Saturday, April 22, 2017

A Sure Way to Jinx a Fishing Trip: Take Bananas With You

Paul Celentano and his partner, Josh Whittinger, did exactly that today. As a result, they were the only boat in the field of 12, with 20 participating anglers, to finish the day with less than a limit. Overall, competitors boated a total of 58 bass, for a total weight of 144.70 lbs. and an average weight of 2.49 lbs.

Here's a look at those who were standing tall this afternoon when pay envelopes were passed out:

In 1st place was this team of (from left) Matt Hemple and Mike Speedy, who caught a limit weighing 14.13 lbs. after a 0.25 deduction for one dead fish. Their big fish weighed 3.50 lbs.

Claiming 2nd place was this team of (from left) Skip Schaible and Mitch Portervint, who caught a limit weighing 13.27 lbs. after a 0.25 deduction for one dead fish. They also had the lunker, with a fish weighing 4.39 lbs.

Finishing in 3rd place was this team of (from left) Gary Coderre and Lenny Hall, who caught a limit weighing 12.73 lbs. Their big fish weighed 3.10 lbs.

Walking away with the mystery-weight prize was this team of (from left) Zack Rhodes and Joseph Bussuvanno, who caught a limit weighing 9.75 lbs., which was closest to the drawn weight of 7.85 lbs. Their big fish weighed 2.77 lbs.

The rest of the field finished as follows:

     * Ronnie McLaughlin, five fish, 12.32 lbs., 2.94-lb big fish.
     * Ken Testorff, five fish, 12.17 lbs., 3.46-lb. big fish.
     * Jim Wilder, five fish, 11.77 lbs., no big fish.
     * David Dozier and Nelson Anderson, five fish, 10.57 lbs., no big fish.
     * Bob Glass and Randy Conkle, five fish, 10.52 lbs. (after 0.25 deduction for dead fish), no big fish.
     * Steve Bailey, five fish, 10.36 lbs. (after 0.25 deduction for dead fish), 3.38-lb. big fish.
     * Duane Kessel and Bobby Moore, five fish, 10.21 lbs. (after 0.25 deduction for dead fish), no big fish.
     * Paul Celentano and Josh Whittinger, three fish, 4.58 lbs., no big fish.

Congratulations to all the winners and thanks to everyone who came out today. For planning purposes, our next scheduled tournament is next Saturday, April 29, from safe light to 3 p.m., or as announced that day. I hope you can and will join us.

I felt pretty certain today's contest would produce some good totals, and I have to say I was anything but disappointed. Speaking for myself, it indeed was pleasant to have a day in which I felt fish most of the time I was on the water. I can't recall the last time I boated a total of 10 bass during a day's fishing. Sure made up for some of the disappointments I've experienced for a long spell now.

My productive baits today were a modified Senko and the "whopper popper." I overheard several of the fellas mention they caught most of their fish on worms, too. However, I didn't experience the problem with gut-hooked fish that several had.

I saw about three small snakes today, none of which elicited my interest as much as the young fox I saw standing in my neighbor's yard, or the herd of young deer (a dozen of more) I saw standing near Landstown High School en route to West Neck this morning.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Who Doesn't Wear a Life Jacket?

Statistics show the answer to that question is 8 of every 10 of the approximately 700 people who die each year, on average, in boating-related accidents. Granted, most tournament anglers are required to wear life jackets. The problems arise, though, among those who take to the water for a day of fun, be they anglers, skiers, etc.

For example, take the Feb. 2, 2017, incident on Lake Altoona, GA, involving two boats and three boaters, all reported to be older-aged men, who were thrown from their "fishing boats" when they collided. Two anglers died and another was rescued and taken to a hospital. None of the men were wearing life jackets.

As the story goes, the crash occurred when two men in one boat were motoring down the lake in a bass boat in open water. Another man began to speed up in his boat about the same time the bass boat was passing him.

Sources said all three men were alive and holding onto the bass boat directly after the crash. By the time authorities arrived on the scene, though, one man was deceased and another presumably had succumbed to hypothermia and sunk. Divers later recovered his body. An angler fishing nearby heard the crash and went to help the lone survivor.

In an effort to combat these statistics, the National Safe Boating Council, in partnership with the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, conduct an annual North American Safe Boating Campaign. The week-long celebration this year is May 20-26. The lifesaving message for this year's campaign is Boat Smart, Boat Safe, Wear It.

As part of the campaign, officials are urging everyone with inflatable life jackets to perform periodic maintenance on them to avoid such life-threatening problems as bladder leaks, fabric degradation, and improperly installed CO2 cyclinders.

