Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Fishing Report for Guntersville 1/31/16

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Tournament season is upon us. After this past weekend, every Saturday from now until, well, forever, Guntersville will be packed with tournament fishermen. 

I admit that I am no exception that that. Except, of course, I am not good enough to fish any large tournament trails, benefit tournaments, or essentially any tournament who has an entry fee greater than, say, $30. 

But, I do have club tournaments coming up and I would like to make at least a respectable appearance on Guntersville before I try and make up ground on every other lake that my clubs fish. 

The best way to get better is time on the water. For me, I can up the ante by fishing in a tournament, even if I have no chance to win, I at least make myself get up on frigid Saturday mornings and put myself in the right frame of mind. 

So, Josh and I headed to fish the  The Bait Tackle and Grill at Goosepond Wildcat.  This would be the last wildcat from Goose Pond and only the second that I have fished. You can read about how we didn't catch any fish at the link below. 

Fishing Report for Guntersville 1/9/16

We had spent the previous tournament inside Roseberry and caught our lone fish with a jerkbait off a dock. We knew of at least one good spot that we wanted to check. Beforehand, we had decided that we would only spend about an hour inside Roseberry before we headed out. Additionally, my friend Brad would be fishing, as would my friend John. We hope to put together some semblance of a pattern between the three boats. 

We ran into Roseberry only to find a boat fishing exactly where we wanted to fish, so we had to be content on fishing the channel side of a pocket. We did managed to catch two keeper fish in the first hour, which we considered a good start. Word was that any fish caught early was a bonus. However, the fish were caught 200 yards apart and on different baits (one on a XR50 in Rayburn Red and the other on a chatterbait.) Without that making much of a pattern, we decided to move out of Roseberry completely. 

We ran into Brad, who hadn't had a hit. 

By lunch, we hadn't had another bite, nor had Brad. John and his partner had caught one fish. 

We worked the mid-lake over efficiently, covering hundreds of yards at a time with select fast moving baits. We slowed down only when we found green emerging grass. 

Alas, we didn't find any more fish. 

Not unexpectedly, several boats did. As typical this time of year, around five boats found a good limit. Another couple of boats would find a small limit and everyone else had ones and twos. There were some pigs caught including an 8.44. The winning sack was 24 pounds.

We were boat 30 and there were a lot more boats behind us. 

Of the three boats, three fish were caught, total, with the largest being around three pounds.

We surmised that the winning sacks came from down river, perhaps beyond the big swing towards Guntersville, as we didn't see but a handful of boats all day, though by day's end, there were a ton in the back of North Sauty, but I think that had more to do with the fact that it was 30 minutes from weight in and the wind was nonexistent in north Sauty, 

In conclusion, it isn't a surprised that we didn't catch fish. We know what baits to throw and how to work them, but when the fish are lethargic in the 42 degree water, you have to be around them....sometimes on top of them....to get bites. If you aren't around them, you aren't going to get bit. Saturday, we weren't around them, try as we might. 

Still, sucks to get skull drug, but I have to remember that these dudes are good....and sometimes great....fishermen. 

My advice to you would be to throw lipless cranks, square bills, and chatterbaits and don't stop trolling until you bag a 3+ pound fish, then anchor down. 

Monday, January 11, 2016

Fishing Report for Guntersville 1/9/16

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It's the new year, and with the new year means tournament season is nearly upon us. If you are from the north Alabama area, you know that starting the first weekend in February, Guntersville lake will be on fire, no matter the weather. Every club and trail series has a stop on the Big G. My clubs are no exception. 

2015 has already starter for me, and it started pretty awesome. You can read about it below. 

Truth be told, I didn't fish any early season tournaments on Guntersville last year, as I was moving into our new home. Additionally, I was sick one of the weekends. Apparently the McDonald's in Hazel Green is the worst McDonald's in the world, as I got food poisoning from it. I am not the only one. Ironically, it is now closed, despite being in a fantastic location. That's right. It is THAT BAD. 

Anyway, I started out 2014 pretty solid on Guntersville and I would like to get back to having that kind of success. That doesn't mean I won a bunch, because I didn't. However, I learned a lot and I wanted to put that to use. I also learned that you cannot fake your way on this lake this time of year. 

