Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Choosing Lure Colors Is Anything but an Exact Science

You might even call it a crapshoot, without being too far off the mark--at least, that's my opinion. Here's why I say that.

The last time I was on the water, it was a dark day, with murky to muddy water, so I had an array of topwater/shallow-running baits tied on in a mixture of darker and bright colors. Unfortunately, none of these baits were producing.

As I neared the end of a long stretch of shoreline I had been fishing, I decided it was time to try something new. Since dark and brightly colored lures didn't seem to be the answer, I opted for a wakebait with a white belly and gray top. Almost immediately, I had a fish slam the bait.

Wanting to find cleaner water, I decided to run to another spot, rather than go back over the same stretch I just had covered. Upon arriving at the new spot, I picked up the rod with the bait I had caught the fish on a few minutes earlier and began catching fish in no time. Then it occurred to me this might be a good time to do a little experimenting.

I started throwing several different colors of the only bait (in the same size) that had worked for me a little earlier. Once again, all the bites stopped. After several minutes had passed, I went back to the bait with the white belly and gray top, and bingo, the action resumed.

The only thing I proved with that experiment is that, on certain days, at least, color does seem to matter, but picking a successful color may not always follow any generally accepted rule of thumb.

"For example," says Wade Bourne, one of America's best known outdoor writers and broadcasters, "the most fundamental rule is to fish brightly colored baits in dingy or muddy water and light, subtle colors in clear water. The logic here, say the experts, 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.

"When water clarity is poor (visibility of a foot or less), many pros use spinnerbaits with chartreuse or yellow skirts or crankbaits in a fire-tiger pattern (orange belly, chartreuse sides, dark green back). In clear water, those same pros favor white or white/blue spinnerbaits. Their color choices in crankbaits are chrome, bone and various natural finishes (crawfish, shad, sunfish, etc.).

"Besides water clarity, time of year and preferred forage also should be considered in choosing lure colors. For instance, crawfish are a main menu item on many Southern lakes in the pre-spawn, and unless the water is muddy, a crawfish-pattern crankbait or a brown/brown jig-and-pig emulates this natural prey. In the post-spawn, when many bass feed on small bluegills, sunfish-colored lures are effective. When bass are schooling in summer or chasing shad in bays in the fall, a chrome or shad-colored lure is a logical choice.

"Two particular fishing situations call for special color considerations: night fishing and topwater fishing. Most expert night fishermen use black or dark blue lures. Their theory is that these colors provide a more distinct profile when silhouetted against the lighter background of the water's surface. Thus, a dark lure is easier for bass to see and strike accurately at night.

"Most topwater specialists prefer dark-colored baits early and late in the day when visibility is poor, while light-colored baits get the nod during bright periods. They are quick to note, however, that a surface lure's action and noise are far more important in triggering strikes than its color.

"In conclusion, there are no hard-and-fast rules in selecting lure colors, and confidence may be the most important factor in this process. Beginning bass anglers perhaps should follow the basic guidelines presented here but, at the same time, be willing to experiment with different colors and combinations until they find what works best in their home waters. Then," concluded Bourne, "they would be well-served to stock their tackleboxes with a few basic colors and just forget about all the ones they don't have."

Beyond color discrimination, however, is the issue of whether some colors act as visual signals. In theory, some color patterns might excite bass. A splash of red on the throat of a crankbait, for example, might signify blood and, hence, a wounded, easy meal. On the other hand, red on a lure might be more like waving a red flag in the face of a bull, instinctively driving the bass crazy.

Evidence gathered from the field and lab tests, however, suggests otherwise. For one thing, if a color or color pattern evoked strong instinctive aggression, those lures consistently would yield higher-than-average catch rates. Yet, despite the myriad anglers pounding the water day after day, no such color ever has been discovered.

Bass anglers typically have individual favorites, but there is no consensus to support the idea that one color reliably is better than others all the time. If bass have a favorite color, they're keeping it a secret.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Go Bass Fishing on Memorial Day Weekend?

Are you crazy? Yes, I know some people will do that, despite the crowds portrayed in the accompanying photos, without so much as batting an eyelash, but not yours truly.

I can think of any number of pleasurable alternatives to that kind of torment, and that was before I ever hit the highway headed home yesterday morning from a sightseeing trip to Cary, NC.

