Monday, August 14, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017

Monday, Aug. 14 (from Ron)...Weather didn't look very good, but I rolled the dice. Launched on Milldam from Blackwater Road at about 5 p.m. and caught two dink bass and three dink white perch before the sky darkened and the distant thunder drove me away. Still good to be out.

Tuesday, Aug. 15 (from Ron)...Launched at the drawbridge on upper North Landing to stay close to my car with a pending storm. Fished for about an hour and caught two stripers at 16 and 17 inches, respectively, along with a dink bass, a 2-0, and nothing else. The sky darkened, and I got out of there just before it got ugly. Stripers were hitting a crankbait, and the bass hit a Pop-R. (FYI: Ron nailed it with the term "ugly." Wayne and I were working on my boat at West Neck when "ugly" hit, including some loud thunder and a downpour that lasted at least 30 solid minutes.)

Wednesday, Aug. 16 (from Ron)...It's always a good trip when I get a bowfin! Launched Milldam about 5 p.m. and fished 'till dark. Had a few hits and misses until I tied on a Zoom Fluke, which seemed to be what they wanted. Managed four dink bass, a 1-9 and a 2-7, all of which hit the fluke along grass edges. A beetlespin found three dink white perch but nothing for the stringer. As the sun was setting, tied on a Whopper Plopper and found a really nice bowfin at 6-1. Gave a great fight. Very chubby and healthy bowfin. Also missed a few on the WP--maybe gar. The bowfin was a struggle. The WP treble was between upper and lower lip, so I couldn't get the lip grip on him. Had to grab him with a towel as he thrashed around. A tussle to say the least. Nice to be out late without thunderstorms.

Thursday, Aug. 17 (from Jim)...I fished south to start, using a WP, Pop ShadZ, and small swimbait. Had a bump on the first two baits but no hookups. Came back to the bridge and decided to throw a crankbait and they were on it! Caught a 1.3 and a 13 oz. off one log. Eased above the bridge and caught a 1.8, 1.4 and a genuine dink. Came back to the bridge and caught four tiny crappie. Called it quits about 3:30. With no wind this morning, it was darned muggy. When the wind finally came up, the fish got active. Water temp was 84 degrees at launch and 88 when I pulled out. The fish were on wood--mainly logs, rather than stumps. Water color was super dark and clear.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Makin' 'Em Bite When They Don't Want To

The fish just aren't biting. A cold front has turned 'em off. It's too windy (or not windy enough). It's too hot (or cold). There's too much boat traffic. I don't have the right lure. I'm fishing the wrong place.

Sound familiar? I'd venture to say we've probably all heard these excuses and/or maybe uttered a few of them ourselves at one time or another. The fact is that everyone, even experienced anglers, have occasions when they don't do very well.

As a tourney director, I distinctly remember a couple of those occasions this year--days when the usual "heavy hitters" didn't fare so well. Each time, though, I witnessed one or more other anglers who managed to find a bite that produced a nice bag of fish.

So, how do you make stubborn bass bite? It starts with making mental adjustments. You fight off a defeatist attitude. When you're not getting bitten in an area where you've caught fish recently, step back and try to figure out why the bites aren't happening. If you think the fish are pressured, look for a different area, but remember this: The fish don't usually move far, so resist the temptation to start running all over the place. And if the weather is an issue, simply slow down and fish more methodically.

Another suggestion is to fish heavy cover, which can include everything like thick vegetation, brush tops, gnarly stumps, and logjams. According to the pros, brutal conditions will make "sulking fish pull into the thickest cover available, and you have to go in after them." Forget the obvious targets. Instead, concentrate on the high-percentage places--those that are hardest to reach but are the most likely to hold fish. Bass burrowed in heavy cover feel more secure and are vulnerable to baits that drop into their safety zone--baits like soft plastics, especially scented ones.

Be thorough and slow down. Patience is a virtue when bass don't want to bite. A smart angler resists the urge to fish faster through potential areas in an effort to cover more water. Instead, he lets the bait soak longer in the same spot. In other words, make the most of each cast with multiple presentations from different angles. You want to cover every inch.

Whether you have to deadstick the bait, shake it, or maybe do a combination of the two, the onus is on you to entice the strikes. If you're fishing fast movers like spinnerbaits or crankbaits, use the bottom or cover to deflect the lures and create erratic movement that can trigger reactionary strikes.

Also don't hesitate to downsize your lures. Smaller lures are apt to produce more bites from lesser quality fish, but on tough days, smaller fish are better than no fish at all.

