Thursday, June 23, 2016

What's Age Got To Do With It?

In some circles today, the popularly held belief is that age is more a matter of attitude than of a birth date. They contend that, as I saw one put it recently, "Young or old, it does not matter. Dream your dreams, and then act on them. Live the life you love."

And when it comes to professional bass anglers, that statement is no better epitomized than by the legendary Rich Clunn (left), who, at the age of 69, turned some heads back in March, when he won a Bassmaster pro event on the St. Johns River in Florida. "All of a sudden," wrote Dave Wolak, "the question of how old is too old to be a successful tourney angler sprung up on the interwebs.

"To set the record straight," continued Wolak, "Rick Clunn is no ordinary 69-year-old guy who casually takes a spin around his favorite cove with a spinnerbait once a week, or plays a slow cart-assisted nine holes at the local golf club on Sunday morning. He's in very good physical and mental shape. I've fished around him numerous times, and he casts enough in 20 minutes to make a 20-year-old tired just watching him. And he'll be the first to tell you that his success stems from the cohesiveness of his mind and body working together. All anglers, regardless of age, can learn something from Clunn.

"In 2007," said Wolak, "I finished second to a then-aging Guido Hibdon (right) in an FLW tournament at Lake Champlain. Not only was the fishing tough, but the lake also was really kicked up. During and after the event, I never thought twice about him being too old to beat me, but I still think about what I could have done differently to take the win. Early on in my career, I realized that tourney anglers are really fishing against the fish, not each other, and with that in mind, bass fishing is a sport where age doesn't matter much, especially when you consider older anglers often know how to fish 'smarter' than the young guys.

"For example, an older angler might take it slow and not beat himself up running 50 miles in sloppy conditions, but he also might know how to catch more bass in a shorter period of time once he gets there. Likewise, his bank of wisdom might help him out-fish the throttle-punching crew by simply staying local because he's put in a lot more time and has a better understanding of using time wisely in a tourney setting. When I was younger, my strategy was to outwork the old guys. Sometimes it worked, but often it didn't.

"Whether you're a tournament angler or just a recreational fisherman, you can't let age hinder your drive. You just have to let it change your approach for the better. Instead of being upset that you don't have it in you to run 50 miles at warp speed, use that to get better at fishing close. If you can't throw a giant swimbait all day anymore, don't. Use that need to slow down to get more effective at fishing a bait you can throw all day, and I promise you'll figure out new patterns and gain edges you never thought you had. Your personal strategy may not be as chiseled physically as Rick Clunn's, but at least you have to believe each day that you're capable of setting a new benchmark." Concluded Wolak, "It's what gets us up at 3:30 a.m. on Saturday morning."

Another angler in the same boat as Clunn is Larry Nixon (left). Now 65, he's still a dominant gun on the Walmart FLW Tour, and as Randy Blaukat wrote last year, "He shows that age can be an asset, rather than a limitation. I love the fact that Nixon acknowledges his age, but instead of fighting it, has adapted his fishing methods to suit his age, and he's a threat to win each and every event he fishes."

Blaukat put the whole matter in perspective by saying, "Ultimately, the great thing about tournament fishing is that it doesn't really matter how old you are. Where else can you compete on a professional level at 70 years old?" he asked before adding, "That's what makes it the greatest sport on Earth."

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

A Bit o' Fishing Wisdom for Us Old Codgers

OK, I'll admit it. I don't move as fast or (sometimes) as steady as I used to, I gave up worrying about nonsense like skin and muscle tone years ago, and I wear funny lookin' fishin' hats nowadays. However, every bit of that is all right, 'cause, you see, I've earned the distinction as a "golden angler," or at least that's the sounds-good title used by a writer, whose article "Fishing Tips for Old Men" I was reading earlier today.

