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:

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

2 Days of High Water and a Poor Bite Leaves Jack a Dull Boy

The water both yesterday and today was over the front lip of the West Neck ramp. Combine that with stained to muddy water everywhere I went and a nearly nonexistent bite, and the headline I used here should make perfect sense.

The only good news is that I didn't get skunked either day. The bad news is that I only boated five bass (three yesterday and two today), and not a single one weighed even a pound.

The water temp both days at start time was about 66 degrees and never got above 72.

If I had to name the high point of both days, it wouldn't have a thing to do with my fishing. Rather, it was watching the lunar eclipse that occurred this morning. It started before I left the house this morning and finished shortly after I arrived at the marina. I sat in my van and watched the completion this morning before I got out and readied the boat to launch.

With any luck, I'll get in a couple more days on the water before our Classic on Oct. 18th and 19th. I can only hope those trips provide a better return on my investment than the past two days.

"Jack" isn't quite as dull after reading the results of Bob's Wednesday night tournament. Fishing was tough down there, too. A total of two fish were weighed: a 2.47 and a 1.20, and they were caught by two different anglers. If you're reading this update, Charlie, it looks like you're da man. You caught more than all of us put together.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Neither Snow, Nor Rain, Nor Heat, Nor Gloom of Night...

In case you thought I was headed off on some tangent about a postal worker, you can relax. I'm not. I just used that familiar intro to what often is misidentified as the U.S. Postal Service motto (they actually have no official motto, so I read this morning) to get your attention.

Instead, I'm going to talk a little bit about my friend and fellow bass fisherman--"Doc" Murdock, to be exact, and the fact he didn't let some of the coolest temperatures we've had since this past April deter him from making a trip to West Neck Creek yesterday. And he had plenty of company, too. Besides other West Neck Marina patrons, there were some of the nearly 30 boats fishing a Region 7 open bass tournament out of Munden Point shadowing him all day.

More importantly, everyone seemed to be catching fish. The one in this picture that "Doc" sent me measured out at 16 inches and weighed 2.8 lbs. He also caught two dinks--one that measured 11 inches and another that measured 12 inches.

And according to the Region 7 website, 1st place in yesterday's tournament went to the team of Rob Peppers and Don Carter, who had an eight-fish limit weighing 17.51 lbs.

The lucky lures for "Doc" yesterday were a crankbait and a jerkbait. He asked me not to divulge the specific names or colors, which I agreed to do, as I always do for anyone who asks. It's easy to understand why fishermen, in particular, don't always want to subscribe to this famous line from the old radio broadcaster Paul Harvey: "And now, for the rest of the story."

There simply are some things fishermen just would rather keep to themselves, or perhaps a very select circle of friends, and "Doc" is no different.

I just truly appreciate those few folks like "Doc" who send me information from time to time I can post on this blog to keep other anglers aware of what's happening on local waterways. Thanks to all of you.

Sunday, October 5, 2014

What Would You Do If...

You couldn't find your favorite rod in the store the next time you need a new one? That's what happened to me--well, in a way.

I'm not talking about St. Croix Premier crankin' rods, which I use all the time because they're lightweight, seem to last, and get the job done. I'm instead talking about Browning Medallion casting rods, which I prefer for all my other bassin' needs.

In every case, I don't buy anything but medium-power rods these days. And if you're wondering why, it's because of what my doctor classifies "an age-related thing." I simply can't handle a heavier rod for 8 hours any given fishing day and be able to raise my arms above my head or move my fingers even a little bit the next day without experiencing a wealth of pain.

Incidentally, that "age-related thing" also accounts for why I wear a glove on my left hand (and sometimes both hands) nearly year-round now. I can't stand that clicking sound I get in my fingers if I don't wear the glove--and worse yet, I've had my fingers completely lock up at times.