And finally, rotate locations. When the water temps reach the upper 80s and hotter, fish become less active because it burns up their metabolism. However, they still feed--just for shorter periods. At times like this, pros often will rotate their fishing spots, keying only on those where they know the fish live. Under these conditions, you don't have to worry about slowing down or scaling back your lure size because, as one pro explained, "they'll eat anything when they feed."

If you accept the conditions, stay confident, and fish with patience, you'll catch fish, insist the pros. "The secret to being a good angler," according to old-timer Denny Brauer (right), "isn't knowing how to catch fish when they're biting. It's being able to catch them when they're not."

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

For the Week Ending Sunday, Aug. 13, 2017

Wednesday, Aug. 9 (from Ken)...After Saturday's skunk, I felt a need to get back out there and try something different than what I fished then. Turns out I managed to catch a few fish, including a couple of dinks, a 1-0, 1-2 and a 1-6. Two of the bass went for a small Senko. The other three fell for a small crankbait. Everything came out of West Neck. Unfortunately, the day ended on a sour note. I've been having a trolling-motor problem about the last four or five trips, and it all came to a head today. Something in the unit appears to be binding, cause my operating speed has been growing less each trip. Called my mechanic at the end of the day, and he came out to the marina, removed my trolling motor, and tucked it in the back of my van for transport to Tom in Suffolk in the morning. Got my fingers crossed I'll be back in business sometime next week.

Wednesday, Aug. 9 (from Charlie)...Found seven dink bass and one at 3-0, plus a 2-12 bowfin to end the day. Tried mostly crankbaits. Had a few taps but the majority wanted a swimbait. Most dinks went for a small beetlespin. Big bass hit the swimbait with no weight. When I got to my favorite spot first thing in the morning, a bass boat was sitting on the hole and stayed there for an hour. When he passed me on the way out, I went back and got the big bass. A pleasant day for a change.

Thursday, Aug. 10 (from Ray)...Fished the lower and upper West Neck Creek today. Thought it would be a good day but only caught three bass (a 1.10 and two dinks), along with four bream. Had several more strikes on topwater but couldn't hook 'em. The lures that worked were the Whopper Plopper and KVD 1.0 crankbait. Water temperature was 76/78, and it was fairly clear and at a good level. The grass seems to be increasing at a high rate.

Friday, Aug. 11 (from Charlie)...Another killer day! Can't believe I've had such good luck the last two weeks. I was out early to try and miss the rain. The water was in the upper 70s, and it was clear in the grass beds. Calm winds and an overcast sky made for some really active fish. The bite was steady all morning, and if it hadn't been for a doctor's appointment, I'd have stayed a lot longer--rain or not. It was that good. I'm always surprised that the fish prefer one bait over everything else you throw, but while swimbaits were the ticket on Wednesday, they wouldn't touch 'em today. I still got a few on alternate baits, but the hollow-bodied frog was the killer this morning. Got 16 with it, but also picked up 8 on the Whopper Plopper. Missed a lot of strikes on the WP, and the ones I did get were hooked everywhere but in the mouth. Meanwhile, the frog almost always was completely down the throat after some tremendous explosive strikes. Today's overall totals were one white perch and 24 bass, with the best five going 1-10, 2-0, 2-4, 3-8, and 3-9, for a grand total of 12-11. It just doesn't get much better than today.

Saturday, Aug. 12 (from Ron)...With the spotty thunderstorms, decided to launch at the drawbridge on North Landing. Stayed close to cover and the culvert leading to upper North Landing. Stripers were biting well, and I caught four. Also lost two fish on break offs that may have been a gar. Had one nice keeper striper that went just over 20 inches and weighed in at 2-14. Also caught a dink bass. All bites fell to a small crankbait running about 3.5 feet deep. Tried Zoom Flukes and Whopper Plopper to no avail. Good to be back on the water.
Looked like a big cell of nastiness to the west, so launched Munden Point and stayed close to launch till about 0900.  The cell spilt north and south so headed across North Landing and into a creek south of Snake Creek.  Very poor and intermittent bite.  

Sunday, Aug. 13 (from Ron)...Caught several panfish, including three crappie to 11 inches, on the beetlespin, as well as a 9-inch yellow perch, but oddly no white perch. Tried everything in the arsenal. Water was high but flowing out, so shifted to plastics and grass-choked feeder creeks. Threw a SwimSenko into a feeder creek and had a violent attack. While reeling the fish, I thought it was a small bass or panfish until he got close to the yak, but it then took off and made my drag scream. My initial thought was a pesky gar, but it turned out to be a nice big ol' bowfin. Made my day at 24 inches and 5 lb 8 ozs. Managed a few dinks and what I think was a "sub dink" and called it a day.

