Friday, August 30, 2013

Humminbird 798 SI Installation on My Skeeter

When we bought the Skeeter, it lacked any sort of modern electronics. I have gotten used to having good electronics and I felt completely lost fishing any lake in a depth of 10 feet or more. I had been saving money for a good unit for awhile, but I couldn't quite afford a new one.

Luckily, I cam across a Hummingbird 798 SI combo the other day. I made an offer one it, it was accepted, and I picked it up that night. I was eager to install it the next day. The install takes about 2 hours.

The tools you will need:

  • power screw driver
  • box of machine screws
  • wire strippers
  • wire nuts/crimps
  • heat shrink
  • variety of drill bits
  • silicone
  • wire ties
  • latex gloves
  • Dremel Tool

  1. First things first, I had to remove the old unit, it's mount, and it's wiring. Make sure you clean the surface that was below the old unit. Doing so will help prevent scratches from dirt particles underneath the new unit. 
  2. Here is Tip #1. Any time you uncover old screw holes in fiberglass, make sure you make an attempt to seal them with silicone. You do not want water inclusion into the fiberglass. 
  3. Locate the optimum position to mount your unit. Remember the old saying about measuring twice. Make sure that you sit exactly they way you will sit in the boat. Mark this location and the mounting holes with a Sharpy.
  4. Then, utilizing several of the same holes, I installed the Ram mount and antennae that came with my purchase. For the remaining holes, I used a pilot drill to make a small hole. This will prevent a direct screw installation from splintering the fiberglass.  Like in the above Tip, make every attempt to seal up new screw holes by dabbing a little silicone on the screw you are about to install. I also rubbed a thin layer of silicon on the bottom of the mounts so that they would not rub and scratch the surface. It will also prevent water inclusion under the metal mount so that rusting of the mount is not possible. 
  5. I then ran the wiring. There was already a good routing job done for the old unit. The horn cover had been slightly cut to allow passage of the wires. Since there were now 3 wires instead of 1, I had to Dremel the slot a little bigger. I used the same power and ground leads from the old unit. I used crimp connectors, but added heat shrink tubing in order to seal the wiring against water. The transducer wire is run to the back of the boat. In this case, I removed the cup holder and the driver side storage compartment basket. I then opened the cowl to and ran the wiring around the gas tanks, then ran it out of the hydraulic steering line ports and down the jack plate.
  6. Next, I modified the transducer holder so that I could bolt it to an existing hole on the jackplate. This simply involved locating a mounting position and drilling holes in the mount that would accommodate the mounting location. I made sure that the transducer was level to the water and very secure. It is imperative that you install it so that it is even with the bottom of the boat and there will be no part of the boat that will interfere with the ultrasonic signal. 
  7. I then mounted the unit on the ram mount and plugged in the wire bundles
  8. That is the basic installation. It is not hard. I then cleaned up the installation by zip tying wires so that they would not be unsightly or loose. 

Picture 1: The Uld Unit
 Picture 2: Ram Mount Installed and Wiring Routed

Picture 3: Transducer Mounted

Picture 4: The Finished Project

Monday, August 26, 2013

Sci-Fi Book Review: The Wreck of the River of Stars by Michael Flynn

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Any time I am going out of town on business, I MUST buy a new book to read. The problem is, I rarely know in advance when I am heading out, which means I can't shop thrifty. Yep. Usually that means I buy a book from Barne's and Noble's the night before, or even worse...a book from the airport.

Anyway, what I have learned in the last few years is to review the reviews before purchase. There is a growing trend these days for writers to pump out mainstream literature that is a bid to make a dollar instead of a statement.

"The Wreck of the River of Stars" comes highly recommended on Amazon. Something like 50 reviewers since it's release early this year. Those reviewers score it as a 4 star. I was VERY wary of that. Review

In his excellent novel The Wreck of The River of Stars, Michael Flynn looks back on the romantic Age of Sail: the second, high-tech Age of Sail, when spaceships with vast magnetic sails rode the solar winds across the immense ocean of space, and the greatest of the luxury spaceliners was The River of Stars. But the second Age of Sail is dead: the magnetic sails all were struck, and the spaceships all were retrofitted with the new Farnsworth fusion drive. Once a legend, The River of Stars is now a tramp cargo freighter, plying the outer planets with a scanty crew of men and women with questionable pasts, private agendas, and more than a little interpersonal friction. When a bizarre failure disables the Farnsworth engines driving The River of Stars, the crew has a problem no Earthly sailor ever faced: their ports don't stay put. If The River of Stars doesn't arrive on schedule, Jupiter will be somewhere else in its enormous orbit. That means the damaged ship will speed out of the solar system and drift forever among the stars. The crew's only hope appears to be the magnetic sail. But recreating a long-gone high-tech sail isn't the worst problem this motley crew faces. To survive, they must achieve something even more herculean: they must overcome their own intricately entangled fears, hatreds, power struggles, and romantic disasters. --Cynthia Ward --

Zach's Review

This novel developed 14 characters, though many of those are not used much throughout the book. However, they are well described and the reader can easily understand them. The main characters, 9 or so, are extremely well developed. In particular, most of them are heroic, but not in the sense that most writers write their hero as infallible. On the contrary, every character has their flaws and those flaws are slowly shown and descried throughout the novel in small tid bits, like bread crumbs. I would say that Flynn does as good a job as I have ever read on the complete dissection and analysis of a character. Best of all, he doesn't spoon feed every character to the reader in a fire hose of information in the first chapter.  It is a rare thing to understand a character so well that you can predict HOW they will react to a situation in a novel based upon the authors job of development.

