Saturday, May 23, 2015

A Special Birthday I Won't Soon Forget

Heading to the bank yesterday with a whole envelope stuffed full of brand new, crisp Benjamin Franklins ($100 bills) in my pocket from the sale of my Skeeter SX-170 made an otherwise ho-hum 72nd birthday rather special. I even may have had a little bounce in my step, but who wouldn't under the same circumstances? After all, there were enough Benjamin Franklins in that envelope to repay me one for every year of my life, with some extra to grow on, which is pretty doggone nice, as far as I'm concerned.

This sale came after only five months but not without its share of low-ball offers--like $5,000 and $5,500, to be specific. If I had any doubts that people will try to steal you blind, right under your own eyes, I certainly don't have them any longer. If anything, they're more hellbent on getting something for nothing than they were a lot of years ago when I posted a "For Sale" sign on my very first old car--a 1940 Chevy (similar to one pictured below).

I had paid $75 for that "jewel" when I got it and only was asking $25 for it, now that I was ready to move up a ways--to a 1948 Chevy. Turned out that the sign wasn't in the window very long at all before another fella from my high school said he wanted to buy it...but, of course, for less than I was asking. We went back and forth a few days before he agreed to pay my original asking price, with a small down payment, followed by weekly installments. I knew he had held a job as a bagger at a local grocery store for some time--just like me. So I knew he could--note: I said "could," not "would"--meet our agreed-upon terms.

Come the day we decided to make everything official, he had the down payment, and for the next couple of weeks, delivered his payments on time. But then he started getting tardy with his payments and eventually missed a couple all together. When I confronted him about the situation, he gave me one of those oft repeated "times are hard" stories and said he was gonna have to change the terms of our agreement. His proposal was to drop his weekly payments to 50 cents, which I wasn't buying.

Some weeks of spats back and forth followed, with absolutely no resolution, and then came the day when Pop asked me how the deal he knew I had made was progressing. Experience had taught me that I'd better not lie to him, so I fessed up to the problem, knowing full well that he was going to take a hands-on approach that would bring results of some kind.

Ultimately, I accompanied Pop to an unsolicited visit to the parents of the fellow high schooler, and you know what? Less than 48 hours later, I had all the rest of my money--just as those parents had promised would happen. And I walked away from it all with a lesson I haven't forgotten to this day.

Getting back to those low-ball offers for my boat, I had some people say things like, "I've checked the blue book on your boat," as though they would think I hadn't checked the NADA Guide for myself. The only problem with the figures they kept quoting me, however, was that they didn't take into consideration all the add-ons, such as boat cover, onboard battery charger, depthfinder, power tilt/trim, stainless steel prop, trailer, spare tire and carrier, and trolling motor. Those same low-ball offers didn't even come up to the "low retail" value described in the NADA Guide, which summarized that term as follows:

"A low retail valued boat will show excessive wear and tear, either cosmetically and/or mechanically. This boat may or may not be in running order. The buyer can expect to invest in cosmetic and/or mechanical work."

In the final analysis, I'm just happy I was raised with a different set of standards than a lot of other people. For example, when the current boat I've owned since December went on the market, one of the first things I did was to check the NADA Guide. I quickly learned that the buyer's asking price matched up with what was listed there. Armed with that knowledge, I contacted the buyer and asked to see the boat. Simultaneously, I inquired if he minded my mechanic coming along to go over the outboard.

He didn't object, so on the agreed-upon date, we assembled, my mechanic checked everything, and I test drove the boat. I then handed the buyer a check for his full asking price, with absolutely no haggling whatsoever. The boat was fairly priced, and I wasn't about to try and insult him with a low-ball offer.

I didn't come from a well-to-do family, in terms of material wealth. However, I did come from one that believed in and taught me nothing but honesty and fairness from the time I was old enough to distinguish right from wrong, and that lesson has stayed with and served me well for a lot of years now.

And I was fortunate enough to find an individual, whom I believe was raised with similar standards, to buy my SX-170. I further believe his agent, acting on the buyer's behalf, also comes from the same background. It was all good from the very first contact.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Another Gaston Trip Is History

This 1-12, along with a 1-6, 1-9, 1-0, and a dink, came during Jim Bauer's two-hour stint on Lake Gaston Wednesday evening. In a period of five hours that morning, he only had managed to boat a 1-0 and a dink that, in Jim's words, "was not much bigger around than my thumb."

