Sunday, June 25, 2017

Technology: Enabling Anglers to Fish and Eat at the Same Time

Who knew you could take a break from the trolling motor on even the windiest of days to retie, land a fish, have a sandwich, or do whatever else you want without having to worry about where your boat will end up in the process?

It's all thanks to some of the latest electronic GPS technology available today. Minn Kota calls theirs Spot-Lock. MotorGuide calls theirs Pinpoint.

As explained by Minn Kota brand manager, Brad Henry, "We consistently have maintained a culture of innovation and continuous improvements to our products--always with the angler in mind. After the launch of i-Pilot, which brought the revolutionary benefits of Spot-Lock to anglers, we did not stop. Through this commitment, we've reinvented Spot-Lock to make it the most accurate electronic GPS anchor ever."

The Spot-Lock feature enables use of the trolling motor as an electric anchor. It comes standard in both i-Pilot and i-Pilot Link systems that are factory-installed on a wide variety of Bluetooth-enabled bow-mount trolling motors. These include Ultrex, Ulterra, Terrova, and PowerDrive, as well as Riptide Ulterra, Riptide Terrova, and Riptide PowerDrive.

With only the push of a button, anglers remain actively locked onto their spot.

Meanwhile, "Pinpoint GPS uses an ultra-precise GPS receiver and control algorithms to keep the boat positioned tightly on the target," says Ben Curtis, category director for MotorGuide.

Through a compact, easy-to-use hand-held remote, Pinpoint GPS enables anglers to move a boat in five-foot increments in any direction and store up to eight locations in "anchor" mode.

"Being able to position and jog your boat to make the best possible bait presentation is essential to bringing home a bigger catch," said Curtis.

Pinpoint GPS also features "heading lock" and "cruise control" options to navigate the boat to specific compass headings, while holding a constant speed against wind and current. In its "route memory" mode, Pinpoint GPS can store and recall up to eight routes of four miles each.

Before you rush out to buy one of these electronic marvels, it's necessary to understand this kind of technology doesn't come cheap. Based on a minimum amount of research, I learned that these trolling motors routinely retail for anywhere from $1,300 to $2,300--all of which are well out of my league.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Talk About Being in a Feeding Mood

I didn't hear a single grumpy comment from the 13 anglers in 7 boats who fished today's tournament, despite the fact their day began with some strong winds. At blastoff, the trees were swaying in a breeze that was running about 19 mph, with gusts to more than 30.

The anglers adjusted their game accordingly, and everyone brought five-fish limits to the scales. The overall weight of their 35 bass totaled 103.48 lbs., which translated into an average weight of 2.95 lbs. per fish. (Note: By comparison, Bob's top 7 tournament places today weighed a total of 97 lbs., so there were lots of nice fish caught everywhere. Makes me wonder if maybe there's something to those Astro Tables after all. They show June 22, 23 and 24 as "excellent" fishing days, with values at 93, 99 and 89, respectively.)

Walking away with all the marbles were the following two teams:

(From left) Mike Miller and Chris Fretard, 1st place, 18.40 lbs. total weight, 4.85-lb. big bass.

(From left) Duane Kessel and Bobby Moore, 2nd place, 17.77 lbs. total weight, 5.35-lb. big bass, which captured the day's lunker prize.

Mystery-weight winner was Jim Wilder, who had a sack weighing 9.79 lbs. That weight came closest to the drawn weight of 3.75 lbs.

Here is how everyone else finished the day's compeition:

     * Chris Napier and Al Napier, 17.47 lbs. total weight, 4.90-lb. big bass.
     * Randy Conkle and Bob Glass, 16.73 lbs. total weight, 3.78-lb. big bass.
     * Rob Peppers and Don Carter, 12.46 lbs. total weight, 3.76-lb. big bass.
     * Andy Morath and Diana Mendez, 10.86 lbs. total weight, 3.35-lb. big bass.

Duane Kessel is the 7th competitor to join the list of those eligible to participate in the two-day, season-ending Classic as the result of today's tournament.

Congrats to all the winners, and thanks to everyone who joined us. For planning purposes, our next scheduled event is Saturday, July 8, from safe light to 2 p.m. Look forward to seeing you.

I've always had bad timing for one reason or another, and today marked yet another such occasion. Because of the predicted strong winds, I had decided I was going to take the day off. Boy! Did I ever make a mistake!

I can't remember the last time I saw so many 3-plus-lb. bass coming to the scales for weigh-in. Those fish weren't just in a feeding mood...they evidently were starved. And the best part of all is that they really didn't seem to mind what you were throwing at 'em. I heard several different baits mentioned. It truly was the kind of day that takes a lot of the sting out of all those occasions when the only thing that seemingly would work is a stick of dynamite.

