Wednesday, June 21, 2017

College Fantasy Football's Best Teammate Double-Ups for 2017

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It's almost time, yall. Fantasy football is about to gear up. Wait. That's not right. It's already here and if you haven't started your pre-draft work, then you are behind. 

It's cool. I got you. 

Up first is one of my favorite fantasy football topics: Teammate Double Ups. 

What is a Teammate Double Up? It's when you draft and play a QB and a WR (or TE, RB, etc). Why would you do that? Well, there is certainly some risk involved. Obviously staking your future on teammates can backfire on you. A struggle by one is a struggle by both. But, there are undeniable upsides. 

Take a look at just what one play can do for you. Let's say you had Clemson's Watson/Leggett combo, which is one of my top picks from last year. Clemson and Leggett formed perhaps the best QB/TE pair in the country. On just one play, the two hooked up for a 56 yard bomb. 

Let's do some math. 56 passing yards is 2.8 points for Watson, the touchdown is 4 points for Watson. Leggett cashes in for a point for the reception, 5.6 points in receiving yards and another 6 for the TD. All together, that play is worth 19.4 points, and that's on the low end of scoring systems. In other systems, that could have been worth almost 25 points. More importantly, these two teamed up for a combined 226.4 points over the course of the season. That's solid numbers for anyone, but amazing production for a QB/TE combination. 

Now, imagine the production between, say, MTSU's Stockstill and James. Try a combined 493 points. That's right. You could expect a weekly 9- 125-1 performance between the two or an astounding 38 combined points per week. Considering that it takes around 120 points (depending on your league layout) to be competitive, two players have a guaranteed third of your needed production to win week to week.

So, take a look at my picks from last year.I hit some very, very good combos. And the Stockstill/James combo is one I held back for myself. 

It's 2017. Let's talk turkey. 

Believe it or not, the SEC has three very legitimate combos. 

Brent Stockstill/Richie James- We talked about what they did last year. It is highly unlikely they could repeat this performance of 105-1625-12. Keep in mind that the two chipped in 580 rushing yards and 4 more rushing TDs. The Blue Raiders have to break in three new offensive linemen and they do it against Vandy in week one. That isn't exactly the defense you'd want to face the first week. But, hey, it's gonna happen in Conference USA. 

Drew Locke/J'Mon Moore- This is an easy one, really. Locke threw for over 250 yards in all but three contest last season including five performances of over 300 yards. In all, Locke threw for 3400 yards, though his touchdown to INT ratio wasn't great. Still, 62 passes and over 1,000 of those yards went to Moore, who put  8 of those passes into the endzone. The Tigers from Columbia have one of the easier SEC schedules and also play Missouri State, Idaho, Purdue, and UConn. Auburn and UGA are the only legitimate threats to slow down the Tigers. Most importantly, the offensive line that allowed just one sack per game is completely back.

Mason Rudolph/James Washington- This is an absolute no-brainer. 71-1380-10 on the year between the two. Soft defensive conference. The issue? These are likely early first round and early third round picks. 

Jalen Hurts/Calvin Ridley- There is a lot of talk about Hurts retaining his status as the Tide's starting QB, an astounding statement to the Bama program considering this is the SEC Offensive Player of the Year. First, I am going to say that I don't believe he was THAT good as a game winning QB. But, I am willing to say that, not only will he be the Tide's starter in 2017, he will be a great fantasy QB. Calvin Ridley was a bit of a disappointment last year. I do believe in the sophomore slump, which is why I exercised SOME caution. Still, he was 72-77-7, which were solid WR2 numbers, despite having a lot of production stolen by Hurts' running and All-World OJ Howard at TE. Ridley will easily be the dominate playmaker outside of Hurts and I say that because of the crowded (and talented) backfield. Bama is stacked on the offensive line and, outside of the opener against FSU (Saban is 100% in these openers and is winning BIG, BTW), Alabama will sleep walk into November. I'm not saying these two will win you the league. I am saying these are two pieces to get you to the playoff.  

Nick Fitzgerald/Donald Gray-Fitzgerald was an amazing out-of-nowhere surprise as he put up 105 rushing yards per game. When he wasn't scampering for the 3rd best QB rushing numbers, he was hitting Gray to the tune of 41-709-5. Now, I recognize those numbers aren't astounding, but bear with me. First, Fitzgerald is a run-first QB (though he will undoubtedly come along this year as a passer under Mullen). You get double the points from Fitz rushing, as it is. Mississippi State losses Fred Ross, who was Fitz's Go-To guy. Listing these guys is a projection of Fitz's rushing and Gray stepping up as a pass catcher. There are going to be games that are scary, pretty much every SEC West game and even the contest at UGA. State also losses the entire offensive line. So, let's not be too Bull-ish on these guys. 