Additionally, the intertwining of the characters lives, given the robust description and development, show the full dynamic among the crew, which is very unique. 

These a substantial amount of science put into this novel  should make any technical reader happy. Specifically, the science of orbital mechanics is a firm driver behind the plot of the entire piece of literature. Additionally, engineers especially will enjoy reading about the technical problems and their associated solutions that are faced on the ship. At all times, the reader is made well aware of the cause and effect of the environment of space and the ships behavior in it. 

What I liked: 
The writing style was very unique and well done. It is fairly advanced in its style, which causes readers to slow down and really comprehend every detail of the writing, lest something escape. 
The characters are easy to understand and follow
The plot flows very well and is packed with multiple cause-and-effect plot drivers. Not just 1 or 2 hurdles to overcome, but a fault tree of situations.
There was a good amount of technical writing done

What I didn't like:
Beginning about the middle of the book, a sub-plot formulated itself very similar to 2001: A Space Odyssey which was easy to spot and predict. 

Conclusion: 4 Stars
Overall, I greatly enjoyed this book. Despite the amount of shallow and pedantic literature that I have read in the last few years that has made me avoid ANY work written in the last 10 years, I believe the reviews were spot on about this book. Furthermore, I firmly believe that a non-sci-fi reader would really enjoy this work. I can't talk enough about the character development and the science ingrained in the the plot. This is one novel that I will put on the bookshelf at my office. 

MFC Tournament: Wheeler Lake/Ditto Night 8/23/13

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I haven't had much time to fish tournaments this year. In fact, fishing time in general has been hard to come by. I can count on 1 hand the number of "full day" trips I have taken. By that, I mean, those where I get up and hit the water before sun up. That's part of being grown up, I guess. I have to get the kids to school since I have a wife that holds down a full time job. That makes it almost impossible to make it to ANY lake before 8am.

But, it doesn't really bother me. I am very proud of my wife and her career. It's a very worthwhile sacrifice. Anyways, I was going somewhere with that. 

Oh. Yeah. So, I have only fished 4 tournaments this year. I fished the NATA Open, the Snufish tournament, one NASA club (MFC) tournament, and I was going to get to fish this tournament. 

Friday night tournaments work great for me. I can get the kids settled for my wife and hit the water without having to worry about picking them up for school or whatever. So, I've been watching this date on the calender for awhile.

Of course, there are a few issues. 

Number 1: Aubree had a soccer game at 5:15 and I am the coach. Can't miss that. It's a 40 minute game and the tournament started at 5:30. So, I would be doing awesome to get to the ramp by 6:30.

Number 2: I have fished a grand total of about 5 night tournaments. And I have done well in them, by my standards anyway. Except that I have not caught but MAYBE 3 fish after dark. Case in point, Wilson lake in 2012.

All that meant was, unless Josh were to meet me at the ramp with a limit...I would be catching them after dark....or going home empty handed. 

So, I rocketed down South Parkway to Ditto Landing. Grabbed two Hardees thick burgers, a few Gatorade and a 5 Hour energy drink. Josh met me at the ramp. As we loaded my stuff in...I had to ask. 
"Do you have a limit?"
"No. But I do have a nice fish. About 2 pounds. Got him flipping isolated cover just like the pros."

Of course, I had to check for myself. My luck isn't normally THAT good. That end of Wheeler lake is tough to find ANY fish with size, other than 12 inch squealers. Sure enough, he opened the lid and showed me 1 solid fish and 1 squeaker. So, we were already 40% done! I'll take that. 

So, then we had a choice. We could fish the local areas...areas we know well...and HOPE to find a pile of 2 pound clones and pray that no one caught a bucket head. Or we could run to the dam. That's quite the dilemma. Neither of us has fished the dam very much. Neither us EVER has night fished up there. But we both knew we would struggle to find keepers fishing the typical spots. In fact, there is only one hole we know of where we MIGHT find a good bag...and that spot is so hit or miss that we didn't want to gamble. The dam costs a lot of gas too.....

So, to the dam we went. It's not THAT long of a ride, but both of us knew it was a gamble just to go and that it would be time consuming coming home after dark, for safety reasons. There were several boats up there, but no one we knew. We fished around the dam itself without any luck. Fished some wing walls and current breaks. Nothing. 

Dark came in on us quickly due to the mountains. 

We fished down a rip rap bank about 500 yards down from the dam. The depth dropped quickly to 20 feet from the bank to where we fished, which was about a long flip away. 

I was throwing a mixture of baits behind Josh, who was bouncing a T-rigged creature bait off the bottom. The bottom was very stick, as it seemed like my plastics were constantly finding nooks and crannies in the rocks on the bottom. But, boy did it feel good! 

Josh layed into a fish and it made the line sing a song that scared me! I guess that's because he didn't really know what he was up against. Whatever it was, it pulled back with such force that the tight line made a line of bubbles as it screamed through the water. I thought it had to be a trash fish by the force it was imparting on the reels drag. 

About that time I realized that we didn't have the net out and Josh was standing on the rod locker! I yelled to him to either boat flip it quick or scoop it. About that time the fish made it's appearance and we both got REAL scared! It was a brown fish. A big one at that! He waited until it made a run at the boat, kept the slack out, and boat swung it! Talk about ballsy! The massive smallie hit the deck and we both pounced on it! 