Manufacturers of inflatable equipment likely will have different maintenance instructions for their products and directions for the user to service and inspect the devices. Knowing and following these instructions are critical. Proper maintenance service and inspection will ensure all parts of the life jacket, including the bladder, inflation mechanism, and CO2 cylinder are checked and in good working order.

The Coast Guard highly recommends routine maintenance, service and inspection in accordance with the manufacturer's instructions. The following inflatable life-jacket inspection guidance is for informational purposes only and does not supersede any manufacturer recommendations or instruction.

Each voyage, prior to getting underway:

     * If there is a service indicator, check to ensure it is GREEN. If the indicator is RED, the mechanism has been fired, or it is incorrectly fitted.

     * Check for visible signs of wear or damage by ensuring there are no rips, tears or holes; that the seams are securely sewn; and that the fabric, straps and hardware are still strong.

     * For auto-inflating life jackets, ensure all auto components are armed and not expired. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for revealing the inflation system and oral-inflation tube. Check that the CO2 cylinder is firmly secured. Examine it for rust or corrosion. If you remove the CO2 cylinder for inspection, be sure to carefully replace it without over-tightening.

     * Repack the life jacket as per manufacturer's instructions. Ensure the pull-tab lanyard is accessible and unlikely to be caught when being worn.

Periodic checks as recommended by the manufacturer or when in doubt:

     * Inflate the bladder using the oral tube and leave it overnight in a room with a constant temperature. If the bladder loses pressure, take the life jacket to an authorized service center for further tests. Do not attempt to repair a life jacket yourself. If there is no obvious loss of pressure, deflate the life jacket by turning the cap of the inflation tube upside down and pressing it into the inflation tube. Gently squeeze the inflatable life jacket until all air has been expelled. To avoid damage, do not wring or twist the life jacket.

     * Repack the life jacket as per manufacturer's instructions. Ensure the pull-tab lanyard is accessible and unlikely to be inadvertently snagged when being worn.

Store your life jacket in a dry, well-ventilated location away from dampness and out of direct sunlight. It's important to rinse your life jacket with freshwater after saltwater exposure and dry it thoroughly prior to storage. If your life jacket is set for auto-inflation, remove the auto-inflation cartridge prior to rinsing. The life jacket manufacturer may have specific requirements, so read the instructions on the life jacket.

Monday, April 17, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, April 23, 2017

Monday, April 17, 2017..."A whole bunch of good news," said Ron, "but the icing on the cake was a really good afternoon in Rudee Inlet." He caught about 15 speckled trout and kept two for dinner. He also managed to boat a grey trout, with plans to compare it to the specks when he cooks them up. Ron went on to note that he "got stormed off just as the bite was really picking up. The specks provided some great fights, and I lost a few bigger ones," he said. "Was looking for the big blue fish, but didn't find any. They are there; I just have to put in my time to find 'em." Ron concluded by saying he may have to shift gears and fish the inlets for a few weeks while the blue fish are around.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017..."Fished Godfrey and a little of Pocaty today," said Ray. He ended up with a total of nine bass and five perch. There was only one keeper (1.25 lbs.), though; the rest were dinks.  The water level was low, and the temperature was running 64 to 67 degrees. Productive lures for Ray today were a finesse worm, spinnerbait and a frog. "Small fish but big fun," he concluded.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017...As planned, "hack with no attack" stayed in West Neck today. Early on, I thought I maybe should have stayed home because I had two huge blowups on my "Whopper Popper"--note I said Whopper Popper, not Whopper Plopper--without a hookup. My Whopper Popper, as I referred to it, is an out-of-production popper that really generates some noise when you work it "hard." Between it and my modified Senko worm, I managed to catch a total of six bass, including two dinks, a 1-2, 1-3, 1-12, and a 2-2. I couldn't buy a strike with my favorite jerkbait. I noticed one distinct oddity today in all six fish that I boated: All of 'em put up a good fight, complete with leaps, until I got them in the boat, and then they became completely docile, even while I removed the hooks. Don't recall that ever happening before, certainly not in recent history.

Saturday, April 22, 2017...Earlier today, Ron went to Campbell's Landing, where he was met with a windy, murky mess. "Didn't get a single tap," he said. This evening, though, he got a bit of redemption by launching at Indian River Road about 4 o'clock and fishing upper West Neck Creek. "The wind was a bit stiff," he noted, "but it is protected." He reported that the water was very, very clear and high. On his second cast, 20 feet from the launch site, Ron got a 1-0 on a Pop R, followed by a 1-10 and two dinks. He also lost a few..."and got soaked, cold, and blown around, trying to avoid the lightning." He finished at 7 p.m., as the heavy rain came down. The friend who talked him into going caught a nice 3-2.

