Monday, March 20, 2017

Fishing Report for Wilson 3/16-18/17

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As Brad and I pulled out of lock six ramp and headed towards highway 72, I broke the silence and said what we were both thinking. 

"Just because we prefished two days doesn't guarentee that we would find fish. There is a very real possibility that we are just going into tomorrow with no legitimate chance to do well." 

Let's back up about 24 hours. 

I was certainly feeling a lot of pressure, going into this tournament. Wilson has, for some reason, been the lake I have done the most damage upon. Brad and I have cashed three checks including two outright wins in the last five tournaments we have fished on Wilson. In addition. I have won (or placed) in countless tournaments on Wilson over the last few years with various other partners. Now, factor in the tournament we fished on Smith that equated to a second place finish, we felt like we HAD to continue the momentum though we both agreed that the odds of continuing that success was against us.

I had just gotten back from being in Florida on business on Wednesday afternoon. Brad and I were headed to Wilson early Thursday morning. Though we had fished the previous Friday, a lot had changed, notably several days of freezing weather. We knew we needed to relearn the lake. 

We began fishing some of our down river smallmouth holes. With the trends in the weather, we both felt like that fish had pulled up shallow with the 70s the previous week though the cold snap would likely push them back to the first contour break. Throwing a combination of moving baits such as the Alabama rig, cranks, and swim jigs but to no avail. We hit a variety of points and shallow pockets as well as bluffs. In the past years, we have always found smallmouth in some of these places. Nothing.

On a whim, we headed into Shoals Creek and stopped to fish some grass, thinking maybe the largemouth would still be shallow. Indeed, some were. I boated this nice one on a chatterbait with a PowerTeam Lure's grub before Brad bagged a nice keeper on the A-Rig. 

We left that stretch of grass and headed deeper into the creek to find more. When that turned out to be a bust, we checked the grass on the way out. It produced another fish on the 'rig while a fellow fisherman boated one on the same stretch. We quickly moved.

We headed to the dam where we thought we could find some smallmouth. TVA was pulling 50,000 CFS and had the number 11 and number 9 generators running. Looking at the dam, that would be the left-most turbine (11) and one just two to the right (9). Based upon our success, this pushed the current a bit too far to the left for where the most productive areas had been for us. We initially fished the eddy line before deciding to fan cast the slack areas adjacent to the eddy line. This produced two very solid fish, one a five pound largemouth and this smallmouth, which I caught on my custom AKRods cranking rod and a Jackall crank. 

We called it a day before we turned around the next morning to try it again. We tried to build on what we had found the day before by eliminating water. We couldn't get anything to bite anywhere except at the dam, which only produced drum. Still, we have learned that catching drum means that you are typically are around bass. It was a tough day that lead us wondering if we would have any luck in the morning. 

Our game plan on Saturday was to hit the grass early. I had told Brad that I believed that the slight warming trend on Friday and early Saturday might turn the largemouth on, so I was going to start out with a buzzbait with a PTL Swinging Hammer. Brad initially thought I was joking until we pulled up on the first spot and I made my first cast. That first cast provided a keeper. I thought I had called my shots and we might actually be on some fish.

Alas, we hit the grass thoroughly and didn't get another bite. We jetted down river just to check some of our favorite spots. The first was a bust and the second produced two fish, one a largemouth and one a smallmouth, neither over three pounds. Both were caught on the same Jackall crank.

Eventually, we moved on to our planned destination: the dam. We knew there were quality fish at the dam and we may only get two bites, but that's all we needed. As we arrived, we saw that TVA had indeed held the current to the predicted 19,000 CFS. This time, instead of one of the preferred left hand generators, one of the right hand ones was flowing water. All of this resulted in a lot of slack water over the best rock piles. A very, very bad thing. We quickly gave up on it. 

And that was it for the day. We covered point after point and pocket after pocket. We went back to the grass time and time again. We even fished all new water. We chased birds and bait but none of it mattered. With shame, we headed to the dock knowing that our streak of luck had ended. 