60% done. And with a fish we both were CERTAIN would take home the big fish check! 

As he retied his 8 pound test (ye, he boat flipped a 4+ pound smallie on 8 pound test) the boat quickly was pushed out of position by the formidable current. When we was retied and ready, another boat had taken up position where we were. I guess that's just our luck. 4 boats within 2 miles and 1 of those took our spot. HA! I guess they knew a good spot when they see one. We looked around to find a new spot. About that time, the other 2 boats in the area both moved our of a spot right below the dam that looked real fishy.The spot wasn't that big and two boats were already fishing it. But, it was either there or nowhere as the current was too strong on the other side of the river to even bother with.

So, we decided to fish "dirty" water. I bet we got some laughs as we pulled past the two boats that were leaving.

The first 100 yards didn't yield more than a bream bite. I don't know about Josh, but with the sun down and they best "bite" we had having a boat on top of it,  I was getting pretty used to the idea of not getting a fish. Which, after the Table Rock trainwreck, would be par for the course.

If it would have been day time, I would have thrown a crank and covered a lot of water...eventually picking off a fish or two. But, with night time in full effect, I slowed down and threw the old shakey head. 

I have well documented my desire to get better with finesse techniques and I have gotten to where I have confidence in the shakey head. It's been a New Years Resolution. So much so that I put my other rods down and decided that it was either the shakey head or a T-rig big work for here on out. 

I was throwing my Spot Remover Pro Series 1/4 stand up shakey head(I won't throw anything else) backed with a PowerTeam Lures 5" Sick Stick in Watermelon Red Flake/

It didn't take long to pay off. After a miss or two, I figured out that I was missing soft bites. I started hopping the wait instead of shaking it. That way, if a fish had grabbed it, I would feel the extra weight. I snagged a short fish, tossed him, made another cast, hopped the bait about a foot off the 20 foot rocky bottom and it got heavy. I nailed the fish (since my YouTube subscribers say I hook set like a woman.) The fish, obviously a keeper, fought back. This time, we had the net out and although Josh missed the fish AT LEAST 5 times, it finally did him a favor and jumped in the net. It wasn't massive, but it was a nice 2 pounder. 

Josh picked up his shakey head and we worked the remainder of the bank. Up and down, though we occasionally had to skip areas for bank fishermen. There were definite areas where the fish were...and those where the fish weren't. Soon, we knew where those spots were and we caught 2-3 fish real quick. So it went and next thing you know, we were catching nothing but quality fish, including a NICE 4 pound large mouth that I had to fight for what seemed like eternity.We culled at least 3 times that I can recall and we figured we were sitting on 12 pounds. 

We started at that spot around 9:30 or so and we started heading back around 11:15 in order to be safe.

I have to admit how smug I felt. And, if you follow me on FaceBook on my Best5Zach Outdoors page, you could tell I thought we had it in the bag. And, why not? Deep summer on Wheeler is a crap shoot. Josh and I have done extremely well in the past in the deep summer Wildcat tournaments out of Ditto. It normally takes 9-11 pounds to win and sometimes just a limit of 6 pounds can take a check. With 12 pounds and a solid kicker, we just KNEW it was over. 

So, we didn't fish on the way back. We just cruised under the full moon. As I peered over the bow looking for debris or buoys, I spotted something hit the front of the hull and bounce towards Josh. I yelled at him...but it was too late. A bat smacked him in the face, then decided to hold on for dear life! 

It was crazy! And scary. It about knocked him out. I guess it was like getting hit in the face with a baseball. 

Other than that, we made it back. Smugly tucked our fish into the weigh bag and headed to the scale. I HAVE learned that you don't always have the big fish. Even if you have the biggest bag, it is ALWAYS possible someone hung a wall hanger. But, I way could anyone have a bigger bag. I seemed to be right as several of our boats didn't weigh fish, or weighed in 5 small ones. So, we dumped ours and weighed in a surprising 14+ pounds with a 4.27 Small mouth. WOW! 

The last boat came to the scales as Josh went to take the fish back to the water. As they opened the bag, I saw this massive maw of a mouth looking up at me. At LEAST a 6 pounder. No problem. Even with a 6 pounder, they had to have a 2 pound average on the remaining 4. Well, after they dropped in a 6.82 beast on the scale, they dropped a 5 pound book end on us. And then, another 2 nice fish. For a grand total of...


19+ pounds. 

Now, I have HEARD of sacks that big being weighed in at Ditto. But never in the summer. And never at a short night tournament. Josh has seen a few bigger bags that that, but during the prespawn. In fact, to be honest, our bag is one of the biggest I have seen weighed in up there. Maybe the largest. It beat me and Josh's old personal best by over 3 pounds.

Oh well. To be honest, I was flabbergasted at first, but I got over it real quick. Sure, I didn't win a tournament. But, we caught a lot of fish, had several personal bests (Josh's PB small mouth and our combined biggest sack PB). We caught fish after dark. We learned were some rock piles were and we have a lot of confidence in a new area. That's probably the most important part because we KNOW that's where the winners fish. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

The Auburn Realist: QB Revisited

So, we have covered a brief breakdown of the first half of the season, the in-depth analysis of the Washington State Game. But what about my thoughts on the QB selection? After all, I was pretty open about my thoughts in my Post A-Day Analysis. And here I have been...silent as a church mouse about the new QB. If you read the article, you can see why. I didn't give near enough credit to either Jeremy Johnson or Nick Marshall.