Lamar Jackson/Jaylen Smith- Like the above combo, this is less about combined production and more about piggybacking. Lamar Jackson was unstoppable...until the playoffs. That's a story for another day. Obviously Jackson was a complete threat to score points at will. Someone has to catch some of those and Smith is coming off a 27-600-6 campaign where he was the team leader (and a national leader) in yards per catch despite playing behind two NFL talents of Quick/Hikutini. Could a surprise WR step up? Sure. But this is a combo where you are going to get Jackson in the first round and you can draft Smith much, much later as a flyer that could pay big dividends. One other thing I am projecting is that the offensive line couldn't be worse and Jackson undoubtedly wants to progress as a passer for his NFL legitimacy. 

Trace McSorely/Mike Gesicki/Saquon Barkley/DaeSean Hamilton- Own The Team? Maybe. It's been an interesting ride for DaeSean Hamilton. He has seen his targets drop each and every year after 82-900-2 as a freshman. His numbers were nearly cut in half in 2015 and he saw even last last season as he went 34-506-1. However, that doesn't tell the whole story. Chris Godwin exploded for the Nittany Lions with the rise of McSorely before Godwin went to Tampa Bay. Gesicki also exploded on the scene for 48-680-5 as a tight end and Barkley kicked in 28-400-4. Under it all, Hamilton's pass catching efficiency went up significantly, though he is far from an elite fantasy talent. Penn State returns four of five linemen who allowed 1.7 sacks per game. That number should be better, especially since Iowa represents the sole challenge for them until a tough four game stretch against Northwestern, Michigan, Ohio State and Michigan State. Now, I'm not telling you to draft all Penn State players, but at least consider it. Both McSorely and Barkley are obvious targets. Gesicki is a top returning tight end and Hamilton could be a great late round flyer. 

Logan Woodside/Cody Thompson/Jon'Vea Johnson-104-2,000-20 . What else do you need to know? How about three of five linemen from a unit that allowed a little over one sack per game and Miami as the only Power Five team on the schedule? The only worry is that Kareem Hunt and his 1400 yards are gone and that may cause defenses to game plan around the passing game. In the end, this was the 7th ranked offense in the country. It's fair to say these guys are must-owns, especially considering their value as a package instead of individual value. 

Zach's Sneaky Picks

Will Grier/Ka'Raun White- There is nothing. Nothing. I LOVE more than a Dana Holgorsen Team Mate Double-Up. While the Mountaineers are known to choke in crunch time, they are also deadly when they are favored.West Virginia didn't score a ton of points last year (50th), but they were still 17th in total offense behind Skylar Howard. Will Grier SHOULD be eligible week one and I truly believe he will be a perfect match with Holgorsen. Grier was 1200-10-3 in his short stint at Florida before being suspended for PEDs. He also took a whooping 13 sacks in those games while adding 2 rushing TDs. He was on the cusp of being very, very good. White is entering the fall as the WR1, by default, after going 48-580-5 last year as WVU's No. 3 man. If one were smart, one could get RB Justin Crawford early and sit back for these two guys. 

Baker Mayfield/Mark Andrews- Mayfield isn't going passed pick 10. Get used to that idea. While the Sooners are absolutely loaded on the offensive line, there was a mass exodus of skill positions. In fact, tight end Andrews is the leading returning receiver after a 31-490-7 year. Someone will surely step up for new head coach Lincoln Riley, but can you afford to draft them? Andrews is a solid late pick as a TE1. The two of them together will have some great success on the field. You might as well cash in. 

Quinton Flowers/D'Ernest Johnson- Flowers is another one that isn't sneaking anywhere, but Johnson may. Gone is Marlon Mack and Johnson is in line to take over the lead back role, though Flowers led the team in rushing yards (1,500). Flowers is another QB who may be eyeing the NFL, making Johnson the beneficiary of a lot more touches. Johnson as a RB1 or RB2 may be a stretch, but his utility as a pass catcher make him very, very valuable FLEX play at the very least. He put up solid reception totals of 28-300-5 last season which expands his career totals to 62-750-10. He is a major threat in the passing game as it is and he added 550 yards and 8 TDs on the ground as a backup runner. The Bulls have to replace two linemen but play a joke of a schedule. They are poised to repeat as one of the very best offenses in the country. 

Arion Worthman/Tim McVey- This one is a BIT of a stretch, but hear me out. Not everyone can get studs at all positions. Sometimes you have to settle. Let me give you one rock-solid way to settle. Worthman played about a third of the year last season for Air Force. He passed for 546 yards and 4 TDs while tossing 2 INTs. He also added 670 yards and 6 more TDs on the ground. Again, keep in mind that was as a part time starter. McVey is an established runner who had 708 yards and 10 TDs. The amazing thing is, he averaged a whopping 7 yards per carry despite not having a long over 40 yards. That's stunning. It means this guy is as rock solid a runner as you are going to find. He did it behind Nate Romine, who led a balanced attack and three other departed runners who had more carries. Both of these guys could have stellar years and are terrific late options. If they are used strategically, they could be excellent, especially against lesser opponents. 

