Friday, July 27, 2012

MFC Tournament on Wilson Lake 7/20/12

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Night tournaments. Some people love them. Most people hate them. While I have tremendoust success in night tournaments, I have RARELY caught fish after dark. In fact, in the 4 or 5 night tournaments I have fished, I bet I have caught 4 or 5 fish after dark.

So, what does that mean? Well, that means that I average about 6 hours of doing nothing but sitting in a boat with another dude, in the dark. And since I don't have any romantic involvement with them, it makes for a long night...haha!

Josh couldn't fish with me because he was working Saturday morning following the tournament, so I began to pole other boating partners because I just didn't want to get the old Stratos out and rely on it. Especially after dark.

Alas, that's exactly what it came down to. So, I called up someone I should have called right off. I called Ole' Bertus, one of my "best good friends" as my fellow Alabama Native Forrest Gump would say. Bertus agreed to fish with me.

So, we met up Friday, grabbed a bite to eat, and headed to Lock 6. Got out and waited for the club to arrive and meanwhile, setup our rods. I got out the culling beam and the net and immediatly noticed that the net was SCREWED. So, rather than it become a hinderance, I tossed it.

Now, some of you may recall that my wife's aunt has just bought a lake house on Wilson. I had fished there back on July 4th and found fish on a few good spots in Shoals Creek. Namely, one that I had caught fish on last year with Josh.

Come blast off, I looked around and only one other boat was headed down lake. So, I figured the likeliehood of this boat running to the same place were slim considering we had 1/4 of the lake in front of us. But, as I turned into Shoals Creek, the boat followed. And then it was a race. Of course, it wasn't one that I could win the the Stratos. The Bullet would have been ok against a rigged out Skeeter with a 250. Not the old heavy Stratos with the 150. So, he passed me, made it to the 72 bridge, and sped off.

At this point, I conceeded that they were going exactly where I wanted to go.....grasslines on a main creek point. Second bend of Shoals Creek.

However, Bertus and I had discussed this earlier. Our strategy was to run to that grassline and catch a small limit. I knew there were lots of fish there because I had caught them two week ago. But there were no big fish. I probably caught 20 small fish with maybe 5 of them measuring in the hour that I fished it. After we caught our limit, we would motor back to the point where I had caught bigger fish. It was a decent strategy, I thought. But now we had to strategize a little more. I believe my hero Early Cuyler would call it sit-you-i-a-shun-all stratification. If you don't know...don't look it up. LOL! See, every time I fish this one point, I see other fishermen fishing it. But they fish were common sense would tell you to fish. And yet, while there are fish there, the bug wad of fish is about 100 yards away. I had found them by accident last year because wind blew me off the main point and onto submerged boulders in 20 feet of water. So, I wasn't really wanting anyone to see where we were fishing and it would be dark soon. We followed the other boat. Naturally, they stepped on the brakes exactly where I wanted to fish. We stopped short of them and fished.

We didn't give it long. The whole point had been to catch a QUICK limit. 20 minutes without a bite isn't quick. So, we EASED on out and headed down creek.

Naturally, a boat was parked exactly where I said it would be parked....about 100 yards from where I wanted to be. We were concerned that we may be viewed as "cutting them off", but we asked and they didn't mind. I am sure it raised some eyebrows where we asked to fish a spot about the size of a VW beetle and that they could fish on either side of us.

It took us a few minutes to get the exact boat location. We were about 20 yards off the shore casting across a point into the slew channel. I was throwing a Spro Little Jon DD in chartreuse while Bertus threw a C-rig.

 First or second cast into it, something broadsided the crank and ran straight at me. I couldn't get in front of it and it shook off. Never saw it. Next cast, some thing...except she stuck. I knew it was a chunk right off. No question. Bertus jumped off the trolling motor (I hate running the trolling motor), looking for the net. It was then I told him I didn't have one and had JUST trashed mine. We weren't really sweating it until it jumped. It was a smallie. A big one. HUGE one. 4+. And I had to swing it. But, she made it in the boat and boy were we stoked. A fish like that would be tough to beat for "big fish". A smallie like that was probably big enough for "smallie of the year". In the livewell she went.

