Monday, January 9, 2017

Product Review for Ardent Outdoors Apex Elite and Apex Grand

Follow me on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!
Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Follow my Fish of 2016


One of the benefits having a good fishing club and an even better president is the fringe benefits. In this case, our president goes out and gets us great prices on fishing equipment. Last year, he was able to secure us a fantastic (truly unbeatable) discount on Ardent Outdoor's products.  Of particular note were their reels. Now, I have always been a Shimano guy and have occasionally gone to other brands. I have used Lew's as well as house brands from Bass Pro Shops and Academy. For the most part, the house brands are garbage and Lew's is exactly what you get for $100. 

As such, I was hesitant to go all in on Ardent's products. But, I did need a 5:1 reel for cranking as well as a nice 7.3:1 ratio with a lot of strength for frogging/flipping/etc that might compare to Shimano's Curado. Therefore, I selected an Apex Elite in 5.3:1. It also comes in 6.5:1 and 7.3:1, as well as left and right hand configuration for 6.5:1. 

Here are the stats for the Apex Elite:



High Strength Aluminum frame
Deep V 6061 T6 machined aluminum spool
Carbon Fiber swept back handle
EVA grip knobs on handle
270 Degree Mag Brake system
12+1 Ball Bearing
Swept back forge aluminum star drag
Line capacity
Weight: 5.9 oz
Line Capacity 150 Yards - 12 lb

Here are the stats for the Apex Grand



High Strength Aluminum frame
Deep V 6061 T6 machined aluminum spool
Carbon Fiber swept back handle
EVA grip knobs on handle
270 Degree Mag Brake system
Internal Centrifugal Brakes
12+1 Ball Bearing
Swept back forge aluminum star drag
Weight: 5.9 oz
Line Capacity 150 Yards - 12 lb

I have fished with each of these for right at a year now. In that time, I have purchased another five Ardent reels. It isn't the quality or performance, per se, as much as the price point. With the discount we receive (which most people can get if they look around), the price point cannot be beat. The price is less than a Lew's Speed Spool (between $100-$120) and the performance greatly exceeds the entry level of the Lew's and, in some ways, exceeds the Shimano Citica. 

Casting: When you read the bio on each reel, you will see that casting distance is a major focus for Ardent. Indeed, these reels, when setup properly, will outcast virtually any reel on the market. These reels will actually cast a lot further than you want to, at times. The Elite, which I use for cranks, can handle small squarebills up to Strike King 8XD's with just slight tuning on the tension knob. 

Tunability: Casting and tunabilty go hand in hand. With that said, these reels will cast as far as you want IF the reels are setup precisely. I find that the two part cast control used on Ardent's products has something to be desired. Now, I am not a hard caster. I prefer to let the rod to the work. I have found that all of my Ardent braking systems have to be set almost to maximum and the tension knob has to be almost as tight as it can go without truly affecting the spool. To that end, Ardent has a lot to be desired on Shimano but are much further ahead on Lew's, which remains one of the most baffling reels to setup and remain dialed in for the same bait. 

Drag: The drag on these is excellent. The Grand could be a little heavier for me, as I throw Alabama Rigs and Bullshads on this rell, frequently through heavy grass. 

Weight and Size: I have zero complaints about the size of the se reels and the weight and I have fairly small hands. 

Quality and Durability: No issues yet. However, I detected a difference in smoothness of one Ardent Elite to another Elite. 

Price Point: Again, with a discount, the Elite will sit in between a Shimano Citica and a Lew's Speed Spool. In many respects, it is a better over all reel than the Citica (with more options, to boot) and be just pennies more than a Lew's while completely out performing. 

The Grand is comparable to a Shimano Curado for the price, but is still lacking in the completeness of the reel. The Curado is just more steady and consistent. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 1/3/17

Follow me on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!
Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Follow my Fish of 2016

First fishing trip of the year! What better way to ease back into the grove  of work than a hard day of fishing? Well, that's kind of what we expected. Truly, the 2nd was the perfect day. It was prefrontal and rainy. We had always heard that the nastier, the better. Judging by Facebook, the smallies were biting on Pickwick.  Our last trip on Pickwick hadn't gone quite like we wanted, though we did catch some fish. The battle was, did we trust the intel we had or should we start fishing Smith Lake, which is the first stop on our club trail. 

