Sunday, April 22, 2018

They Won the Tournament, But There's More...

That's right. Eric Killian and Jim Crist (l-r) won yesterday's Dewey Mullins Memorial Bass Tourney out of Pungo Ferry, but they also pulled off a couple other feats en route to that victory. Bringing that bag of five bass to the scales, weighing 21.53 lbs., with a kicker fish checking in at 7.68 lbs., they established a couple of new highs for this tourney series.

Until yesterday, the best five-bag limit of bass in a single day belonged to the team of Mike Evans and Jeff Garnes, who, back on April 23, 2013, weighed 20.47 lbs. of fish, anchored by a bass that tipped the scales at 5.70. And the all-time top seasonal-lunker award winner dates back to March 22, 2014, when Ronnie McLaughlin weighed a 7.15-lb. bass.

If yesterday's numbers for Eric and Jim hold up as the best all season, a couple of things will happen. For openers, they each will go home on Day 2 of our 2018 Classic with the first-ever Duane Kessel Memorial Award for Best Single-Day Total Weight. The newly designed plaque, honoring this accomplishment, pays tribute to our late good fishin' buddy who left us unexpectedly this past winter.

In addition, the accompanying photo will become part of the sidebar on the homepage of my blog (West Neck Creek Ramblings), along with a permanent posting of their to-date record-setting numbers for total weight and big fish.

Well Done! on yesterday's victory, fellas. Wish I could tell you to just sit back and enjoy, but the truth is, as I'm sure you already know, everyone will be doing their best now to top your accomplishments.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

It's Safe to Say, "The Spawn Is On!"

The reason I say that is because the 12 anglers in 9 boats who fished today's tournament out of Pungo Ferry weighed a total of 43 bass with a total weight of 121.93 lbs. and an average weight of 2.83 lbs. per fish. Also consider that the same total weight gives you an average weight of 13.54 lbs. per boat, which I consider pretty respectable.

Finishing atop the heap today were the following:

1st place, (from left) Eric Killian and Jim Crist, five-fish limit, 21.53 lbs. total weight, anchored by a big fish weighing 7.68 lbs., which also earned them the big-fish pot and puts them in the lead for the seasonal-lunker pot, as well.

2nd place, (from left) Dave Anderson and Red Bruun, five-fish limit, 17.67 lbs. total weight, anchored by a big fish weighing 5.49 lbs.

Winner of the mystery-weight drawing was Bobby Moore, who had three fish weighing 5.40 lbs., which was closest to the drawn weight of 5.60. He didn't have a big fish.
Here is how everyone else finished the competition:

     * Gary Coderre, five-fish limit, 17.56 lbs. total weight, 4.82-lb. big fish.
     * Jim Wilder, five-fish limit, 15.26 lbs. total weight, 3.85-lb. big fish.
     * Eddie Sapp, five-fish limit, 14.39 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Ken Testorff, five-fish limit, 10.48 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Steve Bailey, five-fish limit, 9..82 lbs. total weight, 3.62-lb. big fish.
     * The team of Don Carter and Rob Peppers, five-fish limit, 9.82 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
Congrats to all of today's winners, and thanks to everyone who came out to participate. For planning purposes, our next scheduled event is one week from now, on Saturday, April 28, from safe light (about 6 a.m.) to weigh-in at 2 or 2:30.

One Last Cast

Today, like most tournament days, found me pretty well drained of all my energy. As I was leaning on the side of my boat after completion of weigh-in, trying to summon a little reserve energy, I happened to turn toward the Pungo Ferry ramp just in time to see Eddie Sapp motoring back out the channel, undoubtedly with plans to do a little more fishing.

It made me reminisce for just a moment on my younger days, when I, too, often would do the same thing. These days, however, you couldn't pay me enough to go back for seconds on a tournament day. I just want to get everything done, so I can go home and rest my weary body parts, especially my back. A day on the water really irritates my spinal stenosis.

As one grows older, you either learn your body simply can't tolerate the "abuses" of younger days, or you usually pay a severe price. You might say I have learned my limitations, even for bass fishing, something I love beyond description. I still have the heart; I just lack the stamina to stay on the water any longer than 8 hours.

There's a better than average chance the day will come when I will have to reduce my fishing days even farther. Will I be ready if/when that day comes? Probably not, if I follow the example of my dad. I watched with much sadness when Pop knew he had made his last fishing trip. I was with him at the time. It was as though a part of him died that day. I would hope God will spare me the same reality, but I know that's probably a pipe dream--at best.

