I’m not a big sightseeing guy. Take me to one of the many wonders of the world, and I’ll give it the Full Griswold, taking it in briefly, nodding my head and moving on. It’s not that I don’t appreciate them – indeed, I do – but I’m an impatient tourist.
I owe an apology to the women of Alaska. Heading into my recent trip, I figured that in the most distant and different state, gender roles would be remarkably separated and antiquated. In fact, my experience turned out to be exactly the opposite of that – the women up there are not only every bit as capable as the men, but they have the same frontier spirit and can-do-it (must-do-it?) attitude.
In the Bristol Bay Borough where I fished last week, float planes are a way of life. As you drive down the road along the Naknek River, you see a bunch of them, and as you’re fishing a bunch of them pass by. Because the road system is highly limited, many schoolchildren actually fly to school each day (except when the winter weather prevents them from going home, in which case they stay overnight with host families).
During my last trip to Alaska, in the summer of 1995, my halibut charter captain used small chunks of cut bait and we caught small fish. Apparently it is common practice among many of the day-trippers to head out to a known “chicken hole,” load the boat with small fish and head back as soon as possible.
With a few hours between our arrival at the King Salmon, Alaska airport, and dinner at the Bear Trail Lodge, our hosts took me and Keith Combs on a tour of that portion of the Bristol Bay Borough. In other words, we headed 13 miles to the end of the area’s longest road, down to the borough seat of Naknek, which as of the 2010 census had a year-round population of 544, down from 678 in 2000.
I’ve had the same vibrating jig on the deck of my boat since about the end of May. I may have retied once or twice, and I’ve gone through a handful of trailers, but other than that it’s the exact same bait. It’s caught quite a few bass, more snakeheads than I can recall, a couple of perch and two overaggressive blue catfish. I’ve certainly gotten my five buck investment back in multiples, and it’s probably due to be retired, but I just can’t bring myself to do it. I have more confidence in this one lure than any other of its type that I’ve ever owned.
I probably travel by airplane to fish more than the average angler, and I hope to do a lot more of it in the future – ideally to increasingly remote areas. Once you’re committed to flying, especially on regional or charter jets, the chances of bringing a full-sized rod tube decrease substantially. The lodge or charter operator might have quality gear, but if they don’t you better bring some good sticks of your own.
I’ve spent a lot of my time on the water over the last month helping out-of-town friends chase snakeheads, so when I had a free day to fish on Friday I was determined to chase bass only. Nevermind the fact that the mercury was expected to tickle the hundred degree mark, without a lick of wind, I was going all in on Micropterus – at least until I ran out of Gatorade and water.
The pre-ICAST story of note has clearly been about the new entrants into the trolling motor market. That’s an arena that in the tournament bass world has been a two horse race for a few decades, with the Minn Kota Ultrex taking a commanding lead over the past few years. Now, with other companies entering the fray, there’s real competition.