It also was the kind of day that would have put a big ol' smile on Dewey's face. He always enjoyed seeing the guys have a banner day, and today certainly was that.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Go Back to Bed, Or Go Fishing? That's the Question

You wake up on your first day off in a couple of weeks or more and check the weather, only to find that the forecast calls for the kind of day every fisherman abhors: a bluebird sky and little to no wind. So, the question of the day becomes: Do you say to heck with it and go back to bed, or do you get dressed, grab your gear, hook up the boat, and go fishin'?

I tend to believe most would opt for the second choice. It has been a fair spell since I last had to punch a time clock; however, I darn sure haven't forgotten how much joy I derived from spending a day off on the water. I undoubtedly passed up a few such opportunities over the years, but you can be sure it was only a few.

I just wish I had stumbled across the article I recently read online back in those earlier days. It addresses one way to tackle bluebird, calm conditions. Specifically, it talks about fishing a hard jerkbait (the classic minnow plug) on top in shallow water, say 1 to 5 feet. Sound interesting? Then stay with me here, and I'll explain the details.

Since this bait won't make too big of a splash, you need to work an area slowly and place each cast so you cover the precise area where you think the fish are holding. Ever-so-gentle movements are the key to success. A slight twitch of the rod tip is all you need. With the lure's small bill and a gentle touch, you can keep it in an area the size of a coffee cup.

Cast just past the target and slowly work the bait up to the strike zone, just like any other topwater lure. Once in the strike zone, don't get in a hurry, because any sudden jerk likely will spook any fish in the vicinity. Most times, you won't get a violent explosion. Instead, the bait usually just disappears from the surface, as the fish suspended directly below it sucks it down.

While holding in the strike zone, gently pull the bait, rather than twitching it, which will cause the lure to dip slightly to one side, then let it return to the surface. If you don't get a strike near the target, go ahead and work the bait back to the boat in the 1-to-3-foot range.

Some anglers prefer a different version of the jerkbait. They like to use a Bagley's Bang-O-Lure, which, of course, has a small prop added to the rear hook. Working this bait with a sharp jerk and, if you want, an occasional big splash, you can cover a huge area very quickly and efficiently, or you can work it slowly.

The Bang-O-Lure is always a good lure to use in those tough-bite conditions when the fish are scattered, shallow and reluctant. According to some, "It seems to work when nothing else will."

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, June 25, 2017

Monday, June 19...From Ron: Fished upper West Neck Creek from Indian River Road. Gauge was 3.6 and rising. Lost a bass and two gar on the Whopper Plopper. Saved from a skunk by a 7-inch crappie on the Beetlespin. At least the breeze made for a nice evening. Oh well.

Tuesday, June 20...From Ron: Launched at Old Pungo Ferry Road for a trip to Albright's. Fished from 5 o'clock to 8:30. Lost five bass on the Heddon Spook before I switched to a Pop-R. Think the slower Pop-R helped. Ended up with a 1-0, 1-10, and a 2-8. My son went out with me for a rare trip (all busy now with friends and surfing--no time for fishing). He landed a dink, 1-2,  2-4, and had a bunch of misses on a Buzzbait. Gauge still was way too high. I thought they would be back in the creeks, but most of my hits and catches were on points of feeder creeks. While following up a topwater miss with a fluke, I had the Whopper Plopper dangling on the surface with the rod across my lap when a bowfin hit the WP. He only was on for a second or two, but I suspect that is what the original miss was. The WP generated a bunch of short strikes. Tried the XTS Minnow, Flukes, Senko, and Beetlespins, but the Pop-R was the only productive lure tonight.

Wednesday, June 21...From Ron: My son and I launched at Lotus Garden about 5 p.m. Within 10 minutes, I had landed a small chain pickerel, a crappie, a white perch, and a bass on a Beetlespin. They all were dinks, but the bite was on. Alex ended up with nine bass, including a 1-0, 1-14, and 2-0. The rest ran about a pound each. He was getting them on Zoom Flukes and buzzbaits. I ended up with seven bass, including a 1-7 and 2-1. All the rest were dinks. I also caught five small white perch, two crappie, and a small sunfish. The panfish were hitting the Beetlespin. The bass fell to the Pop-R and Flukes. Was a really good trip, with a consistent bite. Lotta fun 'till the bugs came out at sunset.