Therefore, I need to work toward learning to appreciate each of these fishing days as the blessing they are, because all that any of us have for certain is today. There's no guarantee we'll see another sunrise. I, like many others, tend to forget that truth far more often than I should. Seems like it's those moments, such as the present, when I'm basically "running on fumes," that I see this truth so clearly. With God's help, however, there always is hope for making needed improvements.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Proving a Point

According to the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF), "Nearly all boating-related fatalities are the result of drowning, and most of these fatalities could have been prevented if a life jacket had been worn."

Water rescue crews like this one searched for the missing
Potomac boaters.
If you need proof, consider this recent mishap that occurred on the Potomac River. Two brothers (one 45, the other 31) died when their 15-foot bass boat capsized about a mile south of Leesylvania State Park in Woodbridge in northern Virginia. Coast Guard officials said a tugboat crew saw the boat capsize but could not locate the victims in time. The water was 47 degrees, and neither man had a life preserver.

VDGIF regulations require one wearable Type I, II, III, or V USCG-approved life jacket for each person on the boat. The life jacket must be the appropriate size for each intended wearer.

     * Each wearable life jacket must be "readily accessible," if not worn. Readily accessible means the life jackets are out in the open, ready for wear, or stowed where they easily can be reached. Readily accessible life jackets cannot be in protective coverings or under lock and key.

     * In addition, you should check each life jacket for proper fit. This is especially important for children.

     * A Type V life jacket needs to be worn, according to the manufacturer's label, to meet safety requirements.

     * This requirement applies to all boats, including paddlecraft (canoes, kayaks, and stand-up paddleboards).

In addition to the wearable life jacket, there must be at lease one USCG-approved Type IV throwable ring buoy or seat cushion on vessels 16 feet or longer. The regulation to carry a Type IV does not apply to personal watercraft; non-motorized canoes and kayaks 16 feet or longer; racing shells, rowing sculls, racing canoes, and racing kayaks; sailboards; and vessels of the United States used by foreign competitors while practicing for or racing in competition.

     * Each Type V throwable must be immediately available. "Immediately available" means the life jacket shall be quickly reachable in an emergency situation. An immediately available life jacket cannot be in a protective covering, in a closed compartment, or under other equipment. There is no requirement to have a line attached.

All life jackets must be in good and serviceable condition. A life jacket that displays any of the following is not in good condition:

     * Metal or plastic hardware used to secure the life jacket on the wearer that is broken, deformed or weakened by corrosion, or

     * Webbings or straps used to secure the life jacket on the wearer that are ripped, torn or which have become separated from an attachment point on the life jacket, or

     * Any other rotted or deteriorated structural component that fails when tugged, or

     * Rips, tears, or open seams in fabric or coatings that are large enough to allow the loss of buoyant material, or

     * Buoyant material that has become hardened, non-resilient, permanently compressed, waterlogged, oil-soaked, or which shows evidence of fungus or mildew, or

     * Loss of buoyant material or buoyant material that is not securely held in position.

Inflatable life jackets must meet all the requirements for life jackets listed earlier, plus the following:

     * A properly armed inflation mechanism, complete with a full inflation cartridge and all status indicators showing that the inflation mechanism is properly armed,

     * Inflatable chambers that are all capable of holding air,

     * Oral inflation tubes that are not blocked, detached or broken,

     * Inflation-status indicators that are not broken or otherwise non-functional,

     * The inflation system of an inflatable life jacket need not be armed when the life jacket is worn inflated and otherwise meets the earlier requirements.

Federal Life Jacket Rule for Children Under 13 Years Old--No person may operate a recreational vessel on federal waters with any child under age 13 on the vessel, unless each child is either:

     * Wearing an appropriate life jacket approved by the Coast Guard, or

     * Below deck or in an enclosed cabin.

In Virginia, this rule is enforced by the U.S. Coast Guard or other federal agents and applies on waters over which they have enforcement jurisdiction. Most waters in Virginia are considered federal waters.

A Special Note about Inflatable Life Jackets

Inflatable life jackets are lightweight, comfortable to wear, and take up about one-tenth the storage room of conventional foam-filled life jackets. Most are USCG-approved only for persons 16 years of age and older, who are not engaged in whitewater or skiing activities or riding on a PWC. They are a great choice for adults on the water.

Does Your Life Jacket Really Fit?