So, we went with our gut, though we said that this would be the last time we fished a lake other than the lake we would be fishing for the next tournament. Truth is, we didn't have much faith that we would catch much. 

Now, for a funny story. Shortly after eating breakfast at Chick-fil-A, the coffee was getting to me as we passed through Rogersville. I had assumed that Brad would stop for gas and snacks, but he didn't. I asked him if he was going to stop and he seemed to read my mind.

"You need to go? I was going to the Mapco in Florence."

"I can wait. No big deal?"

About that time, we passed the sign that said "Florence: 22 Miles"

"Just kidding. I need to stop."

However, we were in a really, really bad stretch and the only gas station was the Chevron next to Lucy's Branch. I jumped out, ran inside, and looked around. No bathroom.

"It's outside, around the corner" one of the 12 men eating breakfast stated. I duck walked around the the building and opened the door. I immediately regretted the decision. It was one of the nastiest bathrooms I have ever see, and I don't have high standards. But, I was limited on options. 

On the way to the truck, Brad headed towards the bathroom. I stopped him, told him to think better of it, and we drove away. Avoid it at all costs. 

We hit our community hold early, trying to knock the stink off the boat for the new year. Nothing. Not even a white bass. We went down the first stretch of bluffs, just as we had been told to do. Nothing. We were even trying some of the things the local pros we know told us to do: downsizing drastically and fishing the current with tubes and grubs. Now, I admit that until I actually get bit, I won't know what I am doing...I feel like I was doing right.

So, Brad and I got to talking. What we decided is that when people say they drift the bluffs, they aren't talking about a hundred yard stretch but HUNDREDS.  Perhaps the fish move up and down the miles of bluffs from McFlarland to the end of Seven Mile Island. Therefore, we decided to just let the 75,000 CFS of 54 degree water take it where it would. 

In the meantime, we would alternate baits. I gave up on my Spro crank and went to the A-rig, despite Brad having had much more luck on the rig than I. Another 100 yards went by without incident before BAM!

The fish nearly took the rod out of my hand! Brad grabbed the net and we boated a BEAUTY!

What was interesting was the the fish at the PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer, which was the largest of the swimbaits and also a different color. Initially, we didn't think much of it. 

That is until the second and third fish slammed my rod again, all of them on the same swimbait. 

Another 100 yards and a fish hit so hard that a bow of slack shot up the line. I reeled in the A-rig but it was missing an arm! Not wanting to take a chance, I tied on my spare. 

In the meantime, Brad couldn't get one to hook up. His A-rig was getting slammed, but he couldn't get them stuck. Meanwhile, I added another set of pigs! Finally, Brad boated a couple of really nice strippers before landing a nice smallie. 

Right about lunch time, the bite died and we headed back to the ramp, but not before snapping this pic! 

Here's another funny. As we appraoched the dock, we had to select one without fisherman on it. As we approached it, we were going a little faster than we should have. So, I tried to brake the boat with my foot before stepping onto the dock. Only half of that worked as I slipped and faceplanted! 

Anyways, first fish of 2017 are in the books and it was a SOLID start. Our best five were all smallies and they went about 18 pounds. 

Fishing Report for Pickwick 12/23/16

Follow me on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!
Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Follow my Fish of 2016

Been another month since I checked in last. I know, I know. I promised I would do better. But, when you are relying on others to fish and the holidays roll in, fishing trips can get far and few in between. Sprinkle in some deer hunting....you get what I am saying. 

Anyways, we did get out several times the past month and I am trying to get those reports out, not that some of them will help you much. 

Right before Christmas, Brad and I took a trip to Pickwick. This would be about the 23rd or so. It was very cold, but the current was decent and the water was low. We had some intel that we wanted to check out. We began the day by fishing the barge canal just above McFarland. We have learned how to fish the set of five or so barge tie ups based upon how the current is flowing. 

Brad was going to stick with the A-rig. I was determined to get better with some of baits I don't frequently used, especially the jerkbait as I had just watched a video with local pro Jimmy Mason. Mason is an expert with the jerkbait, especially on Pickwick and especially with smallies. So, I was excite to catch some after watching his video.