Nick Stevens/Michael Gallup- Few QBs finished the year as solid as Stevens. Despite missing the first half of the season riding the pine after being 2nd Team All-Mountain in 2015, Stevens responded in a big way. He threw at least two touchdowns in every game to end the season including an astounding NINE in the last two games of the season. So take that Fair-to-Midland 1936-19-5 stat and flush it cause that was HALF a season. Gallup finished with 76-1200-14, an elite season. Check this, though. Until Stevens entered the lineup against Boise State in week 7, Gallup had 25 total catches and just three TDs with just one game over 100 yards. Gallup erupted down the stretch with Stevens commanding the offense. 51 catches and 11 TDs later, it is fair to say the combo became elite. The lowest output for the tandem? 4-91-1. That's 28 points....on their bad day. The Rams do have to retool the offensive line a bit and they have Alabama on September 16th. Still, Mike Bobo has this program on the rise. 

Monday, June 5, 2017

Report for Guntersville 6/1 and 6/3 2017

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If you've followed me, you know my spiel about being open and honest. Being honest in fishing is one of the most played out jokes, ever. I've done my best not to be a stereotype and it has certainly earned me equal parts admiration and ire. Sometimes it is just easier to keep things to myself, believe it or not. But, I am going to stick to my game plan and continue to be me. That's an easy thing to say and do, especially when you are cashing checks. It's not so easy when things are tough and you are getting humbled. 

So, here we go.

I haven't been on Guntersville for 9 months. That's right. Nine months. Here is the report for that. Why would I avoid the best bass fishing lake in America? Well, go read this other post. Over 5,000 people have read it already. The lake sucks, or I suck, or we both suck. Any and everything is possible and I admit that. Regardless of how I do, there are plenty of guys out there still catching 20+ pound bags and after this weekend, I really admire those guys. Just wish I could figure it out myself. 

With that said, we had a club tournament coming up on Guntersville and Guntersville is the only lake that I have not been competitive upon and I was determined to fix that. Two years ago, I hired a certain guide to help me figure out the lake. I don't believe in throwing people under the proverbial bus, so I won't go into it other than to say that we didn't catch anything nor did it put me on fish. Predictably, we finished about where we normally do on the Big G: mid pack. And, we were a lot lighter in the pocket due to that. 

About nine months ago, I made another small investment in my future. As many of you know, I cover fantasy football and I do rather well playing it. I joined Basswhacker Guide Service's fantasy league. The winner would get a free trip. Guess who won? 

So, I scheduled this trip right before our tournament. On Thursday, Brad and I got out mid morning and fished by ourselves in Allreds. We didn't have a sniff fishing the typical stuff: ledges, grasslines, grass mats. Not a hit. 

In desperation, we moved onto some deep water bluffs. I was burning a Strike King 6XD as fast I could go on my Ardent Elite 5.3:1 reel and my AKRods custom cranking rod when a fish unloaded on the crank. I fully expected a catfish or drum. Then this slob jumped and I started yelling for the net. Big momma got tired and we easily netted her. She went 5.75 on the hand-held scale.

Minutes later, we picked up Jon Henry, FLW Pro and owner of Basswhacker guide service. He spent the rest of the day giving us a in-depth tutorial of locating fish. You may recall that Jon and I have teamed up before. You can see our video here and read the report here. We idled for several hours, marking fish and waypoints. He encouraged us to go back on our own and figure the fish out. When we dropped him back off, we did just that. We found active fish on two spots and were able to catch fish on the first cast or two before leaving them.

So, we felt pretty good about Saturday. He had warned us that this was Guntersville and that we better choose our starting point wisely because we wouldn't be first anywhere else. Additionally, he told us we would have to play defense if we did find fish.

Boy, was he right. 

We launched out of Browns Creek and we were boat No. 20. Imagine my surprise when we found ourselves first on the spot we wanted to fish! Of course, that didn't last very long. We had three boats come in behind us in a matter of minutes. Some left. Some stayed. Luckily, all of them stayed off the spot we were fishing, specifically freeing up our casts. We idled around and found the fish were grouped up super dense. 

We eased up on the spot, which was about the size of a picnic table, and began casting a mixture of baits, specifically a PowerTeam Lures Bull Nose Jig backed with the PTL Craw D and a PowerTeam Lures 7" Tickler on a magnum shaky head

In four casts, we had four keepers. What was more exciting was that as we netted each other's fish, both of us would pick up our rods to find that ANOTHER fish had taken our trailers. That's right, six straight casts resulted in four keepers and two misses. 

Wouldn't you know it, someone saw this and decided that it looked fun. Look, right now, snapping pictures and bashing guys moving in on you, or spot stealing, or bent pole pattern, is the latest thing. I'm not going to post pictures of these guys but I am going to say this:

This boat came within 15 yards of us on plane and set down ahead of us, exactly the spot we were casting. We had lines in the water and he parked on top of them. It couldn't be more clear that we were fishing this exact spot and casting to something the size of a garbage can. 

The bite died. Even after these guys left, we never found the fish grouped again. Instead of 100 fish in 10 yards, we were finding a fish every five yards. We fished two spots all day, never making it to any places we wanted to fish because there were fishermen on them and we didn't want to be "those guys." If we saw a waypoint and a boat was near it, we kept going.

Of course, this is Guntersville, so that meant that we never fished any good spots. Desperate for bites, we moved to the bluffs where I caught several measuring spotted bass. While a limit was a start, it wasn't enough so we went back to our honey hole. 

