Thursday, October 30, 2014

It Sometimes Doesn't Pay to Go Back for Seconds

That's the lesson I learned yesterday when I went back to the water for a second straight day of fishing. Given the extended weather forecast, though, I wasn't about to let another nice day slip by without getting a few lures wet, especially this time of year.

Tuesday's outing was a chance for me to make good on a promise I had made some time ago to my friend, "Doc." I had said I would familiarize him with Albright's, and that's where we spent the day. It wasn't exactly a stellar trip, in that we only caught four fish. "Doc" boated a bass and a pickerel, and I finished the day with two small bass. His productive baits were a swim jig and a crankbait, and I caught my two on a crankbait and a chatterbait.

My friend, Jim, also was out Tuesday and caught a total of four fish, including two small bass, a pickerel, and a crappie. He was using a crankbait in West Neck.

Like me, Jim has been dealing with a bout of sciatica, but we both felt good enough to return to West Neck yesterday morning and find out if we could improve on Tuesday's tallies. As it turned out, he ended up with three fish in West Neck--two more small bass and another pickerel. His go-to bait again was a crankbait. I, however, only succeeded in racking up my third skunk of the current season while fishing a topwater, chatterbait and series of crankbaits in Albright's.

In comparing notes after yesterday's outing, Jim and I found that our day was similar in one respect. We both had several strikes in which the fish never fully committed. I had one that completely stopped my chatterbait, but when I set the hook, I only found air. Later, I felt a tick while using the chatterbait and watched a big bow form in the line. I quickly took up the slack and reared back yet again, only to find nothing there. Jim had the same experience with the crankbait and a worm that he was fishing yesterday.

Overall, I can't really complain, because "Doc" at least had a good time learning some new water Tuesday, and Jim and I both got through the two back-to-back days seemingly without aggravating our sciatica conditions. We both were a little weary from fighting the stronger wind yesterday but felt pretty decent otherwise.

From the looks of things now, I won't be heading back out again until sometime next week. It'll all depend on the weather and how I feel. Jim pretty much echoed those sentiments, too.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Glad to See Someone Is Getting on the Water

I had been eyeing today as a chance of getting on the water for the first time since our Classic tournament last weekend. As luck would have it, though, Murphy's Law intervened yet again.

Since yesterday morning, I've been struggling with some lower-back pain that, to this point, has shown no signs of relenting anytime soon. It's even been difficult to pull my socks on the past two mornings.

A little bit ago, however, I received a short email from my friend, "Doc," along with some photos attached. It seems he took advantage of the nice weather today and went looking for a few bass.

He found the 1-9 pictured here, along with one that weighed 11 ozs. He also boated a1-4 pickerel, which really isn't a surprise at all, considering that my friend, Charlie, caught 24 of those toothy critters in one day here recently. It's that time of year when pickerel usually show up in abundance.

The lucky lures today for "Doc" were a crankbait and a swimjig. He described the conditions, as taken from the ScoutLook Weather FishLog App on his phone, this way:

Water temp - 54 to 60 degrees
Air temp - 59 to 60 degrees
Barometer - 29.98 inches and rising
Relative humidity - 52 percent

Thanks for the input, "Doc." And good on ya for catching a few, too. Tight Lines!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Is It Worth Risking Life and Limb for--at Most--a Few Hundred Bucks?

I was in West Neck Creek the other day, running to the last spot I planned to fish before tournament weigh-in, when two considerably faster bass boats (in the same tournament) suddenly came up on my rear. Rather than slow and follow me or try passing in an orderly, safe manner, the two drivers instead chose to let their hot-doggin' mentality rule. They blew by me simultaneously--one on the left and the other on the right--both while running outside the channel markers.

That they and their partners escaped injury that day, given the hazards that often lie just beneath the surface in areas outside those markers, is somewhat of a miracle. That they would demonstrate such reckless boating etiquette right in front of the tournament director (yours truly) literally astounds me.

There are only two reasons I didn't disqualify everyone involved. First and foremost, our current tournament rules and regs don't specifically cover such situations... but they will next year. That much, I promise you. And second, neither of the parties involved finished in the money.

Rule 13 of the "Rules of the Road," officially named by the U.S. Coast Guard as the Inland and International Navigation Rules, says this about "overtaking":

"If you are approaching another vessel from the stern while you are overtaking it, it is your duty not to impede the movement of that boat. You need to stay out of its way."