It took just over 14 pounds including a 5.94 to win the tournament. Big fish was 6.01 and third place was just over 10 pounds including said 6-pounder. In all, the day was very, very tough for everyone and few weighed in limits. Still, the aggravation persisted for me, not because we lost, but because people who didn't prefish nearly as hard as we had, had done better than we had. In truth, not prefishing had kept some of the club from making any sort of judgment calls and it had worked out for some. For us, it meant a lot of sunk cost and a great amount of frustration

I suppose it is fitting that we had a tournament like this. As I had said, Wilson had been our source of two of our three checks last season and four of our last five in our larger club. After all of the accomplishment we felt on putting in the work on Smith and having it lead to a solid win, it was fitting that the same amount of work on a lake we exceed at fishing would shut us out. 

In the end, tournament fishing is always a learning process. In this case, we had firmly come to believe that, with enough work, we could win any tournament on any lake. The truth is, prefishing is no guarantee of success and hard work doesn't always translate to wins. Sometimes the fish get lockjaw. Sometimes people get that lucky bite. Sometimes you just lose. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Product Review of AKRods Custom Magnum Crankbait Rod

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Every fisherman in the world has different ideas on how a rod should feel and act. That's why the average bass fisherman owns dozens of different rods. What works for one fisherman won't work for the next. The issue is, when fishermen go shopping, they are all shopping for the exact same rods though each man is different. 

Take me, for example. I am a very short guy with fairly short arms. I love to throw crankbaits, specifically those deep diving plugs. The mass produced options that I could find that would give me the balance of castability, retrievability, and fish-fighting power were far and few in between. For years I had relied on the Wright & McGill Skeet Reese magnum cranking rod. It could certainly cast those big cranks but I had some issues with it, namely that the butt length was too long for a short armed guy, the rod had no accuracy, and the weight was ridiculously high. After even 30 minutes of casting, my forearm would be burning. Furthermore, if I could make the exact cast I needed and could find the fish, my side would be rubbed raw from the butt. And, of course, yellow and black aren't my colors, but I digress. 

I wanted something that had the length I needed to make long casts yet had a versatile loading profile to allow me to make accurate short casts on top of those long ledge busting ones. In addition, I wanted a handle and a butt that fit me, not the average guy. Most importantly, I wanted the weight to be trimmed way down. Also, a little customization never hurt anyone, right? 

I contacted Anthony at AKRods, whom I had bought several custom rods from in the past. While he had built me custom, hand built rods with quality components, I had never special ordered a rod built to my specification. I told him what I wanted, everything from the handle and butt length to the quality of the components I wanted to the very colors of the wrappings. A month later, my custom cranking rod arrived. 

Here are the specifics on the rod:
  • Mudhole MHX CB906 Crankbait blank
    • 7'6" | 10-17 lb. | 3/8 - 1 1/4 oz. | Mod-Fast Action | Medium-Heavy Power | 1 Piece | 5.5 Tip | 0.573 Butt | Slate Finish
  • Custom Orange and Blue wrappings
  • Custom orange and blue EVA grips
  • Fuji FCS reel seat
  • Fuji Alconite micro guides

The rod weighed in at just 4.3 ounces, a ridiculously low weight for a rod meant for magnum crankbaits. I paired this with an Ardent Elite 5.3:1 reel. I was simply blown away with the low weight which made a day on the water a lot easier, especially for someone who relies on big cranks as much as I do. 

However, what I was truly blown away with was the loading of the rod. Unlike some of the other magnum cranking rods which would not load up unless you really heaved them, which made short accurate casting impossible, this rod would easily load for short, precise casts. Being able to roll cast to laydowns on bluff walls from 10 yards away was just as important as casting all of the line out to cover a ledge for me and this rod did that perfectly. 

When it came to needing to make those long casts, I didn't have to really exert a lot of force to make the rod load up, which is particularly important when casting into the wind. That prevented me from having the bird's nest or the associated snapping off of those expensive cranks. I could easily make those long casts thanks to the ease of loading of the rod. 

