Tuesday, May 23, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, May 28, 2017

Tuesday, May 23...From Ron: "Launched from Indian River Road Bridge and started fishing West Neck Creek when the rain was very light, but it turned 'medium' and never let up. Caught five bass, including a dink, 1-4, 1-5, 1-8, and a 2-2, as well as an 11-inch crappie, all on the Pop R. Threw the Whopper Plopper around but had no takers. Lost three other fish on the Pop R, and think one was a bowfin. Water was crystal clear and flowing out. Needless to say, when I recovered at 8 p.m., I was soaked to the bone. Decent trip, though."

New West Neck Catwalks--A Work in Progress

For the benefit of those who my not have been around the marina in recent days, here's a current photo, courtesy of Skip, showing how the work on the new catwalks is coming along. As Skip commented, with a little luck and cooperation from the weather, we may get to christen the new fixtures at our scheduled tournament this coming Saturday.

Sunday, May 21, 2017

Is There a Method to Your Madness, or Is It Just Madness?

More to the point, I'm talking about what dictates when you change lures during a typical fishing day.

For some, it's every 15 to 20 minutes. For others, it's every 30 to 40 minutes, or maybe once an hour. And for still others, it's whenever the mood hits 'em--sometimes after only a half-dozen or so casts.

If I'm throwing one of my confidence baits, I generally allow 30 minutes to an hour of no bites before I'll change lures. If I'm just running through baits to find one that works, I'm inclined to call off the dogs after as little as 10 or 15 minutes each. My goal on tournament days always is to find two or three baits early on that will draw strikes, and then wear them out for the rest of the day, provided the bites keep coming.

My research for this article turned up an angler who admitted that "the urge to change lures is a tough one" when the fish aren't biting. However, he has a special plan for areas that he feels sure hold fish, and he forces himself to stick to that plan, no matter the outcome.

"I start with tying on one of my favorite go-to lures," he said, "then tinker with retrieve, weight, color, etc." When those efforts fail, he always tries a topwater bait before leaving the area because, as he explained, "the fish sometimes are looking up, not down." He will stick with this plan through a few good areas before changing to a totally different lure and/or presentation.

I also found an angler who said, "If I want to catch large numbers of bass, I will change lures as often as necessary. If I want to catch a big bass, I will fish the same lure all day long." It would appear there may be some truth to that philosophy, because here's the photo of a fella who stayed with the same lure all day and ended up catching the 14.16-lb. bass he's holding.

In closing, let me pass along the following advice of professional bass angler Joey Nania:

"Fishing is one of the most complex sports that a person ever could get involved with, and it can be extremely frustrating if you don't know where to start.

"With thousands of baits to choose from, as well as hundreds of different bodies of water and fish species to chase, a good, solid starting ground must be found. The key to learning and growing as an angler is, first, spending time on the water, but while you do that, you need to start with a basic technique and stick with it.

"Many inexperienced anglers try to do way too much, believing that switching baits or colors will bring instant results and put more fish in the boat. Nine times out of ten, it is not so much what bait or color you're throwing, but the place and way you are throwing it.

"My suggestion is start out simple, with something like a shaky head with a straight-tail worm rigged on it. Go out in the boat with just the shaky head and nothing else and use it all day. Try it shallow, try it deep, but no matter what, get a good feel for how to slowly crawl the deadly shaky head on the bottom. I promise if you stick with it, you will get bites.

"Once you've mastered the shaky head or something similar, put it aside for a day and choose a new bait, such as a jig and craw trailer and stick with it until you find success. In fishing, it is extremely important to build confidence in different baits and presentations and then put in the time on the water that it takes to have a deep understanding of when and where to use each one."

Friday, May 19, 2017

Picking the Right Color...Not Always As Easy As It Sounds

I thought I knew how to pick colors for fishing lures, but after an online reading session yesterday, I'm not so sure.

My self-guidance always has been "dark colors on dark days, bright colors on bright days." I found one expert with the same understanding, but I also found one who had a bit different take on the subject. He advocated "natural, light-colored lures for clear water/sunny days, very bright or very dark lures for dirty water/cloudy days."

The latter's logic is that a bass' visibility is hampered by silt, and colors like chartreuse, yellow and orange are easier to see than bone, pumpkinseed and smoke. On the other hand, when water is clear and the fish can get an unobstructed look at the bait, it's best to go with softer, more natural colors.