We were never able to get back on the "sweet spot" and it probably didn't matter. We did manage to cull twice but our biggest fish wasn't even four pounds. 

Still, you never know how everyone else did so we went to weigh in anyway, despite not having over 12 pounds and not having a bite for over four hours. 

We finished third in the club with 12 pounds. The winning bag was short of 19 and second was over 16. Big fish was over six, but it was one of only two or three fish over five pounds. Out of the 20 plus boats, there were only five limits weighed in. 

We caught a total of three short largemouth, three spots, and seven measuring largemouth. 

So, in summation, the lake was tough and I don't say that just because I struggled. That isn't a surprise, after all. It is a surprise that a club with some good fishermen struggled so. But, the story was the same for us all. You never fished alone, especially when you were in a good spot, nor were you ever fished to fish a spot. And, the fish seemed to know we were after them. But, hey, that's the Big G. 

Of course, I have to give a shout out to Basswhacker. Dude knows his stuff and he is an absolute delight to fish with. He is honest and he genuinely wants to help you get better, not just put you on fish. 

Friday, May 26, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler/Ditto Landing Wildcat 5/25/17

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These posts are always the hardest to make. Oh, you know, the ones where you admit that you don't know what you are doing and you can't catch fish? Yep. Those.

The good news for yall is, this will be relatively short. 

With both the boys done with baseball, my Thursdays have freed up. Ok, so I have to admit that they really aren't freed up. In order for me to be freed up, my wife has to make them all to my daughters softball practices in Athens. I'm sure that is a bit of a headache, so allow me to thank her publicly (doubtful that she will read this). 

Josh had asked me a few weeks ago if I wanted to start fishing the Ditto wildcats again. Well, heck yea! What's better than a Thursday night fishing trip for a few hours? Well, I guess the answer would be a "thursday night catching trip", but I digress.

We were both really hungry to do well because we had done so well in this tournament for two years when we had just started out fishing but have been unable to do anything in the past five years. 

So, we met up with the boys, paid our entry fee, and blasted off. We had decided that the relatively high flow (50,000 CFS) would be perfect for a dam bite, so we made the trip. We started just downriver of the dam to fish some creek points. Wouldn't you know it, we caught a three pounder within the first five minutes. 

Of course, the old brain started recalling how these tournaments typically go: you either catch a big one quick and spend the rest of the time just trying to find four more OR you catch a ton of short fish and spend all night looking for that kicker. Rarely do the two options combine. When they do, you typically win. However, I would take my chances with the former any day. 

Of course, the evening shaped up just as expected. While Josh could get occasional bites on topwater, none hooked up. He lost one at the boat on a crank. Meanwhile, I had one single bite all evening, which did make it to the boat. It came on a swimjig backed by a PTL Swinging Hammer swimbait. We had two fish for around five pounds. 

We hopped around between the dam, the wingwalls, the rip-rap, and some nearby points but simply could not get bit, even though I spent the vast majority of the time finessing a PTL 7" Tickler on a shakey head. The only thing I managed to do was get hung up and lose about five. 

In the end, we had just the two fish and, to be frank, that was about one keeper away from a check. There was a solid 12 pound sack of mixed brownies and bucket heads (though I believe they only had four fish?) and little else in the way of good bags. I believe second was seven and change. 

However, it isn't nearly as bad as it sounds...though it was pretty bad. We had a good day. We didn't lose any expensive lures and we got to hang out with some good dudes.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Fishing Report for Logan-Martin 5/20-21/2017

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Logan-Martin has been, by far, the most fun lake each year we have fished it. Now, we only fish it once a year, but we circle it every single year in February when the scheduled is put out. The first two years, I fished it with Josh. Last year, I fished with Brad and we decided to team up again. 

While I've cashed a check in every event we've had on Logan-Martin, it's been more about the experience than the money. We would fish Friday and Saturday and every trip, we would catch a TON of fish including some magnum Coosa river spotted bass. You can read about my first three trips to Logan-Martin by clicking the links below.

As you may notice when reading those three articles, the key to winning (or at least separating yourself from the pack) is to catch largemouth. Sure, you can catch a TON of spots, but rarely are you going to catch one or two over three. Conversely, if you can catch largemouth, even an average largemouth is going to be larger than a big spot. The key last year was catch a limit of good spots and then go to the grass for largemouth. We upgraded three times late last year with largemouth caught on a frog or a swim jig.

So, Brad and I got down to Lakeside Marina around 930 on Friday afternoon. When we dunked the boat, we noticed a plethora of grass growing along the banks of the far side of the creek. Without even firing the big motor up. I pulled out my extra heavy rod with a Spro frog tied on and went to it.

Down the first stretch of grass, I caught four decent largemouth, though none over three pounds. Three were on a frog and the fourth came on the edge of a grass line with a PTL 7" Tickler in Kitchen Sink. 

Trying to add to the pattern, specifically by finding those spots, we began to fish some areas I have had found success on in the past. This included fishing offshore rock piles, boat docks, and sea walls with a collection of baits, but specifically shakey heads with the Ticker and the 5" Sick Stick as well as a few different top water baits like a buzz bait.