The road was buzzing with vehicles towing boats, which admittedly came as no surprise. The same thing happens every Memorial Day weekend. Call me a "stick in the mud," if you must, but I have absolutely zero interest in sharing the waterways on this or any other holiday weekend.

Evening before last, for example, while I was catching some local Cary news, weather and sports on the tube, I heard about a family that already had suffered a tragedy on the water. It involved a mother, father, son, and daughter. The father and son were on a jet ski that was approaching a dock when, for some unknown reason, the jet ski suddenly accelerated and crashed into the dock, killing both riders. Making this incident particularly disturbing was the fact the mother and daughter watched the whole thing unfold from another jet ski just a short distance away.

So what kind of individual can listen to reports like this and still be motivated to chase a few bass over a busy holiday weekend such as Memorial Day? I read about an angler who regularly fishes heavily pressured waters and says he has no qualms about mixing it up with "the army of holiday yahoos," as he calls them, like you'll find cruising the waterways this weekend.

He has three simple rules that, when combined with all the boat traffic of a holiday weekend, allegedly helps him score lots of bass.

Rule No. 1 is to fish no-wake zones. This might sound trivial, but no-wake zones often are overlooked. At other times of the year, when you're itching to get on plane, "no wake" buoys are a bummer. On high-traffic days, though, they're like beacons of hope. In these areas, the fish at least have a chance to chill out and actually may bite because they're already used to the sound of boats passing through at a slow speed. If you go out on the main lake during midday on a holiday weekend, not only will you eat a few scrumptious wakes, you'll also be dealing with churned up bank sediment. This combination makes water clarity poor and puts the bass on edge.

Rule No. 2 is to think finesse right from the start. In turbulent, wake-infested water, you often need to present your baits as naturally as possible to trick bass that are on high alert. And I'm not talking about just the conventional "finesse" methodology of using smaller baits and lighter lines. I'm saying it's in your best interest to use baits that are as natural looking as possible, like straight-tail plastic worms, natural-colored creature baits, or even smaller skirted jigs with small trailers. Also take that extra second to let your bait sit still in the sweet spot before twitching, or last but not least, take one or two extra casts to the sweet spot if you didn't hit it just right the first time. No matter how much holiday-weekend madness is happening around them, no matter how wary they become, the bass still need to eat at some point.

Rule No. 3 is to cast where no man ever would think of casting. If you're doing your best to hide from the swarm of pleasure boats, assume the bass are, too. Cast to places that are really hard to reach. For example, if you have a dock with four chains connected to the bank, 18 pilings, four separate floating platforms, and a brush pile underneath the walkway, the alpha bass most likely lives in the exact spot among all that structure that will take a miracle cast to reach it. You're going to botch some attempts, but when you nail it, you'll score big, even with wakeboarders and jet skiers ripping past.

On a final note, take time to thank a veteran tomorrow and remember all those who have died in the service of our great country. It is because of them that we are able to freely enjoy pastimes like bass fishing. Have a great holiday, and stay safe out there.

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Will Someone P-L-E-A-S-E Turn Off These "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" Reruns?

I'm talking, of course, about the fact that "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head" is proving to be a lot more than the theme song for just that old movie. It also seems to be taking up residence as the theme song for our 2016 tourney season. I don't think a single event has passed thus far this year without at least one anointing from that liquid from above.

Nevertheless, the anglers keep coming, as evidenced by today's turnout of 19 anglers in 11 boats, so I suppose that all is not lost.

Here are those who cumulatively walked away with all the marbles from today's contest:

1st Place, Chris Fretard, five bass, 13.60 lbs. total weight, 3.03-lb. big fish.

2nd Place, the team of (from left) Bob Glass and Randy Conkle, five bass, 13.45 lbs. total weight after 0.25 deduction for one dead fish, 3.59-lb. big fish.

3rd Place, the team of (from left) Nelson Anderson and David Dozier, five bass, 11.60 lbs. total weight. David also weighed the day's lunker, a 4.44-pounder.

Mystery Weight Winners, the team of (from left) Cathy Brandt and Jim Sumrell, four bass, 7.35 lbs. total weight. Their weight was closest to the 7.25 that was drawn. They had no big fish, and as Jim explained afterward, they didn't realize they only had four fish in the livewell until they were bagging them for weigh-in...and that was after culling all day. But, hey, we all make mistakes from time to time.

