got home I fired up the old internetz and ordered more. If you’d asked me 15 years ago if I’d ever invest in a $15 hard bait, I would’ve laughed. Now that milestone has come and gone dozens of times. The day of the $7.49 spinnerbait is here – I have no trouble paying that much for a bait of this quality.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 03 May 2011 06:24
May 2, 2011
Here's the second entry in this series from my friend OT Fears. If it looks like an oversized Beetle Spin, that's because that's essentially what it is -- but instead of being aimed at crappie and sunfish, this one's a dedicated redfish killer. You'll see that it has several of his signature features dating back to the original Bulldog spinnerbait, like a modified Indiana blade and an open-but-not-R-bend line tie. It also has a hook that moves side-to-side, providing more action and giving the fish less leverage to throw the bait.
OT invited me to test it out the Thursday of Classic week. He was fishing down in the Delta, not quite as far as Venice, but I was fully immersed in Classic coverage and couldn't break away. He came back to town that evening with stories and pictures of some e-effing-normous reds that he'd caught on this bait. I sat there and stewed over my gumbo.
To be honest, I haven't had a chance to test it yet. Hell, I've never even fished for redfish (that's fixing to change ASAP). Even so, I couldn't decide which was my favorite part of the package he sent -- the fact that the lure is called "Booger Red" or the vintage Delco Voyager pro staff stationery upon which the accompanying note was written.
Last Updated on Thursday, 28 April 2011 08:25
April 28, 2011
Ten Thoughts For Thursday
- Something that made me feel old this week: Learning that Licensed to Ill was released 25 years ago.
- Something that made me feel young this week: Mel Kiper Jr.’s hair.
- A Constitutional crisis: Has anyone checked KVD’s birth certificate to make sure he’s actually human and wasn’t just built in a laboratory somewhere?
- Just like Anthony Michael Hall: I’m looking for a girl in the Niagara Falls area. Headed to Erie a week from today in search of a personal best smallmouth.
- Still makes me laugh every time: The Shake Weight commercial.
- Pip pip cheerio: Do you think anyone attending the Royal Wedding can consistently flip a jig into a coffee cup at 50 feet?
- Worldwide Leader: How in the world, dear readers, did Tru Tungsten manage to screw up such a good thing?
- A heart attack that’s worth it: If you haven’t had one yet, run (do not walk) or drive to your nearest Burger King to try the jalapeno and cheddar BK Stuffed Steakhouse Burger.
- Hollywood has it all wrong: Why is it that in every TV show or movie depicting fishermen (no matter what they are fishing for), they always have a floppy hat with a bunch of Mepp’s spinners or Rooster Tails dangling from it? It must be the corollary to the requirement that every grocery bag have a loaf of French bread sticking out.
- My personal wish list: A six-inch Core Shot Senko (#913, but #523 wouldn’t hurt my feelings).
Last Updated on Wednesday, 27 April 2011 12:30
April 27, 2011
This is the first in what I hope will be a series of Pete Weighs In entries about products that are worth buying. In each case, I will have paid retail for the item. I’m not above admitting that I receive a fair amount of fishing gear at a substantial or complete discount (and I hope that my good friends in the industry keep it coming!), but reviews of such products are by their very nature suspect – and I frequently complain about the advertorial nature of much fishing “journalism” -- so I’m going to limit this to stuff that came via an arm’s-length transaction.
Today’s favored product is the Extra Edge Balance Beam. I can’t necessarily say it’s the “best” balance beam on the market (I’ve only owned two in the 15 or so years I’ve been fishing) but it seems to be pretty reliable. It’s also lightweight and despite the fact that I cram it in my underseat storage, it hasn’t warped or bent.
I was going to write about the “eightpounditis” that seems to be plaguing me of late. After last week’s five fish for 8.14 at Lake Anna, I weighed in a limit that totaled 8.96 at Buggs Island on Saturday. At Anna, I had eight keepers and culled twice. At Buggs, I had seven, and once again culled twice. Last week, it didn’t push me into the money, but it did help me beat a friend and close competitor by .04 of a pound. This week, I ended up 3rd (out of 15), getting the last check. I beat out the 4th place finisher by .10 pound. Without the balance beam, I might’ve eyeballed the fish and guessed wrong, costing myself points and enough dough to pay for the gas home. The Balance Beam, which I’ve had for at least five or six years, paid for itself. That’s a retail value we can believe in.
