Friday, June 22, 2018

A Boat Ride Like No Other

That's how Texas angler Alton Jones and his marshal likely viewed their accident-marred trip to the north end of the Sabine River Saturday, June 9, during a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Elite event.

According to Jones, "I hit stuff going up there every day, but today the water had gone down, and I hit something extra hard. I didn't think anything about it," he said. "I was coming back for check-in during a thunderstorm, passing a redfish boat. When I hit his wake, my nose dipped, and the boat spun 90 degrees and went into the woods. I had knocked my skeg off when I hit that submerged log, and without that skeg, you have no control. You can turn that wheel all you want, and the boat's going where the boat's going."

Fortunately, neither man was injured. A couple of local fishermen quickly came to their aid, but the ropes they had weren't strong enough to pull the boat back into the water.

When Orange County Sheriff's Department officials arrived, they had a large rope that allowed them to get into deeper water and apply more force.

"First responders arrived on the scene in 20 minutes and had me off the bank in 30 minutes," Jones said.

Jones, who is open about his Christian faith, said he and his marshal paused for a moment of prayer before making the 50-mile run back to the weigh-in. Jones said their prayer was answered when his boat landed softly on the mud bank.

"We threaded the needle right through two cypress trees, with about 6 inches of clearance on each side," he said. "That wasn't anything I did. That was God watching over us."

Remarkably, other than for the damage to his skeg, Jones' boat was unscathed.

He said the incident should serve as a warning to other boaters who might be riding around in boats with skegs that are damaged.

"I've been doing this for 28 years, and I've never had anything like this happen," he said. "But I can't tell you how many bass boats I've owned that had a big chunk out of the skeg, and I never thought anything about it. I won't do that anymore--and no one else should either."

Trying to steer a boat without a skeg is "like trying to drive a car with a flat tire" is how Jones described his eye-opening experience.

Modified from an article that appeared in the June 19, 2018, issue of Jay Kumar's BassBlaster. The author was Bryan Brasher, who is editor of Bass Times and a senior writer for B.A.S.S. publications. Brasher has covered the outdoors since the mid-1990s for three newspapers and was named Best Outdoors Writer four times by the Tennessee Sports Writers Association.

Thursday, June 21, 2018

NMMA Opposes New Recreational-Boating-Industry Tariffs

The National Marine Manufacturers Association is sounding a new and urgent alarm on the Section 301 tariffs announced last week by the Trump Administration. The 25 percent tariffs on approximately $50 billion worth of select Chinese products include nearly 300 marine-related parts.

"The U.S. recreational boating industry--a $39 billion industry that supports 650,000 American jobs--experienced another setback due to the Trump Administration's actions on trade," said NMMA President Thom Dammrich. "The announcement on 301 tariffs once again puts our proud, uniquely American-made industry at the mercy of bad trade policies that are piling up on top of each other. Collectively, these tariffs are causing the price of raw materials and marine parts to rise rapidly and stifling U.S. boat exports.

"The industry also is facing retaliation from our largest trading partners, including the European Union, which formally approved a 25-percent tariff on U.S. boats," Dammrich added. "Canada and Mexico also are applying 10 and 15 percent tariffs on recreational boats, respectively, making ours the only recreational industry singled out by all three jurisdictions."

Canada, the EU, and Mexico account for 69 percent of annual U.S. boat exports. Because of these tariffs, dealers in Canada and the EU already have started canceling orders.

The recreational boating industry has rebounded to pre-recession sales over the past 10 years, Dammrich said. Unfortunately, the Trump Administration's counterproductive policies are jeopardizing the strong, steady growth the industry has been experiencing.

"The marine-manufacturing industry relies on free and fair trade," Dammrich said. "We recognzie the need to deal with unfair trade practices by the Chinese, but the actions undertaken by this administration will hurt U.S. manufacturers more than help them. Nobody wins in a trade war, but U.S. manufacturing--more specifically, the recreational boating industry--will suffer. We need this administration to recognize the harmful effects of its current direction and focus on solving the problems facing Americans, rather than making them worse."

The final list of Chinese products subject to a 25 percent tariff (Section 301) contains nearly 300 marine products, including engines and navigational equipment. These components are incorporated into the majority of recreational boats and will impact the entire industry. For some products, the additional cost to the consumer would be approximately $2,000.

These tariffs are compounded by the Trump Administration's 10 percent tariff on all aluminum imports (Section 232) and countervailing and pending anti-dumping duties on common alloy aluminum sheet. As a result, the global price of aluminum has increased by 20 to 30 percent.

