Friday, November 28, 2014

There's Nothing Like Fishing in the Rain in a Leaky Rainsuit

Ahhhhh... You haven't lived until you've spent a whole day bass fishing in the rain with one of those El Cheapo rainsuits. You know the kind I'm talking about. It somehow first lets a little, and then, as the day wears on, a whole lot more of the rain leak in at the neck of the suit--even getting inside your shirt collar.

At this point, the drops are at the mercy of gravity. They have no choice but to start running all the way down your back--to and, more times than not, inside your skivvies, all the way to your far nether regions. I mean, what die-hard bass fisherman doesn't truly love spending eight or nine hours on the water in a soaking rain, then driving home in more of the same, only to peel off all his wet clothes and find other unmentionable parts of his anatomy matching his "prune" face, fingers and feet?

Oh, I almost forgot one other little detail. Figuring that the El Cheapo was going to keep you dry, it was a no-brainer just to leave everything in your pants pockets, including, of course, your wallet. So now, you have the distinct pleasure of removing it, along with all those old, smelly, stuck-together dollar bills; credit cards; and other items and spreading 'em out to dry for a spell. That's what I call "livin'!!!"

OK, so maybe I lie a little bit, stretch the truth, or whatever else you want to call it. After all, I'm just a fisherman like the rest of you.

The truth of the matter is that, if you've been a part of this sport of ours for a while, you've no doubt figured out it pays to part with the bucks to buy at least a decent set of rain gear. Those inexpensive ponchos like you find on a discount shelf in the local market are just a waste of your time and money, especially if you wear one in a stiff wind. You'll be lucky if the poncho doesn't end up wrapped around your neck, choking you to death. Instead, look for a rainsuit with a flap-covered, zippered front, Velcro adjusters at the wrists and ankles, dry pocket flaps, and waterproof sealed seams all the way around.

And if you're a serious bass angler--one who fishes a lot, especially in foul weather--you're better off buying the absolute best rain gear available. It very well may cost you $200 or more for a top-of-the-line suit, but that sticker shock will fade quickly the first time you wear the gear on a cold, blustery day without feeling the usual effects.

The best rainsuits on the market today are those that "breathe" and allow body moisture to escape, while keeping out the rain. Those made of Gore-Tex material are especially good. The lightweight but 100-percent waterproof Frogg Toggs also are a good line. Yet another preference among some serious anglers is one called Kool-Dri. It's lightweight, totally waterproof, and comes with bib-top pants.

Something else to consider is a pair of light boots to wear over your shoes anytime the temperature dips to around 45 degrees. You might even want to opt for a pair of insulated boots if the temperature drops any lower. The same considerations go for your head and hands in cold weather. The odds are that you'll fish a lot better and harder if you're comfortable.

Once you're comfortable, it becomes a matter of understanding what the weather conditions are doing to the fish. Rainy-weather days normally reduce light penetration in two ways. First, with the cloud cover, there is a reduced amount of direct sunlight. Second, the usual winds, as well as the rain itself, disturb the water's surface, diffusing and scattering much of the existing light.

Accordingly, it's relatively safe to assume the rainy-day bass are more shallow, more active, and more responsive than normal to lure presentations. Another positive result of the rainy weather is increased absorption of oxygen, as a result of the wind and rain creating surface turbulence.

The rising water conditions, no matter how slight, resulting from rains also cause currents to develop and water to move, which adds oxygen. It also mixes the water and distributes the oxygen throughout.

Moving water has a very special meaning for fish--it spells food. The rains wash in small parts of the food chain from the surrounding shorelines, and larger creatures gather to feed. Bass, particularly, can be expected to gather anywhere run-off water is entering a main body--from small, normally dry gully cuts, to swollen, year-round feeder streams.

As with nearly all aspects of fishing, consistent success is a matter of applied knowledge. Understanding the positive aspects of those rainy days, coupled with physical adaptation and protection, can mean a lot of fish in the livewell, while others sit home waiting for a nicer day.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Demanding Your Rights Can Have a Down Side

There really is something to be said for persistence. I've spent the better part of a month now researching the Internet for material I could use one way or the other for some holiday posts on my blog. It's been a struggle ever since I started, and it wasn't until today that I finally got lucky and happened upon the item that follows.