The morning's fish hit a French fry, while the evening's catch fell for a worm. The a.m. water temperature was 82, compared to 84 in the p.m.

The good evening bite came on a falling water level, which Jim believes was the reason the fish really were inhaling the worm. "Kept me busy patching two of them back together," he said.

Just like most folks around the Hampton Roads area, Jim spent the day Thursday watching raindrops hit the windows of his rented quarters off and on--more on than off.

Today's trip back out onto the lake lasted four hours and yielded a total of five fish. Jim estimated that four of them would have gone about a pound apiece, and one tipped the scales at 1-6. All were caught on the same worm that treated him so well Wednesday evening.

The nip in the morning air admittedly had Jim wishing he had pulled on some long britches before he hit the water today. Instead, though, he grabbed the top to his rain gear and made do.

"All in all, I can't say these two weeks of fishing Lake Gaston were anything to crow about," said Jim, "but the weather was pretty darned good. And having only been on the water one time prior to getting here, it was a good way to get back in the saddle from the winter blues."

At the conclusion of today's four hours of fishing, Jim pulled his boat out of the water, cleaned it up, and started getting ready to head home tomorrow. "Should be seeing you soon" is how he concluded his email to me.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

I Went With a Plan and Stuck to It

When I hit West Neck this morning, I had a plan of attack and stayed with it all day long. Fortunately, the plan worked--even better than I had hoped. I was going to fish topwater stuff until 9 o'clock this morning, then shift to soft plastic. My destination was Albright's.

This 2-13 was my biggest of the day. It was one of eight that I boated. Coupled with a 2-5, 1-10, 1-8 and 1-6, my best five combined weight totaled 9 lbs. 10 ozs.

I can't remember the last time I spent a day on the water without throwing some crankbaits and chatterbaits, but this was one of those days. I kept looking at the rods with those baits tied on all day but never picked up the first one.

Besides the eight that I boated, I lost a couple other fish en route to the boat. There also were a few occasions where the fish simply picked up the soft plastic by the tail, and it tore off in the hookset. After taking inventory when I arrived home this afternoon, I realized I need to make a trip to Dick's before I hit the water again.

Before the week is through, I also have to get with my local contact (acting on the buyer's behalf) and complete the sale of my SX-170. And, too, there are some things around the house needing my attention, so I'm guessing today will have been my only trip to the water this week. You can be certain, though, I'll be looking for a chance to get in a couple of trips next week to see if I can duplicate today's results with the same game plan.

My good friend Jim Bauer is back on Lake Gaston. He arrived there this past Saturday but, with all the weekend boat traffic, didn't venture out into the mainstream until most of the folks had packed it in and headed home. He did get out Sunday afternoon, though, for about three hours and managed to catch a couple fish--a dink and a 1-6--before calling it quits.

Then, on Monday evening, he got out again and boated this 2-3, along with a 1-10. Said Jim, "That 1-10 was an interesting catch. He picked up a worm off a post anchoring a swimming area. Then he went airborne and over the rope, so I had to let him take line before I could net him and cut the line to get free."

Jim spent four hours on the water yesterday but didn't put any fish in the boat. He missed a good one and saw some nice fish cruising, but that was the extent of his day's action. The weather was a big factor in his throwing in the towel early.

 "It was flat out ugly hot," he said. Rather than keep fighting those conditions, Jim returned to the comfort of his rented quarters and took a nap.

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What Does It Take to Win a Tournament?

That's the title of a post I put up on my blog Jan. 22, 2014. I decided to revisit my records and double-check those original figures, plus pull information for some new ones. I subsequently learned that I was a tad off in some of my earlier figures.

With that being said, here are the figures for the average total weights (in lbs., to one decimal point) it took to capture 1st and 2nd place in all of our contests (now known as the Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series) for each year, starting in 2010:

                                           2010    2011    2012    2013    2014    2015
                       1st Place      11.2     11.1     12.9     13.2     14.5     11.8
                       2nd Place      8.6        9.3     11.2     11.3     12.0       9.3

Understand, if you will, that the 2015 figures are only through seven events. Ten more tournaments remain this year, not including the season-ending two-day Classic, so those figures could go up or down.

As noted in the earlier post, the 20-lb. barrier finally was broken in 2013, when Mike Evans and his partner, Jeff Garnes, weighed in a 20.47-lb. limit of bass on April 23. This feat was repeated in 2014, when Mike Miller and Chris Fretard (pictured here, from left) brought a limit of bass weighing 20.26 lbs. to the scales on Sept. 6. Their kicker fish was a hefty 7.47-pounder, which didn't qualify for the seasonal lunker award, only because Mike and Chris had elected not to contribute to that pot.