The most commonly accepted way of complying with this rule is to pass on the right, when safe to do so. However, making a wide pass to the left is OK if the channel doesn't allow passing safely on the right. Be careful when passing on the left of the vessel ahead of you that another oncoming boat isn't blocked from your view.

At no time, however, should you pass another vessel while operating outside the channel markers--not in West Neck Creek, not on the North Landing River, not anywhere. If there isn't enough room to pass safely otherwise, the correct action is to slow down and follow the boat ahead of you.

'Twould seem to me that we, as Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series anglers, should be setting a better example. I feel like I knew Dewey well enough to know that he never would have condoned such actions on the water, especially during a tournament. Let's honor his memory by always doing the right thing. Above all else, that's what Dewey was about while he was running these tournaments.

Read what others have to say about good boating etiquette:


Toward Improving the Lot of Old-Timers

One day here recently (actually, it was Monday, the day after our Classic tournament had ended), I was party to a three-way conversation that went something like this:

Angler No. 1: Will you please tell me which one of you two beat the crap out of me yesterday when I wasn't looking?

Angler No. 2: Well, it sure as heck wasn't me, 'cause whoever it was beat me up, too. I'm still sore, and that's even after having had a session with my chiropractor and massage gal this morning.

Angler No. 3: The arthritis in my hands is acting up, but thankfully, that has been the extent of it so far. Sorry to hear you both feel so rotten. Hopefully, it won't last long.

Angler No. 1: I'm pretty sure I'll live. Pain pills make everything easier. What is strange is that you'd think the rheumatoid arthritis in my wrist would hurt, but it's mainly my knees. I reckon that high step to the platform in my boat is what makes it so rough on them.

Angler No. 3: Yep--those pain pills are worth every dime you have to pay for 'em. I have a pretty good step up in my boat, too. You'll frequently find me using the back of my seat to pull myself up, especially as the fishin' day wears on.

Angler No. 1: That's funny, because that's exactly what I do.

Angler No. 3: I guess you could say the three of us are all in the same boat.

That dialog, coupled with a comment my wife made later in the evening as I was helping her do dishes, put the decrepit gears in my warped mind to working on the idea for this blog article. In case you've forgotten, I'm the same guy who once blogged about wanting to be buried in my bass boat, with all my gear around me. This time, I asked myself the question: What could they (the boat manufacturers) do to build bass boats a little more senior-citizen-friendly?

Among those things that immediately leaped to mind were some strategically placed grab bars--the kind like you find in modern household showers.

And instead of having that one long step from the floor of the boat up to the pedestal platform, install a short step in between.

I also would recommend some type of pill dispenser--one that each angler could load up to suit his/her own needs.

There also should be some sort of device for older anglers to relieve themselves, other than having to do it over the side. Suffice it to say that, as a man ages, everything shrinks. Another consideration is the matter of a weakened stream. The difference between age 30 and age 70 is considerable--take my word for it.

A battery-powered warmer for our pedestal seats also would be nice. Like our younger brethren, we sometimes like to venture out during winter months, if for no other reason than just to break the monotony of being housebound.

The senior housing industry today constantly is looking toward finding more ways to help seniors "age in place." What's wrong with carrying that concept one step further and challenging the nation's boating industry to find ways to keep seniors "fishing in place" a little longer?

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

A Line Winder As Good As Any

Have you ever had an occasion when the new line on one of your baitcasters just didn't look like it was laying right on the reel? That happened to me Sunday evening after I had come in from wrapping up the 2014 Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Classic.

Earlier in the day, while tossing a chatterbait, I had snagged it in something on the bottom. And with the low-water conditions, I couldn't get the boat close enough to retrieve the bait. For that matter, I couldn't even have reached it with my telescoping lure retriever. Thus, I had no choice but to tighten down the tension on my 40-lb. braid and keep working until the line finally parted, leaving one of my favorite chatterbaits on the bottom.

I subsequently would learn that I had created another problem as a result of those previous actions. On the very first cast after tying on another chatterbait, the line went only a short ways before it jerked to a dead stop. A quick look revealed that, in applying all that pressure to break the braid, some had cinched down hard on itself.