Here is how all the other competitors finished the day:

     * The team of Paul Celentano and Paul Higgins, five bass, 10.74 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Al Napier, five bass, 10.00 lbs. total weight, 3.16-lb. big fish.
     * The team of Gary Coderre and Lenny Hall, five bass, 9.49 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * The team of Don Carter and Rob Peppers, five bass, 7.88 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * The team of Nathan and Marjorie Gottsch, five bass, 7.06 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Steve Bailey, five bass, 6.57 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * The team of Mitch Portervint and Skip Schaible, two bass, 3.47 lbs. total weight, no big fish.

Overall, today's anglers weighed a total of 51 bass for a total weight of 101.21 lbs. The average weight was 1.98 lbs.

There were no new additions to our Classic field as the result of today's event.

Congrats to all of the winners and thanks to everyone who came out to participate. For planning purposes, our next scheduled event is Saturday, June 11, from safe light (probably about 5:30) to 2 o'clock. I hope you can join us.

Soon after the 19 anglers shoved off this morning, I took advantage of an opportunity I don't often get, and that was to go park my fanny in the passenger seat of my ol' van, adjust the seatback, and catch a few extra winks of shuteye.

I didn't wimp out because of the weather. Instead, I had promised my wife I would get home as soon as possible after weigh-in was complete so she could take me out to dinner for my birthday. By not taking my boat out of its storage shed this morning, I cut off 2+ hours of cleanup time this afternoon and actually beat some participants out of the parking lot.

Once awake from my nap, I spent time talking to several friends, including some new ones that I wanted to get to know better. It's hard to break old habits, which, in my case, centers on my career as a journalist/writer-editor. I can't tell you how many people I've interviewed over my lifetime, but it's more than a few. They probably sometimes get tired of my asking questions, and I certainly apologize to anyone I've ever offended by being so inquisitive.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Good Day Locally Trumped by Even Better Day on Lake Gaston

With low water this morning, I decided to start in West Neck but only had found one bass, the beat-up 1-7 (pictured right), by the time I reached the mouth of the creek. I turned around and headed above the bridge, but Rob Peppers stopped me before I had gone very far and said the water got worse the farther you went above the bridge.

With that news, I decided to try my hand in Pocaty, where Rob had been a little earlier. He said the water there wasn't too bad, so off I went. It didn't take long to convince me to stay in Pocaty the rest of the day. I found one stretch that held a fair number of fish that would keep hitting my wakebait, so I continued working that same stretch back and forth.

At day's end, I had landed another seven bass and one white perch. My best five were 1-0, 1-2, 1-4, 1-7, and 2-2 (pictured left).

Given today's water level, I got reacquainted with an aspect of Pocaty I hadn't seen in a mighty long time. I learned that a lot of stumps I thought had washed out of the areas where they used to be are still there--just not as robust as they used to be.

I also learned a couple of new spots before wrapping things up and heading back to West Neck about 1:30.

Today wrapped up Jim Bauer's trip to Lake Gaston, and as I learned in an email from him this evening, it amounted to a "saving the best for last" kind of day.

Between about 8 and 11:30 this morning, he boated a total of six bass. His best four weighed in at 2-0, 1-5, 2-9 (pictured bottom), and 4-15 (pictured right).

Said Jim, "I was working all the shade around the docks and shoreline."

The water temp when he shoved off this morning from the boathouse was 67. It had reached only 68.8 when he checked it again at 11 o'clock.

Like me, Jim caught all his fish on one bait, but he asked me not to divulge what that bait was, so I'm staying mum. He likewise asked me to keep the color to myself, too.

In the final analysis, today's catch, by his own admission, perked Jim up and more than made up for all the rain he had to deal with the last few days.

"It has been a long time since I did this well down here," he concluded.

As I was completing the cleanup of my boat this afternoon, I saw something that really got my attention and warrants including here.

I happened to glance at the johnboat parked in the open space between my building and the round-top tent that's to the immediate left of it. The boy who owns that boat had left the gas hose hooked to an external plastic gas can the last time he used the rig. And with all the sun that can has received in recent days, it had swelled to dangerous proportions.

I considered loosening the tank's cap to relieve the pressure, but in all honesty, I was nervous about even touching it. Instead, I called Steve and made him aware of the hazard, and he assured me that he would take care of it when he got home this evening.

I'm not sure if the owner just forgot to adjust the cap the last time he put his boat away, or if he just didn't realize the danger of his actions. I just know I've never seen a gas can so distended before.