We found virtually no success from the hours of 10AM to 5PM. Truly, other than a quick double of short spots that we picked up with shakey heads, we didn't have a single bite until late that afternoon. 

The lone top water bite I had came on a strange and completely random cast across a point where I had seen shad skipping. A very, very nice largemouth swirled the buzzbait and  I failed to set the hook because I believed the fish had missed it. The largemouth shook off the black Strike King buzzbait, but we didn't let it bother us, as we didn't really want to catch four and five pounders in practice anyway. 

Around dark, we began to find success as fish that had been sitting on main creek channel ledges moved shallow. These channels were all within 10 yards of the bank. These fish came from 18-20 feet to feed and we began to get bit reliably. We also caught this....

We went back to the grass to check it and on one of the very first casts, I caught another frog fish, making it five largemouth. 

As we put the boat on the trailer, a local man was casting off the dock. He asked how we did. I told him we struggled to get 10 pounds and they were all in the grass. He remarked that he had caught seven largemouth from the dock, all by flipping a worm into the local grass.

We decided that our game plan would be to start on the spot we started on the previous year. The fish had been tight to a seawall and a combination of buzzbaits had produced a very, very fast limit of spots. 

The next morning, we found that there were over 300 bass boats fishing two different tournaments. We had to use another ramp and we blasted off early to avoid the rush....or so we thought. Turned out, the high school tournament left well before safe light and we found a boat sitting on our spot already. That's the luck of the draw and all, but frustrating. 

Bouncing around, we didn't have the first keeper at 10AM. We had to fish behind a boat or two everywhere we went. So, we decided to go where the rest wouldn't: 20 miles up river. Josh had fished a section of ledges last year and sent me the coordinates. We made the run, though we stopped on a set of rock piles I had fished in years passed. This did get the stink off the boat as Brad caught a couple of short fish on a shakey head, but all of them were short. 

Meanwhile, I had some nice fish blow up on a Lucky Craft Gunfish, but none found the hooks.

Eventually we made the run. Sure enough, there weren't many boats. I guess that was for a good reason. While finding bait and fish was no problem, catching them was. We simply could not get bit. 

Brad had an idea that the fish may be in the center of the smaller creeks off the main channel. That would make sense. I had experienced spots getting low in the creeks during winter months in order to hug the warmth. Getting away from the 87 degree surface temps sure made sense. 

And, catching a nice spot on the first cast sure didn't hurt. Over the next few hours, we did catch four measuring fish off this pattern. This issue? After catching one very quickly, we would spend an hour trying to find another bite, which never came.

The time began to run short on us and we returned down river. After hitting a few spots with no luck, we decided that we would spend the last 30 minutes fishing grass, just hoping that maybe we could catch a kicker and perhaps cull this tiny spot we had.

Sure enough, I got the bite we needed.
We went to weigh in with full knowledge that we weren't going to win with this tiny sack of fish. And, we were correct. 

Now, the interesting thing is, we were a lot closer than we thought. First place was around 7.50. Second place was less than 5 ounces than that. Us? How about a 7.40. That's right. The difference between first and third was less than .10 of a pound. After all that struggling and fighting, we were right there. 

Perhaps the most amazing thing is, we had the biggest spot of the day, a 1.92. That alone shows how tough Logan-Martin was this past weekend, at least for us out of towners. 

I really, really wish we had devoted a bit more time to the the grass. All things considered, all of our bigger fish (Save Brad's bigger spot) were caught on a frog. We only caught around 15-20 fish over the two days and the top five were all largemouth caught on a frog and all within a few hundred yards of the ramp. Could we have fished grass and not gotten another bite? Sure. But one thing is FOR SURE. One more frog bite and we would have won. 

That's the way it goes. One thing is for certain, I won't hex myself next time by telling people how easy Logan-Martin is to fish! 

Monday, May 8, 2017

Fishing Report Pickwick 5/4/17

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I think we all know that Mother Nature can make fish do some crazy things. Yes, I know that "my bite died"  or "the fish moved" are some favorite lines for losers at the scales. I, myself, have rolled my eyes many times when I've heard such excuses. 

That's probably why it pains me so much to have said those very words when I was weighing in my fish on Saturday. Don't misunderstand. I had a respectable bag at around 12 pounds. Between my dad and I, we caught around 50 fish. But, none of that was what I was expecting when I wrapped up my prefishing on Wednesday, which included a small club tournament. You can read about last week's tournament by clicking the link below.

Sure, I lost last week but $40 was a small price to pay to learn the lessons I learned. In particular, I learned that doing what no one else is doing can bite you sometimes. While it has done me solid in the past, grinding it out in 30MPH winds and 125,000 CFS got me nothing but a butt-whipping as my 10 pounds was almost half of the 18 pounds the winner weighed.

On Wednesday, Brad and I put in at McFarland and attempted to put the info I had recieved to the test. We went shallow, fishing behind the series of current breaks that began around the end of Seven Mile Island with a combination of texas rigged PowerTeam Lure's 6" Gator and assorted top water. While the top water wasn't hot with the fish, I still caught my first frog fish of the year, so there's that. 

