Monday, June 30, 2014

Garden Update 6/28/14

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Well, it's all starting to pay off! In some cases, it's been 2 years in the making. Take the blueberry bushes, for example. The first bush didn't produce but one or two berries last year and the second bush wasn't planted until  late last year.

But, on Saturday morning, my wife was planning to cook pancakes. Griffin, the middle kid, suddenly froze in his tracks, looked at Alyse and said: "I have a GREAT idea!" So, he put on his boots, rushed outside and picked a handful of berries. He brought them to Alyse and demanded they be cooked in his pancake. And so it was done.

Gavin decided that he wasn't going to be outdone, so he went out himself. Though there weren't any more ripe berries, he was determined to partake. So he did. Check out this vid of him! 

Around lunch time, I went stomping around in the garden. I had already picked a few squash and I didn't think there was anything else that had ripened. But, upon lifting some leaves, I was astounded to find this!

Which demanded that we have a lunch consisting of only fresh produce. First up, fried green tomatoes, which I had never cook myself. I started with heating up a pan of cooking oil. I breaded them lightly in a mixture of cornmeal and flour with an Italian seasoning mixture. I also cooked the squash in the same way.

I rounded this out with one of my favorite recipes, cucumber salad.
What is this tasty dish and how do you make it? Easy! Just CLICK THIS LINK! 

While the garden is just starting to produce the fruits of my labor, I exclaimed to my wife that this one meal already made all the work worth it!

On a sad note, I did notice that many of the tomato plants have some sort of fungus on the leaves. A coworker said that I wasn't fertilizing them enough. I will look into that.

Additionally, at least one squash plant was claimed by the grubs.

Best5Zach's Vinaigrette Cucumber Salad

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People who eat this dish of mine constantly ask how to make it. So, I figured I would write it up so you can see how to prepare and enjoy this vinaigrette salad. It's incredibly easy and extremely flavorful and savory! It's the perfect use of your produce you have worked so hard to grow!

  1. Whenever possible, use the freshest of ingredients, like cucumbers and peppers from your own garden and freshly cut herbs and spices from your own herb gardens! 
  2. Slice the cucumbers into your desired portion size. I like mine either thinly sliced or cubed chunks
  3. Put into strainer and liberally sprinkle kosher salt
  4. Shake every 3-5 minutes. This will pull water out of the cucumbers
  5. Mix a half cup of balsamic and apple cider vinegar
  6. Add in 3 table spoons of extra virgin olive oil
  7. Add freshly crushed black pepper (to your own desire)
  8. Add freshly minced dill weed (dried dill requires 10X as much as fresh to achieve the same taste)
  9. Add freshly minced sweet basil (see above) 
  10. Add diced white or red (or both!) onions
  11. Add diced bell peppers
  12. Mix in cucumbers
  13. Let sit for 30 minutes to allow the cucumbers to replace the water with vinegar
  14. As an added pleasure, serve with mozzarella cheese, if you have it! 
  15. Enjoy!

Fishing Report for Wheeler 6/26/14

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Read about all of my Fishing Adventures!

Follow my Fish of 2014

I think I have said several times in the last few months about how we wanted to make more of an effort in fishing the Ditto Thursday Night Wildcats. Well, sometimes that means making sacrifices. Like...when your wife has a GNO planned and you have 3 kids, one of which has soccer might have to hire a babysitter. Or two, in our case. You know, because the safety of the children is paramount.

In case you asked, that means to fish it cost"
$40 in babysitting (cheap, really...I probably owe them more)
$25 in entry fee

Now, if you cash a check, it doesn't feel so bad. That was my plan, anyway. Even if I haven't cashed a check during this tournament since 2011......

I did however, cash one just a week previous during our MFC Tournament.

There were 10 or so boats in the weekly Thursday night Wildcat out of Ditto. Not a bad turnout, especially as it has been incredibly tough on the river the last month or so. I mean, just downright brutal. If there is current, you might have a chance to get into a pile of fish. If not, you may be running around a lot looking for one here and two there.

When we pulled up on our first spot, there seemed to be a good amount of current, so I had hopes that maybe we could catch a good mess of fish. While dragging a texas rigged plastic in about 14 feet of rocky bottomed water, a fish dang near took the rod out of my hand. It thumped it so hard that a hook set was just for good measure. I knew immediately that it was a good fish, the question was, would it be one we could measure. We have caught a little bit of everything in this spot, so it wouldn't surprise me to haul up a largemouth, a smallmouth, a catfish, or a drum.

The fish didn't keep us in suspense for very long as it jumped several feet in the air! It must have covered 5 feet in its jump. It was a nice brown fish. Probably the first keeper sized smallmouth that I have caught this year.
It took several minutes to get this hoss in the boat. You guys know how those smallies fight! The battle isn't over until they are in the livewell!

