Tuesday, September 2, 2014

We Sizzled, And the Fishin' Fizzled (for the Most Part)

My friends Rob and Gary both took an extra day off from their jobs this Labor Day weekend so they could do a little fishin' today (without all the crowds), so I told Rob I'd hold down the backseat of his boat--and that's pretty much all I did today. We all launched at 6:15 this morning, and when we rolled back beside the catwalks at 11 o'clock, no one but Gary had anything to brag about.

It seems that Gary found a topwater bite long enough this morning to boat four bass, while Rob and I came up empty-handed--unless, that is, you consider the two baitfish that Rob managed to catch with a PopR. Huge pods of baitfish were everywhere in Blackwater first thing this morning as we picked up our rods and started casting, so it wasn't all that unusual for Rob to snag a couple of them.

From Blackwater, we  moved to the back of Albright's before ending our shortened trip in West Neck. We saw some baitfish everywhere we went today, but Blackwater, by far, held the most. They simply were everywhere you looked. And there were some blowups but nothing like what you normally would expect under the circumstances.

In talking to Gary after we all were off the water, I learned that he caught all of his fish before 10 o'clock this morning--three on a frog and one on a PopR. He even told me where he caught them but asked that I withhold that info from this post, since there's a tourney this coming Saturday. That's the least I can do for a friend.

With an air temp in the 90s and a water temp in the 80s, I don't suppose one really could expect anything much better than what we had today. The way I see it, I had an enjoyable boat ride, some good conversation with friends, and a BBQ sandwich and soda to top everything off, so I'm happy. As the old saying goes: "A bad day of fishing is better than a good day of work."

Friday, August 29, 2014

A Friend Has a Decent Half-Day

Earlier today, I received an email from my friend, Skip Schaible, who had eased down to West Neck, intent on trying to find a few fish to give him the joy of feeling a tug on the line.

He was justly rewarded for his efforts with two dinks, plus the one in this picture, which weighed in at just under 3 lbs. Unfortunately, he didn't share any information about the bait he was using or the location where he found his fish.

If I had to venture a guess, though, I feel pretty certain I would say he probably scored with a Lake Fork soft plastic. He's been throwing that bait for a good spell now, and I can't blame him. My philosophy is that you're a fool if you don't go with what has been working for you. Anytime I find something that's putting fish in the boat on a regular basis, I wear it out--unless it wears me out first.

I was out to West Neck myself earlier today but only to check on my boat and take care of a couple things. As I was leaving, I saw a couple more of my friends, in the person of Lenny Hall and Gary Coderre, launching. I regret, however, that I didn't get a report from either one of them.

The West Neck parking lot today already was pretty full, and I have every reason to believe that, with Labor Day here upon us once again, it'll just get worse as the weekend wears on. Anyone who happens down that way and catches a few fish are welcome to email me with a report about your success.

Tight Lines! to one and all.

When Skip read what I had posted, I received a short note back from him with this additional info:

"Stayed in West Neck. Caught one on fluke, one on homemade green/blue Senko, and one on a homemade purple Senko. My Lake Fork could not dredge up any takers, but it has been good to me this year."

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

The Most--Albeit Unfulfilled--Excitement I've Had in a Long Time

With the low water this morning, I didn't even consider running south to fish. Instead, I stayed in West Neck.

My day started with a feisty 6-inch bass that I caught about 8 o'clock. Between then and 3 o'clock, I only managed a couple more dinks, along with a 4- or 5-lb. bowfin. All the fish came on a worm or a Bill Norman or Strike King crankbait. I tried a chatterbait and jerkbait to no avail.

The excitement I referred to in the headline came about 10 o'clock, when I was fishing a bend in the creek. I just had started tossing a Bill Norman crankbait--one that I usually only throw in winter months. I decided to use it because a friend recently told me he had caught a few fish on the same bait.

The lure just had splashed down, and I had taken less than a full turn on the reel handle, when a fish slammed the bait hard. Wasting no time, he immediately high-tailed it toward the middle of the creek, taking drag at will, despite the fact I had it cinched down pretty tight. Glancing down at my reel, I saw that I only had 10 or 15 yards of line left--if that much--and I was concerned about that, as well as the fact I knew I'd be in trouble if another boat came by.