I guess, in my old age, I have learned to never trust something I have not seen with my own eyes. It's something that I have learned at NASA. Never believe someone's stats or powerpoint until you see the evidence yourself. Contractors who build components for our new rockets have, since the dawn of the space age, stretched, exaggerated, downplay, and outright misdirect and lie. In the same way, stats can lie. Highlights on a video can lie. Coaches can even misdirect. Either for the good or bad.

So, I simply pointed out my thoughts on Marshall. He was turnover prone. A bunch of them over in JuCo land. Athleticism aside, he is raw. He didn't go through the spring.

Jeremy Johnson is a true freshman. A TRUE FRESHMAN. Playing a true freshman at QB is death. It's 3-Sigma Certainty in stats land. If you start one, he will falter. Furthermore, he will never recover. I took into consideration that he was not on campus, like Marshall, for the spring.

So, going into the fall, I made the call. Though the coaches said that neither QB stood out, I felt Wallace played reasonable in the A-Day game. Well enough to put Frazier on the bench. That call turned out to be right. Furthermore, I figured that having beaten Frazier out, he could have the jump on the newcomers and beat them out simply with experience. Now, I did know that he was not as physically gifted as the other two. I didn't think pure athleticism could win. I might still be right.

What I didn't expect was what ended up being reality. Both the newcomers were able to put both athleticism AND solid game play together in only a few short weeks. At least, enough to beat the two incumbents. While I REALLY REALLY want to believe that they are just THAT good...that we have an immediate impact player in Marshall who could be...might we say it....Cam Light, despite that Coaches and Marshall himself don't want to compare them to #2. What we do know is that he was good enough to go to one of the finest NFL defense player factories and start at UGA. He's good enough. At what...we just don't know....and we won't until possible Mississippi State comes to town.

I want to believe that Johnson is that good. We haven't had a high profile QB prospect...or really ANY prospect for that work out. See...well....any QB prospect in the last 10 years. Burns, Rollison, Pike, Frazier. Since we all started keeping up with recruiting as a 2nd football season. So, in one hand.,  it was a pleasant surprise to hear of a recruit that was making splashes. On the other hand, it made me really question the two returning starter's abilities. I know that everyone has heard it said that neither are SEC material...and I listened. I just didn't want to believe that a team 3 years removed from a NC was that hard up on QBs. Doesn't seem to happen to anyone BUT Auburn. I guess I can get on the bus with everyone else and throw rocks at Chizik.

So here we are. Wallace is a "2nd Stringer" though it's obvious what will happen. He is the Neil Caudle of the 2013. Wallace is the REAL backup, and Johnson will get redshirted....much to many people's dismay. In my mind, this is the only course of action. But I digress.

Think what you want of the old staff, particularly on the offensive side of the ball and the old head coach. Let's not all forget how we were ALL on board the Fire Ted Roof bus because there simply was NO WAY that Chizik would allow a defense to suck to bad. What happened? Roof took over a Penn State unit that was absolutely gutted and turned them into a top 20 unit. Hmmmmmm. It sure starts to look like the old staff wasn't too great with managing and developing players. Hey, I gotta gives me a good alibi for being almost dead wrong on my prognostication.

What's in the past is in the past...right? So, now what do I think? Wow. You are had to read a lot just to get here. Sorry. I have to justify myself.

Quick thought about Johnson. He is labeled as the future as Auburn. Is he? Where have I heard this before? Seems to me that the only great modern QB we ever had never went through this process that we keep using to brand these young kids. Let me see him get on the field, win or lose...and learn. THEN we will talk about futures. After all, this would take a QB to actually start 2 years in a row.....novel idea in Tiger Town.

So Marshall is here. Cue all cutesy comments. Marshall Law, for example.

I want to be excited. I really do. REALLY REALLY. I was excited when Cam got here too. And, like all Redheaded stepchildern of Alabama, I refuse to believe that I can get lucky twice in 5 years. We talked about those picks he threw in JuCo. I don't expect him to throw 20. I do expect him to throw 10. At least. I see a 2:1 ratio at best this year. Really closer to 1.5:1. I also see a good many fumbles at the wrong time during scrambles. Like, against and LSU team.In my opinion, what we will see is a QB who is capable of beating you at any point with his legs, and somewhat capable of making you pay with his arm. I would compare him to Nebraska's own Taylor Martinez. Except that Nebraska has had 4 years to develop a somewhat raw passer out of him. The guy still won't throw a lazer dig route. But he will step back and chunk one when the D crashes in on him. With that being said, I expect him...this year at put up large numbers on the ground against quality opponents while taking full advantage of superior talent in the passing game against the off-teams.

I covered what I think Marshall's stats and gameplay will show against WSU. I think he puts up +250 passing yards. I think he runs for 70 more. He accounts for 3 TDs. He puts up similar numbers on Ark State, though I imagine a few plays between these two games will earn him some one-on-one time with coach.

That's where the fun starts. Everyone knows what MSU is like. They are tough. Always have been. I have seen more of this game than any other and it's always tough. Though, it's a little different this year because it's at night. Auburn always seems to play better at night. Day time SEC games always give them fits. See Ole Miss 2008, Any of a handful of outmatched Arkansas teams, etc.