What was hot was that lizard bite. We would get on the downriver side of every island or break in that island and there was at least one three pound fish waiting in every eddy. All we had to do was toss it up into that eddy, drag it down the line, and one would pounce on it. In the end, we had 15 pounds by catching around 30 fish. None of them were over four pounds. We left early and I really thought I could hit 20 pounds. There was no shortage of four pound fish and I just knew there had to be some big fish somewhere. My plan was to work this pattern until the sun got up and then flip the grass for a big momma. 15 pounds was a certainty and 20 pounds was two good fish away.

Now, I conveniently ignored a few things. First, that a cold front was moving in that would drop temperatures by 30 degrees. Secondly, TVA was going to halve the current. Lastly, the water level was going to drop two feet. 

So Saturday rolled around and I was happy to be taking my dad fishing. He hasn't been fishing much in the last few years and I was excited to tell him that not only was I on fish, but we were going to catch him with his favorite technique and lure. 

We ran down to the very end of Seven Mile and get to casting. I caught one on my first cast, but it wasn't in the eddy, it was out on the ledge. Still, I figured maybe the fish followed the bait. But then I realized something: there was no eddy. In fact, there was no current what so ever. Still, I beat the backside of several of the islands and didn't get a bite. 

I moved to the spot where I had caught the most fish and the best quality. This was an island on the little river side of Seven Mile.  Same thing. No current and a lot of water color. More importantly, no bites.

I flipped a lot of grass along with throwing a spinnerbait along the grass lines and frogging the stretches. Nothing. 

The morning came and went and we didn't have the first measuring fish and really hadn't had but a few bites. All of the bites had come from the ledge side of the islands. It took me far to long to come to the conclusion. The combination of weather and water conditions had moved the fish on the ledges. I knew this from equal parts experience that morning, guessing, and about 20 minutes of staring at my depth finder, which practically screamed "there's a school on this ledge!"

We weren't getting bit on the lizard, so I turned to dad and said "I'm going to do something I said I wouldn't do today. In fact, I just about took all this stuff out of the boat." I pulled out my 6-6 medium heavy rod with a 3/8ths ounce shakey head and a Powerteam Lures 7" Tickler

And then it was game on. 

Fish after fish after fish after fish. I had three different stretches were I caught five fish on five casts. There was only one issue: none of them measured. Not a one. 

I dug back in the rod locker for the other rod I said I wouldn't use all day: my AKRods custom cranking rod. Swapping to the Strike King 6XD provided the change we needed immediately. I quickly boated a quartet of measuring fish. None of them big, but at least it was a start. I thought we would surely find a bigger bite eventually. 

That just wasn't the case and after catching almost 40 fish off that one spot, I decided we had to mix it up. I headed down river to where Alyse and I caught some nice fish last week. I told my dad that we would likely get one chance at catching a big fish and it would be a magnum smallie. I angled the boat so that I could dredge the ledge and began drifting. 

Sure enough, I got that bite I needed. I was fighting this pig of a smallie who refused to jump.....until she got to the net. And there the crank went. 

I didn't get any more bites on that strip of rip-rap that faced into the current. We went back to the ledge, caught a few more.

That's when the wind showed up and I knew I didn't want to run back to McFarland when it got worse. In fact, it was bad enough as it was so we pulled up and headed upriver. 

I caught our fifth fish and biggest of the day while drifting down the Seven Mile Island rip rap. We never culled though we did continue to catch fish up until the point that the rollers grew from two feet to five feet in height. We decided to come in early as fighting the 30MPH sustained wind wasn't very fun. 

We didn't have enough for a check. In fact, it took 18 pounds to win, though the weights dropped dramatically. I was ounces out of third place with my 11 and change. I sure wish I knew what everyone else was doing.

But, in the end, me and dad had a great day and losing a little bit of cash.,.....a rod.....a reel.....a whole pack of Trokar hooks, 20 shaky heads and two letters off my boat, was well worth the trip! 

This is the face you make when dad slips and falls onto your rod and snaps it. I'm just glad he's ok. 

Monday, May 1, 2017

Fishing Report for Pickwick 4/29/2017

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I have several cliches that I could probably use to describe this past Saturday's tournament on Pickwick. I'll try not to do that because I don't believe in using cliches. 

Ok. So, I'll use one: "All things must come to an end." 

I was on a pretty solid streak of either earning a check or at least having a competitive day in tournaments. In addition, my wife was fishing this club tournament with my on Pickwick and we have done really, really well together. In fact, I don't think we have ever fished a club tournament and not gotten a check.

All of that ended. But don't feel bad for me. We caught a TON of fish, just not enough big ones. 

Maybe I should have prefished. That seems to me important to me. A lot of people are either just better fishermen than I or just luckier. 'Cause I just can't seem to be able to show up and catch fish. 