Different things influenced me to assemble this blog post, starting with an email swap I had this week with my friend and one-time tourney-fishing partner, Paul Celentano. He asked me how I was doing, and it just so happened that, when he asked, it was the next day after I had been fishing. And, per the standard drill these days, I was paying the price for my day of fun in the sun. To get straight to the point, I told him I was hurting--in so many different places I couldn't decide what to work on first. It's no longer just one day before I bounce back, either. It now takes two days before I return to just the normal aches and pains.

I also was influenced by the fact I've grown tired of lugging around so many heavy tackleboxes. And now that I've decided to concentrate my efforts on topwater fishing, I seized this opportunity to shed a lot of tackle weight. Yesterday, I went into the garage, pulled out all my topwater baits from those heavy boxes, and now have reduced down to one soft-sided container of small Plano boxes, plus my regular hard box of hooks, snaps and so forth. No longer will I have to transport those "dead-man boxes," as my friends Jim Bauer and Skip Schaible often jokingly have called them.

That being said, here are those fishing tips I referred to in the opening paragraph, as presented by the author, J. E. Myers:

"Just because some of us are getting up there in terms of years doesn't mean our enjoyment of fishing has to end. (As I told Paul the other day, "I always have and always will love fishing to my dying day.") Most seniors are still quite capable of enjoying fishing, especially the commune with nature and the opportunity for reflection. Seniors also have an obligation to share their love of fishing and their many decades of fishing knowledge with members of younger generations. Many seniors may need to adjust their game and take special precautions to remain safe and healthy.

Avoid Fishing Alone

"It's not a good idea for seniors to fish alone, at least not in boats, around deep waters, or in remote locations. (I wonder how many times I've heard my wife make remarks along this line.) Always take a fishing buddy with you, especially if you need help getting a boat in and out of the water. This prudent rule has an upside--you'll have the opportunity to pass on your skills and knowledge to younger people if you always take a younger buddy with you.

Lower the Bar

"If you were capable of spending six hours on a bass boat in the past, you may need to tone down your fishing trips to a more reasonable level for your age and physical condition. Consider taking shorter trips, especially if you'll be casting repeatedly, such as during bass fishing. Your throwing arm will thank you the next day that you didn't 'overdo' it. If repeated casting for bass is no longer in the cards, try bobber fishing for crappie and other panfish. The action--and the eating--can be just as fun.

Tailor Access

"Avoid fishing trips that require long treks through rough terrain or climbing up and down steep banks--for obvious reasons. The kind of hiking you used to do may not be safe these days. (Boy! Does that ever bring back my childhood memories of fishing Mozingo Bend on the Neosho River with my dad and brother. The bank was so steep we had to scale a rope tied to the bumper of Pop's old pickup. Mom used to have fits when she knew that's where we were fishing.) Seek good fishing opportunities from easy-access docks, for example. Many public lakes now offer special docks for seniors and wheelchair-bound anglers. 'Serious' fishing in deep water still can be safe for seniors, so long as you don't take the boat out alone.

Special Equipment

"A senior angler's tacklebox needs to include some new gear, including a spare pair of reading glasses and vital medications. A spare sun hat will be handy, in case yours blows away and you no longer can maneuver to retrieve it. A long 'reaching pole' can be handy. (It's a little strange that he mentions such a pole at the same time I was thinking earlier today about getting a "push pole" for my boat. I had an occasion on my latest trip when one would have come in very handy.) A long-handled net also is helpful. A pillow is a good idea for preventing 'boat butt.' Take a stadium seat if you'll be sitting in a boat with backless seats or benches.

Give Up Earlier

"Plan on breaking off snags. Buy cheaper lures so the loss won't be as painful, and you won't be tempted to try dangerous retrievals while perched in a precarious position on the boat. Don't push your luck; a herniated back or the prospect of drowning are not worth the cost of an $8 lure.

Warm Up First

"Before setting out on a day of fishing, take time to warm up your back and throwing arm muscles. Practice casting for 15 minutes each day, in the yard or driveway, for several days before the fishing trip. Do exercises to get your lower back and legs limber. Focus on twisting motions from a sitting position. (I've got just one question here: Who's going to help me up once I sit on the ground?) Find your comfort zone for casting, say 20 feet, and stick to that limit.