As I've learned countless times before, the biggest secret to finding what you're looking for on the Internet lies in your ability to come up with just the right search word or phrase. Unlike the game of horseshoes, close counts for naught.

The author of the following piece is an Oklahoma writer and a former civilian U.S. Army public information officer. She's a regular contributor for a variety of Internet sites. As best I can determine, this item first appeared Dec. 27, 2007. Hope you enjoy.

A Christmas Story
By Sheila Samples

I have a cold, and I got it the only way I know how to do things--the hard way. On Christmas Eve, I decided I'd give myself a present. I had this bright idea to get a head start on the new year by testing the strength of the Equal Rights Amendment--you know, the ERA--the free pass that enterprising women have used for years to back stubborn men into corners.

My friend, Bernie, is always bragging about what a success he is at snagging bass. He says it's too bad the Bass Club is men-only, and he lords it over me that bass fishing is a "man's" thing--not for wussies. Not for women. Not for me. Well, I don't like to brag, but I've caught my share of fish over the years, and I can spin a tale with the best of them. I decided it was time to shut Bernie up and crash the "men only" bunch of happy hookers. So, when I approached the president of our local bassin' club, I was armed not only with the ERA but with myriad rebuttals for his excuses, arguments or evasions.

"Sure, you can join," he said, his eyes sparkling good-naturedly. "All you have to do is fish in two tournaments. If you can pass muster, you're automatically voted into the club."

"Really...just like that?" I asked suspiciously. "OK, then. When fishing weather rolls around..."

"Oh, no!" he countered, the sparkle now a glint. "Be out here at 3 in the morning. It's always fishin' weather, and we're having a tourney tomorrow."

"Tomorrow? But tomorrow is Christmas!"

"Three-ay-em. Unless, of course..."

"I'll be here!" I exclaimed hurriedly, determined not to be dispensed with so easily. "I'll be here. But, don't the tournaments usually start at six?"

"Yeah," he grunted. "But you're gonna be fishing with the best--good ol' Luther, and he likes to get out early and get the lay of the lake."

Thus, I became a willing and unsuspecting pawn in the hands of good ol' Luther. I was even buoyed by a feeling of camaraderie as, excited and shivering, I approached the icy, pre-dawn waters on Christmas morning.

"Where have you been?" an angry voice shattered the stillness. Peering into the darkness, I saw the lean, impatient Luther, gandy-dancing on the dock. He confronted me, blood in his eye, rod and reel poised like a lion-tamer's whip. His coveralls, zipped to the lip, were blazoned with a lightning bolt and the words, "Idi Amin Dada--Conqueror of the British Empire!"

"Bu--but it's only 3 o'clock..."

"We leave at three," he snapped, as he leapt lithely into the shallow bassing rig, leaving me to clamber unsteadily aboard and slink into the "tower seat" high in the sleek boat.

"...life jacket!" Luther mouthed, as he started the engine--a sudden explosion that sounded like a reverberating howitzer. While I groped in the darkness for the jacket, Luther blasted out of the cove. If he noticed I was smashed into the seat, if he heard the snap of my neck--the castanet rattle of my spine--he gave no indication. I still get grim satisfaction out of knowing that there are irreparable "chin gouges" in the back of the padded seat in Luther's flat-out racing bass boat.

I could tell right off that "fun tournament" was beyond Luther's comprehension, as he tried to get the jump on the rest of the club members who were beginning to show up. He held full throttle; we were aboard a devil craft, rocketing into the eerie pre-dawn fog. Whimpering, I clung to the side of the boat, where I'd fallen upon take-off. Luther ignored my groans when my thermos of steaming coffee went spinning into the lake. He glared at me menacingly when my plastic worm slipped from stiff fingers--and warned me wickedly that bass fishin' was serious business.

Each time the wind shifted, we were off again--the tip of the boat standing at haughty attention. There's nothing more invigorating on a Christmas morn than icy spray rattling on teeth set against lips frozen into a permanent snarl...

I tried to get Luther's attention, but I didn't have a gun. I prayed for deliverance. I prayed for Luther to get snagged by one of the dead, witch-like trees that grasped and clawed as we soared by. Then--I just prayed.