So, with a free Saturday, I asked Josh to fish the The Bait Tackle and Grill at Goosepond Wildcat, which they have every weekend during the winter. I have no affiliation with the store or its owners, but Jamie and his wife do a fantastic job at Goosepond in providing year-round service for fishermen. I can't recommend them enough. 

Anyways, we had 15 boats and 24 anglers. The ABA was also using Goosepond for their tournament. The lake was completely empty, save for these boats and a ton of duck hunters. 

The night before, Josh and I went over our gameplan. We decided to fish the hotspot we found in 2014. We knew there was a chance that the fish probably weren't there anymore, but it was worth a shot. I was going with a four bait system: The A-rig, a red square bill, a green pumpkin chatterbait backed by a PTL Craw D, and a red lipless crank. 

Josh and I ran into the back Roseberry creek. As we pulled up on the point, we were whistled at by duck hunters, which made us change our boat positioning. No big deal. It just wasn't something that we had anticipated. 

Nothing in the first spot. We moved over a pocked. Nothing.

When scanning the Roseberry creek channel which was intersected by a secondary creek and a huge conduit (which we found on sidescan), we came across two masses of fish adjacent to some bait balls. It was picture perfect as one can find using electronics. But, both of us had our doubts if they were bass and even if they were bass, would they be feeding? Their position, holding tight to the bottom, told us that they probably weren't.

Indeed they weren't active, but I busted out a PTL bullnose jig and set the hook on a fish anyway, reeling in a drum. We left. 

After fishing some bluff walls at the mouth of Roseberry, we caught our lone bass of the day, a short fish on a jerkbait. 

We fished Mink Creek for the rest of the day, not having another single bite. 

That was the story of the day, as boat after boat was either not present for the weigh in or had nothing to weigh at all. I can attest that only 5 boats weighed any fish. So, a swing and a miss. As much as that makes me disappointed, I will simply chalk it up to bad luck and learn from it. That's going to be one of my themes this year. Not that anyone really cares, but those are going to be:
  • Don't get upset. Get even. It isn't striking out. It's eliminating water. 
  • Don't celebrate winning on tough days when everyone else struggles.
  • Don't feel better about struggling when everyone else struggles. 
  • Find a way to win even when everyone else is catching fish.
 Here are the final results directly from The Bait Tackle and Grill at Goosepond 

"Hello Lake Guntersville Anglers! The Goose Pond Wildcat tournament results for Sat January 9, 2016...1st place and Big Bass winner was Jr. West with 16.50 lbs and a 6.04 biggin!...2nd place was Joey West with 14.32 lbs...and 3rd place was Benny Medlen and Mark Breen with 13.78 lbs they also had a 4.20 spotted bass...we had 15 boats, 24 anglers...It was a beautiful morning, 50° and breezy but for Jan it wasn't terrible..the winners said lures that worked were A- rigs, crankbaits, traps, jigs, and " Forks! " lol ....the ABA Div 29 also went out, 23 boats 18+ lbs won it, see there website for complete results. With the weather moving in we will be closed this Sun. Stay safe and warm! Thanks for coming out to The Bait Tackle and Grill at Goose Pond!"

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ingalls Harbor 1/6/2016

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(Please excuse the stupid face)

A quick look at the Fish of 2015 Page shows that my first catch of 2015 came on 1/17/15. I thought it would be tough to beat that early of a date, but the weather this past year has been.....unique. On a related subject that I promise is non-sequitur, 2015 proved, among many other things, that the best trips are always the last second trips. That is, not the days I take a day off of work. 

So, when I got a phone call around lunch time from my fishing partner, friend, and co-worker John asking if I had time to fish for a few hours in the late afternoon, I said yes. After all, the best trips seem to be those I didn't plan and the weather was decent (for the first week of the January). 

John had some info that the fish were really turned on with the high water and current coming out of Wheeler. In particular, the smallies were really biting. Well, that was GREAT news. I have good cold weather gear. I like to catch smallies. And, wouldn't it be the proper and fitting beginning to a 2016 to follow up where 2015 left off. In case you didn't know, 2015 was definitely "The Year of the Smallies" for me. 