Fishing the eddy line and the rocky bank, I caught a couple of small largemouth on the jerkbait while losing several others. Keep in mind that I have only caught a handful of fish on a hard jerkbait. After experimenting, I found some of the errors with my retrieve. 

First, I was taking in slack line so I could feel bites. However, a tight line causes the jerkbait to straighten up and start moving, which is counter productive to its natural presentation. Instead, I needed to watch my line. When it jumped, I had a hit. 

Lastly, when I was getting hits, I treated it like a crankbait. I would just reel in the slack. The fish would pull off. Because the bait is on slack line, there is no tension when the fish hits and therefore the hooks are unlikely to penetrate the fish's mouth. So, I learned to really get that slack in and set the hook hard. 

After the bite quickly died, we moved to the bluffs across the river but didn't catch any fish. We moved to the end of Seven Mile Island where there is still grass. We were unable to catch any fish or even have any hits, despite what our intel had told us. But, there was a critical bit that we had overlooked. We had been told to concentrate on small cuts in the island. That is, little pockets. We found the nearest one and found a pile of largemouth stacked in it. For about five minutes, Brad and I caught a fish on every cast. Nothing huge, best five going around ten pounds. 

Then they quit and we called it a day. In all, we caught about ten fish though none of them were smallies. 



Monday, November 28, 2016

Fishing Report for Wilson 11/26/16

Follow me on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!
Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Check out my Fish of 2014
Follow my Fish of 2015






Been a minute since I checked in! Sorry about that guys! See, my wife was driving my Yukon to work one day and a buck decided to commit suicide by jumping in front of it. The truck was totaled and I am too cheap to go get a car payment, since I haven't had one in years. 

Anyway, that has put me at a disadvantage to fishing. That isn't to say I haven't been fishing, because I have. In fact, being unable to get out on the water has led to me fishing my uncle's pond about twice a week. I have been out on Wilson twice since the Classic, which you can read about by clicking the link below.


Anyways, the two trips on Wilson have been really tough. I have been unable to use what I have learned about fishing the dam, other than to say that I know that 12,000 CFS is the bare minimum to even bother putting the boat in the water and that there is a certain sequence of generators that must be running, otherwise you are wasting your time.

That doesn't mean we haven't caught fish. We did. But not a lot. One trip saw us catch about 10, all largemouth. The next saw us catch about the same, but all smallmouth. Ironically, the largemouth were at the dam and the smallies came from downriver on creek channels. Weird. 

Anywho, I convinced Josh to fish a black friday tournament with me out of Fleet Harbor. You could fish Wheeler, Wilson or Pickwick. As we crossed Wilson dam, we noticed that Pickwick was stupid low, as was Wheeler. I don't have much luck with low water and Wilson seemed to be at usual levels. So, we checked in and ran to the dam. 

There was a line of about six boats on the eddy line, which seemed to be the right generators. On the second cast of the day, a fish slammed my crankbait. I was trying to keep it quiet so no one would notice it. I was so quiet that Josh didn't even hear me until I started hollerin' that the fish had gone around the motor (I was on the back of the boat). That's when I saw it. A gorgeous six pound largemouth. And just like that, the fish pulled off. 

Two hours, we weren't catching and neither was anyone else. More telling was that we weren't catching any trash fish. 

We drifted down to the powerlines which is where I had some luck weeks before. We noticed a group of boats another three hundred yards down river. We didn't know what to make of it, though I noticed that it was the same place we had seen catfishermen a few weeks before. Except these were bass boats. Still, I didn't have the first clue what they were doing and didn't want to get involved in the crowd. 

Then, I started hitting the spot. First it was a decent smallie. Then Josh picked up a smallie. Then a string of five largemouth. The issue was that they were getting smaller until they weren't measuring. Still, we had a limit. As we were retrieving Josh's hung up lure, I picked up a Pop-R and skipped it under the powerlines, just as a joke. And sure enough, a MASSIVE bass exploded on it. I pretended it was a carp or a gar or anything other than a largemouth cause it was a six-plus fish. But, I caught it all on video and, sure enough, it was a bass. Sigh.