Example of split-grip handle
All that aside, though, let me get back to the central point of this article--those Browning Medallion casting rods I spoke of earlier. I had decided I wanted to get a couple more of them, so, yesterday, I hopped online and went to looking. They were easy enough to find, but imagine my surprise when I discovered they only come with split-grip handles nowadays, instead of the solid cork I'm used to and much prefer.

After checking a host of different websites without finding any Browning Medallions with full-cork handles, I visited some local stores to see what they had to offer. A quick glance around at the rod display in any one of the stores made me acutely aware that seemingly most rod manufacturers today are turning out more rods with split-grip handles than solid-cork ones.

I picked up several different medium rods with the split grip but didn't find a single one that I liked. I can't say I was surprised, because I already own some split-grip rods that I very quickly came to dislike after buying them a few years back. I've recently been giving them a second chance but have found that, if anything, I like them even less than I did before I put them in storage the first time. For openers, these so-called "medium" Berkley Shock rods (designed especially for fishing braided line) feel more like baseball bats than fishing rods, and they cast about the same way.

Example of full-cork handle
As a result, I today decided to go online and see what some other folks were saying about the split grip vs. solid cork issue. I didn't have to dig very hard to find a lot of information. As you might expect, the viewpoints ran the whole gamut. One thing that most anglers seemed to be able to agree on, though, is that they like full-cork handles for special occasions, primarily when they're chunking frogs. A few added most crankbaits, big jigs, or anything heavy to that list of special occasions.

Here are a couple of specific comments I found that I feel worth mentioning:

"Split handles are almost purely cosmetic. They don't offer a sensitivity advantage as many people believe. They do offer a lighter weight package, but you give up a significant amount of balance."

And this from a custom-rod builder: "After having fished multiple split-grip spinning and casting rods, I am just not sold that they boost rod performance, as they always result in a tip-heavier rod. The only way, with a clear conscience, that I can build a split-grip as a 'better' rod is if the weight removed from the split is added at the very end of the rod, resulting in a nicer feel. I know of no mass-produced split-grip rods that do so, which, in my evaluation, makes them all lesser, not better fishing tools."

The lesson I learned here is simple: There are no guarantees that the rod you like today is going to be available tomorrow with all the same features you've come to appreciate. Perhaps that's why we have the old saying, "Here today, gone tomorrow."

Friday, October 3, 2014

My Search for New Water Leads to Rowdy Bowfin

That bowfin--about 4 lbs. worth--was my first fish of the day, after more than five hours on the water. I wasn't surprised to see that mouth full of teeth staring back at me as I worked him beside the boat, because he already had showed his butt a number of times. Unfortunately, his disposition still was rowdy alongside the boat. He even rammed it three times with his head--apparently to register his displeasure with having the hook from a Rage Blade chatterbait buried squarely in his one eye.

No matter what I did, he wasn't having any part of calming down. When I finally was able to pop the hook out, guess what souvenir of the battle I had hanging from my hook? If you said his eyeball, you'd be correct--not exactly the result I was hoping for, but it nevertheless demanded my attention.

Once I had gotten rid of the eyeball, I inspected my chatterbait, and it's a good thing I did. The ornery critter had sprung both eyes of the line-connecting device on the blade--a problem I had read about not long ago in an online forum. As advertised in that forum, I replaced that line-tie device with a Duo snap. I very well may do the same thing to all my Rage Blade chatterbaits--just for a little extra insurance the next time I have a big bass on the end of my line.

In my last hour on the water today, I finally managed to boat two keeper bass, starting with this 1-15 and ending with a 1-7. I also lost a rowdy dink that jumped and spit the hook as soon as I set it.

The day was a disappointment, in that I expected a better bite with all the cloud cover around most of the day. I did get one topwater strike and was hooked up for a few moments with a fish that I think was a pickerel. I couldn't tell for sure because he was completely covered with grass. He kept shaking his head and eventually freed himself, which was OK with me. One toothy critter a day is about all I care to deal with on any given outing.