"Take a moment to sit back every half hour and rest your arm, neck and lower back. Soak in the sights and sounds of the lake, stream or pond and just reflect on the other joys of fishing. Don't be pressured to fish until your head falls off, just because younger people in the fishing party may be working the water nonstop. You've earned your moments as a "Golden Angler," (There's that delightful term I gotta remember for future reference.) so take them."

An author and entrepreneur for nearly 40 years, J. E. Myers has a broad and eclectic range of expertise in entrepreneurship, personal-computer maintenance and design, and visual and performing arts. Myers is a self-taught computer expert and owned a computer sales and service company for five years.

I realize I ran another article aimed at us old-timers on Aug. 1, 2015 (titled "Enjoy Those Care-Free Angling Days, 'Cause They Likely Won't Last"). This article, though, provides new info. Hope you enjoy.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

What Friends Are Catching and Where

Received emails today from a couple of friends who provided some results of their latest trips to the water. Here's what they had to say.

Ron Ameika shared that he had spent a good day this past Saturday in Oakum, hiding from the wind. He caught a total of nine bass. His best five included a 1-0, 1-1, 1-2, 1-3, and 1-5, which were caught in that order. Said Ron, "The 1-4 threw the hook." The same trip yielded six chain pickerel and a 2-12 bowfin.

On Father's Day, Ron and his son, Alex, made a trip to Stumpy Lake. And just four minutes after launching, Alex put the even 3-pound bass pictured here in the kayak. He added a 2-6 a little later. Meanwhile, dad managed a 1-7 bass and a 2-12 bullhead cat.

Ron went on to note that he's having the exact opposite experience from me with topwater baits. The fish he's catching are coming on plastics and the ol' XTS.

And from Doc Murdock came word that he used a topwater bait this morning to entice this 1-4 bass into hitting.

He started at the West Neck Bridge, where he threw everything but the kitchen sink and came up empty-handed. It wasn't until Doc moved south to the power lines that he caught the 13-inch, 1-4 bass in this photo. He then moved farther south, to red marker 4A, but didn't get another bite.

Doc reported the conditions as clear water, with winds from the south at 15, and water temp 75 to 77 degrees. "The water was up but not too high," he said.

That 77 degrees is down from what I showed yesterday afternoon when I returned to West Neck. Of course, that difference could be due to the fact Doc fished from 6 to 10 a..m. this morning. The water temp when I quit yesterday at 2:30 p.m. read 83 degrees.

Monday, June 20, 2016

Another Limit on an All-Day Topwater Bite

A mixture of topwater baits, including my INT, paved the way to my fifth consecutive outing with a limit of bass. Of the seven I boated today, only four were keepers, with the biggest a 1-13 (pictured here) that nearly smacked the paint off my topwater bait when it hit about 1:30 this afternoon.

I also lost two nice bass this morning when they leaped right beside the boat and spit my lure. And there were some gigantic blowups throughout the day, in which I never felt pressure or anything, so I never attempted a hookset.

I'll readily admit that I suspect at least a couple of those big blowups today were those toothy critters. There were no outward signs--rather, just a gut feeling.

I was back in Albright's today. However, I spent most of my time in the front end because the water was a bit low to do very much prowling in my usual back areas. Also checked out part of my favorite stretch in Pocaty, but didn't get a sniff, so resigned myself to staying in Albright's all day.

Saw Ray Scott on the water today and talked to him briefly. He had boated three bass on soft plastics, plus several bream on assorted baits when we spoke this afternoon. I didn't ask but had the feeling he probably was headed for the dock at the time.

Suffice it to say I'm having a blast with these all-day topwater bites. Don't know how long it will last, but I'm all in for the duration.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Some Guys Just Have No Couth

That was the unmistakable take-away from an incident my friend, Doc, experienced on the water today.