Thursday, June 22...From Ron: Launched at 5 p.m., with gauge at 2.77, and fished Milldam Creek. Recovered at 9 p.m., with gauge at 2.55. Think the outflow helped with the bite. Target was panfish, so I trolled two Beetlespins under bobbers (one right side, one left), while throwing Flukes or topwater baits to the shoreline. Everything was going according to plan, and I was building a stringer of taco fare, with an occasional bass. Entrance to Snake Creek south was chock full of gar that were pestering my Beetlespins and swiping at my Pop-R. Decided to throw a Fluke and caught my first-ever gar on a plastic, hooked right under the jaw. With stringer almost full, headed to Snake Creek north. Was entering the feeder creek and hooked into a decent bass on the Whopper Plopper. As I was reeling it in, ultralight rod with Beetlespin doubled over with drag screaming. Quickly landed the whopper (1-10), placed him near my feet, and grabbed the ultralight rod. Great fight resulted in a 3-2 bass on the Beetlespin. Shortly thereafter, I was working the WP when the beetlespin rod bent a bit with a 12-inch crappie. I stopped reeling the WP to deal with the crappie, and my WP line took off with a dink that gently sucked up the motionless lure. Needless to say, it was good evening trip: six bass (three dinks, plus a 1-5, 1-10 and a 3-2), as well as six white perch and three crappie in the 11-to-12-inch range.

Friday, June 23...From Ron: With the wind blowing, decided to seek some protection in upper North Landing and hopefully a bowfin. Found wind protection but no bowfin. Saw a bunch of gar being active but no bait swimming around. Water still was rising and very clear when I launched at 6:20 and never went out as I hoped for. Managed to catch six bass, including three dinks, a 1-8, 1-10, and a 1-11. Also caught a couple sunfish on the small Pop-R. 'Twas a nice evening, and the bugs were absent due to the wind, I guess. Wind predicted to shift out of the north Saturday night...maybe will help the bite.

Saturday, June 24...From Ron: Launched about 6:20 p.m. with the kid. We headed north under the West Neck Creek Bridge and worked the feeder creeks. I ended up with six dinks on the Pop-R. Meanwhile, Alex caught a 4-2 bass. My six dinks would not have equaled half that weight. He got the big one on a Mann's 1-minus crankbait. This was a case where quality won out over quantity.

Sunday, June 25...From Ron: Launched at sunrise and fished House Cove, Back Bay, 'till about 9 o'clock, when the water clouded up and the bite seemed to turn off. Caught eight bass, including a 1-5 and seven dinks. One hit a fluke following a miss on the Whopper Plopper. All the rest came on a WP when the grass would allow. Also tried the Silver Minnow, Pop-R, and swim Senko. Alex caught four, his biggest a 1-10. This evening, Ron launched at Blackwater Road and started fishing Milldam Creek about 5:30. Hooked into a 13-inch chain pickerel in the launch creek on a Pop-R, then headed eastward. The bite improved about 7 p.m., and I managed a dink, two 1-5 bass, a 1-6, and a 2-7, all on the Pop-R. Also caught a couple crappie and six white perch but released everything this evening. It was much cooler, making for a very pleasant trip, with a rewarding sunset.

Saturday, June 17, 2017


That's the name of an old tune that begins with these lyrics:

First you say you do
And then you don't
And then you say you will
And then you won't
You're undecided now
So what are you gonna do?

"Undecided" pretty much describes the weather these 15 anglers in nine boats had to deal with in today's tournament. We would have a little sunshine for a spell, followed by a little shower, then the scenario would repeat itself. As a result, we were forced to constantly shift into and out of our rain gear. At day's end, these "quick-change artists" weighed in a total of 32 bass, for a total weight of 72.3 lbs. and an average weight of 2.25 lbs. per fish.

The following anglers comprised the winner's circle today:

(From left) Randy Conkle and Bob Glass, 1st place, five fish, 15.92 lbs. total weight, 3.49-lb. big bass.

Bobby Moore and (not pictured) Duane Kessel, five fish, 2nd place, 14.15 lbs. total weight, 3.81-lb. big bass, which was good enough to claim today's lunker pot.

(From left) Nelson Anderson and David Dozier, 3rd place, five fish, 12.34 lbs. total weight, no big bass.

(From left) Skip Schaible and Mitch Portervint, mystery-weight winners, three fish, 3.31 lbs. total weight, no big bass. Their total weight was closest to the 3.30-lb. tab that was drawn.

Here is how everyone else finished today's competition:

     * Rob Peppers and Don Carter, five fish, 10.77 lbs. total weight, 2.88-lb. big bass.
     * Al Napier, five fish, 9.72 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Sean Vitovich and Jim Wilder, four fish, 6.09 lbs. total weight (after 0.25 deduction for one dead fish), no big fish.
     * Steve Bailey and Ken Testorff didn't weigh any fish.

Five more anglers qualified today to fish our season-ending two-day classic, bringing the total thus far to six.

Congrats to all of the winners, and thanks to everyone who came out to participate. For planning purposes, our next event is scheduled for next Saturday, June 24, from safe light to 2 p.m. I hope you can join us.