Monday, August 7, 2017

Another Fishing Method on the Local Scene Stirs Childhood Memories

I was fishing the West Neck Creek shoreline during our tourney two days ago when what should appear before me but a couple of boys in a johnboat running their jug-fishing lines. My immediate thought was that I just had happened upon a couple of young fellas who might be breaking the law.

There's a good reason why I had that thought. As a young lad growing up in my hometown of Oswego, KS, I remember one summer in the 1950s, when my dad's Uncle C. came to town from Kansas City for a visit. As usual, he wanted Pop to take him fishing, but not with rod and reel.

No, sir. Uncle C. wanted Pop to take him jug fishing in the Neosho River. And he had come fully prepared for the occasion. His car was loaded with 5-gallon glass jugs. There was just one problem: At that time and to this day, too, I think, Kansas has a thing about jug fishing. In short, it's illegal--a fact I'm not sure Dad ever divulged to Mom, because he had to have known how she would react to that kind of news.

Nevertheless, Pop and Uncle C. readied the bottles and, at the agreed upon time, set out for a secluded stretch of the river. I had been all over Dad for a couple of days to take my brother and me along, and in due time, he had caved, so I was all set to get a lesson about a new kind of fishing (new to me, that is).

In its simplest form, jug fishing is an unlimited class-tackle method of fishing that uses lines suspended from floating jugs to catch fish in lakes or rivers. Often, a large number of jugs are used. In many states, a fisherman can use up to 20 jugs. Big catfish often are the sought-after species.

I can't begin to tell you how much I enjoyed seeing what happened to those floating bottles when a big catfish would grab the bait attached to one of them. It then was up to Dad and Uncle C. to go chase down their prize in Dad's rowboat. Suffice it to say the day was a total success...without, I might add, any visits from John Law.

From that day until this past Saturday, I hadn't seen any more jug fishing, so you can imagine my surprise when I came around a blind corner in West Neck Creek and saw all those floating jugs. That element of surprise, however, quickly was replaced by questions about the legality of what I was witnessing. For that reason, I contacted Chad Boyce, a fish biologist with the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries, and got answers to my questions.

It turns out that jug fishing is a legal means of taking catfish and other nongame fish in Virginia. According to Chad, "Each float is required to be marked with the owner's name and fishing-license number (I think). I believe each fisherman is allowed to use 20 noodles (another name for jug lines) at a time, and they must stay within sight of the floats while fishing them," he said.

Chad provided the following language from the official regulations:

"Trot lines, jug lines, or set poles (limb lines) may be used to take nongame fish and turtles, provided they are not baited with live bait (worms are permissible), except on designated stocked trout waters, Department-owned lakes, and within 600 feet of any dam. Live bait, other than game fish, may be used on trot lines to take catfish in Carroll, Dickenson, Giles, Grayson, Montgomery, Pulaski, and Wythe Counties, and in the Clinch River in Russell, Scott and Wise Counties. (See page 13 for South Holston Reservoir.) Any person setting or possessing the above equipment shall have it clearly marked by permanent means with his or her name, address, and telephone number, and is required to check all lines and remove all fish and animals caught each day. Remove all trot lines, jug lines, or set poles from public waters when not in use. Additional requirements for jug lines: Defined as a single hook, including one treble hook and line attached to a float. Jug line/noodle sets on public waters shall be restricted to 20 per angler and must be attended (within sight) by anglers at all times. Also, in addition to being labeled with the angler's name, address, and telephone number, jugs/noodles shall be labeled with a reflective marker that encircles the jugs/noodles to allow for visibility at night."

I'm not advocating that anyone take up jug fishing. Rather, I'm just making everyone aware to be on the lookout for jugs now, as well as crab pots, on the North Landing and its tributaries. This is the first time in my 40 years of local bass fishing that I've ever seen anyone using this method. I suggest that it's anyone's guess how long it will last, or if it perhaps will catch on the way kayak fishing has in recent years. Bottom line: The waterways could have just gotten a little more crowded...for the long haul...or not.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Summer Isn't the Only Thing Getting Hot...

So is the five-way race for Angler of the Year in the 2017 Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series. Less than three points separate these competitors.