That didn't come at a cost to fish fighting, either. I really put this rod through its paces in its first tournament. Our biggest fish of the day came off this rod including some nice magnum spots on Smith Lake. 

Obviously the customization is important to most people, whether that is color matching it to your boat or to your own body, but the ability to have high end components shouldn't be overlooked, nor should the benefits of a hand-built rod be ignored. For example, each hand-built rod has its spine identified, marked, and incorporated so that it  maximizes its internal strength. 

I am incredibly happy with this rod and the fact that it is customized to my demands makes it even better. It isn't a $75 rod that you went to your local sports store and bought. This is a $300 dollar rod that took a month to build and, as such, I received a far, far superior product than I could go to any store and purchase. I am typically a very cheap guy, but these rods, which have specific uses, are worth every penny. 

Not only do I highly recommend AKRods, but I would highly recommend this particular rods as good crankbait rods are all but impossible to find. Contact me for more information at 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 2/18/17

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Whew. I know a lot of you don't like really long articles and while I do plan on writing a documentary on this weekend and the prefishing that led up to it, I figured I'd write a more streamlined fishing report. 

A few months ago, our club president sent out the 2017 schedule. Unlike past years, we wouldn't be starting on Guntersville. We would be starting on Lewis Smith lake due to the decline of Guntersville

Talk about a change of scenery! Everything about Smith is virtually the opposite of Guntersville from the depth to the type of fish we would be targeting. One thing was for certain: come February, there would be good days and there would be tough days. Could we find fish and would they be active, considering the volatile weather we typically have this time of year.

Since I had fished Smith lake just one other time, back in the fall of 2015, we figured it would be best if we put some serious hours on the lake.  So, though Josh and I would be competing against each other in the tournament, it was best if we teamed up, considering we hadn't seen the lake. Therefore, we hit the lake up mid-way through January. You can read the report by clicking on the link below.

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 1/16/17

It wasn't a great day, but we had a decent little limit though we didn't find any real pattern. We fished within two miles of the Smith Lake Park ramp and all the fish came off of completely different lures, covers, and depths.

Brad and I took a day off two weeks later. This time, we put in at the dam so as to cover more sections of the lake. You can read that report by clicking the link below.

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 1/28/17

After a morning without a bite, we covered miles of water scanning with our electronics. On a lake where the blue back herring are supposed to school up (along with the spotted bass who feed on them) all we found was miles and miles of gin colored water. Eventually, we did stumble into water with some color. Though it didn't provide any fish, we did make a note of the rarity of the stained water.

A week later we checked back in at the park and made another day of scanning. We covered even more water but a single fish was all we caught. We were beginning to get frustrated. 

Fast forward a few weeks. It was Thursday the 16th and it was tournament week. In the three previous trips, we had caught less than 10 fish and none of them over the slot limit.

Brad and I put in at the park again. Thanks to some intel we had received, we were going to spend the entire day looking for exactly one things: shallow cuts, coves, and slews with stained water. We had to cover a lot of water, but eventually we found the first area that matched what we were looking for. In this case, it was actually two shallow cuts, so there were three points. The area was in the shape of a "W."

After days without consistent bites, Brad quickly had two bites and I had one. We didn't hammer on the fish, letting them pick the bait up and run with it before shaking them loose. Both of us were using some sort of bait on a shakey head. In my case, a green pumpkin PTL 5" Sick Stick. Going down the points, I began casting a PTL Swinging Hammer swimbait on wood and picked up a solid largemouth. 

We quickly left and pulled up on similar cut. A few casts and we had two fish in the boat. We moved to another slew and I made a single cast with a Strike King 5XD on my new custom AKRods cranking stick. One cast is all it took and we boated our nicest fish of the day.

We spent the afternoon looking for more spots similar but we couldn't find any good stain. We put it on the trailer having only put three fish in the boat, but thinking we might have begun to get on a pattern. After all, we had more bites in 30 minutes in those few spots than on all the other trips combined. 