Fortunately, I was wearing a leather glove on my left hand and decided to apply more pressure to the spool with my left thumb. I was lucky enough to stop the run and to turn the fish and start him back toward the boat. At that point, though, my luck ran out. Suddenly, my line went limp. The lure still was attached, and the hooks all were OK when I got the crankbait back, so I only could assume the hooks had pulled out.

I never saw the fish, but I feel certain it was a big striper. I've caught others in the same bend--even the same spot--over the years, so I know they sometimes hang out there.

Once again, I failed to execute on getting the big one in the boat, but I certainly had the enjoyment of feeling his power at the end of my line. I honestly don't remember the last time I had a fish take that much line. Perhaps one of these days, the stars and planets all will line up just right, and I'll bring one of these big boys over the side. I'm keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Our Best Turnout of the Current Season

A total of 16 boats and 25 anglers showed up to fish today's tourney at West Neck Marina. Equally important is the fact that all but one boat weighed a five-fish limit.

Leading the parade of winners was this team of (from left) Bob Glass and Randy Conkle. Their limit totaled 15.98 lbs., anchored by a 4.73-lb. bass, which gave Bob big-fish honors.

Finishing in 2nd place was the team of Jared Allbritten (left) and his partner, Chris Napier (not pictured). Their limit weighed a total of 14.17 lbs., anchored by a 4.39-lb. bass.

Claiming 3rd place today was Mark London (right), whose limit weighed 11.32 lbs. He didn't have a big fish.

Winner of 4th-place money today was Steve Bailey (left), whose limit totaled 10.77 lbs. after a 0.25 deduction for one dead fish. His big fish tipped the scales at 3.11 lbs.

Rounding out the money winners was Jesse Munden (right), who won the mystery-weight drawing. He had a limit weighing 5.49 lbs., and the weight drawn was 4.90 lbs. He didn't have a big fish.

Here is how everyone else finished the competition:
     * The team of Chris Fretard and Mike Miller, five fish, 10.26 lbs. total weight, big fish 3.24 lbs.
     * Jim Wilder, five fish, 9.90 lbs. total weight, big fish 3.67 lbs.
     * The team of Rob Chatham and Ken Testorff, five fish, 9.58 lbs. total weight, big fish 3.24 lbs.
     * The team of Lenny Hall and Gary Coderre, five fish, 9.16 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * The team of Jake Milligan and Zack Rhodes, five fish, 8.72 lbs. total weight, big fish 3.00 lbs.
     * The team of Al Napier and Red Bruun, five fish, 8.09 lbs. total weight after a 0.25 deduction for one dead fish, no big fish.
     * Jim Bauer, five fish, 7.44 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * The team of David Dozier and Nelson Anderson, five fish, 7.20 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * The team of Mitch Portervint and Skip Schaible, five fish, 6.40 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Ronnie McLaughlin, five fish, 5.70 lbs. total weight, no big fish.
     * Wayne Hayes didn't weigh any fish.

Overall, today's lineup of anglers weighed a total of 75 bass for a total weight of 140.18 lbs. The average weight was 1.86 lbs.

For planning purposes, our next event is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 6, from safe light (about 6:10 a.m.) to 2:30 p.m. Registration will close at 5:45 a.m.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Update on "JennyB's" Restoration

When I interviewed these newlyweds, Jenny and Will Bauer, and posted their story (titled "JennyB" Is the Name, And Fishing Is the Game) on July 11, they told me they weren't done modernizing the "JennyB."

If you read that original post, you know this old Blue Fin V-bottom boat originally belonged to Will's granddad and had been in the possession of his dad, Jim Bauer, since the passing of his granddad many years ago.

I knew Will had installed a new carburetor kit in his boat's Evinrude outboard shortly after my interview. I also knew that "fix" had made a dramatic difference in how the outboard ran. It was akin to the difference between night and day, as Jim explained things to me.

Now the "JennyB" is sporting a new Bimini top, as revealed in this latest photo I just received from Jim. This new top already was on the agenda of "yet to do" items when I interviewed Will and Jenny. It, like the outboard, works flawlessly.