How do you know if a life jacket really fits you? First, check the label to make sure the life jacket is U.S. Coast Guard-approved. Life jackets (or PFDs) come in a couple of basic sizes: infant, child and adult. Within those basic sizes, there will be a range (small, medium, large, etc.) of sizes. The label will indicate the sizes and the size range, which will include a weight range and usually also a chest-size range. After you check the label, make sure you move on to the second step: Try it on. Before every boating season, try on your life jacket. Make sure that it fits correctly. What does a correct fit mean? It should be snug but not tight. Lift your arms over your head; can you turn your head left, right and over your shoulder, or has the life jacket ridden up and in the way of moving your head? For a child, have them stand with their arms to their sides. Life the life jacket up by the shoulders. The life jacket should not move more than 3 inches, no higher than the child's ears. If the life jacket does move up more than 3 inches, it is too big, and the child can slip right out--get a smaller life jacket. A younger child's life jacket also should include a crotch strap--this will help ensure the life jacket stays on. Finally, practice using the life jacket in shallow water. Make sure it is snug enough to stay put and doesn't ride up over the chin and ears when in shallow water. Have children practice in shallow water with their life jacket so they don't panic in case of emergency.

Monday, April 16, 2018

For the Week Ending Sunday, April 22, 2018

Monday, April 16 (from Ron)...Launched about 5 p.m. to try and find some wind protection in North Landing. Found a protected creek and a big ol' blue cat that destroyed my beetlespin. Forgot my scale and lip grip, so had to guess the blue cat's weight at a minimum of 10 lbs. but less than 15 lbs. I didn't want to manhandle him, so just unhooked and let him be. Gave me a little tow and screamed some drag.

Tuesday, April 17 (from Ron)...Launched Milldam about 5 p.m. Went for a long trip, and it paid off with the best trip of the year so far. Caught four dinks and then found a hot spot from 6:30 to 7 p.m. As long as I was casting up tight to the shoreline, I was catching bass, including a 4-4, 3-3, 2-9, and a 1-11, all in short order, then the bite shut down. Everything went for the XTS. Also caught a sunfish, white perch and a crappie, again, all on XTS. Nothing hit the trolled beetlespin. Gauge was 2.7. Wind started out strong but died down. Main Milldam was a bit murky, but feeder creeks were clear. Gar are starting their spring ritual; had one hit, but he didn't hold.

Wednesday, April 18 (from Ken)...Took a chance on the wind today, and it turned out OK. Ran down to Albright's, which gave me a chance to check the repairs Wayne did to the boat, as well as to find a few fish. Caught one small white perch, plus eight bass, six of which were dinks. The other two weighed 2-14 and 2-2. A bloody tail on one of these bigger fish, as well as part of its tail missing, seems pretty conclusive proof that the annual cycle is once again underway. About half the fish went for my chatterbait, while the other half went for my "Halloween" bait. The water temp when I quit at 2:30 was only showing 63 degrees. The tourney scheduled for this coming weekend most likely won't find me fishing the three productive areas I found today because, if the wind predictions between now and then are accurate, I feel fairly certain there won't be enough water to reach any of those areas. Of course, I always could be wrong, and if that's the case, all the better. Time will tell.

Wednesday, April 18 (from Skip)...Caught three dinks today on a home-made Senko. For the benefit of those who don't already know, Skip's "home-made Senkos" are his own idea of melting various odds and ends. That's one sure way to get the most bang from your buck. If I understood him correctly, Skip said he spent only about three hours on the water. He was still catching some z-z-z-z while others of us were out trying to locate those wily bass.

Wednesday, April 18 (from Ron)...The wind actually INCREASED toward sunset, instead of tapering off. Launched at Lotus Garden and fished Muddy Creek from 5:30 to 7:30. Crappie were out in abundance. Caught nine to 13 inches. Found two bass (a 1-2 and a 2-4) and lost a big chain pickerel. Beetlespin and XTS were the go-to lures. A decent trip.

Sunday, April 22 (from Ron)...Managed to avoid a skunk with one decent bass at 3 lbs. 5 ozs. It was a classic case of a V-wake chasing a shallow-water crankbait (Prank) very tight to shoreline. Fished Muddy Creek from 5 to 7:30 p.m. Lots of gar activity. No panfish, though.

Sunday, April 22 (from Ray)...Went to Albright's today. Thought it was going to be a good day with the weather and 62-degree water temperature. The water was a little high. Had five bites and landed two fish, including the nice bass at right. A tube and small spinnerbait were the only lures that worked for me. Tried many.

Wanna Know How To Tell When You Have a Good (on Second Thought, Make That "Great") Boat Mechanic?

It's when he can set the outboard's carburetors before ever putting it in the water and listening to it run.

Go ahead and call me a liar if you want...I really don't care. I was at West Neck Marina today when Wayne Hayes did exactly what I said. I watched as he climbed into the boat alongside the catwalk (after setting the carbs), turned the key, and the outboard roared to life...and kept running...without hesitation. A tweak of the idle set later, and it was purring as good as it ever has.

To put this situation in proper perspective, consider the routine I've been dealing with since the start of the new season. I would start the boat, and for the next 15 minutes, I would have to keep bumping the choke from the key, or it would stall, and I'd have to restart. Once it finally was running without using any more choke, I could take off and run wide open with no problem. However, as soon as I stopped, the choking evolution would begin again once I wanted to move, even if the motor still was warm.