Finally, mercifully, it was 5:30 and time to head back to shore and "rev up" for the fun tourney. From my position in the bottom of the boat, I could hear light "men only" banter, as the rest of the gang jockeyed for position.

I struggled to give good ol' Luther a scathing look, but my eyes were frozen shut. "HELP!" I whispered, as we nosed against the dock.

They all pitched in to get me out of the boat, and it didn't take but a few minutes to chip away the two inches of ice around my feet. They didn't even break anything when they folded my stiff body into the seat of my car.

"Be back out here tomorrow at the same time for the final phase of your initiation," Luther said, patting me on the head ever so gently, so as not to break my hair. "That's the fun part--going after the big ones. All you gotta do is catch yourself a bass, and then you'll be one of us."

ME? One of THEM? I stared at Luther with wild eyes--now frozen open. "When donkeys fly!" I attempted to shriek, but my frozen lips could only muster a plaintive "Aaaaarrrhhh..."

So, here I am, still shivering and nursing a cold, and coming to grips with the fact the ERA isn't all it's cracked up to be.

Happy New Year!

This Man's a Fishing Machine

I'm talking, of course, about my good friend and fellow blogger, Charlie Bruggemann.

You're apt to find this guy nearly anywhere in the local area. If there's a body of water to fish, especially a new spot, he's all about checking it out to see what it has to offer. And he does it all from a kayak, then shares the details of each trip through text and video on his blog (http://vbfishguide.blogspot.com/). If you're not already familiar with it, I urge you to have a look.

That being said, I'll get to the heart of this story--the "fishing machine" that is Charlie. Back on June 15, 2012, when I first featured him in a blog post, he already had scored a better-than-15-lb. bag of bass that year, with nearly 300 total bass to his credit for only the halfway point in the year.

Fast forward now to yesterday when, despite steady rain, Charlie launched at West Neck Marina and stayed in the creek, where he boated seven bass, plus a pickerel and a striper. His best five bass tipped the scales at 1-5, 2-0, 2-3, 2-11, and 4-14, for a total weight of 13 lbs. 1 oz. That, however, is not his biggest bag this year. In recent weeks, he also has scored one that went 14+ lbs., followed by another that weighed in at better than 16 lbs. And his yearly total to date is 550+ bass and still counting.

He's no slouch by anyone's standards. I've had him in my boat on two occasions now--the first being our shootout contest last October, and then earlier this month when he joined me for just a fun day on West Neck. Both times, he simply fished circles around me, and as he demonstrated to me in our latest outing, he can do it from the front of the boat, as well as the back. He's just good at what he does--make that "everything" he does. His paint job on hard baits is nothing short of fantastic. He's also a skilled taxidermist, photographer and computer expert--to name only a few more of his many qualifications.

It wasn't until near the end of the day in our outing this month that I think I finally figured out why Charlie had been catching fish all day while I simply had been thrashing the water. The difference, as I learned, had been the depths at which our two crankbaits were running. The one Charlie had been fishing ran about 2 to 3 feet, whereas I had been using one that ran 3 to 5 feet. In the last hour of fishing, I tied on one that also dived only 2 to 3 feet and managed to put a couple fish in the boat before quitting time.

Whether the day's final outcome would have been any different if I had been using the shallower crankbait the whole time is anyone's guess. Even if it would have made a difference in the totals, that fact in no way would have negated the ease with which Charlie brought one fish after the other over the gunwale all day.

I for one firmly believe that if Charlie ever were to find a way to put a livewell in that kayak of his and then joined our Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series, he'd be a force to be reckoned with on a regular basis. I'm convinced he's just that darned good.

As I said earlier in this post, if you haven't checked out Charlie's blog before, you need to take a peek (see earlier link I provided). Find out for yourself just how easy he makes it look to catch a boatload of bass.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

All I Want for Christmas Is...

If I were to ask folks out in California to complete that headline, it seems a pretty safe bet the vast majority likely would exclaim in unison: "some rain to end our drought." And if I were to pose the same headline to folks up in New York right now, the response from most probably would be: "no more snow."

In reality, however, I asked some fellow fishermen locally to complete this headline, and while only a couple rogered up, their responses weren't what some might expect from such a group. For example, one fella said, "For my family and friends to be healthy and happy." The other one wrote back, "Real and lasting peace on earth."