I also understand that, like Will told me was in their plans, they are branching out to more fishing holes than just West Neck. And they're catching fish, no matter where they go.

If these latest developments are any indication, I have to believe that, before all is said and done, Will and Jenny likely will have accomplished all their plans for the "JennyB"... and probably much more. There's no denying they're both a "can do" and "Will do" (pun intended) couple.

They have my congratulations on setting goals and sticking to 'em. Wishing you continued success in all your future endeavors.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One Boat Claims Everything Today

The team of Al Napier (left) and Red Bruun won the prize money, as well as big-fish honors, in today's first-ever Senior Citizens Day Old-Timers Bass Rodeo, which was held at West Neck Marina. They weighed a three-fish limit, totaling 10.38 lbs., including the lunker at 3.66 lbs.

The nearest competitor and only other angler to weigh three fish was Jim Bauer, whose total weight was 7.98 lbs., anchored by a 3.27-lb. bass.

Then came Skip Schaible with two fish, weighing 2.04 lbs. Behind him was the team of Jerry Gardner and Eddie Yco, whose one bass tipped the scales at 1.01 lbs.

Those who didn't weigh in today included John Goodman, who did catch one keeper bass but decided just to release it, and yours truly, who caught three small bass, none of which were keepers.

After arriving home this afternoon, I received this photo from Jerry, along with this explanation: "You know you've had a bad day of fishing when a foul-hooked bowfin is the highlight of your day. This is the ONLY fish that I got today."

This was another event in which I heard most of the contestants echoing the fact there was absolutely no topwater bite at all this morning, despite the fact conditions were excellent for that kind of bite. I'm fairly certain that most anglers today caught their fish on soft plastics. I, too, spent most of my day fishing soft plastics, but all the dinks I put in the boat came on a super shallow-running crankbait in the last hour and a half of the competition.

Whether today's rodeo will become an annual event likely will depend a lot on what kind of feedback I get next year when I send out a request for a show of hands from those interested in renewing the event. Until then, thanks to all who participated today. I'm sorry we couldn't have any of those tasty BBQ sandwiches, but those circumstances were beyond my control.

Monday, August 18, 2014

My Wish for All of Us Old-Timers Come This Thursday...Er, Make That Wednesday

That old sun is rising
That water is clear
I watch my lure as it's flying through the air
I see a ripple
I hear a splash
Lord have mercy, it's a five-pound bass

Those lyrics from country singer Robert Earl Keen's song, "Five Pound Bass," represent what I hope we all find during our first-ever Senior Citizens Day Bass Rodeo out of West Neck Marina.

My kayaker buddy, Charlie, who, incidentally, is an old-timer himself, finally broke the 5-pound barrier last year with this 5-lb. 3-oz. bass that he caught with a Texas-rigged 4-inch Chigger Craw.

If ever a man proved that persistence eventually yields some rewards, it's Charlie. He worked for a very long time before being able to claim this victory.

Whether it is or isn't with a 5-pound bass like this one, you can be certain that someone also will claim victory this Wednesday, Aug. 20, when we 60-year-olds and older take to the water. Fishing hours will be safe light to 12:30. Here are the other particulars for anyone interested:

     * Costs include a $10-per-person entry fee (with 100 percent payout), optional $5-per-person big-bass pot, and $5-per-boat ramp fee. Given the number of entrants I'm currently aware of, the payout will only be one place. That could change, though, if more qualified entrants (age 60 or over) show up. Registration (in the marina store) will close at 5:45 a.m.

     * Participants are permitted to fish solo or no more than two-per-boat.

     * Weigh-in is limited to three fish per boat.

Afterward, everyone is welcome to sit for a spell and swap stories over a BBQ sandwich or whatever... if you want.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

A Promise Made, a Promise Kept

When I talked to my friend Rob (right) this past Thursday, as he was taking his boat out of West Neck, he promised to give me a report on how his fishing went during today's tournament on the Chickahominy River.

It was his monthly club tournament with the Confederate Bassmasters--delayed by one day because club officials had decided they didn't want to share the Chick with all the fishermen from two open tournaments scheduled to be held there yesterday.