There was only one place that I really hadn't covered yet and that was the Sipsy River, which was on the far end of the lake from the ramp we would be using. Still, I felt like I had to make sure we weren't missing anything so I called up John, who fishes the area a good bit. We agreed to turn it around the next morning and hit it.

24 hours later, I had marked the Sipsy off the list. More importantly, I had now covered virtually every creek and river on Smith and had found exactly one area that seemed to have biting fish. 

Now came the hard part: the 12 hours before the first tournament of the year, knowing that I hadn't caught a ton of fish and that I could likely strike out again. Though there was the possibility that we had found fish, there was also the possibility that Smith lake could be Smith lake, as many had said. That is, it could change on us in 24 hours. 

That night, I sat in the shower for 45 minutes trying to convince myself that we had a shot. After all, we aren't that bad of fishermen and we had put in some serious work at least eliminating water. 

3:30 AM came early and  I was off to Brad's. 30 minutes later and we were headed to the park. At 6:15, we were off and running, making a 2 mile run to where we had located water with all the attributes we needed. All we needed was the fish to bite, if they were still there. 

We found the water was a good bit clearer than it had been 24 hours before but still had some decent stain. Surprisingly, we saw schooling fish for the fish time in all of our prefishing as the rain began to drizzle. After a few casts with an underspin and a PTL grub, I picked up the AKRods custom cranking stick and began casting it to the center of the pocket. 

It took two casts before the rod loaded up. This was no spot under the slot limit. This was a big fish. The fish rolled on its side about 20 yards from the boat and both our hearts began pounding. It was both the quickest and biggest bite we had had in all of our prefishing. With a superb net job, Brad lifted a chunk of a fish into the boat. It wasn't a 5-pounder, but it was a solid 3, which was a perfectly fine start. 

A few casts later and I boated another over the slot keeper on the 5XD. Brad missed a fish that had picked up the shakey head and run with it. I had a fish pull off the 5XD before picking up the shakey head with the sick stick and having it also pull off. However, we were relatively certain that both fish would have been in the slot. 

The rain stopped and so did the bites. Occasionally, a fish would pick up the shakey heads. These fish weren't thumping it. Instead, the bait would either simply lose contact with the bottom or the line would get heavy. 

We moved out to the first point. Brad broke off a fish and as he retied, I took the trolling motor. Sitting in 25 feet of water, I began to mark fish on the depth finder right under the boat. So, I would play the shakey head all the way to the boat. In back to back casts, I would vertically jig the bait and it would get heavy. I would set the hook and swing aboard a nice spot. 

We had 4 over the slot fish now and we felt like we were in great shape. The sun got up and we entered a four hour dry period. 

That doesn't mean we didn't catch anything because we did. Eventually we did boat a fifth keeper, two unders and two slots. But, we had a 15.25 inch fish we wanted to get rid of. 

Around noon, we began to get a lot of bites as we fished both sides of each of the three points. The issue was that the fish were picking the baits up and quickly dropping them. We began catching them after adding a combination of chartreuse dye and PTL Hog Tonic. After catching a few buck bass, we sat down to eat lunch and talk.

We came to the conclusion that we were catching the males. These fish were very pale even though we were catching them shallow. Based upon this, we figured that the spawn was beginning and the males were making beds.

With an hour left, we decided to move off of the points to the first big drop where we thought the females were holding. 

After several good thumps, which we hadn't had all day, Brad hooked up with a beautiful spot, culling the smallest fish. This gave us a solid 12 pounds with one more small-ish fish in the livewell. 

With 30 minutes to go, a fish thumped my shakey head. I set the hook and slow played a nice largemouth aboard. 

We culled the smaller fish and headed to the ramp. 

As we put the fish in the bags, we had several people come over and talk to us. Both of us were fairly distracted and when Brad asked me if there were five fish in the bag, I made the assumption he was worried about having too few fish. But, I fished around in the bag and touched five fish, so we were all good.