No, I didn't catch a ton of them, but I caught SOME and really got hooked on catching them. And, the first fish of the year in 2015 was a nice smallie I caught on Guntersville. No, really! Furthermore, I caught at least one smallie on every Tennessee River lake in Alabama last year, which puts me in a very rare group. If you caught one on Guntersville, Wheeler, Wilson, and Pickwick last year, speak up. 

Maybe I am wrong, but catching smallies is a game that really separates fishermen. And, it doesn't hurt that it seems that the worse the conditions, the better they bite. Translation: Joe Blow ordinary fisherman won't bother getting out, relieving much of the fishing pressure. In order to catch them, I've had to do much more work on matching lake and weather conditions. I have had to do a lot of scanning. But mostly I just had to throw the A-rig.

Anyway, we fished out of Decatur and ran to where the powerlines cross the lake. The powerline towers are located on the main river channel and are stacked with rip-rap. The heavy current creates some great eddies. The water was very stained, offering only about 8 inches of visibility. Water temp was 45 on the main river and 47 in slow moving eddies and backwater. 

I brought four rods with me, but I really only planned on using two. I planned on using a A-rig with PowerTeam Lures grubs and a Luhr-Jensen speed trap. Initially I threw a sexy-chartreuse, but eventually changed over to a crawfish red with tiger stripes at John's suggestion.

We began fishing the eddie line and the swift water, but after two casts, I made a longer cast right at the rip-rap and inside the eddie, which was actually flowing in a backwards pattern than the river itself. The bottom was littered with rocks and I used the same retrieve I had been using on my last trip to Pickwick. That is, dead slow. I would crawl it over rocks. 

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/23/2015

On my third cast in to the back eddie, the A-rig was absolutely DESTROYED by a fish. I said a little prayer that it was a brown fish and not a white bass or a stripe. Eventually I horsed in a nice smallie. 

That's a heck of a start. Seconds later, John was hooked up with a nice fish. But, it was about a 3-pound stripe. I boated another stripe, as did he. 

We made a drift, catching several more before motoring back up to the spot. We never got another bass to hit, though we caught more white bass and stripe. Then, the spot went dead. We followed the powerline to the next tower. 

Another trash fish or two, but no bass to speak of. So, I dropped the A-rig and went to the Speed Trap. After a few slaps, I slowed down the crankbait. As soon as it hit cover, I would hit the brakes. The positive buoyancy would lift the bait up. If nothing hit is, I would crawl it along. 

Withing 5 minutes, I had caught two largemouth. One of them a squeaker and the other a decent 2-pounder. 

Again, we caught all the stripe and white bass we wanted, but no more brown or green fish.

We fished a couple of other spots. John caught a tiny bass on a crankbait. 

Since we started out with just a few hours of sunlight and the sun was beginning to dip below Decatur, we decided to go back to where we started. 

The big stripe and white bass were back. And, they were ANGRY. John had one pull the D-ring off his A-rig at one point. 

While we both caught some massive white fish, we were both haunted by two different hits. 

Both of us made casts to where I had caught the smallie and both of us had freighttrain hits. In both instances, the fish got in the current and pulled off, even though the fish was halfway to the boat. Neither of those hits acted like whites or stripes. Coulda woulda shoulda. 

We ended up with 4 largemouth and 1 smallmouth on top of all the magnum whites and stripes we wanted. We took some pictures with the fish and let them go. I was repaid for my kindness with a nasty fin attack, #whenfishfightback . 

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Fishing Report for Tuscaloosa Lake 12/26/15

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I think it's a fair statement to say that I love fishing different lakes. I don't have huge aspirations of becoming a serious tournament fisherman, but I think everyone knows that I am a competitive fellow. While I have given up trying to be a great fisherman at Guntersville, which is where all the action is, I do think that being able to fish other lakes is extremely beneficial. It makes me learn different techniques and patterns.

One such lake is extremely different than any that I fish here in north Alabama. And, it just so happens that I have one of the lake's best fisher-families on that lake. 