It was then that I noticed that the hooks were bent. Front AND back. Now, these aren't cheap hooks. Spro puts good hooks on their baits. I dug out my pliers and bent them back. Mostly because I didn't have any hooks that were that tough anyway, and Spro puts heavy duty D-rings on their baits.
Next cast, another one smashed it. Got it to the boat and as I lifted it, it shook loose. Deff a keeper, but not a huge fish. But it hurt none-the-less.

"Looks like we might have them fired up!" I made the comment. On cue, Bertus swung into a fish and boated another small mouth. About 2.5 pounds. 2 in the livewell. He hung up on the next cast and as he retrieved it, he graphed what I had told him was there. Big boulders with a lot of fish on them. Boy, did he get excited when he saw that on the Hummingbird! 

We scooted back out. Next cast I hooked into another fish. Big. Real big. In the class of the big smallie. He jumped a few times and I swung him in. a SOLID 4 pound largemouth. I retied but didn't check the hooks. And on the very next cast, another fish...same size...loaded up. As he got to the boat, he tail walked and tossed the Spro. I shrugged. It happens. About this time, Bertus asked me if I was hitting anything on the bottom. He asked because he had swapped to a Strike King 6XD in the same color but wasn't hitting anything.

Me, on the other hand, I was burning the bait down to depth and then crawling it through rocks. So, he did the "knell and reel". Paid off on the first cast as he boated another 4ish largemouth.
At the same time, I lost ANOTHER fish at the boat about the same size. I realized that the hooks were bent...again. So, I fixed them and went back to work.

In 20 minutes we had caught around 10-12 fish. We landed 7 of those with me having lost 2 of the bigger ones. With the exception of the small mouth Bertus caught, nothing was smaller than 3 pounds.

Now came the fun part. Keeping them alive. The Stratos has a very small livewell and I knew we had a lot of weight in there. Add in that most of these fish came out of 20 feet of water and you had trouble.

As night fell over the lake, the fishing fell off as well. Bites were hard to come by. I didn't catch another bass while Bertus did manage to boat several, including one keeper.

I'll save you the next 6 hours of boredom and get right to the results. We killed two fish. We did everything we could. No question.We managed to keep the smallie alive though.

We weighed in 17.5 pounds with a 4.73 pound small mouth and took 1st and big fish. That's a heck of a sack. Esp considering that we could have weighed in 20 pounds had I managed to boat the two I lost. They would have been bigger than the 2 smaller fish we weighed in for sure.

Friday, July 13, 2012

New updated picture!

Big thanks to my friend, Taco, for helping me update the look of the blog. I am not so savy with things like this, nor do I have the taste. But he does! looks great!

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Rocket Gobbler

The last few years have seen a boom in the wild turkey population in north Alabama. We have been seeing them at our homestead. But, every once in awhile, on the way in to work at NASA Marshal Space Flight Center, you catch one out and about.

Now, if you have ever hunted turkey, you know how strange they can be. Unlike deer, they don't run off at the first sign of humans. They just kind of mosey on off....

Anyway, driving down towards building 4200, on a little knoll, I spied these guys. I stopped and shot a few pictures of them. I wish I could have taken the picture from the other direction so that you could see the rocket motors about 50 yards away.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Wilson Lake 7/4/12

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Sometimes you just luck out. For example, I KNOW that I want a lake house. Wilson lake wouldn't be a bad spot. It's a fantastic boater lake and about as pretty as it gets. It's between two other great largemouth lakes too...Wheeler and Pickwick. Alas, I have no money. But, as luck would have it, Alyse's aunt and uncle just bought a lake house on Wilson!

So, for the 4th, we planned on heading up there. Now, I believe that if you are hauling a boat 1.5 hours one way, you better get all the fishing that you can. Gas ain't cheap! But, waking up at 330 and getting all the kids and my wife up to go fishing just wasn't practical. So, we decided to take our time and get up there when we could. We left the house around 8 and got to the launch on Shoals Creek around 930. Alyse took the Yukon and the baby on to the lake house and the older kids and I planned on running to our Aunt's dock. But, as we crossed over the 72 bridge at Shoals Creek, we were waved down by two guys. They had taken a boat out for the first time in a few years and, wouldn't you know it, water pump wasn't working and they had overheated. They needed a tow. So, not having much else to do, I said I would help. Towed them about a mile into the back of Shoals Creek. They graciously offered cash or food. I didn't care for the former and ALMOST took them up on the latter, but having the two kids with me, I decided not to.