Critically, common alloy aluminum sheet is a primary material used in 44 percent of new boats built in the U.S. These boats represent 117,000 new powerboat sales each year and account for $3 billion in retail sales. Together, the countervailing and anti-dumping duties on this product are expected to total no less than an estimated 31 percent, and potentially in excess of 113 percent.

Canada, Mexico, and the EU already have defined the products that will be the targets of retaliation in response to Section 232 tariffs. All trading partners have included various types of recreational boats on their lists. The retaliatory tariffs on U.S. recreational boats, which already are resulting in order cancellations, are listed below:

     * Canada - 10 percent, takes effect July 1, 2018.
     * Mexico - 15 percent, already in effect.
     * EU - 25 percent, takes effect on July 2, 2018.

Ninety-five percent of boats sold in the U.S. are made in the U.S., meaning these sales benefit American businesses and workers alike.

This article was published in the latest issue of Jay Kumar's BassBlaster.

EPA Approves Bio-Isobutanol as a Fuel Additive

That's the word from NMMA President Thom Dammrich.

"We applaud...approval of bio-isobutanol as a biofuel additive, which will provide consumers a safe, efficient, and environmentally-friendly E15 alternative that is highly compatible with marine products," said Dammrich. "As Congress continues to discuss potential reforms to the Renewable Fuel Standard, it is absolutely critical that all stakeholders remember the threat posed by fuel blends exceeding 10 percent ethanol."

Following is background data on the new additive decision:

     * According to the NMMA, 95 percent of boats are fueled at retail gas stations. Boat owners depend on safe, reliable and proven fuel choices to be universally available.

     * Misfueling of engines voids warranties, leaving consumers with expensive repair and replacement bills.

     * Bio-isobutanol is a four-carbon alcohol produced from renewable, plant-derived energy sources in a fermentation process similar to beer and wine production.

     * Bio-isobutanol can be produced using existing ethanol feedstocks, such as corn and sugar beets, or advanced feedstocks (cellulosic biomass), such as crop residues, wood residues, dedicated energy crops, and industrial and other wastes.

     * Unlike E15, which causes severe damage to small engines like those used in recreational boating, bio-isobutanol delivers more renewable energy content than ethanol, while remaining compatible with current vehicles, boats and infrastructure.

According to a Harris Poll commissioned by the Outdoor Power Equipment Institute (2018):

     * Nearly two-thirds of Americans (65 percent) assume that any gas sold at the gas station is safe for all cars, as well as boats, mowers, chain saws, snowmobiles, generators, and other engine products;

     * As a result, an ever-increasing number of outdoor power-equipment owners are using the wrong type of fuel in their products, including boats. In 2018, 11 percent reported using E15, E30, E50, or E85 to fuel their equipment, up from 7 percent in 2015;

     * The EPA issued a small voluntary label for gas stations to post if they sell fuel with more than 10 percent ethanol. When asked about the label, more than 3 in 5 Americans (63 percent) feel it is inadequate to inform consumers about E15 fuel being illegal to use in outdoor power equipment.

This article appeared in the latest issue of Jay Kumar's BassBlaster.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Fishing Is Supposed To Be Fun...Let's Keep It That Way

An umbrella on a bass boat may not be for everyone, but good friend and fellow angler Skip Schaible can't say enough good things about the one he uses regularly on his Nitro this time of year.

For anyone who hasn't already noticed, we're getting into summer--as of this Thursday, June 21, to be exact. The next two and a half months or longer likely are going to be filled with many days when the temperature will soar to better than 90 degrees. Accordingly, it's in every angler's best interests to focus on personal comfort and safety when they're on the water.

Here are some tips designed to keep you cool during the coming hot fishing days:

Stay Hydrated. Perspiration is one way your body regulates its temperature. In hot and humid conditions, you need to frequently replenish liquids lost to sweating. If you don't take in enough fluids, you run the risk of getting sick with sunstroke. Staying hydrated is simple: Drink a lot of fluids and drink often. It's best to drink plenty of water and not just take a few sips now and then. Drinking before you feel thirsty is another rule of thumb to stay hydrated. When your body sends out a signal for thirst, you're already dehydrated. If you feel thirsty, drink plenty of water to replenish your fluid levels. When it comes to drinks, stay away from caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. These will cause you to lose fluids, as both are diuretics. If you do drink these beverages, make sure you have a few extra glasses of water to compensate for lost liquids. A few sport drinks are OK during hot weather; they help replenish salts, sugars and other minerals lost from excessive perspiration. Juices also are good to have on hand.