At the weigh in, we weighed in our big fish which wasn't big enough to take home that check, so we began to toss in the rest of the fish. After we got five fish in the basket, I looked down and saw that there was another fish still in our bag. And, worst of all, it was one of the better fish. So, we were forced to weigh in one of our smaller fish. 

Luckily, it didn't really cost us. We weighed in 12.5 pounds with the smaller fish, which was good enough for 2nd place, about two pounds off the 14.5 pounds it took for the win . In all, we caught around 15 fish, which was double the amount of fish we caught in all of our prefishing. It was the prefishing on Thursday that put us on the fish, even though it wasn't much. 

Monday, January 30, 2017

Product Review for Masterbuilt 40" Electric Smoker

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Masterbuilt 40-inch Digital Electric Smoker with Window

For my birthday and Christmas my dad bought me this Masterbuilt 40-inch electric smoker from Academy. At the time, it was on sale for $249, though it is now listed for $299.

I wanted an electric smoker because, well, sometimes I like to be lazy. I love smoking with charcoal, don't get me wrong. But, especially in late November and December, getting out of bed at 5AM and walking to the shop isn't fun. Additionally, dealing with wind and low temps are aggravating. So, I wanted to have the option to set it and forget it.

It took about 30 minutes to set up and I was pleased with the ease of operation. Set the temp, set the time, add water and wood chips and walk away. You can even use the bluetooth to monitor the situation from your phone. I particularly liked the meat thermometer.

That's when things fell apart.

  • The Bluetooth has a range of about 15 yards, if that. Which means it is virtually useless. 
  • I don't like how small the grease trap is. It's ok for one butt and maybe a few smaller items, but multiple fatty meats would overwhelm it. 
  • I don't like how small of a wood chip compartment is. Now, it is nice to be able to add without opening the main door, but I don't always use small chips. Sometimes I like to use chunks. 
  • After three weeks and about five uses, it died.
I went out one day to smoke some meat for dinner. As I set the temp and time, the digital readout said the internal temp was 310 degrees. Obviously that was incorrect and I noticed that the heater wouldn't turn on. I turned it off and even unplugged it. Eventually, I did some research and found the truth: the controller on these units is renowned to fail and it is a complete and irreversible failure.

According to several websites and forums, the venders such as Academy and Sam's have known about this issue, which stems from a cheap controller their sourced from overseas. Instead of pulling them off the shelf, the vendors had decided to sell the remaining stock, forcing buyers to bring them back.

Another option was for the buyer to contact Masterbuilt directly. However, Masterbuilt's solution was to send repair parts. These repair parts were not modular and repair apparently meant disassembly of the controller including the power cord and resoldering it. In some cases, this had caused some electrical fires, for which Masterbuilt would not be responsible. In addition, it might take weeks or months to receive the repair parts.

Owners were encouraged to simply return them and get their money back, if they had the receipts. Because mine was so new, that wasn't an issue. Since Academy didn't have a replacement (at the time, other than another 40-inch unit), my dad simply got a refund. I took the refund and bought the 30-inch version from Academy. Soon as I have a more complete picture of how it works, I will let you know.

Until then, this unit is one that should be avoided. I know of many people who have it and have not had any issues with it, but it DOES have a high failure rate which will likely leave you stranded.

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 1/28/17

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Things weren't so good on our last trip to Smith lake. You can read about that fishing trip by clicking the link below.

To be honest, between our grand total of 6 fish on 6 total bites all day and the information that we gathered from others, it sounded like the first trip to Smith was a combination of the wrong end of the lake and the wrong type of weather. Sure, the weather was horrible: high skies and post frontal. The water temp was in the mid-40s and the lake was at the 498 foot elevation. Still, we had a limit and, all things considered, it wasn't a BAD limit. 

So, Brad and I decided to get out and keep learning the lake. This time, we would put in at the dam instead of Smith Lake park. Though the weather looked to be against us (again) the water elevation had improved drastically. It was up to the 504 foot elevation, which meant that some of the rip-rap and laydowns would be in the water.