For example, when water clarity is poor (visibility of a foot or less), many pros use spinnerbaits with chartreuse or yellow skirts or crankbaits in a firetiger pattern (orange belly, chartreuse sides, dark green back). Conversely, in clear water, white or white/blue spinnerbaits are favorites, as are crankbaits in chrome, bone and various natural finishes (crawfish, shad, sunfish, etc.).

The same principle applies to soft plastics. In dingy water, dense colors are the rule, and two-color worms with bright tails offer added visibility. Examples are grape, black or blue baits with chartreuse, red or orange tails. In clear water, lighter, more translucent lure colors seem to work best. Favored colors here include pumpkinseed, motor oil, strawberry, and smoke. Also, bits of metalflake molded into these see-through worms provide extra flash and attraction to bass in high-vis situations.

Preferred color combinations for the jig-and-pig are as follows: (clear water) black jig/blue trailer with either pork-chunk baits or plastic crawfish baits in black/brown and pumpkin pepper/green; (stained water) black/yellow and black/chartreuse are perennial producers.

So, now you know exactly what colors to throw the next time you hit the water...well, maybe not, as it turns out. What about all those unbelievably crazy color names assigned to hard lures and soft plastics alike today? You know what I'm talking about...names like nuclear chicken, roadkill, baby puke, scuppernong, foxy momma, chaos, green weenie, margarita mutilator, and the list goes on and on.

Although they seem random or downright silly, there is a very good reason for all these freaky colors: Bass love 'em, or maybe it's just that the fishermen love 'em. At any rate, they fly off shelves in tackle stores all across the country.

Believe it or not, there is a method to this madness. Experienced bass anglers have learned that presenting a completely new color to bass that aren't biting sometimes will turn them back on. They don't know, nor do they care to know the science behind this phenomenon. All they know and really care about is that, if it puts fish in the boat on a tough bite, it's worth having in their tacklebox, regardless of cost.

Look in any pro's box today, and you're apt to find at least a few colors not seen in nature--like hot pinks, blues, red chrome, and multi-colored lures--right alongside the standard colors. Take the lure color firetiger, for example. You'll rarely find a tacklebox without at least one crankbait in this wild, unnatural color (a mix of neon green, chartreuse, hot orange, and black stripes). It has been a go-to color for decades and produces bass as well as any naturally-colored lure.

The key to becoming a successful bass angler is to be willing to experiment with a variety of colors until you find what works best on your local waters. Start with colors that have been proven fish-getters in the past, or with colors the locals recommend, and branch out from there. Through trial and error, you'll eventually find the right pattern that unlocks the bite.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What's the Status of the West Neck Ramp?

That seems to be the pressing question on everyone's mind, including yours truly. I'm not sure how much help this short post will be, but for what it's worth, here's what I know, based on my fishing trip out of West Neck Marina yesterday.

The catwalk that incurred the damage during all the high water is in the process of being completely replaced. All the old stuff is gone, and a lot of the new stuff is in place, but the job is not complete. The most glaring safety concern I saw yesterday is that, while some new planks have been laid down, none of them appear to have been nailed/screwed in place. A couple of cones are in place at the head of the catwalk, but there are no signs warning you to stay away.

I want to believe that most adults, with even a little common sense, would be smart enough to stay off the new catwalk, but kids are an entirely different issue. And it has been my observation over considerable time, that, in some cases, parents let their kids run helter-skelter on the marina premises, which, given the new catwalk's unfinished state, only begs for trouble.

I called Steve before my visit yesterday morning and specifically asked if the ramp was open, to which he replied, "Yes." However, I would encourage anyone contemplating a boat launch there in the short haul to plan on using only the one remaining old catwalk.

As to when the new catwalk will be ready for use, I feel pretty certain the magic date--at the latest--will be Sunday, June 4th. That's the date for this year's Cancer Classic, which has moved its base of operations to West Neck this year, as a result of the sale of West Landing Marina. Given the crowd that usually accompanies that event, I have to believe the boat-ramp repairs at West Neck, of pure necessity, will have been completed by that date.

In the meantime, though, it is in everyone's best interests to use extra caution around the West Neck boat ramp, especially if any little ones are with you.