The MSU will set the stage for the rest of the year. Had MSU snagged that pass in a 2 minute drill in 2010, we might all have known a much different 2010 season. Malzahn said himself that he didn't know what he had until that game. In 2011, a goal line stand was really the highlight of a season for Auburn. Had they lost, they would have been in the SEC West Cellar. Well, deeper that is. Win or loose, We will know what to expect for the rest of the year. Am I calling a win or loss? It's too close to call. It is a field goal, either way.

After a tight game against MSU, he travels to Death Valley. I predict that if Auburn beats will be last second and there will be a hangover. Auburn looses to LSU. If Auburn falls to MSU, I predict they win in Death Valley and show their true potential. They still don't win the West, however. But, they DO make the Iron Bowl the first EVER to settle the West.

The team wins out going home against UGA and BAMA, largely in part to a stellar run game. They lose both of those games. In both games, they get down early and Marshall true heroic win the game himself. But comes up just short. We all blame him for the  turnovers, but we admire that he tried. Which is more than we could say about the team last year.

This isn't all bad. The world will see what Auburn can do. We finally have a "non-rebuilding year" that we all look forward to. And, unlike 2003...this team will produce.

Final Stats for Marshall
150/270 passing for 1300 yards 15 TDs 10 INTs 
1500 rush yards 15 TDs

The Auburn Realist: The Washington State Game Preview

I've already broken down the first section of the season in an earlier post, but with so many moving pieces still in the air, I was very hesitant to make any in depth predictions. But, all the pieces are now in place. Well, MOST of them...anyway. Here were my thoughts on QB race....I haven't gone back and re-read....but I can imagine what I said...And I was pretty the finalist.

So, let us speak on the first game of the season and how it looks in perspective to the rest of the first 3rd:
08/31/13 vs. Washington State TV Auburn 6:00 PM CT
09/07/13 vs. Arkansas State TV Auburn 6:30 PM CT
09/14/13 vs. Mississippi State TV Auburn 6:00 PM CT
09/21/13 at LSU Baton Rouge TBA

The Washington State Game
Washington State enters the season with cautious optimism. All of you may remember their first game last year. It was a Thursday night game against BYU. With Mike Leach at the helm, everyone expected a high scoring shootout for the years first televised game. It's the PAC-12. You don't need a defense as long as you can outscore, right? I admit, I was one of those that expected it. No one seemed to notice that WSU had been gutted on the offensive line. They hadn't had a defense to begin with, and the cupboard at skill positions would make Leach's job tough. I, along with everyone else, figured that if he could win in the Heart of Texas with the cast offs of every other major programs players, then he could win in the Pac12 North. Nope.

So, a year later. i don't think much has changed. Until the last month, Leach hasn't had a clear starter. The offensive line is still crewed by Walk-Ons. The defense will still be mediocre by Pac-12 standards, at best. And, they have to come to the Loveliest Little Village. I think, talent and coaching aside, the fanbase is absolutely rabid just to see life from their team. I think the fans respond and make it more hostile than we have seen in an opener since the first quarter of the USC game in 2003.

But, like every Auburn fan...I find myself very slow to judge a team. Especially one that is backed into a corner and embarrassed the way WSU was on national TV. I am also slow to have faith in a team that basically returns the same personnel and a few JuCo guys.

This game will be ugly in 1 of 2 ways or a combination of both. Auburn wins this game. Errr...Malzahn wins this game. And, also...the run. And a hungry defense. Ok. More on that later. I believe that the mismatch of talent will also play a roll in it. But, after last years debacles (see the win against LAMO) talent won't blow people off the field. Auburn's offense will score points, but I don't think they will put up a ton of points. I do think, yardage wise, they will double on WSU but the score will be closer than people think.

The difference?

The defense. The Auburn secondary is hungry for turnovers. So hungry that I expect them to over pursue the ball on several occasions and commit a few pass interference calls. You know what? After watching most of the same players play 5 yards off the ball last year, make terrible pursuit angles, etc...I'm ok with it. They will have 3 picks and one gets housed.

The linebacker play will be adequate. I still don't think that Auburn has the elite talent they need. You either get over aggressive run defense with McKinzy, Flowers, etc with terrible coverage or the opposite with Holland.

Up front...I just don't know what to expect in the long run, but I expect 5 sacks and 1 fumble recovery.

Offensively: Yes. Marshall will put up big numbers. Well, yardage, that is. The ground game will eat WSU alive and I see +250 yards in the air and another 75 on the ground before the chain gets yanked on him. But, I don't think he will have a +3 TD game or anything. e. But, I do expect a few bum series and at least 1 bonehead play from Marshall, which will earn him couch time with Coach on Sunday. Whether that is a fumble on a scramble or a pick from throwing across his body...time will tell. I expect the group of receivers to all double their yardage from last year in 1 game, with maybe the exception of Bray, who I do expect to have 150 APY. That isn't saying much, I realize. There won't be a break performance by the receivers simply because the ball will be spread around. I do expect Bray to take a slant/bubble/hitch to the house, though.

Breakout players and What to Watch for:
Cameron Artis-Payne will get the lion's share of work. Mason will be use sparingly...maybe even sat at halftime entirely. While this will be done to preserve Auburn's "Feature Back", A lot of head scratching will start. 'Cause I fully expect Mason to become a 2nd-and-short/3rd-and-long back by midseason. CAP will become the Ben Tate to Mason's Brad Lester circa 2008. Book it. CAP beats them up inside. He breaks it outside. All in all, he rolls up 150 APY and 3TDs. Ballsy, you say? Again. Book it.