Furthermore, we had watched some videos on fishing Smith this time of year, ranging form Tim Horton Outdoors to coverage from the 2015 FLW tournament. We thought we could figure it out and we believed it started with finding the bait.

So, we started scanning. We scanned and we scanned and we scanned some more. We found a grand total of two bait balls. It was so bad that we began to wonder if we were reading the Lowrance units incorrectly. We swapped between the 800kHz and the the lower frequency transducer (435kHz?) trying to get a combination of penetration and resolution. Still, we went from point to point and bluff to bluff. Nothing. 

We covered who creeks with a combination of jigs, crankbaits, and shakey heads. We didn't get a bite. We never felt like we were around fish, which seemed impossible because we scanned and scanned to the point we began to wonder if there were any fish in the entire lake. 

It really isn't a good feeling when you have a tournament coming up and you can't muster bites on multiple days of prefishing. 

But, hey, that's fishing, right? 

Wednesday, January 18, 2017

The Decline of Guntersville Lake

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If you read this blog, you probably have read about my frustrations with Guntersville lake. Over the last three years, the lake named "Best Bass Fishing Lake in America" multiple times has continually toughened for me. Now, if this is your first time reading my blog, then you may not be too familiar with me, so allow me to give a brief explanation on things. I am not a guide. I am not a professional. I am not paid by anyone to fish anywhere or with anything. In fact, I make no money of any kind through my writing. This blog is an honest account of my experiences in all things outdoors, especially bass fishing. 

With that said, I am decent bass fisherman fisherman and an above average tournament fisherman at best, though I recognize that I refrain from larger tournaments. I would not rank myself above anyone or try to persuade anyone of anything different. 

With all of that said, I woke up and decided that simply saying that "Guntersville has declined" isn't quite an acceptable statement without evidence. After all, for all the times that I have written about my struggles, there are guides who claim the lake is as good as ever. Now, you as a reader have to understand that I fish ten lakes a year so when the lake is tough, I just go elsewhere. 

Conversely, there are a lot of guides and local fishermen that ONLY fish the Big G and make their living on this lake. It behooves them to fish Guntersville almost exclusively as they have too much invested to do anything else. Additionally, the economic impact on Guntersville and Scottsboro are massive. According to a paper written and published by Auburn University in 2013, the expenses for tournaments anglers were estimated to exceed $4.6 Million dollars for the 272 tournaments for which data was recorded. Adding in local fishermen, that impact increases to $6.7 Million. That's an estimated $667 per trip and $225 a day impact.

This amount of economic impacts (which is probably greatly under-estimated, gauging by the tournaments surveyed) make it obvious that those supported by the fishing economy of Guntersville would do most anything to keep fishermen on the lake, despite a possible decline in fishing experience. Guides, in particular, have done much in the way of exaggerating success on the lake though there are some specific ones who are more interested in conservation than making money.

In addition, bigger tournaments who have brought the finest fishermen from all over the country continue to find great success on the lake, causing many recreational fishermen to have a skewed idea of the lake. These fishermen look at the leader board and judge the lake by the very top of the list and not the middle and lower end, which is where their skill set most likely resides. 

For example, the Alabama Bass Trail is a very good blend of expert tournament anglers as well as local fishermen. Looking at the top of the board, you see that winning weights were almost 27 pounds, down over two pounds from the 2015 weights. However, skipping to 10th place shows that it took less than 20 pounds. ABT pays out to 40th place, which took just over 14 pounds to cash that check. Over half of the 152 boats failed to break ten pounds and almost 100 of the 152 boats failed to weigh a limit, which exceeded the 75 boats who didn't weigh a fish in 2015, per AL.comConversely, the ABT tournament on Pickwick a month later took 22 pounds, a full five pounds less to win, but the weight for 40th was within a pound and a half of Guntersville. Less than 50 boats failed to weigh in a limit. 