The new water I checked out today didn't yield anything other than a strike from around a downed tree that was located near the mouth. As usual, there were no second chances.

Where do I go from here? I plan to try contacting an old friend I haven't seen in a long while and see if he will talk to me about a spot he and another fella used to pull some nice fish from on a consistent basis. Neither of them fish our tournaments any longer, so it isn't like he'll be giving away any secrets. Beyond that, I'll just keep scouting.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

In Search of New Water...

With the upcoming Classic, I've started looking for some new areas to fish, in case the "old reliables" let us down the weekend of Oct. 18th and 19th. This 1-9 came from my first stop downriver this morning.

A couple weeks ago, I watched a fella in a bass boat work this area all day long, which, I feel, is a pretty good indication that he was catching fish, or he would have found some place else to go. I made a mental note at the time to check the spot out for myself, and I'm glad I did. A couple more stops there should tell me whether to make it part of our Classic plan.

From here, I ran a little farther south to reacquaint myself with a stretch I haven't fished for probably 10 or more years. I picked up another fish here, so I intend to check it out a couple more times, too.

My third stop proved to be a dud today, but I may give it another look, as well, before I rule it out, 'cause I like what it has to offer.

My fourth and final stop for the day yielded six more bass, giving me a total of eight for the six-and-a-half hours I was on the water. I also picked up a white perch here and had a decent-sized striper snatch my bait and begin a run by my boat that was cut short when the hook tore out. He wouldn't have gone more than 3 or 4 lbs. but still was taking drag.

Overall, I'm satisfied with this first pre-Classic trip but won't be making any hard, fast decisions until I've checked out everything on my list.

My trip to West Neck this morning started on a hazardous note. I got behind a guy towing a Tracker aluminum rig with absolutely no lights on his trailer. Eventually, he turned off, and I never saw him again... until I was motoring away from the launch ramp.  I glanced up to see him rounding the corner, getting ready to launch, so I made it a point to get as far away from him as quickly as possible. His vehicle thankfully was gone when I came back in this afternoon.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Be Careful What (or Whom) You Call an "Old Bag"

That well could be the intended moral of the Pickles comic strip in this morning's The Virginian-Pilot.

In the first frame, you see Opal rifling through one of her husband Earl's dresser drawers and asking, "What are all these old Ziploc bags doing in your drawer?"

In the second frame, Earl replies, "I don't know. I guess I just like to keep old bags."

In the third frame, you see Opal giving Earl "that look." You know the one I'm talking about; it's the same one all wives give their husbands at one time or another. They don't say a word, but you get all kinds of vibes--none of which give you a warm and fuzzy feeling.

In the fourth and last frame, Opal asks, "Would you like to add anything else to that comment?" Old Earl only can sputter, "Nope! Nope! Nope!" as he high-tails it for safer ground.

My wife chuckled out loud when she read Pickles this morning, and so did I, because I, too, have Ziploc bags strewn all around our home. To the best of my knowledge, I don't have any in my dresser drawers, but there are plenty in other places, especially my fishin' closet, my tackleboxes,  and nearly everywhere you look in the garage.

I gotta believe that nearly every bass fisherman alive has his/her fair share of Ziploc bags for storing soft plastics and every conceivable kind of miscellaneous items. I nearly always have a stock of pint-, quart- and gallon-size freezer bags on hand--I use them because they're heavier and tend to last longer than plain ol' clear-plastic storage bags.

As a result, it's entirely possible I could find myself in the same situation as Earl. However, I want to believe that I'd be more careful than to use the term "old bag" in my wife's presence. Let's just say I lack the chutzpah of my Granddad Testorff, who once walked up to a woman in our little hometown and said, "You know--you don't look as haggardly as you used to." He got away with making that statement without so much as a slap.

If I, on the other hand, ever were to create even a shred of confusion for my wife by using the term "old bag" the wrong way in her presence, I'd likely find more knots than the hereditary ones on my noggin'. Therefore, I tread lightly.