That was the only fish we caught off the first spot. We headed to a new spot (for me) which was in the current. After tossing a sammy around for several minutes without any luck, I picked up the shakey head and tossed it behind some rock that was acting as a current break. As I reeled in the slack, I noticed that the line was moving a LITTLE too fast for the current. I snatched it and a fish came flying out of the water, tossing the bait. It didn't matter, as it wouldn't have measured. I made another cast and another fish picked up the bait. I set the hook again and swung it over the side. This fish came unbuttoned, skidded across the deck and into the water. Quick release...right? It also wouldn't have measured either.

We did manage to catch a small keeper before the bite died.

We spot hopped trying to find more fish, ultimately resorting to one last spot before we headed in. While dragging a C-rigged plastic on the bottom, Josh found some trash and became snagged. As he worked the bait and popped it free, something grabbed a hold of the bait. He wrestled it for several seconds before seeing it was a 4 foot long gar. We were both just a LITTLE surprised! I was going to net it, but when I saw what it was..I let him deal with it.

We did catch another decent fish, getting us to 3 total keepers. With the way the weigh-ins had been, we figured we might have a chance.

About half the boats weighed in one fish or less. We weighed in our 3 for a little under 6 pounds. The smallie went 3.30, but wasn't the big fish. That went to a 4 pound 10 ounce largemouth.

Believe it or not, it took 11 pounds to win, though 2nd place was right over 6 pounds. There were no limits weighed in. The 11 pound bag was 4 fish. We were two out of the money.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

Marshall: From Improbable to Unstoppable

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Marshall: From Improbable to Unstoppable 

It was just another blip on my news feed when word rolled in that 3 more players had been let go from THUGA....or, the University of Georgia as many refer to it. A kid named Marshall who had been a true freshman starter on a pretty good defense had managed to do something wrong and get sent home. I did cringe a little when I realized that it was another kid whose life was probably ruined by some petty act, but the University's these days didn't play around. They didn't really care who you were. If you brought any sort of negative attention to the program, you were gone. It didn't matter that you had set essentially every record for a high school QB in your home state of Georgia. It didn't matter that you were a 4-Star athlete. It didn't matter that you had so much pure talent that you could win a starting job as a corner in your true freshman season. You screw up, on any level, and you are gone. But ultimately, he wasn't one my team and I had no idea who he was. So, who cares.

Life went on.

But in the days leading up to National Signing Day, many Auburn forums were buzzing about the prospect of a JUCO QB. Curious, I started looking into what everyone was so excited about. This kid from the JUCO ranks had flashed some unbelievable moves week in and week out. Everyone was raving about these insane moves and blazing speed. But, I had seen that before. There are a lot of really fast football players with great moves out there, and while they can win games against inferior competition, playing QB in the SEC is a whole different animal. Just think, being blazing fast isn't unique. Guys like Clowney can run 4.5s off the edge. I was more interested in his stats, initially. And the stats said that he threw almost as many INTs as he did TDs. And, he put the ball on the dirt....a lot.

But, I was intrigued, so I watched the highlights. Indeed, he did have some sick moves. He could scramble. He made guys miss. And, he fumbled. He made some bad throws. But, he also had a cannon of an arm, as he demonstrated in one highlight where he threw a TD pass 70 yards. I don't mean the kid caught it and ran it in. I mean, he threw the ball 70 yards and hit his receiver. That certainly raised an eyebrow. I did admit that the defense that many fans had was certainly pertinent. He was forced to play from behind in essentially every game, forcing him to take the game on his shoulders. As valid of an excuse as it was, I didn't buy it. Throwing pics and fumbling is inexcusable. The other thing I kept thinking was, if that Malzahn wanted him, and that should be just cause for us to get on board. After all, Malzahn had already taken two transfers and made winners of them at Auburn.

But I was skeptical. I think you can tell in my QB Breakdown. Wallace hadn't been TERRIBLE in his starts the previous year. He certainly hadn't gotten help. And, Jeremy Johnson was coming in, whom had been penciled in as The Future. While Frazier and Wallace battled it out during the spring, I couldn't help but think that two former starters had a HUGE and possibly insurmountable edge on Johnson and Marshall. But, when A-Day 2013 wrapped up, none of us were impressed with the two QBs we saw play. And suddenly it was imperative that one of the two latter QBs needed to come in and do the impossible: learn a Malzhan offense, win the job, and manage to NOT LOSE games....and do it in weeks. Not months.