April 21, 2011
When I first started this blog back in 2008, I described an ass-whipping I took from one Dennis Brauer (as the BASS scoreboard occasionally calls him) the previous year on the California Delta. I don’t want to relive all of the nasty details, but it’s enough to say that at one point he had me down 12 fish to none. I eventually scraped a few together (as he culled up to 18 or 19 pounds), but the damage to my ego was done.
At one point during the day, I asked Denny to analyze my retrieve speed, my bait choice, anything that could give me a clue. He said everything looked fine, and then actually handed me his rod/reel/lure, picked up another one, and continued to just lay down a Costco-sized can of whoop ass on poor Pete. After we switched back, he gave me another spinnerbait just like his own. I caught one fish on it that day (my others came on a chatterbait and a small crankbait).
While going through one of my spinnerbait boxes the other day I came across that spinnerbait that Brauer gifted me on that humbling day. It was no surprise that it was a Strike King model. Nor was I surprised that it had a red skirt – that’s a known springtime killer color on the Delta. What I had forgotten was that he’d given me a Sharpie pen to dull the blades’ shine. He’d noticed during practice, and then even more as the tournament went on, that the fish didn’t bite as well if a lure had flashy blades. Some of us need all the help we can get.
Last Updated on Thursday, 21 April 2011 06:51
April 20, 2011
The past three years the tournament circuit I fish has visited Virginia’s Lake Anna in mid-April, the one time of year that I enjoy fishing what many Virginians malign as the The Dead Sea. The fish are moving up shallow to spawn, pleasure boat traffic is low, and I can usually catch a limit.
Unfortunately for me, my limits over the past three years have been remarkably (and underwhelmingly) uniform: 8.15 lbs. in 2009, 7.86 lbs. last year and 8.14 lbs. last week. Mediocrity, I have found you. If Emerson’s statement that “consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds” is accurate, then my peanut-sized noggin must be absolutely swimming in just about any hat I put on come tournament morning.
I’m hoping we’ll be back next year – same time, same place, same channel – and that I’ll have the testicular fortitude to spend my practice time looking for something different, in different places. If I were to try that and fail, could I still feel good about the effort?
Last Updated on Monday, 18 April 2011 09:59
April 18, 2011
In 1978, Rod Stewart asked the question, "Do ya think I'm sexy?"
Clark Reehm was not yet born in 1978, so he may not be aware of the query posed by Mr. Stewart (as the NY Times would call him), but if Clark were to ask it today, my answer would be "absolutely not." He's just not my cup of Elite Series tea, not that there's anything wrong with that. To the best of my knowledge, the one person on earth who does find Clark sexy is his girlfriend Stephanie, as well she should.
Still, when you look at this spinnerbait, anyone who's been around bass fishing for a while know that the color pattern just screams SEXY.
In the summer of 2008, his rookie season on the Elite Series tour, Clark spent a week at my house in between tournaments. In addition to learning that he can grill a mean steak, I learned that a pickup truck and Skeeter boat can carry more tackle than any two Bass Pro Shops combined. He emptied out box after box after box of tackle -- gobs of crankbaits, muskie swimbaits still in the package, enough plastics to film "The Graduate" ten times over -- and spread it out all over the driveway and the garage.
One item that he left behind was this namesake spinnerbait, "Th' Reemer" from SOB Lures. Say what you will about the name they chose for it, this is a pretty sweet bait. It hangs on my wall of fame in the garage. One day, when he wins an Elite Series tournament, I will not put it on eBay, but hopefully he'll take that $100,000 check, buy another truckload of tackle, and leave some more of it at my house.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 13 April 2011 09:36
April 13, 2011
If you include the Classic, there have been four Elite Series events this year. What do they all have in common? They’ve all seen the rich get richer. I don’t necessarily mean “rich” in the financial sense, although the six-figure paychecks might lead you to think so. Instead, the term is intended to connote that all of this year’s winners – KVD, Shaw Grigsby, Edwin Evers and Davy Hite have been there before.
KVD: 20 BASS wins, 21 Bassmaster Classic appearances, 4 Classic wins.
Grigsby: 9 BASS wins, 13 Classic appearances.
Evers: 6 BASS wins, 10 Classic appearances.