I can only hope everyone else with a boat stored at West Neck thinks about the fact we're getting into warmer days and how that may affect any external gas tanks they may have in use or stored out there.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Looks Like Yesterday Was a Slow Day on the Water Everywhere

In three hours of fishing Lake Gaston yesterday evening, Jim Bauer only connected with three bass: a 1-2, 1-0 and a dink. He described the conditions as a bit chilly and slightly overcast, with the water temp at 68 degrees. He also said the water level has been high since he arrived, but according to one Gaston full-time resident he talked to, this high water is the new "normal."

The low point of Jim's day yesterday was having a Tracker center-console johnboat run between him and the shoreline he was fishing. Suffice it to say that, even though Memorial Day isn't quite here yet, some of the usual crowd who tries to give holidays a bad name in general already is on the scene.

That incident left Jim pondering where he'll put over the trolling motor and start fishing today.

The email I received from Ron Ameika wasn't any better. He couldn't find a single bass in Milldam Creek yesterday evening. However, he did score with five panfish (consisting of crappie, white perch and sufnfish) for the skillet.

Ron also boated a couple of bowfin, which he describes as "a favorite of mine to fish for." The accompanying photo shows his biggest of the evening, a 7-3. He also had a 3-4.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

These Parents May Mean Well, But Really...

Were they maybe bounced on their heads when they were these children's ages?

I wholeheartedly support the idea of making fishing a family affair, but I cannot, under any circumstances, condone the type of risky behavior demonstrated here. What kind of parent puts a crib with their child in it on the aft deck of a bass boat? To compound this lapse in headwork, they then decide to park near a dam and start fishing.

Dams have their own special set of dangers, starting with the fact that a large amount of water can be discharged through them at any time without warning. Even if you're an experienced boater, angler or swimmer, it pays to follow common-sense safety rules when fishing near these structures.

In my opinion, the accompanying photo simply portrays a potentially tragic accident waiting to happen. I can't help wondering if the folks in this photo, which came from the latest electronic issue of Jay Kumar's BassBlaster, perhaps are kin to a family that lives in my neighborhood. I've watched them display an equal amount of bad judgment in regards to the safety of their two kids on a number of occasions. It's gotten so bad I'm no longer surprised by anything they do.

The only good thing I see in this photo is that Mom and Pop are wearing life jackets, but that in no way compensates for all the negatives I see.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Nippy Morning Sends Angler Back to Bed

That was my take-away from the report on yesterday's fishing I received from my friend, Jim Bauer, who is spending some time on Lake Gaston. He said when he stepped outside early yesterday morning, the thermometer at one site read 38, and another one read 45.

"Went back to bed, got up mid-morning, and hit the water around 12:30," he subsequently explained.

While fishing his way toward the mouth of Pea Hill Creek, he picked up a total of 14 bass and one bream--all on the FF (French fry). His best five included two at 1-0, one at 1-4 (below left), one at 1-6 (above right), and one at 1-12 (bottom right). The others qualified as dinks--"a couple were real li'l fellers," he said.

The water yesterday appeared to be clearing up a bit as Jim neared the mouth of the creek, but he feels pretty certain the conditions will return to muddy after the rain and thunderstorms predicted for today and tomorrow have passed. The water temperature at time of launch yesterday was 72, compared to 74 when Jim called it a day about 6:15.

Unless the weather forecast for today and/or tomorrow changes, I doubt that I'll be getting any further reports on Lake Gaston fishing until Thursday.

As a side note to this latest report, Jim let me know that the "Gestapo Mama" (my choice for a nickname) he and I ran into on Lake Gaston a few years back has her place up for sale now. Think I may have told y'all about this incident in a previous post, but in case I didn't, here goes.

The day in question was really warm, and the two of us had pulled up to a boat dock in Jim's Skeeter for lunch and to get out of the bright sun for a while. We hadn't much more than started eating our sandwiches 'til we saw this woman heading toward us at breakneck speed on a big black and yellow jet ski.

Upon pulling alongside, she immediately launched into a tirade about all the thefts homeowners on Gaston had been dealing with, so we explained all we were doing was having lunch and trying to find a little shade. She didn't want to hear that, though, and proceeded to get really rude. When we'd had our fill, we returned a few salvos in kind.

The bottom line: We stayed put, finished our lunch, then left...without ever leaving the boat or bothering a board on that boat dock.

My comment to Jim about this woman's place being for sale was that Gaston will be a much better place for not having her around anymore.