But, prefishing wasn't in the cards this week because the TVA has been running an asinine amount of current. In fact, they had requested that boaters stay off the water entirely. The water level was up several feet and there was a minimum of 130,000 CFS being pushed through Wilson dam. Due to concerns about flooding around McFarland, we moved our club tournament to Pride Landing. 

Sweet. That would save me some gas, I thought. 

My plan was to fish emerging grass as I had done last year which resulted in a very nice bag of fish for me and Alyse. You can read about that day by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Pickwick 6/18/16

But, I hadn't considering a few things. First, the fact that the water was four feet high would mean that there would be no topped out grass or even sub-surface grass. That wrecked my plans for throwing a chatterbait and a Bullshad. 

Second, that amount of current would likely sweep away any grass on the ledges. 

Last, the rising water would put a lot of new structure under the water, perfect for flipping bushes for largemouth.

But, no, I went to fish grass on the eldges. Mistake. 

That doesn't mean that we didn't catch anything. After my first two spots didn't pan out, Alyse recommended we fish some wind-swept rip-rap. In short order, she bagged a solid 3.75 pound largemouth and had another identical fish come unbuttoned. I managed just one short fish on a PowerTeam Lures 7" Tickler

We moved back up river to a similar wind-swept stretch of rip-rap. Alyse struck quickly with several short smallies on a Strike King Series 3 crank. After one pass, we had caught five or six fish but all were short. 

A second trip down repeated the same results and Alyse finally asked if I was marking any fish. We were sitting in between 18 and 20 feet and casting very, very shallow. I admitted that I hadn't even looked at the graph but that the amount of short fish told me that maybe we were catching fry guarders instead of the big mommas. 

So, I pushed the boat out a little bit and angled it so that I could throw a 6XD while she continued to throw the series three. This resulted in two measuring fish immediately. One was a very nice smallmouth and one was a measuring spot. 

Alyse and I continued to get hits but all the measuring fish we hooked for the rest of the day came unbuttoned. We continued this pattern all day hoping to finish out the limit as we thought it was a tough day for everyone and 12 pounds may win. In between the measuring fish were tons of short fish. We caught a lot of 14 inch fish that just didn't measure. There is no doubt we were on a pile of mixed largemouth, smallmouth, and spots. Just couldn't get the big ones to bit, even when I slowed down and threw a C-rig. 

In the end, we only had three measuring fish. That wasn't enough to be anywhere near the top and I believe I may have finished in dead last, something I am NOT used to doing. 

What was more surprising to me was that everyone else didn't seem to have nearly as tough a day as we did and I am not referring to fighting the current and the oppressive wind. I believe nearly every boat weighed in at least 12 pounds with the winner sacking up 17!  

Oh well. My wife caught her new personal best and we caught a lot of fish! I just wish I hadn't had to pay an entry fee to do it! 

In the end, I only blame myself as I made life as difficult as I could have possibly done. I decided to fish swift current and high wind because I didn't want to do what I believed everyone else was going to do. Truthfully, after failing to limit out quickly, I really should have gone shallow.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/22/2017

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It's been an odd, but good, two weeks on Wheeler. Let me's been a profitable two weeks on Wheeler. No, that's not right, either. Ok. So, in terms of TOURNAMENT FISHING, it's been a good two weeks, I guess?

Maybe I should just tell you how it how it's all come together to get me and Brad a second place finish last week and a first place finish this week, despite never really whacking the fish. 

Starting almost two weeks ago, Brad and I began prefshing for our two club tournaments. The smaller of the club would be first, so we already had one our mind that it was a "throw away" tournament. That is, if we won, great. If we lost, at least gather some useful info. 

Starting two years ago, Brad and I had found fish in practice, catching at least one fish over four pounds in each and every trip. In two or three trips, we would exceed 15 pounds, sometimes even hitting 20 pounds. Again, the key words were in practice. Come tournament day, the same thing happened essentially each time. We could catch fish, just no big bites. Most days, that meant a finish outside the money. One occasion, culling up ounces managed to cash a decent check. 

Just for fun, check out the previous two year's April tournaments. 

Fishing Report for Wheeler 4/23/16

Ok, so last Saturday, Brad and I cashed a second place check with big fish. We didn't really learn anything new, despite trying to build on the previous two years. What we did set in stone was that the big smallies were roaming shallow during the first 10 to 20 minutes of the day. We would catch fish on Strike King top water baits. The story of that day wasn't what we caught, but what we didn't. I had enough topwater bites in the first few minutes to have sacked up about 16 pounds of fish. I had three other fish on the hooks that were the same quality as the big fish, but I didn't get them in the boat.

But I didn't. You can read that report by clicking the link below.

I took solace in knowing that I had left the fish there for the bigger club tournament and I really felt like the first 20 minutes could be special.....if I fished clean. But what would we do after the sun came up? Our practice that week, including the previous two years of experience, had told us that the females went deep and the males stayed either shallow or hugged the main channel ledge. 

Ok, so for those of you wanting to know where were were need to really pay attention to that last three words. We were fishing main river points on the main river ledge, but only on one side of the river. Additionally, none of these were major creek points. 

We could essentially catch all the males we wanted to, including the occasional 15" smallmouth, spots, and largemouth. But there was no size among them. 