It took me a few minutes, but I found Sissy's place and tied up. Aubree immediately went to swimming and even decided to jump off the top of the dock!

I picked up a shakey head and went to tossing it around. The bream were biting like crazey. But, after a few minutes, one picked up the worm and took off with it! I snagged it, but it wrapped itself around a limb!
With a little paitents, I worked him in.

In the late afternoon, I took off to fish. I had found this spot in one of my two previous trips, though it hadn't produced. But, I knew it sure looked good!

I started out throwing a sammy, but no luck. Picked up a Spot Remover Pro shakey head in 1/4oz with Zoom finesse worm in brown.

It was windy and there was a lot of HUGE waves from the traffic. I couldn't feel anything with the shakey head, so I moved up close to the grass. Since Josh embarrassed me so bad last week with flipping, I decided to start practicing....with a shakey head. Call it, flippin' shakey. Or shakey flippin'. Whatever. And it paid off. Caught 3 or 4 fish and got them fired up. In fact, they started schooling around me pretty hard. But they wouldn't hit the Sammy that I threw at the schoolers. So, I went to a Strike Kind 3XD sexy Silent. Again, another solid move. Caught fish on 3 straight casts. When the schoolers died down, I went back to the shakey head. But no good fish.

So, I picked up and run back upriver to a spot that Josh and I caught fish on last year. It was within site of the 72 bridge on a main creek point. I alternated between the 3XD and a 6XD. Initially, I wasn't catching anything, so I started looking at the depth finder. I recalled there being rock piles in 15 feet, but this bottom was just mud. Fished it a few more minutes before I realized that I must not be on the right spot. Yet this was the main point on this stretch. There was a secondary point about 20 yards away, so I trolled over to it. Immediately I found out that I was mistaken on the points. This one had rock all over the bottom in 15 feet and the water stayed deep until right on top of the retaining wall of a lake house. Started catching them solid on this point will grinding my 6XD on the submerged rocks. I did get hung a couple of time, but my Jewel Bait Hound came through!
See my review here:

Paying off in spades!

Alas, it wasn't all peaches in creme. As the afternoon boaters raced by, the waves got so bad that I had to get of the deck and run the trolling motor by hand! One such time the waves caught me by surprise and I kicked a rod in the water....and down it went. Luckily it was a "cheaper" combo. You know, only 100 bucks. Sigh. I tell ya, I don't know anyone that looses more stuff than me!

Anyway, caught 20 fish in less than 2 hours and I left them biting. Can't wait for our club tournament in 2 weeks!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Humphrey Lake Repairs Part 1 6/30/12

Many of you know of, have read about, or have been to, my families private lake. It's nestled just off the Natchez Trace Parkway in Tennessee. Many of my greatest memories were made at this lake. Here are just a FEW pics that I have.
First, a little history on this lake. It was built on a piece of property from my maternal grandfather. It was made to be a congregational spot for our family and family friends. It's much more than just fishing. The days and nights sitting around a campfire with my family and friends is irreplaceable. I have gotten to know my cousins whom I might never had had anything in common with aside from this 12 acres of land. They could have been faceless people at the reunion, but have instead become pieces of my life. I have tried my best to make the aboslute most of this priceless piece of land. I have made it a staple of my childrens lives as best I can, to make them understand the value of land and the hard work of our forefathers. This place, in its way, has defined me.

This lake, at its peak, was about 20 feet deep at the valve. Most of the depth was around 6 feet. It is spring fed. Before repairs were attempted, there was a good amount of tree cover.

Over the last few years, the lake has had many problems. Water eroded the passage under the spillway which caused it to lower the level. There have been numerous leaks as well. It has been unable to maintain the level it once had which has greatly diminished the quality and quantity of fish in the lake. For example, shifting water level will wreck a baitfish spawn. If the baitfish cannot reproduce, then the bass have nothing to eat. I think it has also had an affect on the bass spawn. Fish seem to be harder and harder to catch. There were times, as a kid, where we would catch a hundred fish over a weekend. Now, a GOOD day would be a dozen.

I also believe that 40 years of silts and deposits have covered up the natural contour and cover that the fish used to have. Now there are only two stumps that I know of. I have tried to add cover as best I can with old tires and toilets, but it's too little too late, I am afraid.