My wife's uncle Tony has been fishing this lake all his life and he really knows how to catch them. And, I kept seeing his pictures on facebook of some magnum spots and even a five or six pound largemouth. Between he and his son, they had won nearly every club tournament on the lake this winter. And, unlike my clubs, they have no less than 20 boats per tournament.

Since we were going to be in town for Christmas, I asked if he was fishing on the 26th. He said he was and I politely invited myself to fish.

Of course, we all know what happened Christmas night: Over ten inches of rain. We knew that the rain might produce some problems with the patterns we would be running. But, we would catch them or we wouldn't. 

Uncle Tony had instructed me on what to bring. While I typically listen, I also typically bring a lot more. I decided that I would only bring what he told me and nothing more. After all, I need more time throwing jigs in 30+ feet, which I typically wouldn't do. Correction: I would never do. 

There were over 30 boats in this club tournament and we were to blast off at 7AM. 

A photo posted by Zach Taylor (@best5zach) on
So, when the sun came up, we made a short run to a main river point. I was throwing a PowerTeam Lures bull nose jig, watermelon with a watermelon Craw D trailer. I was having to relearn how to fish such deep water with a jig. For me, that meant letting it fall on slack line to prevent it from penduluming back to the boat without ever getting in the strike zone. Many times that meant stripping off additional slack line from the reel.

Doing that meant that I lost touch with the bait for around the first 10 seconds of the cast. That's important when a largemouth snaps it up on the fall. But, I was ready for it and boated a solid 2.5 pounder.

Hey, not a bad start! Solid fish in the boat in the first 30 minutes!

But, the spot went dead. We moved to another main river point. Nothing.

We probably moved two or three times before our next bite. That bite came on a smaller 1/4 ounce jig I had tied on, but I had the drag set way too loose and I stripped drag when I tried to set the hook. The fish took off with the trailer.

After resetting, I was able to boat another fish. This one was a small spot.
A photo posted by Zach Taylor (@best5zach) on
We could tell the rain and subsequent flooding had changed the fish. Uncle Tony said that the quickly rising water (the lake came up two feet over the course of the day) would make the spots scatter. While we planned on getting a quick limit before looking for a largemouth, we ended up spending more time that we wanted on the spots.

Uncle Tony picked up two spots to even up the score, though the four fish were terrible inadequate and we needed some significant upgrades.

We pulled up to a secondary point inside a large creek, one of the few large creeks that didn't look like chocolate milk. By this time, we had around two hours to fish and we hadn't had a bite in a few hours. I had resorted to throwing a magnum shaky head with a PTL 7" Tickler. I cast one one side of the point and uncle Tony cast on the other. No sooner had each bait bounced on the bottom than we both set the hook. We both hoisted aboard two solid spots, which both finished the limit and culled the smallest spot.

We moved further on, looking to fish some trash in the bottom of the creek channels. As I was throwing the jig and working it through brush, I jiggled it off of an underwater tree top and a bass pounded the jig. I was still taking up slack from jigging it through the trash and I tried to set the hook on slack line. Nothing was there.

I inspected the trailer and noticed the teeth marks on the Craw D all the way at the weed guard. They weren't just any teeth marks. The trailer was serrated. That was the mark of a three or four pound spot.

Turns out, that was just the fish we needed. We finished just outside the top five with 7.25 pounds including a 2.5 pound largemouth. It took just over 9.5 pounds to win. The separation between first and third was less than half a pound. All of those boats had a 3+ pound spot.

Word was that all of the winning bites had come from upriver in muddy water, which was a great surprise to us.

Still, it was a great time. I am just bad luck as a partner. Don't take me if you are on some fish, because I will kill any bite you may have!

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/23/2015

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Though our last trip to Pickwick had turned out to be pretty awful, we wouldn't be dissuaded. It didn' t hurt that the near record highs for this time of year , in combination with the high current. After all, the trip before had been pretty solid. You can read about each of those trips by clicking the links below.

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/17/15

Fishing Report for Pickwick 11/25/15

We were one of the only trailers in the parking lot, once again. Now, keep in mind that we weren't using McFarland as most anglers do. We used a ramp on the opposite side of the lake and closer to the damn.