Sunday, April 23, 2017...Having launched at 0500, Ron fished the outgoing tide at Rudee Inlet in stiff wind and a bit of rain. He managed a just-shy-of-keeper-size puppy drum, a few bluefish, and a small speckled trout. The wind did him in about 1100. While trolling with the wind, his rod went off, and he fought a gator bluefish for about 7 minutes. He described the fish as a "real drag screamer that easily measured 35-plus inches. It was an amazing fight, as he towed me around. I was trying to get him with the lip grip when he finally threw the lure, and I was heartbroken. Having caught several others over 30 inches, I am pretty confident this one was 35-plus, maybe 40 inches--a real brute." Ron went back out this evening with his son, Alex, but reported that, because the wind still was strong and the rain had increased, they gave up on the Rudee Inlet chop after only an hour and a half. "It was chilly and wet," said Ron. "We each caught a small bluefish."

There's Only One "Hack Attack"...

His name is Greg Hackney.

Meanwhile, I see myself as a "hack with no attack." I realize golfers usually chafe at being called a "hack," but that term doesn't bother me in the least.

I'm the guy who regularly just "contributes" to the weekend tournaments. I'm also the guy who simply enjoys just feeling a tug on the end of my line when I'm out fun fishing. Make no mistake about it--I get as much of an adrenaline rush as anyone else when I feel a big fish, but I'm totally satisfied, too, if I only catch dinks all day long.

Even a "hack" like me gets a chance to shine every once in a while, if maybe only in his own eyes. Such an opportunity came to me this past Friday. I came up behind a couple of what I personally know to be good anglers in one of my favorite creeks. They were fishing a stretch of shoreline that I like. Since they were there first, I hung back in the distance and waited my turn, all the while watching to see if they were catching any fish. I never saw them boat a single bass in the time I was watching.

When they moved on, I eased up to the piece of shoreline they just had vacated and immediately boated two dinks. That moment in the fishing day was a victory of sorts for me--a "hack with no attack" but enough luck to better a couple of the best. I couldn't help but smile to myself.

In a tournament setting, these two guys, I know, will keep showing me up all day long. I suffer no visions of grandeur. For that reason, I have to live with smaller victories along the way, like I described in the previous paragraph.

When luck pretty much is all you have going for yourself, you learn to be satisfied with the little things as much or more than good anglers--often described as the "10 percenters"--enjoy the big things. That term comes from the old saying that "10 percent of the fishermen catch 90 percent of the fish." However, I was reading the results of a study in which it was purported that the 10 percent only really catch about 70 percent of the fish.

Nevertheless, author Clarence Henry once wrote that the "one thing many of the 10 percenters have is a yearning for learning more. That means they're humble. They're not motor mouths, nor conceited or arrogant. But they often have a quiet confidence that makes them fish intently. They read and learn to reject the rubbish and take on the genuine... .

"The good anglers...are always trying to learn, fathom the moods of the fish, and work on out-thinking them... . You want commitment--a belief in yourself without getting big-headed about it.

"Good anglers are open in their thinking; they haven't got shut minds. They are flexible--willing to change if analysis or events tell them to do so.

"Every fishing trip is experience. If you keep a diary of your fishing days, you may see a pattern emerge, such as best tides, best spots, etc. Some spots fish better on a rising tide, others on a falling tide.

"Be observant. Look and see what's going on. Bird activity...such as swallows taking mayflies...may give you a clue.

"And go fishing whenever you can. Don't look on a skunk day as useless. Analyze what you might have done differently in the way of a new tactic."

"In short, learn to think like a fish." By so doing, there's always a chance you one day may edge a little closer to joining that "10 percenter" circle.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

When All Else Fails You on Tournament Day

It's a bright sunny day in the middle of July. Sweat profusely drips from your scorched chin and runs down the back of your neck as the 95-degree weather and breath-taking sun beat down endlessly on you, almost as though in punishment for something you've done, or perhaps not done. You've fished for five straight hours now without getting a bite. Every lure you own looks uglier than it ever did before. The solid pattern you established the day before seems to have vanished into thin though you perhaps only had been dreaming about pulling one bass after the other into the boat.

Being an experienced angler, your mind revs up into overdrive, trying to put the pieces of the puzzle together and figure out something that will turn your fortunes--or more precisely, the lack of them--around. What to do? That, my friends, is the $64,000 question of the day.

All the while, in the back of your head, you know that, if you discover how to put those pieces back together, it will be as if someone just flipped on a giant air-conditioner when you finally put that first fish in the boat. So, how do you find those missing pieces?