It took several minutes to free this mess, but then I discovered there was yet another problem. With all the picking I had done to free the knotted line, it had frayed in a few places. This revelation proved to be the straw that broke the camel's back. I simply removed my chatterbait and tied it onto another rod. After all, you don't have to knock me in the head... or do you?

Anyway, later Sunday evening, after dinner, I respooled the reel that had had the mess--perhaps a mistake on my part, given how tired I was at the time. When I had finished, I quickly noticed that the new line didn't appear to be laying evenly or tight enough on the reel. At this point, I resolved just to stand the rod in the corner and wait until another day to fix everything.

Because I hadn't had enough time to clean up the boat Sunday afternoon, I went to the marina Monday and did it. I grabbed that rod from the corner as I went out the door because, after a good night's rest, I had a plan that I knew would fix my line problem. The same idea had worked for me a couple other times in the past.

I simply fastened the end of the line to my boat trailer and started unwinding it by walking toward the marina entrance. When I reached the end, I stopped, tightened down the drag, and started walking back toward my trailer, keeping lots of tension on the line as I did so.

Now my line looks and feels every bit as good as it does after having a tackle store do the respooling.

The main lesson I relearned from this evolution is one that has haunted me on countless other occasions: Never do anything when you're dog-tired. Wish I could say I'll remember that, but if I were a bettin' man, I'd have to bet against myself.

I received an email from my good friend, Charlie, telling me that he rewinds his reels the way I described after every trip. The only thing he does differently is to add a snap swivel to the line before he walks it out. "I put a cup hook on the stop sign in front of the house and walk it down the block," he said, adding, "I get a lot of questions about catching stop signs from the neighbors, but it works great."

Sunday, October 19, 2014

2 Days of Extremely Breezy Conditions

Such was the lot of those 26 anglers in 16 boats that fished the 2014 Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Classic yesterday and today out of West Neck Marina. While yesterday was marked by high water, the opposite was true today. Despite these conditions, people still found fish.

Leading the pack was this team of (from left) Jared Allbritten and Chris Napier, whose two-day total was 25.32 lbs. Jared also claimed the big-fish pot with a Day 2 bass that weighed in at 4.30 lbs. For the benefit of those who may not already know, this pair further has earned the title of 2014 Region 7 Anglers of the Year.

Finishing in 2nd place was this team of Day 1 leaders, (from left) Chris Fretard and Mike Miller. Their two-day catch totaled 21.55 lbs. Their big fish for the event tipped the scales at 4.22 lbs.

Taking home the 3rd-place envelope was this team of (from left) Jesse Munden and Gary Coderre. Their total weight for the two days was 20.18 lbs. Their big fish for the tournament weighed in at 3.84 lbs.

Coming in at 4th place was this duo of (from left) Jeremy Gatewood and Mark London, who weighed a total of 18.54 lbs. Their big fish for the tournament tipped the scales at 3.20 lbs. I also should note here that Mark is our 2014 Angler of the Year, having amassed a cumulative total weight of 168.35 lbs.

And rounding out the winners' list was this angler, Ronnie McLaughlin, who walked away with the Seasonal Lunker Award. He kicked off our 2014 season with a bass he caught during our first tournament that weighed in at 7.15 lbs. Ronnie also won the mystery-weight drawing today. He had a two-day total weight of 3.30 lbs., which was closest to the 3.20 tab that was drawn.

Here is how everyone else finished the two days of competition:

     * The team of Bob Glass and Randy Conkle, total weight 15.01 lbs., no big fish.
     * Steve Bailey, total weight 14.76 lbs., big fish 2.88 lbs.
     * The team of Al Napier and Red Bruun, total weight 12.83 lbs., no big fish.
     * Bobby Moore, total weight 10.42 lbs., big fish 2.11 lbs.
     * Jake Milligan, total weight 9.97 lbs., big fish 2.17 lbs.
     * The team of Dave Meers and Allen Napier, total weight 9.50 lbs., big fish 2.51 lbs.
     * Jim Bauer, total weight 9.07 lbs., big fish 3.41 lbs.
     * The team of John Matyiko and Mark Cable, total weight 7.37 lbs., no big fish.
     * Ken Testorff, total weight 7.12 lbs., big fish 3.06 lbs.
     * The team of Mitch Portervint and Skip Schaible, total weight 4.65 lbs., no big fish.
     * The team of Rob Chatham and Wayne Hayes, total weight 3.32 lbs., no big fish.