Instead, the 2014 seasonal lunker award went to Ronnie McLaughlin (right) for a 7.15-lb. bass he weighed in during our inaugural event on March 22 last year. That's right--the 7-lb. lunker barrier was broken not once but twice last year. It surely must be just a matter of time before we see an 8-pounder weighed in at one of our tournaments.

In the meantime, if you're thinking about joining us but first would like to know more about the Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series, just email me at I can and gladly will send you an electronic pdf copy of our tourney schedule and rules & regulations for this year.

Tight Lines!

Some Regulars Missing But Still a Good Turnout

With the Region 7 tourney that was happening yesterday, some of our regular contenders were off fishing that event. And who can blame them, with a guaranteed 1st-place prize of $1,000? That's not exactly chump change--at least not in my books.

We still managed to draw 11 boats with 18 competitors to fish one of the best weather events we've seen so far this year.

Topping the leaderboard yesterday, and fishing their first event of the 2015 season, was this team of (from left) Mark Cable and John Matyiko. Their 1st-place sack of five fish weighed 14.40 lbs., anchored by a 4.62-lb. bass that just missed being the day's lunker.

Finishing in 2nd place was Ronnie McLaughlin, who weighed five bass with a total weight of 12.64 lbs. His big fish--and lunker of the day--tipped the scales at 4.69 lbs.

Claiming 3rd-place honors was Steve Bailey, with five fish weighing 11.93 lbs. His big bass came in at 3.93 lbs. Incidentally, I do like your ball cap, Steve.

Winner of the day's mystery-weight drawing was the team of Bob Glass and Randy Conkle (not pictured). Their five bass weighed 5.52 lbs., and the weight drawn was 5.25.

Here is how everyone else stacked up on the leaderboard:

     * The team of Gary Coderre and Lenny Hall, five fish, 11.76 lbs. total weight, 3.95-lb. big bass.
     * The team of Dave Meers and Nate Kilgore, five fish, 7.49 lbs. total weight, no big bass. Unfortunately, this team was a couple minutes late getting into the boat basin for weigh-in and, therefore, was disqualified.
     * Chris Fretard, five fish, 6.70 lbs. total weight, no big bass.
     * The team of Jim Wilder and Chris Vitovich, five fish, 6.23 lbs. total weight, no big bass.
     * The team of Rob Chatham and Ken Testorff, four fish, 4.86 lbs. total weight, no big bass.
     * Duane Kessel and the team of Nathan and Marjorie Gottsch didn't weigh any fish.

The grand totals on the day were 44 bass caught, with a total weight of 81.53 lbs., for an average weight per fish of 1.85 lbs.

At this stage of the season, we already have a total of 9 anglers who have fished the required four events and thereby are qualified to fish our season-ending two-day Classic contest Oct. 17th and 18th. These anglers include: Al Napier, Rob Chatham, Ken Testorff, Randy Conkle, Bob Glass, Steve Bailey, Gary Coderre, Jim Wilder, and Chris Fretard.

Congratulations to all of yesterday's winners and thanks to everyone who came out and fished with us. For planning purposes, our next event is scheduled for Saturday, June 6, from safe light (probably about 5:45) to 2 p.m. I hope you can join us.

Rob and I spent a frustrating morning, trying to catch fish on topwaters, crankbaits, spinnerbaits, and chatterbaits, all to no avail. We were in an area that, given this time of year and high-water conditions like we had yesterday, normally is very productive. Rob finally boated a keeper bass from the area on a finesse worm, which should have been a signal to us to change our tactics. Unfortunately, it wasn't.

We ultimately got tired of just stirring the water and left for another area that was good to us last year. Once again, we started back through the same series of baits that had failed us earlier, and guess what--they failed us again. It wasn't until I picked up a worm and started throwing it that business finally picked up...duh. On about my second cast, I felt that distinctive tap, tap, then saw my line moving off. The subsequent hookset sent a bass tail-walking across the water, which was good enough to dislodge the hook. Not more than three or four casts later, I had the same thing happen again.

By now, Rob was scrambling for his worm rod. And it wasn't long before we both were consistently finding and sticking fish. Our only problem was that we couldn't keep them buttoned once we had hooked them. At day's end, we only had added three more small keeper bass to the livewell--all of them coming on worms.