Protect Your Head. Without a hat, you're tempting fate and a case of sunstroke. A wide-brimmed hat will protect your face, ears and neck from the sun's rays. Other options include ball caps, buffs and bandanas. These don't provide as much protection but are better than nothing.

Protect Your Eyes. Most sunglasses sold today will protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. For anglers, polarized lenses will cut down on the sun's glare on the water, letting you spot fish and underwater structure. Wrap-around options are extremely popular, as they hug the face and do an excellent job blocking out the sun. When buying your shades, pick up a floating case and a lanyard to protect your investment from unwanted overboard losses.

Lather on the Sunscreen. Using sunscreen on a regular basis is critical to protecting your skin from UV rays. Not using sunscreen increases your chances of getting skin cancer or may result in other skin damage, like sunburns. Keep in mind that the sun's rays can reflect off the water's surface, and cloudy conditions still call for sunscreen. Adults should use a sunscreen with a minimum SPF-15 rating, and children should use sunscreen with at least an SPF-30 rating. Ensure you apply sunscreen liberally at about 20 minutes before you're in the sun for maximum protection. Consider using sport sunscreens when fishing. These products are fairly waterproof and sweatproof, resulting in better protection. Sunscreen also should be reapplied as necessary. This is especially true if you've gotten wet or have been sweating a lot. Also carry a stick of lip balm with an SPF-15 rating, and use it often. You also may want to consider a sunblock stick to cover your ears and nose.

Get the Right Clothing. Protecting your skin with proper clothing is important. Some sportswear fabric offers sun protection. SPF ratings up to 50 are common today. Often, these clothes feature moisture-wicking and quick-drying features that also will help you keep cool. Look for vented cape backs in shirts for maximum ventilation. Although shorts and short-sleeved shirts are common in hot conditions, it's important to have long-sleeved shirts and pants on hand. If you're standing and fishing all day in sandals, it won't take long for your toes to get burned if you're not prepared. Regularly apply a lot of sunscreen to your feet, and don't be shy putting on some ultralight socks or switching to shoes if your feet get too hot. Also don't neglect your hands. If you're landing and releasing fish all day, sunscreen can wash off quickly, so reapply often. Also consider sun gloves that are specificaly designed to protect hands from UV rays, but allow you to do all things fishing-related, like tie knots, cast and reel, and so on.

Take Cover. If you have an umbrella like the one Skip uses, this suggestion is easy to follow. Without one, especially on tournament days, your best bet is to follow all the previous suggestions. And if you find a stretch of water offering some shade and a decent bite, wear it out.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

A Big "Welcome Back, Al!"

It was indeed great to welcome Al Napier back to our group today. For those who don't already know, Al has been battling some serious health issues, and they're not over yet. As he explained to me this morning, everything is getting ready to shift into another gear, so to speak, and before that happens, he wanted one more trip on the water to do what he loves and does so well--put bass in the boat. "I figured if I could cut the grass at home yesterday, I would try to go fishing today" is how he described his decision.

Al and his son, Chris, joined 17 others anglers in a grouping of 12 boats that departed the West Neck Marina boat basin at safe light this morning. After eight-plus hours on the water, they returned with 46 bass, weighing 79.07 lbs. The average weight was 1.71 lbs. per fish.

Here are those anglers who rose to the occasion and left the marina with pay envelopes in their pockets:

1st Place, (from left) the father-son team of Al and Chris Napier, five-fish limit, 12.12 lbs. total weight. They also claimed big-fish honors with a bass that tipped the scales at 4.58 lbs.

2nd Place, (from left) the team of Zack Rhodes and Eric Laufer, five-fish limit, 10.22 lbs. total weight. Their big fish weighed 2.67 lbs.

3rd Place, (from left) the team of Steve Bailey and Bobby Moore, five-fish limit, 10.05 lbs. total weight. Their big fish weighed 2.81 lbs.

Winner of today's mystery-weight award was Dave Anderson, who had a five-fish limit weighing 7.54 lbs., which was closest to the 7.55-lb. tag that was drawn. His big fish weighed 2.22 lbs.