If you're fishing the same time of day and the same place as the prior day, it would seem fairly obvious that something--be it current, weather or whatever--has changed, or (far less likely) you just happened to have hooked every fish in the area the day before. Actually, the fish probably haven't moved very far at all, but anything weather-related could have forced them deeper, or if you lost your current, the fish probably aren't positioned like they were when you were hammering them. Your goal should be to figure out what changed and then work from there.

One old-timer tournament guy had this to say: "Take a breath. You're thinking WAY too much! When the fishing sucks, fish what you know."

In other words, he was saying to fish what you are confident with, what you fish well, and what your gut instinct is telling you...a "go back to the basics" approach, if you will. And understand that the "basics" can mean different things to different anglers. For some, it may be to fish a fluke in and around shoreline, or just off-shore structure and weeds. For others, it may be fishing French fries s-l-o-w-l-y and patiently.

Understand here, too, that patience is not always a person's strong point--I happen to know someone like that; he's the one putting this blog post together. For some of us, life is good. We're fishing, not working. We're not starving, nor do we depend on our fishing to feed us. We're out there enjoying life and the outdoors. Catching fish is a bonus.

"When all else fails, there's always the dynamite in the rod locker" is something I've heard countless anglers joke about over the years. I don't honestly believe anyone ever would seriously consider turning that statement into a reality. Instead, I tend to believe any angler would be far more inclined to develop a no-nonsense solution to the "when all else fails" dilemma--along the lines of what already has been discussed here, or perhaps something similar to what pro angler Mike Iaconelli describes as his "panic box."

This 3600 Plano box, which is actually labeled "panic box," contains four types of baits, all of which Iaconelli used early in his fishing history, when he fished more just to catch fish, rather than to catch bass specifically.

First is the 4-inch finesse worm, which Iaconelli feels "is probably the most versatile plastic worm ever designed." Second is probably the most basic plastic lure ever designed: the grub. The third type of bait--the one that probably gets the most laughs of the four--is the good old in-line spinner. The last lure you'll find in Ike's panic box is the hair jig, which he usually uses in conjunction with some type of pork trailer.

"When the pressure is on," assured Ike, "these four baits can save your day. All of them can be put in a small box and stored for an emergency situation. Whether you're a tournament angler or a recreational fisherman, you never want to get skunked. These baits definitely will help you put some fish in the boat."

And who knows? Maybe you'll just get lucky like one guy I read about online. He was fishing a tourney that started at 1:00 and didn't catch his first (and what turned out to be his only) fish until about 6:00. He still hadn't thrown any of his confidence baits at that point. Instead, he was sticking with the same crankbait with which he had started. Suddenly, the lure bounced off a tree limb and was gobbled up by a nice 3.86-lb. bass. As it worked out, that fish earned him 3rd place and big fish.

Monday, April 10, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, April 16, 2017

A Double Oohrah! for this Marine

When one big bass, weighing 5-13, doesn't satisfy you...

The logical thing to do is to go catch one the same day this size: 7-2.

That's exactly what Mike S. did last Sunday. The only catch here is that I've been sworn to secrecy about where Mike caught these two hawgs. He also didn't tell me what lure(s) he was using, so I reckon that fact, too, will have to remain a mystery.

All I can do is say, "Well done, my friend," and add my own Oohrah! to yours.

Monday, April 10, 2017...Fishing from 10:30 a.m. to 3 p.m., Skip ended up catching a total of five fish, with a 3-lb. bass being the biggest. He couldn't find a topwater bite, but they were hitting flukes, paddle baits, and crankbaits.

Monday, April 10, 2017...After seeing that monster yesterday, Ron decided to put the XTS Minnow up for a bit and tied on a Havoc Rage Tail Critter, rigged weightless. He launched at Milldam Creek about 4 p.m., and once he had settled in, threw the Havoc to the base of a cypress tree. He immediately saw a big swirl and watched the line move fast, signalling that the fight was on. His prize was a bass weighing 3-4. Unfortunately, it also turned out to be a first-cast jinx. It was two hours later before he caught a sunfish on a Beetlespin. Said Ron, "I think its time to shift my tactics to plastics." The water was crystal clear, with a bit of surface debris from all the wind.