Moving on to my personal experiences, I took a look at my Fish of 2014, Fish of 2015, and Fish of 2016 pages and drew up some conclusions. In 2014, I caught a total of 28 fish on Guntersville on a minimum of four trips. That represented about a quarter of my fish caught in 2014. Conversely, I caught 34 fish on Wheeler despite taking the same or less number of trips. Yet, my best bags and biggest fish came on Guntersville.  In 2015, I caught 26 of my 138 bass on Guntersville on a minimum of five trips. Of the largemouth, smallmouth, and spots, the best bags and biggest fish all came from lakes not Guntersville. In 2016, 19 of my 283 bass were caught on Guntersville on a minimum of six trips. As in 2015, none of my biggest fish or five fish limits were on Guntersville. Surprisingly enough, the best days came on Wilson, which you can read about in the links below:

Fishing Report for Wilson Lake 9/24-10/1

In summation, each year since 2014, Guntersville has produced fewer and smaller fish per trip. It is the only lake to both shut me out with zero fish in both multiple trips per year AND consecutive trips on the lake. Yet, it remains the site of my biggest five fish limits both fun fishing and tournament fishing as well as my largest bass I've ever caught. Still, it has to be recognized that all of these highlights came from before 2013. In truth, I haven't caught a sack over 20 pounds in three years nor a fish over five pounds on the lake famous for both. Lastly, the frog and ledge season, so famous on the G, have been absolutely non-existent for myself and most everyone I know. 

Since I am just one fisherman, I pulled in all the data from the two fishing clubs with whom I fish. One is a larger club that averages 15 boats per tournament and features around five boats who fish local BFL and ABT tournaments with success. The other is pretty much the opposite, but it makes for some data normalization. The data reported from the 2013-2016 seasons. 

In the percent of boats who weighed in limits, Pickwick led the way with 45% of tournament boats weighing in limits. Wheeler followed with 40%, Wilson with 39%, and finally Guntersville with a 30% mark. Of the 59 tournaments, there were only three tournaments where there were no limits weighed. Two of those were on Guntersville. Interestingly enough, if the smaller club, which features around six boats per tournament is eliminated, Guntersville average is still 30%, but Wheeler stands at 48%, Wilson at 49% and Pickwick and amazing 73% of boats weigh in limits. 

The average winning weight and big bass on Guntersville is a 17.7 winning sack and 6.62 pound big bass average. Pickwick, Wheeler and Wilson checked in at 15/4.7, 16/5, and 13/4.7, respectively. 

In other words, it does take bigger fish to win on the G. However, Guntersville has slipped from requiring a bass over eight pounds in 2014 to over six pounds in 2015 to right at five-and-a-half pounds in 2016. While the data shows that Guntersville has had the larger bass, the window between the Big G and the other Tennessee River lakes has closed. In the 2015 -2016 seasons, Guntersville produced six big fish over six pounds. Wheeler produced three and Wilson two. Overall, the current average is nearly identical between each and every lake and the spread between the four lakes is less than 0.4 of a pound. 

Guntersville does have one thing the other lakes do not have: 10 pound (or larger) bass. It is the only lake to produce a fish over eight pounds. Yet, eliminating that ten pound fish, the big fish average drops to 6.3 pounds which is less than a pound from Wheeler or Wilson's average. And, Pickwick, Wilson, and even Wheeler offer something that Guntersville does not: smallmouth. Wilson and Pickwick in particular are targeted almost exclusively for smallmouth during tournaments and often provides trophy smallmouth that exceed six pounds. 

In other words, local clubs are representative of what is seen in larger tournaments: Guntersville continues to have the bigger fish and heavier tournament weights, but only at the very, very top. However, further analysis shows the true trend: winning weight averages have declined drastically in consecutive years. After an uptick in 2014 from 20.25 pounds to 23 pounds, winning weights plummeted to 19.34 in 2015 to 14.9 in 2016. That's nearly five pounds per year. 

Conversely, averages on Pickwick have increased each year as has Wilson (with a very slight decline from 18 to 17 between 2015 to 2016). Wheeler has not been quite as stable, fluctuating each year.