Here is how all the other participants finished the competition:

     * The team of Rob Peppers and Don Carter, five-fish limit, 9.43 lbs. total weight. Their big fish weighed 3.22 lbs.
     * Jim Wilder, five-fish limit, 8.92 lbs. total weight. His big fish weighed 3.03 lbs.
     * The team of Andy Morath and Zach Bubier, five-fish limit, 6.21 lbs. total weight. They had no big fish.
     * Jim Bauer, three fish, 4.84 lbs. total weight. He had no big fish.
     * The team of Gary Coderre and Lenny Hall, three fish, 3.43 lbs. total weight. They had no big fish.
     * The team of Jim Crist and Danny Harris, two fish, 2.72 lbs. total weight. They had no big fish.
     * Wayne Hayes, two fish, 2.50 lbs. total weight. He had no big fish.
     * Skip Schaible, one fish, 1.09 lbs. total weight. He had no big fish.

Gary Coderre joined the list of five other competitors who have qualified to fish our season-ending two-day Classic contest.

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 23, from safe light (about 5:30) to 2 o'clock. I hope you can join us.

One Last Cast

Having been forced, by way of doctor's orders, to sit on the sidelines today and just run things, I had the pleasure of spending more time than usual interacting with the guys who fished, and I'm here to tell you that I enjoyed every minute of it.

The one thing I always find so interesting is the vast differences in the reports from the fishermen. For instance, I heard some say they had had some pretty decent topwater action this morning, while others bemoaned the fact they couldn't buy even a single strike on topwater. For some, soft plastics made their day, but there were others who caught fish on hard baits. And, too, I learned that some fellas ran rather long distances, with barely anything to show for it, while others stayed within 5 to 10 minutes of the marina and caught fish all day long.

Just goes to show you that, on any given day, there are more than one way to "skin a cat," so to speak. The ticket to success often rests in a series of critical decisions each angler makes...all day long. The single truth that seems to be evident, for tournament after tournament, is that someone, or a select few, always will find fish (and, sometimes, a lot of 'em), even when other anglers will come up empty-handed.

This much I'm certain of: Several people, including yours truly, were happy to see what would appear to be Al's last tournament for a spell finish on a winning note. We all join in wishing you success in whatever medical procedures lay ahead, as well as a speedy recovery. God bless you and your entire family, my good friend. Come back to us soon.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Trying to Regroup After a Back-to-Reality Scare

That's where I'm at this Thursday night, following dismissal from Sentara Princess Anne Hospital. I was admitted there yesterday, after having what is referred to as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. Simply put, it's a mini-stroke, caused by a clot, which temporarily disrupts blood flow in the brain...similar to a stroke. The major difference is that there is no permanent brain-tissue damage with a TIA.

For a week, I can neither drive a car nor operate my boat, which, as far as I'm concerned, isn't bad, considering the bullet I dodged. As I've already told some, I owe my good fortune to my wife, who recognized quickly what was happening to me Wednesday, when I went to her and said, "Honey, something just happened to me." When I then couldn't tell her what day it was, she immediately called the EMTs, and I subsequently landed at SPAH.

The scary part of this event (for me) is that, as related by my wife, I carried on a conversation with her, the EMTs, and my daughter-in-law for about five hours--without missing a beat--but can't remember a single minute of it. And I'm told I likely never will recall those hours. The reality of all this now is that I run the risk of having one or more of these episodes in coming years, any one of which could end up being the "real deal."

How badly does that fact bother me? Let's just say I'm figuring on losing more than a little sleep as I chew on it.

I realize there are some changes in my future--much longer than the week's downtime my doctor ordered. I'm looking at several options, all designed to give my wife the peace of mind she has asked for. The way I see it: I owe her a debt for having honored our marriage vows to the nth degree, and I've given her my word I will set about doing all I possibly can to put her at ease during future fishing trips. That's the very least I can do.

Before bringing this story to a close, please let me share my experience today after being belted in for my second-ever MRI. I had considerable reservations before today's test ever started about 3:30 p.m. I had had a cluster headache since midnight Wednesday, and to get to the heart of the matter--my head was really pounding before they ever strapped me in that noisy contraption. I already was sweating before they handed me that rubber bulb and told me not to hesitate to squeeze it if I felt I couldn't stand any more.

Having endured my first MRI to the bitter end, I thought I might do likewise this time, but on that first occasion, I didn't have a cluster headache. And that proved to be my shortfall today. I stood all I could but finally squeezed the bulb, at which time I heard the operator's voice come through my headphones, asking if I was OK. I responded, "That all depends on what you consider OK."