We ran up to Jackson island, just as we have done each of the last few trips and began running the drifts. There was another boat fishing, which ended up being Ryan from Alabama Bass Guide. We struggled, only catching a few white bass. But, we stayed longer than we would have because we wanted to watch a guide and his two clients. Like us, all they caught was a few white bass while we were watching.

We scooted over to the rip rap, where we have consistently caught a solid 4 pounder. Nothing.

We talked about hitting the bluffs, which had been another pattern that produced fish. But, as we began our first drift, we noticed that the water was down about a foot from where it had been on our successful trip back in November. The last trip, the water had also been down and we had noted that the fish we caught back in November had been on areas with a secondary shelf under water. Today, as with the trip on the 17th, the secondary shelf was out of water. Indeed, we didn't have a single bite. It was starting to look like another tough day.

As we ran back up river, we noticed that the barge tie-ups at the exit of the barge canal had some very interesting looking eddy lines, created by the swift current (TVA reported over 100,000 CFS). We decided to fish it, as I had never fished it with current. We noticed that the eddy was between the first and second tie-ups, so we began fishing the eddy with A-rigs.

Quickly, we picked up a few white bass including a personal best. 
A photo posted by Zach Taylor (@best5zach) on
This bad boy crushed the A-rig, which I had baited with Powerteam Lures grubs and a single custom swimbait in the center.

We noticed the fish really wanted the A-rig slow. With Brad on the front of the boat, he was fishing a little further outside of the eddy than I. But, turns out that was where the largemouth were. He boated two keepers on back to back casts and I followed that up with back to back largemouths including a solid 4-pounder.

TVA changed the current, which shifted the eddy line up one barge tie-up. That shift changed the largemouth's position and we never figured out how to catch them again. I tried a little bit of everything, from magnum shaky heads to jigs to cranks. I did have a terrific bite, which I am SURE was a solid smallie. It came just off of a rock pile that we had marked fish with the Lowerance structure scan. We did catch a boatload of white bass, though. That was JUST FINE by us!

A photo posted by Zach Taylor (@best5zach) on

Monday, December 21, 2015

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/17/15

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After the decent trip that Brad and I had back on the last week of November, we decided to give ole Pickwick another try. In case you missed it, you can read about that trip by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Pickwick 11/25/15

We have heard from many Pickwick experts that the lake was just getting right for the winter smallie bite. But, on Thursday, we knew we had faced some potential issues. Rain had rolled in Wednesday night, then quickly moved out. While the rain would push the current to levels that were needed for a good smallmouth bite, the post-frontal conditions could hurt the bite. 

But, we figured the smallies were not as susceptible to those type of conditions and, besides, you gotta go when you can go. 

With Wilson dam pushing 100,000 CFS and at least half of the spillway gates open as well as decent cloud cover early, we figured we would do ok.

We pulled into the ramp and were amazed that there were ZERO trailers. 

We idled out to Jackson island and fished the drifts. We had no bites on a variety of baits including A-rigs. 

We moved to the rip-rap banks on the left side (facing the dam). Brad's A-rig was smashed by a fish and he wrestled aboard a 4 pound largemouth. 

Pretty quickly, as I was flipping wood with a PTL jig, I slammed the rod on a fish....who immediately began rolling. I eased a 15 pound drum to the boat and retrieved my jig. Brad also landed a drum on the A-rig.

Before we knew it, it was 10 AM and the clouds had all but scattered. 

Without getting another bite, we moved to the bluffs, where we had caught most of our fish on the last trip. 

We both tossed A-rigs, but we didn't get a bite. While Brad continued to throw the rig, I alternated between a square bill, a shaky head, and a jig. 

We covered hundreds of yards without a bite. 

As he was messing with the trolling motor, Brad had a series of hits on the A-rig, culminating in a slightly short smallies. 

Having learned something, he began dragging the A-rig. A few casts later, another largemouth took the bait. 

The problem was, neither of us wanted to drag our A-rigs along the bottom of the bluffs as they are extremely sticky. Case in point, I lost both of my A-rigs. 

We ended the day pretty early as the bite was too slow to justify fishing. 

Can't make them bite, right?

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Family Fishing 12/13/15

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It isn't very often that we have such pleasant weather in December. While I'm not opposed to fishing in the worst conditions, my kids and wife are. 