Monday, April 10, 2017...Had a note from Ray today, saying he fished West Neck. His efforts were rewarded with four perch and five bass, the largest weighing in at 2.66 lbs. "The others were dinks or dinkettes," said Ray, noting that he still hasn't learned how to tell the difference. He reported catching everything on a white spinnerbait with a small swimbait attached. The water temperature today was running a high of 60 to 65 degrees; it also was very clear in spots. The wind proved to be a bit troublesome at times but nothing that Ray couldn't handle.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017...Tonight's email from Ron indicated that he fished No Name Creek this evening. He caught a 9-inch bass while trolling there, and once in the creek, added another 9-inch bass and an 8-inch crappie. On the way out, while trolling a Whopper Plopper, he also hooked a huge gar...easily over 40 inches. Ron said he wasn't able to get hold of the gar before he threw the hook--"probably for the better," he allowed. The water was very high and still flowing in. Clarity was excellent, and there were lots of bugs.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017...My wife had to bowl today, so I decided to celebrate our 46th wedding anniversary by spending the day on the water. With the continuing high water, I went to Albright's. I spent some time searching but finally found two productive stretches and ended up with a total of six bass on the day, including a dink, 1-1, 1-5, 1-7, 1-11, and 1-14. Five of the fish fell for a popper. I fished a modified Senko to catch the one other fish. Missed about five fish overall. There were at least four other boats in Albright's today but only will be getting a fishing report from one of them.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017..."There was no noticeable grass yet and a very slow bite in Lovitt's today," said Ron. Fishing from 4 to 6:30 p.m., he caught a 1-6 and 1-1 bass, as well as an 8-inch crappie--all on the XTS Minnow. He reported trying craws, a Pop R, and the Whopper Plopper...all to no avail. "The water still was pretty high and murky," he added. Everything he caught came from the main creek. He didn't find anything in the feeder creeks.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017...I can't say for sure what lures were productive for Skip today, but I do know I, at one point, saw him tossing a pink fluke to the shoreline. Whatever he was throwing, it's evident the fish wanted it. At day's end, he had caught one more fish than me, and, furthermore, the seven he had boated were better quality than mine. Pictured here are Skip's biggest three, including two 2-5s and a 3-0.

Friday, April 14, 2017...Ray had a good day in Albright's. He ended up with six bass, including a 2.11 (pictured here), 1.21, 1.26, and 3 dinks. He also had five fish break off for some reason. "Poor hookset, I guess," he said. "The bass were on the trees first thing this morning but moved to the banks around 10 o'clock," he continued. A weightless swimbait and finesse worm were his best baits. "Lost a couple on the Pop R, too," he concluded. (I would like to take this opportunity to thank my friend, Ray, for joining my little group of regular contributors to the Fishing Reports here on my blog. It's people like you, who make my job easy, and I appreciate that.)
Friday, April 14, 2017...I split my day between Albright's and West Neck today and caught fish both places. Overall, my totals included five bass (three dinks, a 1-4, and a 2-4). I tried a crankbait, worm, topwater and chatterbait to no avail. My only productive lure was a jerkbait. It was no surprise that I had to run through a series of baits before I found one that would work. The cooler temps today, compared to my trip Wednesday, along with the river gauge showing about a foot less of water today, had me prepared to be flexible.

Saturday, April 15, 2017..."Fished Tecumseh from 0900 to 1400 today," said Ron. The first few hours, according to him, were really nice, but the bite was slow. About 1030, he stumbled onto his one and only bass. About three hours later, he found a pocket of crappie and managed to catch three for the skillet. By 1330, the wind was just brutal on the open lake and the water turned very, very murky. He went on to note that, with the southern shore getting very grassy and the lily pads starting to show new growth, it won't be long before a weedless spoon will be the only lure option. Ron ended his email by saying he plans to fish Pocaty in the morning.

Saturday, April 15, 2017...Skip and Mitch teamed up for some fun time on the water today. Their email reported catching five or six bass, including two keepers. When the wind picked up early morning, the bite slowed down. The fish were hitting several different baits, among them the Whopper Plopper, Flukes, Pop R, crankbaits, and soft plastics. Mitch poses here with a couple of their rewards, while, I assume, Skip uses his cellphone to capture the moment. If this duo stayed with the plan they outlined for me, they came off the water around noon.

Sunday, April 16, 2017...A trip to Pocaty is what Ron forecast in his Saturday email, and a trip to Pocaty it indeed was. He admitted he was a bit surprised how clear Pocaty was at 0730 this morning, when he launched and headed eastward. His baits of choice were the Havoic Pit Boss, Pop R, XTS Minnow, and beetlespins. Ron said he caught a 1-12 bass on the Pop R and a 1-4 on the Berkley Havoc Pit Boss. He also managed a tiny white perch and crappie on the beetlespin, and lost a couple hits on the Pop R and Pit Boss. Said Ron, "The further east I went, the windier and murkier it got." In hindsight, he acknowledged that he should have stayed closer to the wind-protected bridge area. He called it quits about noon.