For the last three hours we couldn't get bit. We still had some decent fish and we headed to the weigh in thinking that maybe we had a chance to squeak out a check on what we thought was a rough day.

Nope. The winning weights were 25, 24 and 20 pounds. We measured four fish for 11 pounds. I know every fisherman likes to talk about the fish they lost and I'm not one for making mistakes, but it hurt losing those fish. Still, it wouldn't have mattered. Even with the two fish we lost, I was looking at less than 20, so, it's a moot point.

But, on the bright side, I was telling Josh that at least we are to the point where we are losing the winning fish instead of scratching out losing limits. We ended up catcing around 10 fish, nine of which came on Strike King cranks. 




Tuesday, October 18, 2016

SEC Week 8 Picks

The Auburn Realist: Overview
Follow me on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!
Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Check out my Fish of 2014
Follow my Fish of 2015

So, last week's picks were so bad that I almost don't want to make this week's picks. I picked exactly one pick right out of ten. That puts me deep in the red. Last week is one of those weeks that make you understand just how good Vegas really is. Not only was last week money for Vegas, but it shows just how good they know their lines. At least half of the lines were dead on. 

Anyway. That brings the overall record to 33-37. I am under 50% for the first time this year. 

Mississippi State at Kentucky
State is a very, very slim 3 point favorite on the road with a 54 point over/under. State is really better than their record would lead you to believe. They have outgained their opponents by a wide margin, giving up 360 yards while gaining over 400 per game. Kentucky, on the other hand, gives up 430 while gaining less than 350. Kentucky is 3-3 against the spread while State is 1-5 including a 1-3 mark as the favorite. In terms of the over, the two teams have combined to play just three games over 54 points. State coasts to a victory on the road and covers the three while the two teams stay under. 

Arkansas at Auburn
9.5 points for Auburn would seem like the biggest line of the week, if it weren't for the Alabama vs TAMU game. The over/under stands at 55.5. The FPI ranks Auburn as an 87% favorite.  The Hogs are 3-4-1 ATS and Auburn is a whopping 5-1. All signs point to an easy Auburn win. Auburn will likely lean on the run game and a much improved defense. Take Auburn and the under. 

Texas A&M at Alabama
Alabama is a 17 point favorite with an over/under of 58.5 points. TAMU is 5-1 and Bama is 5-2 ATS, so something has to give. Indeed, both teams gain over 500 yards per game, but Bama's defense could be the best Saban's ever had. TAMU is a good team, but wins against Tennessee and Auburn don't show the real Aggie team. Truth be told, Tennessee isn't any good and Auburn is a much better team than they were back in week three. Take Bama to roll and the over. 

Ole Miss at LSU
LSU is a 5.5 point favorite and the over under is an astounding 60.5 points. Ole Miss is essentially out of the SEC west race now, but a loss here would destroy their season. You can't help but have the feeling that LSU is hanging to a thread as well. Will Fournette suit up? I don't believe we will see him again. The FPI had LSU as a heavy favorite, but we haven't seen the best Ole Miss can play yet. LSU is allowing just 14 points per contest.  Ole Miss springs the upset and the score is much lower. Take Ole Miss and the under. 


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

End of the Tournament Year Results

Follow me on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!
Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Check out my Fish of 2014
Follow my Fish of 2015

No, this doesn't mean that I won't fish any more tournaments this year. But, all of my scheduled tournaments are completed and I thought I might take a second to review how things went this year. 

First, let's take a second to review the Fish of the Year. In case you don't know what I am talking about, take a look at the two pages:

Fish of 2015



Taking a look at those two pages, it seems obvious that this year was much better than last year. In 2015, I boated only 138 fish. But, I also didn't own a boat, which didn't help matters. However, last year was an absolute grindfest all year. The Luhr-Jensen Speedtrap and 7" Tickler did most of the work for me. My biggest fish came on Wilson lake in July leading up to a club tournament. My best smallmouth came off of Wheeler, also prefishing. 

The 2015 season began a weird yet satisfying trend where I began to catch more smallmouth than largemouth. It was about equal, but it was a striking departure from previous years. Along the way, I caught fish from nine different lakes which included a trip to Smith lake and Chickamauga. 