Kiehl Frazier gets on the field by late 2nd quarter as a safety and gets a standing ovation. He makes plays, and good for him. I will be a much bigger fan of a proto-typical size and speed safety as I was of his dregs of the galaxy bust QB. By the end of the season, I full expect him to be a 1A player or even a starter.

The true freshman d-line duo of Adams/Lawson sees the field early. Like, real early. 3rd or 4th possession. The result will be immediate. Both of them record tackles for loss in this game. I don't expect them to have the impact that Clowney had, and I think Auburn fans should temper their expectations of them...though it will be hard with their early field time and impact on this game.  But these two get in the game and the stadium will wring their hands....and they will make a pure adrenaline play. they will also make a pure adrenaline miss-play too. Honestly, ever D-Line player will have a TFL in this game and I don't think this will be indicative of the season, either. In fact, the WSU line...walk-ons or not...will keep the D-line at bay. For a few series.

Zach's "WHO THE HECK WAS THAT?!?!?!?!" player?That would be #27, Robenson Therezie. Garrett is no doubt a good player. But I think he is more feel good than real good. If you know about him, you know he was typed last few years as an undersized LB now turned star position breakout. Yeah yeah. But few players...heck...NO players have shown me the Jr Rosegreen level of meanness that Therezie has. Kid is mean. Loves contract. Has a nose for the ball. Does he commit penalties? Yes. Can they be boneheaded and committed at the worst time? Yes. But, just like I tell my flag football team...I will take 1 a game just to let the offense know you were there and you want blood. He gets in early and he takes over the defensive backfield with at least one game stopping hit.

The player you keep waiting on: Corey Grant. With CAPS performance, the hungriness of the freshman RBs behind Mason/CAP, the emergence of Quan Bray in the slot, poor Grant will not get the touches people expect.

Final Score? 45-35 with a few late scores to look respectable against an SEC opponent by WSU. 

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Family Vacation on Table Rock Lake 8/15-17/13

After visiting beautiful Table Rock Lake for each of the last two years, my parents decided to buy a time share. Table Rock is tauted as one of the best bass fishing lakes in the country. My first two trips sure gave me that impression. You can read about my first trip in 2011 here. It took a little under 10 minutes to haul out a monster bass. And, the fish never stopped biting.

Well, this year, we brought the Skeeter with us so that I didn't have to rent a boat for the bargain price or $60 an hour, not counting gas!

As you can imagine, I was really excited to be able to fish for 3 straight days! I have to admit that I was a little concerned with the fact that the area had experienced massive flooding the week before. I knew they would be dropping the water level a foot or more per day. But, hey, we were booked for Big Cedar and I knew that we would have fun regardless. How could you not! You have to see this place to understand!

The Wilderness Club at Big Cedar has TONS of features that I can't even begin to list. Tons of pools, hot tubs, a Lazy River, and great eating! It is one of the most family friendly places you can explore! Bent Hook Marina has a great selection of baits straight from Bass Pro. They have boat and equipment rentals and great amenities!

 Naturally, my wife and kids were really stoked about playing in the pools, lounging around, and eating. But while they dreamed about it in the early morning hours, I was out fishing.

Well, that's where the fun begins.

I started out fishing some areas I had experience in, but nothing was biting. I threw a wide range of baits from wacky rigged PowerTeam Lures Sick Sticks, to Strike King 6XDs, top water plugs, you name it. Not a bite. Same for my dad. We fished from 7am to 12pm without so much as a bite. We moved everywhere and fished everything from dirt banks to 25 foot drop offs. When we arrived back at Big Cedar, I talked to several of the guides and pros who use the Bent Hook Marina as their home base. It was tough for them too. No fish caught. So, I shrugged it off, loaded the kids and my wife, and went pleasure boating.

Later that afternoon, my sister and brother in law arrived from Springfield and we enjoyed a great dinner and then went to swim. In the back of my mind, I just KNEW that the tables would turn the next morning.

A weak hit or two over the course of the next morning showed that it had not changed. Again, frustrated, I parked the boat and enjoyed the fun...trying to forget about how much it cost us and how much effort we went to to drag a boat 10 hours just to get stumped. But, again, we had a blast in the afternoon playing in the water!

Later that afternoon, I ran into a local fisherman who seemed to know what he was doing. He pulled out several NICE fish out of the box and showed them to me. Sucking up my pride, I asked that he give a novice a few pointers. I told him that I suspected the fish to be deep, although I had fished 20-25 feet of water with everything I had. He told me to fish deeper. Find standing timber in 30 feet and drop shot.

Drop shot? In 30 feet? Neither are something I know anything about. Don't get me wrong, as far as TVA lakes are concerned, I can fish "deep water", such as Tournaments on Wilson Lake. But, that's 18-22 feet.

Ok. So I was fishing in the wrong place. I could fix that. All I had to do was learn how to drop shot and find standing timber in 30 feet. The lake is COVERED in standing timber, so it shouldn't be hard to find. Right?

Oh the irony. See, when I sold the Stratos, I sold it WITH my Hummingbird 798. The Skeeter doesn't have any modern electronics. So, the only way to find standing timber was to troll around, peering into the water, hoping to see a tree top. Every once in awhile I did, but if I had a bite, or I was hung up, or the wind blew me off...I would never find it again. To add insult to injury, the only good fish i hung all day threw me at the you can see from the vid.