The first repair was attempted 3 years ago. The lake was drained to a small pool in the deep end. A trackhoe was brought in. The trackhoe dug up rocks where we believed water was seeping through. To get the trackhoe in, all the trees on one side were bulldozed. A plastic layer was laid down and staked.

Initially, this fixed the problem. Fish production was up, though size was a different matter.

After one good year, the problems persisted. The level dropped again and the fishing suffered.

At the family reunion, the state of the lake and it's future was brought up. Problem number one is that not many family members use it. Which feeds problem number 2, which is that repairs cost money. A lot. Not only money, but time and lots of effort. Those that use it a lot don't have a lot of money. So, the burden has fallen on the shoulders of just a few people. Namely, my grandfather, my dad, and I. I don't have to tell you that money is tight for me....having 3 kids. But I am much better off than most of the family. Dad has already said he would help as much as he can. We have the help of a few of the cousins as well. So, we decided that instead of trying to repair the problems piecemeal, we would drain it entirely and try a ground up approach.

Naturally, there is risk associated with this. The fish are a lost cause. It will cost around 3-5 thousand dollars. And it may not fix it. But it's better to have a quick death and try to fix it than for it to die a slow ugly death from either doing nothing or botched repairs.

So, the syphoning began on Thursday a week ago. On Sunday, dad and I went up to the lake to check on it. The syphon had been interrupted, so we had the decision to either wait until we had the proper tools, or try and start it ourselves.  This meant filling the syphon by hand in order to start the gravity feed. According to my envelope calculations, that was 450 gallons. 90-100 5-gallon hand. To our great fortune, our cousin Craig showed up and was able to borrow a pump. Naturally the hose from the pump to the syphon was too short. We had 1 NASA rocket scientist, 1 NASA engineer, and one good old country boy to keep us in line with common sense. With a garden hose and a lot of duct tape, we got it running! It was quite a job, even then, in the 105 degree weather.

I was able to make a few casts and did catch what will probably be the last fish that will ever be caught out of that lake which has meant so much to me.

As of today, the lake is almost drained.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Product Review: Jewel Bait Hound

You may recall that, a few months ago, I fished with Buzz. At the beginning of the tournament I warned him that I threw my crankbaits wherever the fish might be. Into trees, into stumps, didn't matter. And because of that, I get hung up. A lot.

Luckily he was patient with me. Even more lucky was the fact that he had a plug knocker. That day, I used it 8 times with a 100% success rate. Folks, that saved 50 dollars.

So, I finally bought one because I guestimate that I loose around $1,000/year in cranks. That's about 150 cranks.

I bought one from Tacklewarehouse (who won't give me any sort of sponsership although I plug them CONTINUOSLY!....HAHA)

I bought the Jewel Bait Hound. It's about 8 bucks and doesn't come with rope.

I used a bit of that NASA engineering.....and outsourced. HA! I bought a retractable dog leash with 25 feet of nylon rope.

I used it once so far. Got my bait back! Paid for itself already! Go get one. Now.

Fishing for Elliot Benefit tournament 6/30/12

Elliot is the son of one of our NASA club members who lost both his legs in a car wreck. One of our other club members who is close to the family decided to throw a benefit tournament for him. The event was on the 30th out of Ingalls Harbor on Wheeler. Of course the NASA club would be happy to fish it and even lend a hand as needed.

Josh and I decided that we would fish it, though I had never fished out of Ingalls and he hadn't much experience. But it was about the cause, of course. I sent in a check as soon as I could and secured blast off position #2.

The date rolled around and, wouldn't you know it, expected 107 degree temps. Josh said after the weigh in that had we not prepaid, we wouldn't/shouldn’t have bothered. I almost agree. I should have just sent in a check...haha!

Without a game plan, I met up with Josh at 3:45am that morning and we headed to Decatur. Around 4:30, we passed Jack's...who was closed. Needing to do something for breakfast, we kept on riding down the road and found the Krystals was open. We pulled in. I looked at the breakfast menu and started to order...just to be told that they weren't serving breakfast yet. Wait. It's 430 am and you aren't selling breakfast....OK. Well. Give me some Krystals.

The order was completed at 437am. At 552 we recieved our meal. Ran to the ramp, dunked the boat just as blastoff was starting. We jostled our way to the front of the pack and I bet we were asked a dozen times what boat we if we were trying to cheat everyone. HAHA! By the time we got to the mouth of the harbor, we were behind boat 13. Sigh.