He just had launched at West Neck and was fishing at the bridge when three dudes anchored their boat right on top of the spot where he just had caught a fish. Being the nice guy that he is, rather than say something, Doc moved on and let them have the spot to themselves.

Before he ended his abbreviated day on the water, Doc went on to catch the 1.4-lb., 14-inch bass in the accompanying photo. Both fish came on crankbaits.

The water was low today, following yesterday's northeast winds, but Doc knew it likely would be that way because he had scouted things out at the marina yesterday.

Said my friend, "I'll be going out again Tuesday if there's good weather." Hopefully, Doc, you won't have to put up with any rude dudes again. With all the water there is in West Neck, there's no excuse for that kind of behavior--ever!

Tight Lines!

Saturday, June 18, 2016

The Eyes Have It; Let's Be Sure We Don't Lose It

Given the previous post about my friend getting a fish hook in his hand this past Tuesday, I decided to do a little online research.

Before I go into a discussion about what I learned, though, let me say my friend is doing fine. During a phone conversation with Jim yesterday, I learned he has some not-so-pretty bruising to his hand but no swelling or pain. And although he has to wait awhile, he's already talking about that next trip to the water.

That being said, let me assure you that I take all fish-hook injuries seriously. However, there is one category of these injuries that, in my opinion, are in a league of their own. I'm talking about those incidents that involve a person's eyes, which was the topic I researched online.

My research revealed that, as you might expect, eye injuries from fishing are lumped into the broader category of sports and recreational activities. Records show these injuries collectively result in more than 100,000 physician's office and ER visits each year. More sobering is the fact these injuries often lead to visual impairment and account for more than 40,000 new cases of blindness annually.

The United States Eye Injury Registry (USEIR) is a federation of individual state eye-injury registries that collect and share injury data via a common database. This federation documents serious eye injuries, which are those judged by the reporting physician to have a likelihood in permanent structural or functional damage to the eye and/or its orbit.

According to a report they published, citing USEIR data, recreational fishing accounts for nearly 20 percent of all sports-related eye injuries in the United States. Only baseball produces a greater number of eye injuries.

Penetrating injuries are a more serious complication of fishing-related trauma. Blunt force of sufficient magnitude can lead to global rupture, but open-globe injuries usually result from a fish hook penetrating the cornea or sclera. Penetrating injuries are a true emergency, and care must be taken to maintain the integrity of the eye while expediting surgical treatment to close the wound.

In fish-hook injuries, it's important NOT to attempt to remove the hook outside the setting of an operating room. Most commercial fish hooks have barbs, intended to keep a fish on the line. Unfortunately, that feature will cause substantially greater damage if you try to pull the hook back through the wound. Instead, experts advise immobilization of the hook or lure by taping it in place, followed quickly by transportation of the patient to the ER.

The vast potential for eye injuries is why anglers always should wear some kind of protection from not only the sun's harmful ultraviolet rays but from the possible impact of lures, sinkers and such. As we all know, polarized lenses are a great option for fishing, cutting the glare and helping you see beyond the water's surface. Polycarbonate and Trivex lenses, meanwhile, provide the best protection from objects that may come hurtling through the air at you.

Don't rely on regular spectacles for impact protection. They, in fact, can be extra hazardous to your eyes if they shatter. Instead, consider thermoplastic frame materials, which mold to your face, enhancing comfort, or rubber frame components, which can help your frame stay firmly in place. Floating frames are a safeguard for your valuable investment.

The bottom line is that, with the right kind of protective eyewear, you reduce the risk of serious eye injury up to 90 percent. Remember, too, that it's not always the fisherman who suffers an eye injury. One fishing study, for example, showed that nearly 25 percent of those injured simply were innocent bystanders. Pay particular attention when children are around because they may not understand the inherent dangers involved.