Hite: 8 BASS wins, 13 Classic appearances, 1 Classic win.
That’s not to say that the Grant Goldbecks, Pat Goldens, Keith Poches and JTodd Tuckers of the world haven’t made a valiant run at punching an early ticket to next year’s Classic. They just haven’t gotten the job done yet.
Is it easier to win again after you lose your BASS victory virginity? Gerald Swindle, who earned his first BASS win in a Southern Open earlier this year, would like to think so. Maybe wins are like pickles – getting the first one out of the jar is a bear, but after that it’s easy.
Then again, it could just be that the guys who win manage to do so because they’re good at closing the deal. VanDam has nearly twice as many BASS victories (20) as runner-up finishes. He, of course, is an outlier in more ways than one. Even in the rarified air of 2011 winners, he stands out: Evers has one more victory than second place finish (6 to 5); Hite has an equal number (8 apiece) and Grigsby is one short in the win column (9 versus 10).
If you go back to last year, the final seven tournaments of the Elite Series season were all won by former BASS winners – (in reverse chronological order) Tommy Biffle, KVD, Jason Williamson, Skeet Reese, Kevin Short, Skeet again and Byron Velvick. You have to go all the way back to Velvick in the second event of the year to find one who hadn’t won at the Elite Series level, and you have to go back to the first event of the year to find one who hadn’t won with BASS, John Crews.
To take it one step further, you have to go back to the last event of the 2009 season, when Chad Griffin won at Oneida, to find an Elite Series winner who had not previously fished a Bassmaster Classic. I believe the last one to do that before Griffin was Jeremy Starks, who won at Wheeler in June of 2008, beating VanDam by half a pound. Of course, Griffin and Starks have yet to fish a Classic and VanDam has won two of them since either of them won anything with BASS. That would change if they were to win an event this year – and while the “any given Sunday” mentality applies to bass fishing, the odds still seem to favor those anglers who’ve finished the job in the past.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 12 April 2011 08:20
April 12, 2011
The first article I wrote for a national fishing publication was entitled “Aaron Martens Uncensored.” It gave a minute-by-minute account of Aaron’s performance on Day One of the 2004 Bassmaster Classic on Lake Wylie, and it was accepted by then Bass West editor Jon Storm in August of 2004 – which meant that due to BW’s “unique” publication schedule it was published about 2 or 3 years later. If you want to read an issue of BW in the month in which it’s supposed to be printed you’d better have access to Doc Brown’s DeLorean.
After watching Martens fish that day and listening to him explain his brilliant but occasionally incoherent theories on bass behavior and tackle, I was firmly in his camp, a true Kool Aid drinker, but I didn’t have a chance to work with him at either the 2005 or 2006 Classics, when I was still making an effort to get published in additional magazines and web venues. But in June of 2006, my friend Aaron Hobbs asked me to help out with a Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation event on the Potomac River – they were going to pair up a bunch of the Elite Series pros with Congressmen and their staffers for a mini-tournament aimed at showing the high-and-mighty what a tremendous resource they had in their backyard. I was there to shuttle Congressmen to and from the bass boats as their real business allowed. While I don’t think any high-level policy discussions ensued, it appeared that a good time was had by all.
Martens was one of the pros who participated that day and after the lunch portion of the event, I loaded my boat on the trailer and pulled it up into the parking lot where he and several other pros were yapping and working on tackle. I pulled out a bait that I had been catching a lot of fish on over the past month or so and showed it to him – and to my great surprise Mr. Tackle hadn’t seen it before. He asked if he could buy one from me. I wasn’t about to take his money, but I wasn’t about to let the opportunity pass, either, so I quickly suggested we make a trade. Knowing that he was sponsored by Megabass, an addiction I had not yet sampled, I asked what he had to offer in the way of topwaters. He pulled out the Giant Dog-X pictured here and the deal was done.
Since that time, I’ve bought several more Giant Dog X’s, in other colors. To tell you the truth, this is not a color pattern that I’d pick off the shelf, particularly not at $20+ a pop, but for some reason, day in, day out, this one catches fish under the widest variety of circumstances. The finish has been worn down pretty hard and the hooks have been replaced multiple times, but it’s still deadly. I’m a firm believer in getting bargains and spending less when you can, but this is one lure that walks the high-dollar dogwalk – and this one in particular seems to have a little extra AMart mojo.