Here is how the race stacks up at the moment:

Leading the charge is Bobby Moore, who has weighed an accumulative total of 101.26 lbs. of bass to date.

The first runner-up is Rob Peppers, whose accumulative total to date is 100.86 lbs.

In the next runner-up position is the team of (from left) Bob Glass and Randy Conkle, both with an accumulative total of 100.75 lbs. to date.

And then comes Al Napier, who has accumulated a total of 99.36 lbs. to date.

Finally, we have Duane Kessel, who is Bobby Moore's partner most of the time. One instance when they didn't fish as a team accounts for why Duane's current accumulative total is 98.89 lbs.

A couple other competitors these fellas have to watch are Chris Fretard and Don Carter, with 81.04 lbs. and 79.57 lbs., respectively.

All of these anglers are veterans of the Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney Series and current Classic qualifiers. This year marks the first time since I introduced the Angler of the Year Award to the series that there has been this kind of competition, and I'm enjoying every minute of it. I wish all the competitors the best of luck.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

In Just 2 More Months, Another Season Will Be in the Record Books

For the moment, though, everyone is just taking it one tournament at a time. A total of 19 anglers in 12 boats showed up for today's contest. Their combined efforts resulted in a total of 44 bass coming to the scales for a total weight of 84.2 lbs. and an average weight of 1.91 lbs. per fish.

Those standing in the winners' circle at day's end included the following:

In first place was the team of Duane Kessel (left) and Bobby Moore (not pictured), with a five-fish limit weighing 15.09 lbs. They had a couple of nice fish, including a 4.61 (caught by Duane) and a 4.75 (caught by Bobby), the latter of which took the day's lunker honors.


In second place was the team of (from left) Bob Glass and Randy Conkle, with a five-fish limit that tipped the scales at 14.45 lbs. Their big bass checked in at 3.8 lbs.

Finishing in third place was Chris Fretard, who had a five-fish limit weighing 9.57 lbs. (after a one-dead-fish penalty of 0.25). He didn't weigh a big fish.

Today's mystery-weight winner was Skip Schaible. He had three fish that weighed 3.69 lbs., which was closest to the 4.85-lb. tab that was drawn. He didn't have a big fish.

Here is how everyone else stood in the final tally:

     * The team of Rob Peppers and Don Carter, five bass, 9.51 lbs. total weight, 4.02-lb. big bass.
     * The team of Andy Morath and Diana Mendez, five bass, 7.60 lbs. total weight, 2.75-lb. big bass.
     * The team of Gary Coderre and Lenny Hall, five bass, 7.42 lbs. total weight, 2.89-lb. big bass.
     * The team of Wayne Hayes and Al Napier, five bass, 7.31 lbs. total weight, no big bass.
     * Jim Wilder, four bass, 6.59 lbs. total weight (after a one-dead-fish penalty of 0.25), 2.59-lb. big bass.
     * The team of Rusty Girard and Samantha Tawan, two bass, 2.97 lbs. total weight (after a two-fish penalty for weighing a short fish), no big bass.
     * Steve Bailey and Ken Testorff did not weigh any fish.

Three more anglers joined the ranks of those qualified to fish our two-day season-ending Classic. These additions bring our current total to 14 competitors.

Congratulations to all of the winners, and thanks to everyone who came out to participate. For planning purposes, our next scheduled event is Saturday, Aug. 19, from safe light to approximately 2 p.m. I hope you can join us.

During the weigh-in today, I learned that about three fellas' boats had some issues with the outboards. One motor locked up early this morning, another was having oil-alarm problems, and yet another was experiencing an overheat alarm. Could it have been related to the weather conditions? Who knows?

I talked briefly with the fella with the overheat alarm and advised him to remove the thermostats from his motor. I've done that with my last two Yamahas (which he also has) and never, to this point in time, have had a repeat event. I have to allow a little extra warm-up time during the colder months, but that's the only difference.

Of those anglers I talked to during weigh-in, the vast majority indicated their productive baits today were soft plastics. I threw some of those baits, too, along with a wide assortment of topwaters, a spinnerbait, some wakebaits, and a crankbait--all to no avail. The best I could do was to get about four blowups on different topwaters. So, for the fourth time since this past January, I had my butt handed to me in the form of a skunk. But, in a manner of speaking, I spread my wealth around: I wasted the first four hours in Milldam and finished up wasting the last four hours in West Neck. If nothing else, I believe in equal opportunity.