And you know what? While few in number, these two fellas were anything but in the minority with the nature of their responses. Quite the contrary, actually. The sincerity expressed in their holiday wishes mirror the kind of responses I saw spread all around the Internet.

My research revealed countless numbers whose central wish was for "our troops to return home safely." As one added, "It's very hard for me to wish for trifling things for myself while our young men and women are dying on foreign soil."

A fair number also expressed hope "to keep my job for at least another year." There also was a fella who, in a similar vein, said he always wishes for "good health so I can cast for bass just one more year." This same individual told the story of a friend he once had who still was asking the good Lord for "just 10 more good years of fishing" when he died some 25 years after first making this an annual request.

In another case, I came across a man who asked nothing for himself, noting, "My wish list has been filled many times over." He went on to explain that he just had completed his first year of retirement from a great job of 41 years and, at the same time, had celebrated 10 years of good health since heart surgery. "With a great wife, two fine sons, and four terrific grandchildren, a loving church family, a pretty good old bass boat, and most of all, a loving Savior who forgives my daily sins, what more could I ask for?" he said.

I would be lying if I didn't admit I found instances where fishermen were asking for material things they typically might want. I'm happy to report, though, their numbers represented a clear minority.

In that regard, I found this statement by one thoughtful but choosing-to-remain-anonymous source online: "No doubt, we would all agree with the sentiment, 'There's more to life than things.' Yet, much of our lives seem to be spent in the acquisition, maintenance and disposal of material goods.

"Certainly, we cannot enjoy the basics of food, shelter and clothing without a concern for 'things.' The truly important things of life,  however, are those which cannot be encountered by the physical senses, purchased with money, or placed on a shelf. When we take a look at what we value most in life, we generally find family, friends, health, peace, contentment, laughter, helping others, and communion with God foremost on our list of priorities."

If that's not what Christmas, and for that matter, life in general, really is supposed to be about, I've surely been functioning under a mistaken belief for a very long time.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Best Thanksgiving Wishes to Everyone


Fishing on Thanksgiving Day
By Paul Thomas Roussell
 
On a cold November morning with a Northeast chill
Along come a sense of gratitude and a hungry heart at will.
Heading to the east on a working man's sail
As a tired old moon drops off our tail..
 
Summer's gone with all the misty fog,
Only memories remain with a salty old log.
I recall days of old, on this one special day,
When a group of Europeans left their land astray..
 
A ship called the Mayflower, in a treacherous sea
Headed for Virginia for the new world of free
But a navigating mistake changed their course instead
And they ended up at Cape Cod's famous ocean bed.
 
A pilgrim's tale is based on a Puritan Thanksgiving
As they ventured west to change their way of living
With eager hearts and a grand will to live,
A tradition was invented, God's will to give.
 
Wampanoag Indians joined in this gathering plan.
It is a religious day, for the working man.
It all started in the year sixteen twenty-one
A harvest feast of joy under the old New England sun..
 
Approved by congress, a nationwide proclaim
And after the Revolution, it remained the same.
Men of feat, that sailed across in fame
Men called Pilgrims were surely to blame.
 
The fourth Thursday of November, I honored a day to fish,
With thoughts of those who sailed on a wish.
Tales of the sea, as I sail from the bay,
Getting underway to fish, on Thanksgiving Day.
 
Thanksgiving means many things to different people. For most traditionalists, though, this holiday is synonymous with festive meals, parades, football, family and friends, and, of course, turkey.
 
For many, it's also about spending time together, catching up and enjoying one another's company. The Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder to give thanks for the good things, people and providential events in our lives.
 
For die-hard fishermen, however, Thanksgiving usually means a day or two extra off work and a chance to spend more hours in pursuit of your favorite pastime. Making it special is the fact you don't have to deal with any traffic to speak of. Everybody is too busy feeding their faces on Thanksgiving Day, and then, of course, there are all those Black Friday sales events the next day to keep people occupied.
 
All you must do is make sure you wear enough warm clothing, have an abundant supply of your favorite hot beverage on hand, and go enjoy a Happy Thanksgiving Day your way--on the water.
 