So, now I am HARDCORE about buying a nice unit. If I would have had a nice fish finder, I could POSSIBLY have done well. Big stretch, I know. But I feel like it would have made a difference.

Anyway, it was Aubree's 8th birthday, so nothing was going to keep me down. We had a great birthday dinner, visited Bass Pro, and relaxed!

Check out Aubree's Bee Suit for tending her bees!

Monday, August 12, 2013

Sunday Funday 8/11/13

If you are pretty much anywhere in the South, you know that this past weekend was a wash. Rain ruined having much of any fun outdoors, particularly Sunday. There has been so much rain that my garden is starting to have problems from it. Turns out, too much rain is a bad things...even for water loving produce like cucumbers.

I won't complain too much about it. The garden, for the most part, has done fantastic. You may remember seeing some pictures on my Facebook page. I like to post updates. This year, I tripled both the over all size and quantity of the garden. We sure have profited. Yet, this rain...and the collateral damage it has done...has still stunted it from it's maximum expectancy.

Anyway, Sunday presented us a small opportunity to get some work done. First off, we picked up some furniture from my wife's grandmother. She is moving to her lake house and didn't have room for all her stuff. WE took a china cabinet that was the last piece that my wife's late grandfather worked to restore. It still needs work, but I am going to give it a try! Then, it was back across the country for the next chore.

I am having to pay my dues into the family hunting club, which entailed putting together a shooting house. So, my dad and uncle and I got to work on easily the most humid day of the year. They had built the house to be modular, so all we had to do was assemble it on the spot. Sounds easy, right? Nope! The walls sure are heavy and we are WAY up in the air! We were able to get the walls and the roof on, but much of the work remains to be done. We had to stop once or twice for storms. And the last one that moved in was nasty and we all had to head out.

Meanwhile, just a few hundred yards away, my mom, wife, and kids were all enjoying a little afternoon fishing. I had fully intended to wrap up the work and hit the pond for a few casts myself. I was able to get done in just enough time to make 2 casts with a Sammy before lightening ran me off. I did catch a little 15 inch fish on that last cast that made it worth it. Looks like the kids were able to have a fun time too!

WE finished off the evening with some Mexican food. Griffin ate his cheese dip and guacamole. Gavin ate everything we put in front of him! We were a site, I'm sure! Dad and I were soaked to the BONE with sweat in our mud boots!  I bet we smelled AWESOME!

By the time we got home, not only was it "late" but we were all dead tired! We have to get read for a week on Table Rock lake! Stay posted!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Fishing Report for Guntersville 8/6/13

What better way to break the fishing drought than to get a second trip on the water in just a few short days. I guess sometimes that stars align for the better. If you recall, Josh and I were able to hit Guntersville up on the 2nd. You can read about the trip here: Fishing Report for Guntersville 8/2/13.

The day was decent. We caught a lot of fish, but measuring bass were hard to come by. Although Josh caught several nice fish, it took me literally until my last cast to land a measuring one.

I know I shouldn't complain about catching good numbers, but this year on Guntersville has been ridiculous for quality fish. Since I have been fishing this lake, "tough days" were usually those that I had 5 bites, but they were all 5+ pound fish. This year it's been short fish after short fish!

Not to spoil it for you, but this trip wasn't any different...though even the bites dropped off.

We hit the water in the mid-afternoon from Waterfront and jetted to a few spots without much luck. In fact, it probably took an hour to get my first bite. I was throwing several different baits including the PowerTeam Lures Hammershad and 10" Ribbon Hinge worm.
The Hammershad has been wildly successful for me. It's funny, because I bought it solely to drop shot for Pickwick Lake smallies, but haven't been able to fish there much this year. Instead, I have made it a hybrid bait...something between a topwater Sammy and a Fluke. 

I have gone through two pro-packs in the last 4 trips. That's about 50 baits. Luckily, they don't cost much for a big packs.

Anyway, I had some decent success working the Hammershad on top of the grass. The fish really can't stand the bait and normally never short strike it. In fact, at one point, I had a hit, worked the fish to halfway to the boat and it came off. But, two other fish were following it, and as I reeled  the bait to the boat, I looked down and two fish were staring at me. I lowered  the bait back down and BAM! They nailed it.

It was hilarious, and I have it on video!

As the evening approached, it seemed the fish moved out of the grass and became more active. I swapped to an H20 Xpress top water plug (the Sammy knockoff) and was able to get a fair amount of action with it. I fished it just outside the grass lines in areas directly adjacent to deep water. The boat was sitting in about 18 feet and I was casting to about 3.

Anyway, I caught about 10 fish and none of them measured. We caught about 15 total to the boat.

Wright & McGill Skeet Reese Victory Reels

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A  few months ago, Dick's Sporting Goods was doing a special where you could buy one of their Wright & McGill Skeet Reese Victory Rods and get a free reel. Now, I have owned several of the rods and they seem to be fantastic rods for the money. They run under $100 and have lived under my abuse. Well, I jumped all over it and so did everyone else. In fact, I had to go to two different stores in order to get both. I bought the 7.0:1 ratio.
  • Aluminum frame for durability and weight reduction.
  • Infinite anti-reverse.
  • One-touch removable aluminum spool.
  • Centrifugal anti-backlash braking system.
  • Powerful and smooth Teflon® drag system.
  • Audible click star drag.
  • Precision cut brass gears.
  • Extra-large power handle and oversized rubber paddles.
  • Available in right & left hand retrieve.
  • Weight 7.76 ounces.
  • Includes neoprene reel case.
Price Point: Right at $100

Initially, I was very impressed by it. I put it on a reel with 30 pound braid and only used it for soft plastics. I liked the high ratio for quickly getting fish out of the weeds. 