Knowing that, we spent the middle of last week venturing out and fishing different stuff including a mid-week trip to Ingall's in Decatur where we fished nothing but grass. The only thing to report was that I kicked my Samsung into the water at Ingall's, so if you find an S5 in a white case sitting on the bottom in nine feet of water, well, it's mine. 

Still, even without getting a bite in Decatur, we really felt that the winning bite would be in the grass, even if we managed to get some solid bites early on topwater on those points. That meant looking around Mallard Creek. I'm not claiming to be an expert at anything fishing related, but I will take my chances in grass, especially non-hydrilla, against anyone.

So, Friday afternoon, I rigged up for a combination of deep points and shallow grass. That meant one top water rod, one shakey head rod, and several heavy, fast action rods with braid. 

All that is well and good, but Mother Nature rules all. In this case, she gave us exactly 20 minutes of morning bite before a very nasty storm rolled through the area. Brad and I spent that 20 minutes as best we could and it gave us two of our five keepers on the day, including our big fish. But the entire time, both of us were looking west and our brains were never in the moment. So, the very thing I said I had to do, I didn't do. I didn't fish clean and that meant missing multiple keepers.

The storm brewed on top of us and we decided to run east to Mallard. However, the wind, rain, and rollers kept us from truly outrunning the storm and we found ourselves trapped in Mallard with the bridge in the back as our only shelter as lightening popped. As we hid under there, we ran into some fellow club members whom I consider the best team in the club. They were coming out of the back of the creek as we were coming in. We met under the bridge. They told us they had a limit fishing grass. 

So, when the weather cleared, we went at the grass ourselves, but after an hour of fishing swim jigs, spinnerbaits, and several other techniques, we hadn't a bite. We decided to run back down river to our deeper points.

That resulted in several short fish, a few lost opportunities, and one keeper. At noon, we decided we would take our chances back in the grass as using shakey heads with PowerTeam Lure's Sick Stick and 7" Tickler was not resulting in the bites we needed. 

The later hours of the tournament began creeping by and we still hadn't had a hit in the grass. I could not understand what the other guys were doing that we were not. We tried a multitude of tried and true techniques to get that grass bite, but nothing. 

What I hadn't tried was a frog. Silly, I know. But I also had been called silly for throwing top water on those points this early in the year and it had resulted in plenty of catches thus far. And, the truth is...I have been catching top water fish for over a month. It wasn't really about the top water aspect as much as it was where I could throw it. The swim jig and the spinnerbait couldn't reach the deep, dirty back of the bank where the flotsam and the cat tails resided. 

I chunked a Spro frog all the way to the bank, which seemed like it was 75 yards from where the boat floated. A fish boiled at it and knocked it side ways. I couldn't get it to come back for a repeat bite so I reeled it in, cast it all the way to the bank and slid it into the water when the fish swirled it. I waited until I couldn't see the frog, reeled down, and set the hook. But, I set the hook at the exact moment the fish jumped, leading to a five foot tail walk that ended with the frog coming back at me. In the meantime, the extra juice of the hookset added to her jump gave plenty of air time to see the five-plus pounder go flying back in the drink. 

It was now 1:15 and we had three fish, none over four pounds and a twenty five minute ride to the ramp that did not include the 15 extra minutes to troll out to where the depth was enough to run the big motor. We both kind of knew the score. That was probably it. Hey, I had accepted it. Like I said in February on Smith, it's entirely possible that you might not find fish, no matter how hard you prefish.

On the way out, Brad spotted something that caught his attention: a rip rap bank against the Mallard Creek channel. It wasn't that it looked that interesting, just that after miles of similar banks in Mallard, this one was unique. Being unique was something that we had discussed all afternoon, or rather the lack of uniqueness in the area that may lead to a pile of fish. 

So, as we trolled by, the two of us picked up worms and began probing the bank. My first fast resulted in a very small keeper, but it was number five. Seconds later, Brad noticed his line running to the side and attempted to set the hook on a fish, but the three pounder threw the worm. That was really just perfect, I thought. In the last hour of a very tough day, I had lost a five and he had lost a three that likely would win the tournament. 

Keep your head down. Make another cast. 

As the worm dropped vertically, I found a collection of rocks at the bottom of the creek channel. A fish pecked it. Pecked it again. Then picked it up. I set the hook and fought the fish, which jumped and tail walked, but I had a solid top-of-the-mouth hookset. Brad netted the solid three pound chunk. 

With half my 5" Sick Stick hanging by a thread, I tossed the fish in the box and tossed the worm right back out to the exact same spot.

It was 1:33 when I made that last cast and only two hops of the shakey head into that cast when another fish picked up the bait. I slammed back the 6'6" medium rod and worked another three pound chunk aboard. We threw down our rods, threw the smallest fish back in the drink and hammered down on the Mercury. 

It wasn't a winning sack, it  was barely 10 pounds, but we didn't care. We went from the dumps to a respectable finish, something we could smile about in the weigh-in line. Who knows? Maybe it would get third? 

And, wouldn't you know, was enough to win!