Overall, these 26 anglers weighed a grand total of 113 bass in their two days of fishing. The total weight was 192.91 lbs., and the average weight was 1.70 lbs.

Congratulations to all of our Classic winners, and thanks to everyone who supported the Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series throughout the year.

This event concludes our 2014 season, but I'm already working on preliminary plans for 2015.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Making the Most of Two-and-a-Half Hours

That's how I'd describe "Doc" Murdock's day today on West Neck Creek. In those 2.5 hours, he boated five largemouth and one striper.

His best largemouth was this one, which weighed in at 1.6 lbs. He also caught four others, including one that tipped the scales at 1.4, two at 1.3 and one at 1.2.

Meanwhile, this striper weighed in at 2.6 lbs. As with his previous outing, all the fish, except the striper, fell for a crankbait or jerkbait. The striper went for a swim jig that "Doc" put together.

The water temperature today was 69 degrees, with winds blowing out of the NNE at 15 mph. The air temperature ranged from 62 to 65 degrees, and the barometer reading was 30.17 inches and rising. "Doc" reported the water as clear and normal level.

He's looking forward to this coming week, 'cause he has some time off and plans to see if he can keep his "winning ways" going. As I understand it, he'll be spending at least three more days on the water between now and week's end, and I know he'll enjoy every minute of it. Doesn't that saying go something like this: "The worst day fishing still is better than the best day at work"? Maybe that's not exact, but everyone knows what I mean.

Here's wishing you nothing but "Tight Lines!" each and every day, "Doc. Catch a big 'un for me, too, while you're at it.

After losing out on a couple days of planned fishing this week because of the persistent high water at West Neck Marina, "Doc" finally got back out there today (Friday, Oct. 17) and managed to catch a couple more bass. One weighed 1.1, and the other was a 12-inch dink. He caught both on the same jerkbait he used successfully earlier in the week.

Conditions, as "Doc" related them to me in an email, were thus: air temp - 77 degrees, water temp - 67 to 69 degrees, winds from the west at 7 mph, relative humidity 77 percent, and barometric pressure 29.87 inches and rising.

"Doc" also was kind enough to snap some ramp photos for me this week, and I'm indeed grateful for that. I always appreciate all favors--both great and small.

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Want to Protect Your Reels?

Here's how (see photo at right) I've been taking care of mine for about five years now. Those yellow bags you see covering the reels and handles of my rods are Zerust ICT VCI Bags.

The VCI stands for vapor corrosion inhibitor. Zerust VCI technology is an odorless, non-toxic and invisible vapor that protects bare metal parts against corrosion for up to five years.

Zerust ICT VCI Bags range in size from 2 inches up to 150 inches and are available in ferrous, non-ferrous, or multimetal polyethylene film. Additives such as acid-gas blockers and anti-static are available, as well as custom colors and printing.

I got acquainted with these bags after I received a not-so-good report from a reel repairman a few years back. I had sent him several Revos for routine maintenance, and they all showed signs of corrosion. One was so far gone that he had to replace a number of parts. And none of the reels opened very easily.

I decided then and there to do something to avoid any more problems. My subsequent research led to purchasing a number of these Zerust ICT VCI Bags. The first ones I ordered measured an ideal 10 inches by 24 inches. As I learned only recently, though, when I tried to order more of the same size, Zerust no longer makes this particular size.

As a result, I ended up ordering 10-inch-by-54-inch bags, which really are designed for storing weapons. I modify them by cutting off the top 30 inches of each bag and saving it for use when I need another new bag. As explained to me in an email from the president of Zerust Consumer Products, there are a couple of options available to me for sealing one end of the leftover pieces. Since the bags are heat-sealing units, I can use an old iron or anything that generates a fair amount of heat (around 125 degrees F). Or, if I want, I can just tape the ends.

As for cost, I paid $2.50 each for these new 10-inch-by-54-inch bags, but since I can get two bags out of each one, the cost really becomes $1.25 apiece.

I offer this one friendly piece of advice to anyone who thinks he/she perhaps can get by with the Zerust 12-inch-by-18-inch bags for storing your reels on the rod like I do mine in the photo above. If you're really a patient person (which I'm not), you might be able to make it work for you. I tried but eventually threw my hands in the air and said, "Enough is enough," and ordered these larger bags.

If you're interested in more information about these bags or the full line of Zerust products, here's the place to start: