Wednesday, September 28, 2016

High Water Not Exactly a Fan Favorite

Count kayaker Ron Ameika among that legion of anglers who don't particularly care for high water. When that's the case, he has very low expectations for doing well--a feeling borne out of experience. Take Monday evening, for example. The river gauge was reading 3.3 when he launched at Indian River Road, with plans to fish upper West Neck Creek.

Between 1730 and 1930, he scored only a 1-8 on the Whopper Plopper and missed one fish. Senkos, nor the XTS minnow, were working, and there were no visible baitfish around.

Said Ron, "I think all the bass were way up in the out-of-reach locations with the high water." And he probably was right. That's why, when the water is high, especially if the river gauge is reading 3.0 or over, I usually head to Albright's. Once there, I nose my boat as far back in coves as I can get, 'cause the fish follow the water.

As we all know, the current bout with high water all started last week. For a spell, I wondered if maybe I would have to trade in my bass boat for an ark. I got so bored listening to the rain hit the windows, then looking outside to find the street in front of my house flooded, I went looking for something to do--just to break the monotony and to keep my sanity.

I settled on reviewing some statistics from the Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series. For the benefit of anyone interested, here are the overall combined averages (from 2013 thru 2015) typically needed to walk away with a money envelope from one of our events: 1st place - 13.35 lbs., 2nd place - 11.43 lbs., and 3rd place - 10.00 lbs.

Ron's trip to Nanney's Creek this evening (Wednesday, Sept. 28) resulted in two bass and two lost fish. His catch included a 1-10, which measured 14.5 inches, and a 1-5, which measured 14 inches.

"I think they are getting fatter," said Ron.

The productive lure this evening again was the Whopper Plopper. Ron indicated the fish still were way back in the skinniest feeder creeks, with no action at all in the main creek.

"The wind was a bear," he noted, before adding that Mill Landing was flooded out in spots.

Monday, September 26, 2016

Looks Like Everybody Was Catching 'Em Today

Talked to my buddy, Skip, who used the new Pungo Ferry ramp for the first time today, and he was telling me that he caught a total of six bass before he called it quits about 2:30 this afternoon. All of 'em were keepers, anchored by the 3-pounder pictured at left.

And just like he's been doing trip after trip for several weeks now, he was using only one bait--you guessed it, a Whopper Plopper. Said Skip, "They only wanted it one way today, and that was S - L - O - W."

Also talked to Dave, my "E. F. Hutton guy," and he likewise had a good day. He caught a total of 11 bass, including five keepers. He also boated some crappie but indicated he couldn't find any concentrations of them. They were scattered hither and yon.

Rob Peppers and a partner I didn't recognize were on the water, as well. I chatted briefly with Rob but didn't find out what kind of day they were having.

My day was pretty decent. I already had matched my Saturday total of three bass an hour after I started this morning and even had a small crappie thrown in for good measure. By the time I wrapped things up, I had caught a total of nine bass, one crappie, and a bowfin that would have gone about 3 lbs. Only two of the bass were keepers: a 1-3 and a 1-6 (pictured right). All of the bass and the crappie came on a Pop R.

The bowfin picked on my Senko and paid for it with one wild ride when I set the hook. I had incurred a giant bird's nest and had been picking braid for about 10 minutes. As I was taking up the slack line in the water, I felt a tap-tap. I hesitated, saw the line move a little, then felt another tap-tap. After a third tap-tap, I decided it was time to set the hook on whatever it was. I stood up for extra leverage and drove the hook home so hard that the toothy critter came flying about 3 feet out of the water. After grabbing my boga grips and ramming 'em in his mouth, I took the pliers, removed the hook from the middle of his lower lip, and released him to fight someone else another day.

I have to agree with Dave. The day was perfect after the cloud cover moved in this afternoon. The bite subsequently picked up and made a good day even better. Too bad they can't all be like this.

Saturday, September 24, 2016

Day Proves Surprising in a Couple of Ways

When I left home for the marina this morning, I would have bet that we would see a lot of floaters today and, too, that it would be a tough fishing day for everyone. As it turned out, though, I was wrong on both counts. Maybe it's just that the 19 anglers in 12 boats who showed up to fish today are all better than I thought they were. If that's the case, I sincerely apologize to one and all for selling you short.

Today's money winners included the following competitors:

Taking 1st place was the team of (from left) Mike Miller and Chris Fretard. They brought a limit of five bass to the scales with a total weight of 13.39 lbs. Their catch was anchored by Mike's lunker of the day, a nice 5.32-pounder.

Walking away with 2nd place was this team of (from left) Bobby Moore and Duane Kessel. They, too, had a limit, with a total weight of 13.13 lbs. Their big fish weighed 3.88 lbs. 'Twould seem Bobby's new boat is bringing this duo some good luck.

Going home in 3rd place today was the team of (from left) Don Carter and Rob Peppers. Their limit weighed in at 12.48 lbs., buoyed by a big fish weighing 2.60 lbs.

The mystery-weight winner today was yours truly. My two dinks weighed a whole 1.97 lbs., which was closest to the 4.25 tab that was drawn.

Here is how all the other contestants finished the day:

     * The team of Randy Conkle and Bob Glass, five bass, 10.91 lbs. total weight after 0.25 deduction for one dead fish, 3.32-lb. big bass.
     * The team of Wayne Hayes and Sean Vitovich, five bass, 10.38 lbs. total weight, 3.97-lb. big bass.
     * The team of Jim Sumrell and Cathy Brandt, five bass, 9.30 lbs. total weight, 2.59-lb. big bass.
     * Jim Wilder, five bass, 8.83 lbs. total weight, 2.16-lb. big bass.
     * Gary Coderre, five bass, 6.95 lbs. total weight after 0.25 deduction for one dead fish, no big bass.
     * Skip Schaible, Eddie Sapp, and the team of Mike Speedy and Stephen Hardwick didn't weigh any fish.

Overall, today's anglers weighed a total of 42 bass for a total weight of 87.84 lbs. The average weight was 2.09 lbs.

Four more anglers joined the ranks of those qualified to fish our season-ending two-day Classic on Oct. 15th and 16th.

Congrats to all the winners and thanks to everyone who came out to participate. For planning purposes, our last regularly scheduled tournament of the current season is next Saturday, Oct. 1st. We will fish from safe light (probably about 6:40 or 6:45 a.m.) to weigh-in at 3 o'clock. I hope you can join us.

In actuality, I was one of only a handful who found the fishing tough today. Then, about an hour and a half before weigh-in, I happened across Dave, the same fella who introduced me to my INT bait.

We chatted for a couple of minutes, during which time I learned that he had caught a limit this morning. He told me what he had been using (in general terms only), and I soon decided to try it for myself.

Don't you know I immediately started getting strikes. The truth of the matter, though, is that, as usual, my hookset timing sucked, and I only ended up boating one fish on the bait he had shared with me today. If I had connected with all the strikes I had, however, I would have had a limit. In fact, I would have been culling fish before I had to head back for weigh-in.

Dave is fast becoming my "E. F. Hutton" guy--surely you remember those old TV commercials that used to go like this: "When E. F. Hutton talks, people listen."

Thursday, September 22, 2016

A Man With a Death Wish?

(As sometimes happens when you do a piece from a report based on another report, I've got eggs all over my face as a result of not double-checking my facts before publishing this post in the first place. Accordingly, I'm going to try setting the facts right in the revised account that follows.)

From all outward appearances, the angler in this photo very well could be setting himself up for a trip to the mortuary. For the benefit of those who may not have received the latest issue of Jay Kumar's BassBlaster, I'll let you know that the not-so-smart pro angler pictured here is none other than Skeet Reese.

The thought that immediately sprang to mind when I saw this photo was: "Better him than me." I also wondered why anyone ever would be crazy enough to put himself in this position. Turns out that I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Greg Hackney is another. He was in this tournament with Skeet, as well as several others who chose to keep fishing through the lightning storm. Meanwhile, Greg and his marshal went to the bank and spent more than an hour and a half in the bottom of the boat, waiting for the storm to pass.

As Greg admitted in a Bassmaster interview, "If I'm honest with you, I'd say that when I was young, I probably would have fished through it, too. We all think we're invincible when we're young. My thoughts about them continuing to fish come from a man who once lived in a glass house, so I'm careful about throwing rocks. Nevertheless, fishing in a lightning storm doesn't make sense. It's not worth the risk."

The same interview revealed that one of those anglers who decided to continue fishing through the storm happened to have a marshal who demanded to go to the bank. The angler complied, and the marshal wasn't seen again. Said Greg, "I told the angler straight up, 'Your marshal had it right.'"

According to NOAA, over the last 20 years, the United States has averaged 51 annual fatalities from lightning strikes, placing it in the second position, just behind floods, for deadly weather.

Granted, a lot of money is on the line in those pro tournaments, and it may be difficult to take a break, especially if the fish are biting, but what good will that be if you don't live to see tomorrow? My philosophy is simple: As soon as I see that first flash of lightning and/or hear that first clap of thunder, I'm headed for cover.

Here's what a fishing rod usually looks like after it has been hit by lightning. I personally hope I never experience the sensation that accompanies such an occurrence.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

West Neck Marina Under Siege

That's a polite way of putting what is happening out there. I talked to Steve a little earlier this evening, and he agreed to send all these photos to me for posting on my blog. It's been a while since things were this dire, but if anyone had any doubts, you certainly can understand that history truly does keep repeating itself.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

A Li'l Bit More o' Classic History

Since the first two-day Classic in 2011, no participant in this event yet has brought a big bass to the scales weighing 5 lbs. or more. Here is how the Class big-fish winners stack up to date:

Rob Peppers
2.75 lbs.

Duane Kessel
3.67 lbs.

Rob Powell
4.78 lbs.

Jared Allbritten & Chris Napier
4.30 lbs.

Bob Glass & Randy Conkle
4.23 lbs.

One interesting note here is the fact I heard Duane Kessel predict he was going to win the Classic big-fish pot in 2012 with a 3+ pounder, and he went out and made good on his word. Coincidentally, that was the last year he was able to get ol' Dewey to touch his Winner bass boat for luck before he left the dock that Day 2 tournament morning. Dewey died Nov. 8, 2012. The connection there was that Dewey had put that boat together many years earlier while working at Princess Anne Marine.

My question at the moment is: Will this be the year that someone finally shatters our Classic 5-lb. barrier? Quite a few fish exceeding this mark already have been logged this year, including the following: John Goodman & Mark London - 7.14 lbs., Skip Schaible & Mitch Portervint - 5.10 lbs., Jim Wilder - 5.32 lbs., Gary Coderre & Nathan Gottsch - 5.31 lbs., Paul Celentano & Hal Scott - 5.28 lbs., Wayne Hayes & Jared Allbritten - 5.04 lbs., Rob Peppers & Don Carter - 5.23 lbs., Al Napier - 5.43 lbs., and Mike Evans - 5.84 lbs.

All of these competitors are/will be eligible to fish this year's Classic, and I already know several who plan to participate, so a good dogfight may be in the making. Time will tell.