They simply don't come any better than Wayne, and I'm ever so glad I first made his acquaintance all those many years ago. I never can say enough good things on his behalf. The world definitely is a better place because of him, and I believe that wholeheartedly.

Sunday, April 15, 2018

So Close, Yet So Far

As if the wind wasn't enough of a distraction for me in yesterday's tournament, there came a point in the day that topped even that factor.

I've explained more than once that I always cut off one of the barbs on any treble hooks I use on my lures, and 99.9 percent of the time, that simple "weedless" modification works to perfection. Yesterday, however, was one of those rare exceptions to the rule.

I had pulled up in front of a small indention in the grassy shoreline, where I knew a log was lodged side-to-side at the mouth. High water is always a perfect time to hit this spot...or so I was convinced until yesterday.

After sitting there, making repeated unsuccessful casts (courtesy of the wind), I finally got lucky. My heavy, $25 topwater bait finally plunked down in the area behind the submerged log. I only had taken little more than a full turn on the reel handle when the water exploded, and I set the hook. Unfortunately, beside the one barb that found its way into the mouth of the fish, another one found that log.

So there I sat, holding tension on at least a 3-lb. fish, standing on its nose and thrashing wildly with the rest of its body, trying to free itself from this predicament. Meanwhile, I had only one choice: Go after my prize.

Did I mention I had to cross nothing short of a "minefield" of old laydowns (with only some visible because of the high water) to reach the still thrashing fish? Despite this mess, I didn't think twice about going after both the fish and my lure. I raised the outboard to the full-up position, which, of course, gave the wind an even bigger advantage and proceeded toward my prize.

When I finally had maneuvered the boat near enough to net the fish, I evidently relaxed the tension on my line just enough as I reached for the net, and with one more thrashing movement, the fish was gone. If anyone happened to be within earshot, I can assure you they heard a litany of four-letter words.

Granted, similar scenarios have befallen me in the past, and I have no doubt there will be more in the future, too. Will I ever learn to deal with them more calmly? Probably not.

That one-tenth of one percent will get you every time.

Saturday, April 14, 2018

When in H-E-Double Hockey Sticks Is This Wind Going to Back Off?

If all nine tourney anglers in seven boats had to chase down as many lures as I did today, thanks to those never-ending strong winds, they had to be at least a tad happy to see weigh-in time arrive. I only had two fish in my livewell an hour before quitting time, so I went ahead and put all my stuff away, fired up the outboard, and headed for West Neck Marina.

We only paid two places today, and both teams who claimed those money envelopes weighed five-fish limits. Everyone else came up a bit short. Here are the competitors who went home with a little "scratch" in their pockets:

Standing tall in 1st place was the team of (from left) Dave Anderson and Craig Jones. Their limit weighed 13.66 lbs., anchored by a 3.76-lb. bass.

Claiming 2nd place was the team of (from left) Gary Coderre and Lenny Hall. Their five fish weighed 9.66 lbs. Their big fish was a 2.42-pounder.

Big-fish honors went to Jim Wilder, who weighed in a 5.54-lb. bass. He had three fish totaling 9.46 lbs.

Winning the mystery-weight award today was Eddie Sapp. He weighed four fish totaling 5.66 lbs., which was closest to the drawn weight of 6.20.

Here is how everyone else stacked up at day's end:

     * Ken Testorff, two fish, 4.23 lbs. total weight, 2.22-lb. big bass.
     * Skip Schaible, one fish, 2.00 lbs. total weight.
     * Steve Bailey didn't weigh any fish.

Overall, today's field weighed a total of 20 bass, for a total weight of 44.67 lbs. and an average weight of 2.23 lbs.

Congrats to all the winners and thanks to everyone who came out "swaying in the breeze" alongside all the rest of us. For planning purposes, our next event is scheduled for Saturday, April 21. We will fish from safe light to weigh-in, probably about 2:30 p.m. Hope you can come out and join us.

I reckon we've all heard that saying, "Don't count your chickens before they're hatched." I relearned that lesson today. Pulled up on my opening spot and immediately put two fish in the boat. "Looks like I picked the right place today," I thought to myself. How wrong I was, though.

I stayed in Albright's all day, catching only one dink bass beyond the two keepers I weighed, along with a nice crappie that would have weighed more than a pound.

And once those winds kicked into high gear, the celebrating was pretty much history...for everyone. I heard more than one fella who allowed that they had caught all their fish early. Can't tell you how happy I am that I decided not to run any farther south today than Albright's. I originally had planned to check out Milldam this morning, in which case, the ride back this afternoon likely would have been a bit rough.