Things I Liked:
  • The handles are nice and wide, allowing you to impart a lot of force without much effort
  • The grips are very nice and comfortable
  • The braking system and casting control are very easy to use
Things I Dislike:
  • Something about it isn't quite as ergonomic as I would like. I don't know if it is the shape or size. It doesn't fit quite right in my hand
  • The braking system is flawed. If you cast it hard, like a top water plug or crank bait, the brakes will reset or loosen up. So, your next cast will be a nightmare
  • The side cover isn't attached to the main body. So, if you are adjusting it, keep a hand on it! It might fall in the drink! 
Overall, the reel is a great way to spend a little cash and get decent quality. Especially if it's free. However, the inability to really cast plugs reliably without having to mess with the brake system is a deal breaker for top water or cranking. Literally, every cast I had to redo the brakes. Now, it will be fine for plastics or other baits similar. But, if you are casting for distance, you will be in trouble. Additionally, with a coupon or two, I could buy a Shimano Citica that will outperform it in all regards. But, if you can find it on special and need a plastics reel, this is a solid choice.

Family Vacation 2013

One of the many reasons I haven't been able to post much has been that the spaces between traveling for work or training were filled with vacations. Well, really only 1 vacation, but it was on top of the 4th, so it was almost like 2. So, what do we like to do? Well, my first two years at NASA, we were really too poor to have vacations. But, I was traveling to Cape Canaveral a lot to work on the shuttle. My wife wasn't working at the time, so the whole family(at the time, that was either only 1 or MAYBE 1 and a baby). We really fell in love with the area. It isn't like PCB. It isn't filled with college kids and parties, but it has all the amenities that we wanted. SO, when we were finally able to afford our own vacations, we returned to Cocoa Beach. We get us a condo on the beach for about 6-7 days.

What do we do? Not much. We eat. We swim. And the last two years, we have surfed. This year I took the GoPro out and made a great vid of our fun! Check it out! Best5Zach Family Video
Having kids raised on the beach is such a blessing. They seem to embody it so well. Now, imagine our surprise when even little Gavin fell in love with it. We literally couldn't pry him away from the sand. He would eat it by the pound! He loved frolicking in the ocean! It was such a site to see!
Things we did and places we went:

Florida Seafood for oyster shooters, crab, and other specialties. This is a MUST if you have kids. They are very family friendly with a great atmosphere.
Grills for fresh seared ahi-tuna po'boys, sushi, shrimp skewers
Milliken's Reef for a few fruity drinks and some dancing
Fish Lips for great appetizers and drinks specials while watching all the fishermen come in for the day

I know where the food is. It's a fact. My nose leads me to all the right places and you cannot go wrong with any of these great places to eat.

We rented our boards from Cocoa Beach Surf Company. For beginners, get the 9'2" foam board. Trust me. It's about $75 for 5 days, I believe. While you are there, head to the Shark Pit for an awesome burger or appetizer.

What a great time! I'm still not a good surfer and a bum shoulder didn't help. But Alyse and Josh have gotten quite good at it!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Any College Football Fantasy Players Out There?

It's getting to be about that time! I am looking for a few players for College Football Fantasy. It will be a $30 buy in. Looking for several players! Please respond here or email me at

Fishing Report for Guntersville 8/2/13

No. I'm not dead. I haven't given up fishing. I haven't boarded myself up in my bug out shelter (yet). I've been insanely busy with everything from work, to vacations, to softball, and back to work. Yep. I've been training to get my level III certifications in Radiography, Ultrasonic Testing, among other NDE methods. Those are 40 hour training classes capped off with tests....Then there is school. Yep, closing in on that masters. Then there is softball, and playing 4 nights a week. Plus a garden, 3 kids....

Ok, so yall don't care. Remind you, again, on why I haven't been fishing in 2 months.....right?  TWO MONTHS! WHAT.

Yep, it really has been that long.

Anyway, we put in at GoosePond Colony and went to the last place that we had caught some fish(2 months ago). We had both discussed the need to get better on a few summer patterns. Namely, flipping and cranking ledges. We started out flipping and I quickly had a hit that didn't connect.

Josh, on the other hand, pounded a solid pig as he was picking out a backlash. It was hilarious. And I got it on film! HAHA! You should have seen the look on his face as he brought in the bait and realized there was a fish on the other end.

After a few more flips, he started throwing a swimbait and connected on a second 4 pounder. That's all I needed to see. I started throwing the PowerTeam Lures Hammer Shad. I experimented with a variety of retrieve methods, but it didn't take long to figure out that the fish didn't seem to care. The only downside to the day was that I simply could not catch a measuring fish. Fish after fish hit the HammerShad, but they were all small. Not having been able to feel a tug on my line for some time, I really didn't mind. In fact, about 6pm I finally boat swung a healthy keeper and I put the rods down and called it a day! On the day, we caught around 20 fish with only about 5 of them measuring. The best 5 weighed about 16 pounds.