A common refrain from tournament anglers today, as well as others I've been talking to in recent days, is that a lot of small bass are being caught. I had five short ones today, too--all measuring between about 10 and 11 7/8 inches. I caught one white perch that was bigger than any of those five.

Topwater baits appear to be working for most folks early, with soft plastics then getting the nod. Haven't talked to any anglers who say they have been catching fish on crankbaits.

I thought about throwing a wakebait today but changed my mind when all three of my chosen topwater baits kept garnering strikes. Unfortunately, all of those strikes appeared to be random in nature, so I never was able to figure out what kind of areas I should be targeting.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

From My Rearview Mirror

Quite by accident, I stumbled across a 38-year-old The Washington Post article (see the other day by Angus Phillips, the Post's outdoor writer for 35 years.

Titled "Back Bay Unbeatable for Going Bass Fishing," the article talked at length about "Virginia's 25,000-acre pond behind the dunes." As I was reading, I couldn't help thinking about my late bewhiskered pal, Dewey Mullins, who often mentioned some of the same people referenced in this article.

One name not mentioned among the group, however, was "John, the barber," whom Dewey often referred to as a good fishin' buddy of his. John was with him that September 1979 day when Dewey landed his 13-3 citation-sized bass from Back Bay.

Since I already was in a research mode anyway, I decided to go a little farther and see what I could find out about his buddy.

Turns out that John, the barber's full name was John Wesley Thornton. He lived in Virginia Beach for 60 years before his death on Jan. 9, 2010, at age 81. Like Dewey, he, too, was a Navy veteran. And he owned John's Barber Shop in London Bridge, where, according to the obituary, "Many conversations took place, but most topics revolved around bass fishing, John's favorite sport!"

For just a moment, I was taken back in time to those countless days I spent in the West Neck Marina Store, where Dewey took center stage, regaling me and others with his tales of bygone fishing trips to Back Bay and other places.

I can't speak for anyone else, but I, for one, truly miss my old friend. He left a hole that, as far as I'm concerned, never will be filled again. Why? Because you simply can't replace a genuine one-of-a-kind.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, June 18, 2017

Tuesday, June 13...From RayRoy Gordon and I fished West Neck today. Roy caught five bass, with the largest weighing 4 lbs. 2 ozs. I caught three bass, with the largest weighing 2 lbs. We also caught 10 or so bream. which is always fun. The water was fairly clear; the temperature was 80 degrees. The lures for the day were the Senko, spinnerbait and small spinner.

Tuesday, June 13...From Ron: I finally found one to take some drag, as well as four dinks and a red-ear sunfish. My guesstimate on weight is close to 2 lbs. I fished Brush Creek Reservoir, near Butlerville, Indiana, home of the Indiana state crappie record: 4 lbs. 11ozs., caught in 1994. I didn't find any crappie. Very limited bank fishing opportunities, with heavily wooded and steep banks.

Wednesday, June 14...From Ron: Got home yesterday and dusted off the kayak. Launched Milldam from Blackwater Road and headed to Snake Creek. Found what I was looking for: taco fare, including six crappie and two white perch. Yum! With my stringer full, I targeted bass in Snake Creek south and found a few. More followers and misses than I landed, but it was great to be back out there. Panfish fell to beetlespins under bobber. Big white perch (12.5 inch) hit Pop-R. Bass on Pop-R and Whopper Plopper. Caught four bass (1-0, 1-2, 1-10, and a dink), eight crappie, and seven white perch, but I only kept the 10-inch-plus panfish (eight total).

Saturday, June 17...From Ron: Launched Beggars Bridge and headed south on a 7-mile trip that went from 0540 to 1200. Trip back was with the wind, which picked up. Caught 13 bass, including a 2-1, three dinks, and nine that were between 1 and 2 lbs. Most of my bass were caught on flukes. However, also landed a few on Whopper Plopper. Had a "floating" snake follow me around for about 10 min. He was all on top of the water. Since I was fishing a very skinny creek, I was on edge but enjoyed the long trip.

Sunday, June 18...From Ron: The gate to the Alton's Creek launch (from Blackwater Road) has been open for a month or so now. Decided to drive back there, use the cart, and launch the yak. Morning was very slow. Tried Flukes, Whopper Plopper, Pop-R, and Beetlespin. Managed 4 bass, including a dink, 1-1, 1-9, and 2-2, as well as a couple small white perch and an 8.5-inch sunfish. Called it quits about 1030, when it became too hot.

Sunday, June 18...From Ray: My son, Barry, and I fished West Neck today. The water was very high, and I didn't expect much, but we had a good time. We ended up with two 1-lb. bass and 15 bream, mostly crappie. Small spinnerbaits (not Beetlespins) were the only thing they hit, although we tried several lures. Water temperature was 83 degrees and clear. I told Barry it wasn't nice to outfish his old dad on Father's Day.