Monday, May 15, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, May 21, 2017

Monday, May 15, 2017..."Caught these two (weighing in at 1-2 and 2-5), plus four more that were all 12-inch dinks," said Jim B., who is currently fishing Lake Gaston. He went on to explain that one of them fell for a Whopper Plopper in a cove, while the rest of the fish went for a French fry. "You had to be a line watcher," he noted, "because all they were doing was picking up the FF and swimming off with it. With the wind howling out of the north, it was very interesting." In his words, "That 2.5 was dang near under the boat before I realized she was there--just swimming along as I reeled in line." Jim reported that the water level had been raised about a foot overnight. His guess is that the raise is a result of  the Roanoke River being at flood stage. "They probably have the flood gates open both here and at Kerr," he said.

Monday, May 15, 2017...Kayaker Ron made a quick trip to upper West Neck Creek, launching from Indian River Road at 6:30 p.m. The bite picked up at sunset, with Ron throwing the Whopper Plopper and Pop R. All the bass fell to the Pop R. Most hits occurred in the feeder creeks, adjacent to cypress trees. Ron ended up with four bass, including a 1-3, 1-5, 1-6, and a 2-1. He trolled a beetlespin but to no avail. "The water was very clear, and shad were jumping all around," he said.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017...This evening's email from Jim B. at Lake Gaston reported that he caught a total of nine bass today, including the three (two 1-2s and a 1-14) pictured here, plus a 12-inch dink and five more in the 6- to 8-inch range. He said he also had two good keepers come unhooked right at the boat. "The only thing that worked today was the French fry," he said. Jim stayed in the back of Pea Hill Creek today. "The water there was a bit clearer," he noted. Water temp was 72 this morning, and it had climbed to 80 when he called it a day at 3 o'clock. The one oddity on the day's events was that Jim found a 5.5-inch Senko in his first fish (1-2) that he caught this morning.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017...My outboard still was running at less than 100 percent today, but I felt comfortable taking it for a trip to Albright's this morning. It no longer is bogging down--there's just an intermittent surge issue (something that my mechanic feels is related to the fact the carbs likely need a little more cleanup). The big carp and gar were busy with their annual ritual all around Albright's, but I still managed to boat a total of eight bass, including a 1-6, 2-8, and six dinks--two or three of which would have eclipsed the 12-inch mark. The best part of the day was that it was another all-topwater bite all day long. The lure I used to catch everything was a Whopper Plopper (reckon I have to thank Skip for his "clinic" this past Saturday). Besides the eight I boated, I had about six other blowups and had short-lived hookups on two of those occasions--one of which was taking serious drag when he bid me adios. Don't know how long this topwater bite will continue, but you won't find me belly-achin' about it.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017...From Ron came this report: "Did a 6:30-to-8 p.m. trip into West Neck from the marina yesterday. Didn't get a bump until about 7:45, after a slight dip in temperature (when the sun hit the tree tops). Caught two dinks--one on a Whopper Plopper and one on a Pop R. Threw a craw to cypress, but they weren't interested. Had a couple short strikes and a couple misses. Beats a skunk. The bugs enjoyed the heat more than I did!"

Wednesday, May 17, 2017...From Ray came this report: "A friend took me to Lake Burnt Mills. He had a good day of 12 bass and a large bowfin. Meanwhile, I had a good day of three dinks and a fishing lesson (Who says you can't teach old dogs new tricks?). Senkos and other worms worked best. I also managed one bass on a jerkbait. Water temperature was in the low 70's and very deep and clear."

Thursday, May 18, 2017...From Jim B. at Lake Gaston: "Decided to check the forecast this morning and glad I did, because there was a big change from yesterday. The updated predictions were for 10-15 mph southerly wind today, with thunderstorms tomorrow afternoon and showers Saturday morning. I decided to fish a while today and get out of here tomorrow morning ahead of the weather. I don't clean boats in thunderstorms. When I cleared the cove where I'm staying this morning, that wind turned me around, and I headed to the back again. No topwater bite and nothing on the crawfish this morning, so I went back to the French fry. Fished about 3.5 hours and quit just after 1 p.m. The water temp this morning read 76 degrees--forgot to check it at 1. Caught five bass total, including the 1-4 and 1-11 in the accompanying panorama pic, as well as a 1-0 and two dinks."