At least, my cluster headache, which had kept me awake the whole night before, finally was gone, and I was a little sore from kicking myself in the butt for not reading the worm signal sooner than I did, but as I told Rob, there's always the next time. And while there's really not too much that I like about Mike Iaconnelli, I do like his piece of advice that goes like this: Never Give Up!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Gotta Remember Which Boat I'm In

Last year, while I still was fishing from the SX-170, a situation arose in which my partner, Rob, suddenly had to drop down into the driver's seat and back us out of a tight spot. I should point out here that Rob drives a boat with a hotfoot.

Given the urgency of our situation, he momentarily forgot I didn't have the same setup and slapped the throttle hard into reverse. I subsequently was left grasping for anything solid to prevent doing a nose dive off the bow. I still can remember hearing Rob apologizing in the background as I scrambled to regain my balance on the front pedestal seat.

I bring this up in light of something that happened yesterday. I was giving a father and son a demo ride in the SX-170. They had contacted me the previous evening about perhaps buying my boat but first wanted to see it and have me give them a ride. I was more than happy to oblige.

Unfortunately, I had forgotten about the earlier incident I just described. Thankfully, I waited for both fellas to take a seat before I grabbed hold of the throttle..and, yes, did the same thing Rob did to me last year. In the next half-hour or so, I found myself constantly bumping the throttle too hard and/or reaching for a nonexistent hotfoot like the one I have on my SX-190.

I explained what was happening to my two captive riders but can't be sure if they believed me or not. At least, I didn't throw either one of them out of their seat or otherwise injure them, so I shouldn't have to file any insurance claims. Don't reckon that would be a very good way to endear myself to a couple of prospective buyers.

After using a hotfoot for nearly five months now, I'm just like everyone else I've talked to or read about online--I have no desire to go back to a hand throttle. It's really nice being able to keep both hands on the wheel all the time, and having increased throttle control to power up and back off, especially when dealing with the swells created by "big boys" like you meet on the North Landing. As I understand it from what I've read, you only have to be careful not to "feather" the throttle too much in the rough stuff because that taxes the motor.

And there's one overriding caution I keep seeing when it comes to using a hotfoot: Keep the area around it clean. I just recently read an account about an Elite Series pro who had a bottle cap get wedged in his hotfoot, causing it to stick wide open. Rather than pull the kill switch, the pro cranked the wheel (because the boat was headed toward shore). This misguided action tossed the marshal from the boat.

As I see it, I only have to remember which boat I'm in when it comes to giving prospective buyers a demo ride in the SX-170. I'm totally comfortable in the SX-190--and enjoy it more every trip I make.

Friday, May 8, 2015

Skeeters Do It, Rangers Do It...

Even some johnboats have been known to do it. The "it" I'm talking about here is ending up with a vapor lock in the boat's livewell pump.

Until a week ago, I never had a clue this sort of thing happened. But that all changed during the May 3rd Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney. When I hit the switch for the port livewell, I heard the pump running; however, no water was entering the hole. With the other livewell operating normally, I didn't really see a problem. It was just a matter of making do with the one working livewell that day.

Later in the day, the port livewell finally came on line, so I didn't pursue the issue with my mechanic as I originally had thought I would. Instead, I waited until my next outing, which turned out to be a repeat performance of the earlier incident. That's when I contacted my mechanic, and he checked out everything for me this past Tuesday.

We backed my boat in the water at the ramp for testing, and just seconds later, my mechanic said he knew what was wrong. The pump was vapor locking. He then laid out what my options were.

If I wanted to stay with the pump already installed, I always should launch the boat with the livewell control valve in the "open" position, which, if I understand the situation correctly, serves to prime the pump. And should another vapor lock ever occur on the water, I should run the pump while backing up the boat, which usually will cause water to start dumping in the hole. In some cases, you may have to back the boat a bit faster than normal.

Another option--and the one I went for--was to replace the pump (with one similar to what is pictured left). It has been my experience that, once things start acting up, they usually only get worse. And I, for one, don't like being on the water with a faulty piece of equipment. I've been there (albeit accidentally) a few times, done that, and have the T-shirts to prove it.

A check of the Internet today revealed that boats of all kinds have reported problems with vapor locks in their livewell pumps. In some cases, owners even have had to reroute hoses and such before they completely resolved their problems.

Perhaps I'm only telling everyone something they already know. If that's the case, I apologize for boring you. However, if this information gives even one person a leg up on what to do, should you ever encounter a similar problem, then I'm happy I shared.