No matter how you choose to celebrate the holiday, keep it safe.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Worst-Ever Fishing Lures

Do you know how to tell if you've got one of 'em? The consensus among a bunch of fishermen I read about online recently is that if you find these words on the outside of the package--as seen on TV--you can be sure you possess one of the worst-ever fishing lures.

There are three in this category that immediately come to my mind. They are the helicopter lure, the flying lure, and, of course, the banjo minnow (see photos of some of the original packaging for these lures spread throughout this post).

I found one guy in those I was reading about who, while badmouthing the helicopter lure as the worst he ever had bought, also acknowledged he once had "caught a nice 4-lb. bass on it." He still called it a piece of "junk," however, noting that the bass was on a bed, and he had to tease it for about 40 minutes before it would take the bait.

Another fella remembered that one of Roland Martin's original infomercials for the helicopter lure showed him "nailing 8-lb. bass like nothing down in one of those Mexican lakes," but as someone else chimed in, "Roland Martin will try to sell anything to make a quick buck." Still another guy said he found a pack of helicopter lures at a flea market for $2 and had to get 'em "just for laughs," but when he caught a bass on the third cast, he had to put 'em down and start focusing on his banjo-minnow technique.

I came across three gents who reluctantly admitted they had caught fish with the flying lure. Said one of them, "I did very well with it pond fishing when I was younger." Another explained, "I once bought a whole kit off the clearance rack in a store and took them to my favorite lake. The white ones worked great, especially for getting under the docks."

Some local folks also may remember that, shortly after the flying lure was introduced, the late-Dewey Mullins began some experimentation of his own. He was making a version of the flying lure out of different sizes of the Johnson spoon. I was one of those asked to do some testing for him, and I caught a few fish with it, too. Overall, though, the results weren't good enough for Dewey to start producing them for sale.

Getting back to those anglers I was reading about online, I found several of them talking about lures I've never heard of. One was a "throbber--the lure with a heart." The duped angler described it as "a little plastic topwater bait that had a metal ball on a spring inside. Long after you'd cast the lure, the metal ball was supposed to vibrate and imitate a living heart."

Another such lure, also a topwater, was once advertised on QVC by game-show host Chuck Woolery. The victim, in this case, didn't recall the name of it but described the lure as having a line attached to a split ring on the front. When you made a cast, the line would pull out and go back in, causing this lure also to vibrate. "The worst $14 I ever spent!" the fella exclaimed.

"The dumbest lure I ever purchased" is how yet another victim described a kicktail swimbait. "Supposedly, it was banned in tournaments. It should have been banned from sales because it was complete trash," he asserted.

For the first time, too, I read about a crankbait called the tipsy. The not-so-lucky dude who owned this bait said "the bill was off center--like they had made a mistake while building it. The thing wouldn't run straight--just a piece of crap--but being a crankbait junkie, I bought one," he lamented.

I also read about a diving lure that ran on two watch batteries. The owner didn't remember its name but said the lure had blinking red eyes. "I only cast it a few times before it hung, and I lost it," adding, "Good riddance!"

Another first for me was reading about a Burke talking frog. As described by the owner, "It made a croaking sound when you got it wet."

And last, but certainly not least, was a poor chap who said when he was younger, he would buy any lure he saw on TV. The absolute worst one ever, though, was a hard-bodied minnow.

"It would lay on its side, with the hooks on the bottom," he said. "It had a pull string where you tied your line to the lure. When you gave a quick jerk, it would wind up the lure, and its tail would flop up and down on the water. It was supposed to look like an injured baitfish, but it really didn't," the victim concluded.

There are a couple of active sayings that I think may have some bearing on this or any similar discussion. One is that "fancy lures more often catch the fisherman, not the fish." The other is this: "The action catches the fish; the paint job catches the fisherman."

I truly don't know any way to turn off all the many forms of temptation that exist today for buying fishing lures. I constantly wrestle with the problem. For example, I sat in my boat last Wednesday, watching my buddy, Charlie, catch one fish after the other with a crankbait color I don't have yet... but soon will, thanks to a small order I placed a couple of days later. If any of you have a foolproof solution to this dilemma, please share it with me. In the meantime, don't be watching any TV infomercials, 'cause you certainly don't want any more of those "worst-ever lures."