Saturday, May 20, 2017...From Skip and Mitch: "We fished from about 6 a.m.to 12:15 and caught a total of 11 fish. There were no big ones but had a few around 2 lbs. Most fish were caught on flukes."

Saturday, May 20, 2017...From Ron:  "Fished House Cove Saturday morning from 0630 to 1000. 'Twas a very nice morning, clear, and the grass is coming up nicely. The trolled beetlespin got put away after the third catfish. Caught several very small bass and had my first double on the Whopper Plopper, but they were only in the six-inch range. Managed a 15-oz. and a 1-9 bass, as well as a small white perch. Most of the six bass attacked the WP, also had a couple dinks on a Silver Minnow. The trip out of House Cove was dreadful, as the wind had doubled what was forecasted. Went back out in the evening for a short trip to West Neck Marina (1830 - 2000). Fought the wind and headed north. Caught a 1-1 bass, tiny yellow perch, and a decent crappie at 13 inches. Crappie and bass hit the WP, yellow perch hit the beetlespin. All in all, not a bad day, but not a banner day, either."

Sunday, May 21, 2017...From Ron: "Having kept my lone crappie from Saturday evening, I needed a few more for the pan. Decided Milldam offered my best chances. The river gauge was low, having dropped a foot, but the water was very clear. Launched about 0800 and had five more crappie by 0900 (all between 10.5 and 12 inches). With the stringer full, I decided to target bass with the Whopper Plopper and Pop R. Caught eight bass, including a 1-0, 1-5, 1-9, 2-5 and four dinks."

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Small in Numbers But Big in Enthusiasm...Despite the Nasty Weather

I'm talking, of course, about the fact we only had six boats and 11 anglers on hand for today's tournament out of Pungo Ferry, vice the usual West Neck Marina. Workmen were continuing repairs to the boat ramp at the latter site.

All boats weighed five-fish limits today, starting with the following winners:

1st Place, Gary Coderre, 13.56 lbs. total weight, 4.02-lb. big fish.

2nd Place, (from left) Mike Speedy and Stephen Hardwick, 12.45 lbs. total weight, 4.50-lb. big fish (today's lunker).

Mystery Weight winners, (from left) Duane Kessel and Bobby Moore, 9.70 lbs. total weight (closest to the drawn weight of 7.20), no big fish.

Here is how everyone else finished today's competition:

     * Paul Celentano and Paul Higgins, 11.51 lbs. total weight, 2.93-lb. big fish.
     * Wayne Hayes and Al Napier, 10.28 lbs. total weight, 2.95-lb. big fish.
     * Skip Schaible and Ken Testorff, 10.05 lbs. total weight, 3.56-lb. big fish.

Congrats to all the winners and thanks to everyone who came out to participate. For planning purposes, our next scheduled event is Saturday, May 27. I also have rescheduled a make-up tournament (for the one I cancelled on 4/29). The new date is Saturday, June 17. Start time for all events is safe light. The current weigh-in time is 3 p.m.

For a good while now, I've been hearing different anglers talking about the fish they are catching with the Whopper Plopper. Today, I got a firsthand demonstration at just how quickly this lure can change a person's or team's fortunes.

Somewhere around mid-morning, Skip and I were fishing along, trying to provide some company for the two bass in the livewell at the time, when all of a sudden, I see a nice bass inhale Skip's WP. I just had removed the hooks, put a culling clip in the fish's mouth, and tossed it in the livewell, when I hear another huge blowup from the same spot and look up to see Skip once again set the hooks on a nice bass. On two casts, he had put two more fish in the livewell and added between 5.5 and 6 lbs. to our total weight.

Once again, Skip swung the boat around for a third pass in the same area, but, lo, a third fish wasn't in the cards. Nevertheless, I congratulated him on the "clinic" he just had put on for my benefit. I think I almost was as excited as Skip, when all I really did was to net the fish for him.

The way I see it, nothing compares to a topwater bite. Still gives me an adrenaline rush, just thinking about those two bass Skip caught on the WP this morning. Way to go! my friend. And thanks for the ride.

While I'm passing out thanks, let me also give a big pat on the back to those "younger" ones among us for helping the "older" ones launch and recover boats and hold the weigh-in. You don't know how much we codgers appreciate your energy and strength. Makes me mighty proud to be part of an enthusiastic group dedicated to the principles of teamwork.