In summation, nearly all the data points to one thing: there has been a three year slump for Guntersville, based upon the data I have collected. In truth, the lake hasn't been the same since around 2010. Why is the lake so stubborn? Many have speculated that it could be anything from natural trends to fishing pressure to the killing of aquatic vegetation. In truth, it could be any, all, or none of these. Yet, the fact remains that the lake has been impossibly hard for nearly everyone not at the very top of the game. While it behooves locals to avoid Guntersville and move on to other lakes, the word hasn't spread to out-of-towners, who continue to visit from thousands of miles away. While the economy can surely use their money, it would possibly save a lot of heartburn to try the other lakes on the Tennessee River. In the meantime, perhaps the rest will allow the Big G to return to what she was: the site of 30 + pound bags and 12+ pound fish.

Thanks for the read and make sure to share!

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Fishing Report for Smith Lake 1/16/17

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So, maybe I should have used my trip on Saturday to have started prefishing Smith. I mean, it couldn't have gone much worse. Alyse and I fished half a day without a single bass bite. Drifting current and bluffs, we weren't even able to catch trash fish. Oh well, what's done is done. Here's that report, if you don't believe me. 

So, we got a group trip to Smith this past Martin Luther King day. In all, three boats fished together in hopes of figuring out a pattern. It was Josh and I's second time to be on the lake, though my friend and fishing partner John has fished it quite a bit. And, to be fair, John warned us....

I believe his exact words were "Smith lake can humble most any man."

Nonsense. Buffoonery. Josh and I were on the case. We'd solve this lake, forthwith. 


Ok. So maybe not. 

We put in at Smith Lake Park and decided we wouldn't fish anything that he and our friend Anthony of AKRods (who makes all of our custom rods) had fished the day before. Oh, that might have been a bit of useful information....Josh and Anthony fished Sunday and caught two fish. Still, I figured we could build on their lack of success. The only thing they had found was that the fish they caught were on big chunk rock banks. So, Josh and I got on the first chunk rock bank and went to town.

We covered nearly 100 yards before I finally had our first bite. It came when I hit the breaks on a Luhr-Jenson speed trap. At least it was a solid spot! 

We fished the remainder of the bank, ran to another, and fished the length of it before I caught a second fish on a Spro Little John MD in sexy.

Another move and another rock bank produced a third. 

At around 11 we decided that we were going about this all wrong. So, we put the rods down and began scanning for fish. Not only did we not find fish, we really didn't find bait. It was so bad that I began to suspect that I didn't have the right transducer or sensitivity. But, with a little playing around, I was certain that it wasn't the units. There just weren't any fish. We scanned offshore structure and would find some fish, but they would be sitting on the bottom in 35-40 feet of water without any bait. 

Then another problem presented itself: my motor began overheating while idling but would cool off when running. 

That nixed idling. The wind began to build and we found ourselves hoping around, trying a bit of everything at this point but not getting any bites. We skipped docks. We flipped laydowns. We A-rigged bluffs. It was then that John came by and announced they were going home, having caught only one fish. 

The other boat we were associated with caught zero fish.

We ran a set of bluffs before the ramp and managed to catch fish four and five, one on a dropshot and one on a jig. Mine came on a PTL Bull Nose Jig with a Craw 'D while casting on a AKRods custom jig rod. 

In all, we had just five fish for around seven pounds before heading to the local tackle shop. There were several locals who had fished and we caught as many or more than every one we talked to. That isn't a humble brag but just statement on how bad the day is. 

And, if it couldn't get any worse, a blowout on interstate 65 took the cake. But, you know, we've played this game before. We limped into Athens and went to Clem's Tire, who hooked me up with two new tires to replace the blow out and the leaky one (which had a 3" bolt through it....)

Anyways, we PROBABLY will avoid fishing that area again, but I can't see how it will be any different elsewhere. The lake is down about eight feet and you are very, very limited on options. 

Oh, really the worst thing was Josh eating a Sonic double burger and tots in front of me, since I am on this diet.