I then explained that my headache, coupled with all the test noise, was making my head feel as though it was being squashed. Those extremely tight-fitting football-like masks over my face weren't helping any, either. Finally, I asked how much longer I had in the tube, and her response of "4 minutes" sounded like a lifetime. However, I agreed to see if I could hold on. Another two minutes passed, and I had reached my limit. I cried "uncle," the machine shut down, and I was released from what had felt like a torture chamber.

Fortunately, my failure to complete the test wasn't a total bust. Technicians subsequently came to my room and finished the test with an ultrasound. A little while longer, I got the word that I was being released, which made me the happiest person on earth at that moment. My advice to all, however, is "think twice before starting an MRI with a headache--of any kind."

Monday, June 11, 2018

For the Week Ending Sunday, June 17, 2018

Monday, June 11 (from Ron)...The forecast called for "light" rain. When I launched about 5 p.m., there was drizzle and not too bad. The wind was stiff but bearable. Water was crystal clear, and the gauge was at 2.5, just right for Milldam. Arrived at a feeder creek, and on the first cast lost about a 2-pounder. Thought it was going to be good, but alas, it wasn't. Rain increased to "moderate," and as I got soaked, only managed a handful of white perch, with the biggest measuring only 9 inches. Did find one similar sized bass before I got too cold and wet and quit at 6:30. It was my 44th straight day of fishing, but the juice was not worth the squeeze. It's a bad day when the biggest bass puts up a weaker fight than a dink white perch!

Tuesday, June 12 (from Ron)...Launched in the very light drizzle at 5 p.m. The intensity of the rain varied, with some pleasant lulls, but I ended up soaked to the bone by 8 p.m. Finally found some taco fare, with two decent crappie at the 12-inch size and a 10-inch white perch, just enough to make a few tacos. Wish the other eight white perch had been over 6 inches! The panfish were hitting the micro spinnerbait. Had a serious pole-bending drag run on the trolled beetlespin, but never found out what it was. Bass liked the SwimSenko. Lost two but landed two at 2-5 and 2-0. Grass is starting to thicken up. Two of the bass I caught hit the SwimSenko as I dragged it over the grass on the surface.  Have to learn to be more patient and let them take it a bit longer. Because of that, I tried topwater (Pop R and Pop ShadZ) but had no strikes on either.

Wednesday, June 13 (from Ron)...With the gauge high and Milldam not an option, headed for an Indian River Road launch and fished upper North Landing. Did not get a single tap, nibble, strike, bump, swirl, or fish. Serious skunk. Tried everything everywhere and just couldn't elicit a bite. Oh well, there's always tomorrow.

Thursday, June 14 (from Ron)...Fished Lovitt's from 6 to 8:20 p.m. Very slow start, but as the sun began to set, managed to find a few on the SwimSenki. Caught four dinks to 11 inches. At least I avoided the skunk.

Friday, June 15 (from Ron)...Gauge dropped a bit, and I was able to limbo under the Milldam Creek Bridge. Fished 6 to 8 p.m., and the bite was OK. Caught two dink bass, a 1-4, and 2-6, as well as about five white perch and an 8-inch bluegill that hit the spinnerbait. Panfish were hitting the spinnerbait, and the bass were in the grass, hitting the SwimSenko.

Friday, June 15 (from Charlie)...I actually went out today. Did some bank fishing on Mackay Island. Got 10 in total, including one 3, a couple of 2s, and the rest dinks. Caught everything on plastic craws and a Johnson silver minnow.

Saturday, June 16 (from Ron)...Need a new term to describe the super-dink-sized bass. They were biting in the upper North Landing, but only the kids were out playing. Caught four that all came in under 8 inches on the Spinnerbait and XTS. Tried plastics in search of bowfin, but couldn't find any, as has been the case all year--an odd occurrence, because this used to be my bowfin go-to spot.

Sunday, June 17 (from Ron)...Fished Crystal Lake this morning from 0600 to 1100. Was throwing a chatterbait with a 4-inch swimbait trailer and hooked into what I thought was an 8-lb. bass. The serious drag-screamer, however, turned out to be a 5-8 catfish. Went on to also catch a bluegill, a 1-2 bass, and two chain pickerel at 18 and 20 inches, respectively. The bluegill hit a Rapala Husky that was bigger than the bluegill. Will be on the road for a couple weeks, so any reports will be as the result of bank fishing in KY or IN.