In short, let's all be safe out there.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

'Twas a Topwater Day for Two

I only got an on-the-run report from my friend Jim Bauer this afternoon at West Neck Marina, but I know I heard him say he had caught all his fish today on topwater, which is what I used to boat five.

As I learned later this evening, after Jim had put his spur-of-the-moment issue from this afternoon to rest, he also ended up boating a total of five bass. He, too, had one dink, along with a 2-5, 1-11, and two fish that he said were about 14-inches apiece but with each weighing less than a pound. (Note: I didn't have a photo yet from Jim at the time I posted this item. If one is forthcoming, I will include it with this article.)

It's a pretty safe bet that Jim will remember today's dink for a long time to come. However, I'm not going to divulge the reason. I'll leave that to him to decide whether he ever wants to make the incident public.

I maybe should clarify here that Jim and I were not using the same topwater bait. He was using the one that gave him a bang-up day on Lake Gaston during his recent visit there, while I was using my I'll-never-tell (INT) bait, which single-handedly, or used in conjunction with other topwater lures, now has produced a limit of bass on four consecutive trips. I can assure you I don't remember the last time that happened.

My catch today included a dink, plus four keepers, weighing 0-15, 1-10, 2-0 and the 2-7 in the photo above. Notice how closely my totals nearly mirror those that Jim put up today. Merely a coincidence? Who can say for sure? We weren't fishing the same area. He spent his day in West Neck, while I ran to Albright's.


After due deliberation, Jim has agreed to let me explain what happened to him yesterday, so as ol' Paul Harvey used to say, "And now for the rest of the story."

As I approached the catwalk yesterday afternoon, I quickly noticed Rob Peppers scurrying around, helping Jim prep his boat for the road. That mere fact alone told me that something likely was wrong with Jim, 'cause he routinely takes care of that chore all by himself.

I just had tied up my boat at the catwalk when Jim and Rob saw me and started making their way toward me, It was then I noticed Jim was holding his one hand with the other, which conclusively told me that something was wrong. And one look at his hand, with a treble hook buried in it, as you clearly can see in this photo, proves it.

Don't mind telling you that I grimaced and, after a very abbreviated glance, had to look away. I've been in that boat too many times and know the drill all too well. Besides that, I don't have a strong stomach for the sight of blood--whether it be my own or someone else's.

That being said, it was decided that Jim would accompany Rob home, with Rob driving Jim's pickup and towing his boat. Then Rob would unhook the boat in his driveway and take care of it, so Jim could go on to Princess Anne emergency room and have the hook removed.

Although Jim didn't know it at the time that 8-inch bass buried the treble hook in his hand, the ensuing odyssey of sorts would entail approximately 8.5 hours from start to finish. His visit to the emergency room alone encompassed 6.5 hours.

Said Jim in a day-later email, "The hand feels surprisingly good today." Best of all, as he pointed out, "No pain meds!" He also offered this piece of advice to anglers everywhere, "Be careful when trying to lip the little guys. They get rowdy."

And, as promised earlier, here's the photo of Jim's best fish yesterday.

I couldn't help noticing how calm the 2-5 bass in this photo appears. I also remember how Jim described the actions of that little 8-incher from yesterday's saga. He said the li'l fella wouldn't hold still for even a second.

In other words, on one hand, you have this mature 2-5 bass who seems to be perfectly at ease. Then, on the other hand, you have this frisky 8-incher, which is acting like someone just fed him a bunch of Mexican jumping beans.

Does this remind you of anything? It does me. I well can remember my mom telling me on more than one occasion, "If you don't hold still, I'm gonna jerk knots in ya."

I'm betting you that Jim probably now wishes he had jerked a few knots in that 8-incher yesterday.

In conclusion, Jim and I would both like to thank a couple of folks from yesterday's episode. First of all, thanks to Eddie Sapp for helping Jim get his boat back on the trailer. Second, thanks to Rob Peppers for helping Jim tie everything down and providing overnight storage for my friend's rig. You're both class acts in our books.