No matter. We ran 200 yards to the barge tie ups that sit on the channel ledge. Fish were busting and there was no shortage of bait in the area. Alas, no bites in the first hour. We were throwing everything from Sammys to Strike King 6XD Silent to shakey heads.

Ran just upriver to a set of houses just off the 565 bridge. Had a couple of fish slap on a shakey head and a few on a 3XD. Still, no fish.

Ran up to the powerlines and started fishing the ledges there. Had a few bites and a decent hookup on a crank and C-rig. Still no fish. We were marking fish, but noticed a lot of Gar on the surface.

Ran even further up river towards the Point Mallard creek entrance. Josh had the idea to start flipping scattered cattails and grass on  the points adjacent to the creek channel. Now, I HAVE flipped a little. But never with any success. Just one of those things that I do when the day is REAL tough....which means I prob won't catch any fish anyway, but it's a high cast density method.

Pretty quickly, Josh caught a squealer on a beaver bait. I was flipping a brushhog. Moved down a few yards and picked up another short fish. Then another. I wasn't even getting taps. So, I thought I would try something else while he flipped. I started throwing a frog into the grass. First cast and I had a gar go postal on my frog. Luckily he couldn't get it in his mouth! At the end of the grass, Josh had caught 5 fish and one solid fish. I had one gar bite and broke off one bass. Sigh.

It was around 9am when we finished this first stretch of grass. So, we ran further up river to more grass. No luck. Ran to another patch. No luck. Decided to run that first bit of grass. Nothing.

At 10am, we went back to the second ledge we fished, the one with the gar on it. I picked up my Magnum crank stick and Strike King 6XD silent and tossed it out. While dredging the bottom, I hit a stump. Then another.
"The pros always nail the fish when the bait nails the stump." Josh said....ironically as my rod loaded up.

I could just imagine the look on my face. "AH? AH! AH....SIGH."  Yep. If you can't picture was the hit...was it a stump? Nope. It pulled back! It's a fish. Oh. It's pulling really hard. And it keeps pulling. It's a gar.

Now, it wouldn't be a tournament if I didn't catch a massive trash fish. It fought. And fought. And finally I got it to the boat. It was about 5 and a half feet long and all teethy smiles. I guess about 30 pounds.

Luckily, I got the crank back.

OH! Before I may recall that I fished Pickwick a few months back. My partner, Buzz, had a plug knocker. And I saved about 30 bucks in baits with it. So, I farted around and DIDN'T buy one immediately. Next trip out, lost 2 baits. So, I bought one from tacklewarehouse last week. It didn't come with a rope, so I bought a retractable dog leash. Works PERFECT. Go get one. Now. I would venture a guess that I loose about 1,000 dollars in cranks a year. I throw them in the thickest cover.

But I digress.....

That was it. So, at 11, we ran up to the first ledge we fished. As we cast around, the water exploded into a feeding frenzy. I mean, 30 yard circle of flying fish. I tossed out the Sammy and caught one on the first cast. A nice white bass. Josh caught one as well.

Caught them sporadically, but it SURE beat catching nothing. We decided we obviously weren't going to win the tournament, so we should be happy we fished it for Elliot and just catch some white bass. And that's what we did.

We made it to the weigh in and I was delighted to see so many local fishermen that I knew making the effort to fish. Not just club members, but guys I knew from other clubs! It was too hot to watch the weigh in, but it was a slick setup. When I left, 12 pounds had the lead. 3 fish limit and 12 pounds. That's stout. In  fact, I passed all these guys I knew who would normally love to chat for a few minutes, but the heat was so oppresive that we just said hi and kept trucking. However, most boats didn't even weigh in. Us included.

Sigh. The 2012 nasty streak continues.

Eagle's Wings Benefit Tourny SAVE THE DATE!

Hey folks! Just recieved my Save the Date poster for the Eagle's Wings Benefot tournament. As you can see, it's October 20th on Holt Lake in Tuscaloosa Alabama. Don't worry about missing a game, Bama fans. It's an away game at Tennessee! If you havn't read about this tournament, go back and search my older blog posts. Or you can find it here:

 Eagle's Wings devotes their efforts to equiping adults with disabilities with jobs and skills. There website can be found at:

 Here is the flyer. I will see you there