So, when I realized that this past weekend was going to be in the high 60s, I planned to get some serious fishing in before the weather turned against me.

Friday, I was able to get in a little "prefishing" on my uncle's pond. After all, kids need to have constant action and the worst thing you can do is provide them with a slow fishing experience. 

Ok, the truth is that I had a little extra time on my hands and I wanted to go fishing.

I initially tied on a PowerTeam lures bull nose jig. I had some luck on it last year around this time on this very pond. I also could use all of the practice I can get with it. I was fishing it around a sunken brush pile where it snagged up and I had to break it off. That left me with few options, as I had exactly two other things I could throw. 

I elected to throw the War Eagle spinner bait for multiple reasons. It was very windy and the pond had a nice ripple on the surface. Additionally, the spinner bait would allow me to cover a lot of water, which is important as this pond is very large. 

I made a lap around the lake recording only a single hit. The fish ran right at me and I didn't have the chance to set the hook.

As I ended the lap around the lake, I made some casts into this small U-shaped corner. Within a few turns of the handle, a fish loaded up on the bait. On it's first jump, my heart stopped because it was a 4-pound fish. 

But, for some reason, I went stupid and decided that I should try and video the fish instead. So, I dug out my phone and tried to get some action shots. While I did get some decent shots, I played the fish too much and she threw the bait about 3 feet from me. 

As you can see, I didn't get any great pictures, but I did get these two.

Though I was happy to get the big bite, I really wanted quantity. So, I made a switch.

I tied on a 3/0 hook I had in the car and put a PTL Sick Stick on, hooked straight down the length, texas-rigged. But, between the wind and the use of a medium heavy rod, I had no feel for the bait. It was coming through the water too easily. There just wasn't enough resistance in the water. So, I pulled the bait and rigged it wacky style.

Indeed, that was the trick. Pulling it perpendicular to the rod allowed the bait maximum resistance and gave me some feel, though it wasn't much. 

On my first stop, I had my first bite, but it didn't come using my usual wacky rig technique. I had to essentially "dead-stick" the bait.  Sometimes they would pick it up after the initial fall, but I wasn't feeling the hit, I was watching the line. Instead of the fish swimming off with it, I was having to watch the line for "jumping." Additionally, I would keep a finger underneath the line. Sometimes I would feel the thump. 

Interestingly enough, the bites would come in groups of 3 or 4. I rarely caught just one fish, but I had to cover a lot of ground. In other words, the fish were grouped up OR I was having to fire up the school. 

These fish were actually solid size fish. I ended up catching around 11 or 12 in about an hour. Each would weigh between a pound and a pound and a half. Of course, I wanted revenge on the big fish I missed, though I doubted  I could get her to hit again. Even so, I slipped up to the corner and tossed the sick stick as close to the bank as I could.

She must have been sitting right on the bank because she annihilated it! I was so excited that I pulled it right out of her mouth! 

The best 5 of the day would go right at 10 pounds.

So, with that day in the books, I brought the kids out to fish. I set my wife up with a spinning rod and a light-weight jacked-wacker backed by a sick stick, both from PowerTeam Lures. 

Before I could even get the nightcrawlers baited on my kid's hooks, she had brought in 2 bass. 

Griffin, the middle child, didn't have any desire to fish today. But, he was happy to play with the biggest of the bass that my wife had caught, whom we put on a stringer so that the kids could play with him. Griffin named him "Bubbles" and concocted an elaborate plan on bringing him home. 

Aubree had to be convinced to fish. She, for some reason, was willing to "take a nap" even though she is 10 years old. Truth is, she wanted to play on a tablet and I wasn't going to let the happen. She caught a fish on her first cast and was already bored with it. This brought dismay on both of her parents who told her that she would spend her time either fishing or babysitting the baby. She elected the latter, so we shrugged and went on fishing.

I could not buy a bite, but Alyse had an easy time of it. She was up 6-0 on me before I finally dragged in my first and only bite.

Surprisingly, Griffin kept up with us, which is not his style. Typically, it is he that would rather sit in the car than fish. I was happy to see him having a good time, even though it upset him when I let Bubbles go home.