2016 wasn't my best year in numbers or size of fish, but it was a grand departure from 2015. I boated (so far) 267 bass starting on January 7th. I caught bass from eight different lakes in 2016 including Tim's Ford, which is a new lake for me. For some strange reason, I didn't go back to Smith or Chick, though that COULD change. 

In terms of wins and losses, I'd say that this year was a lot better than last year. I've always done well in the NASA club, but I didn't get to fish many events in 2015. This year I fished nearly all of them and managed to win several. The highlights were winning with my wife on Pickwick and a great weekend of fishing on Logan-Martin that ended with another win. However, I came up short in the Angler of the Year department because one of my opponents had a fantastic year (he always does). As much as I like our NASA club, it is small and winning typically means beating just a few other boats.

The winless streak at the Ditto Wildcats on Thursday night continued. The fishing was historically bad and I don't think I weighed a limit all year. 

However, the Army Cargo club went much better this year. After cashing just one check in 2015 in what is a very, very good club, Brad and I went on to cash three checks. Two of those were for wins, both on Wilson. 

Still, as competitive as I am, I have a long way to go. Though I only fished one larger tournament (the aforementioned tournament this past weekend on Tim's), I didn't do very well in it. I'd like to not only fish more large tournaments but also manage to do well.

Anyway, here's to 2016!


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

SEC Week 7 Picks

The Auburn Realist: Overview
Follow me on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter!
Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!
Check out my Fish of 2014
Follow my Fish of 2015

Well well! Looks like I done made up for that stinker of a week last week. I nailed some picks this go 'round including The UT vs TAMU, the Auburn vs Mississippi State, and the UGA vs South Carolina. I blanked on the Alabama vs Arkansas picks, however. All told, I hit six total picks while missing two. That brings my overall record to 32-28, which is a 53% hit rate. 

Mississippi State vs BYU
This will most likely be a Friday night stinker. BYU is favored by 7.5 points and the over/under is 56 points. The money line is awfully interesting  because of how close it is. +245 for State and -290 for BYU. BYU hasn't won or lost by more than 17 points. All three losses were by three or less. State is 1-4 against the spread and 0-2 on the road. BYU is 5-1 against the spread but 0-1 as a favorite. State is currently allowing more points than they are scoring while the opposite is marginally true for BYU. While BYU has played some very potent offenses, State has been scored on by teams that don't belong on the field with an SEC opponet. I'd take BYU to cover and the over on points. 

Ole Miss at Arkansas
Ole Miss is a 7.5 point favorite with a whopping 65.5 over/under. Both of these teams have been a grab bag. Ole Miss' vaunted landshark defense hasn't been nearly the same this year. Against decent offenses, Arkansas has hemorrhaged points. Neither team has been very good against the spread. This is Ole Miss first time on the road. The Rebels seem to be able to throw the ball up and have those big recievers come down with it. I like Ole Miss to cover, but that over/under seems like a suckers bet. Take Ole Miss and the under. 

Missouri at Florida
The line is Florida -13.5 and a 51 point over/under. 
Missouri is coming off of a bye after being thrashed by LSU. Florida ducked LSU for their own bye week. The Gators spent the last two weeks on the road and are 3-0 at home having allowed 14 total points. Missouri's success has come from Drew Locke, who has 14 TDs and 4 INTs. However, Florida's offense continues to struggle. Take Missouri and the under. 

Vandy at Georgia
This one sits on a critical 14 point line in favor of UGA. It features a low over/under of  42.5. Vandy has gotten better and better on defense, even in losses to Kentucky and Florida. UGA continues to give up gobs of points. Though Vandy has given up almost 400 yards per game, it has stiffened in the redzone. That's where UGA will get them. Take UGA to cover and the under. 

Alabama at Tennessee
Bama is a 13.5 point favorite with an over/under of 57. Sure, it's a rivalry game. Except that UT hasn't won in awhile and they have like 10 starters out. Neyland is a little bigger and louder than Fayetteville and I do suspect Alabama's Hurts to struggle at some point this year. Even if he does, I still suspect Alabama to keep rolling. Take Bama to cover and the under.