Any way you slice it, that would have been a lot of boats and fishermen likely vying for some of the same honey holes, not to mention the extra time that would have been involved with launching and recovering boats. As it turned out, there still was considerable boat traffic to contend with during today's contest, but it likely would have been a lot worse if Confederate officials hadn't made the last-minute date change.

Holding down the backseat of Rob's boat today was his buddy, Mitch (left), who was fishing as a guest. His four bass that you see in the two pictures here weighed slightly better than 10 lbs.

Rob also caught four keeper bass. They tipped the scales at a bit more than 8 lbs. As he explained, three of those fish were long in coming. They weren't caught until the last hour of competition--in repeated casts to the same little area of muddy water.

Unfortunately, neither one of their total weights was good enough to win the tournament. According to Rob, it took 11-plus pounds to capture the top spot.

When asked what worked for him and Mitch today, Rob said the primary bait for both of them was Senkos. However, I understand there was a little frog action early on, too.

Chickahominy is one of the favorite bodies of water for these two avid anglers. Today's contest marked their second tourney on the Chick in recent weeks. They fished a Region 7 tourney there on Saturday, Aug. 2.

Friday, August 15, 2014

A New Life in New Colors

When I mailed these lures to Tim Hughes in Reeds Spring, Mo., a couple weeks ago, they indeed were a horrible sight to behold (unfortunately, I didn't think to take any "before" photos). The original paint on these four Deps Buzzjets Jr. nearly was nonexistent. That's what happens when you bang 'em off stumps, laydowns, cypress knees, and what-have-you on a constant basis.

I regret that my aim isn't what it should be. More times than not, if I make a "good" cast, it's really just a "lucky" cast. The one good thing here is that the current paint job on these lures will last a lot longer than the original. I know that for a fact, because I've had two other orders from Tim Hughes in the past that already have proven their mettle against objects in the North Landing River and its tributaries.

It's exactly as I wrote to Tim in a thank-you email today after opening the box containing these lures. His workmanship simply is "second to none." Sending 'em to Tim for a redo is a guarantee that you're going to be completely satisfied with the finished product.

And no, I'm not offering this testimonial for any kind of personal gain. Tim Hughes only knows me as another customer who finds a way to put together a few bucks every now and then for getting some of his well-used lures repainted. I pay the standard fare--in this case, $12 for each lure I send him. All I have to do is remove all the hooks and hangers before boxing and shipping everything.

If you, too, have some battle-weary lures in need of a facelift, here's the link to Tim Hughes' website: http://www.hughescustombaits.com/. At least take a look and see what he offers. The one major difference between Tim and a lot of others claiming to be lure painters is, as he points out, "It's our full-time job. This is all we do."

"Same Story, Different Day"

That's how my long-time friend, Jim, described his trip to West Neck today. He, of course, was comparing his day to the one I had yesterday and reported on in last night's post.

"About the only thing different was I didn't get hold of a big fish, and I managed to boat six crappie that I eventually turned loose to fight again another day," Jim explained. "I did catch one bass that weighed a pound--caught it on a 'new' worm that I just got this week."

Like me yesterday, Jim had no sign of a topwater bite, nor could he find any interest in a chatterbait. He also tossed a Thin N crankbait for a while, also to no avail. The only other activity he had today was a second worm strike that ended with about an inch missing from the bait, a case of a snapped leader at the bridge, and about 6 feet or so of "mean and ornery cotton mouth." The snake eventually turned around and headed for the bank but not before Jim had prepared to defend his turf.

About 10:30 this morning, Jim met up with Eddie Sapp, who said he got back to town this past Monday and has fished every day since. He and partner, Chris Napier, fished this past Wednesday night's tourney at Bob's and put together a five-fish limit of 10.40 lbs., which was good enough to capture 1st place. It would seem that Eddie knows how to shed that fishin' rust rather quickly.

The water temp at Jim's 7 o'clock launch was 79.8 degrees, compared to 85-plus when he quit at 3:30 this afternoon. The wind today, as he noted, "couldn't make up its mind. At times it was flat calm, and then it would go southerly to northerly in just a few minutes."

I gotta admit: Jim's day was pretty much a carbon copy of what I experienced yesterday. Here's hoping better days lie ahead.