Of course, the Bammers lined up, just as they had when Cam had come onto the scene, to point and laugh. And while they had their own renditions of how to explain it, the fact was, Auburn was a 2nd Chance school. Since Brandon Cox had left the Plains had been transfers, almost half the games had been started to transfers. And, of all the QBs since Cox, most of the winning had been done BY transfers including a National Championship. I admit that there were times that I felt like Auburn had become Mercenary U. If you screw up, no problem. We will take you in. I wasn't too sure how I felt about that.

While most fans were wildly anticipating Marshall's ability, I quietly had a lot of reservations. What did that say about our chances of winning if we had 4 other QBs on the roster who would get sat for a kid that played cornerback at one of our most hated opponents? Especially considering  that he had a month to learn the offense that they had years to learn.

Into fall ball we went, and the word coming out of camp said that this Marshall kid was unreal when he scrambled and he could spin the ball. The QB play at Auburn in 2011 and 2012 had been beyond sub-par, and they had been players that had been recruited and trained by Malzahn for at least a year.  Just days later, word comes out that Nick Marshall would be the next starting QB for Auburn.

But, in Malzahn we trusted. #14 took the field as an Auburn Tiger, 87,451 screaming fans waiting to see the next Cam Newton. I can only imagine the level and weight of the expectations that he must have felt. I doubt he ever considered himself another #2, but I know he felt like that's who he was expected to be, unfairly or not.

Auburn escaped Washington State with some critical defensive plays, notably by Robenson Therezie. Marshall has as pedestrian a day as I had ever seen in a winning QB at Auburn, going 10/19 for 99 yards and zero TDs while picking up another 27 yards on 9 carries. It wasn't the numbers that Cam had put up. Message boards and social media seemed to tune up to that line of thinking. Cam had completed the same amount of throws, but to the tune of 186 yards and 3 TDs while rushing for 171 and 2 TDs in his first start. Cam had gone from a JUCO transfer to a Heisman contender in 60 minutes. Marshall just looked to have survived to fight another day. May fans, including myself, figured we would be settling into another long season. He may not be a Cam, but at least he could make life interesting, which was a far cry from the offense we had seen in 2012.

Even at the time, I wondered if Marshall, alone with his thoughts, considered the comparison. I certainly envisioned him sitting in his room with his head in his hands. The shine of the second chance slightly tarnished. I could see him thinking "this isn't as easy as I thought it would be." He hadn't taken Jordan-Hare by storm. In fact, his performance had been fairly pitiful, specifically missing at least 2 wide open receivers on critical plays. Suddenly, people who were so excited to see what he could do suddenly doubted if this was the right direction. While I expected him to be down on himself, he almost certainly looked at the challenge and the expectations and the criticisms and it fueled him.

But, he wasn't Cam and he never would be. I'm sure he knew that all along, despite the heavy expectations to conform to that image that he must have felt. He isn't 6'6" 250. He doesn't have that long stride.  He wasn't one of the most coveted prospects in the nation coming out of high school. He didn't "come out the womb" to ready play quarterback in the NFL. And while we all envisioned another QB like Cam that would run people over, hit the open field and make 5 yard strides, or deliver that absolute rocket of a ball as Cam did, that wasn't Marshall.  

Marshall had to do something that Cam never had to do while at Auburn. He had to face his video the next day. He had to look at a pretty dreadful performance and realize that it wasn't going to work. He had to make improvements. Drastic improvements. And he had to do it quick.

7 days later, he threw for 147 yards and 2 TDs while running for 53 more yards against an inferior Arkansas State defense.

And again, he had to go back to the film room. It wasn't good enough against SEC competition. He made improvements. He went to work, just like the Auburn Creed.

It was that week that things started to look different. Against Mississippi State, Marshall threw for 339 yards and 2 TDs with 2 INTs (one was a hail mary). He only ran for a few yards, but he astounded fans in the first quarter when he fumbled a shotgun snap, scooped it, and found a streaking Bray down the sideline for a TD. Sloppy? Absolutely. Brilliant? Absolutely. Improbable? Absolutely.

And when the game stalled and State pulled ahead with 2 minutes left, I had all but conceded the loss. That was tough, since I was at the game with some State fans. And this guy, despite the rough starts in the first two games, did something completely improbable. A guy who had looked like a shaky passer, at best,  calmly orchestrated one of the most brilliant 2 minute drills I have ever seen, culminating in as perfect a back shoulder pass to Uzomah. Amazing. A guy who had been missing wide open crossing routes connects on the hardest pass you can make in an absolute pressure cooker of a situation.

Improbable. But that's what he was.

The following week went down almost exactly as we all thought it would. Auburn couldn't escape Death Valley against the #6 team in the land. Despite making several critical mistakes that ultimately spelled defeat, Marshall and the Auburn offense did something that we hadn't seen in a long time. Despite being down 21 points at half time, the offense continued to fight, putting up 21 2nd half points. Was it enough. No. But it made every Auburn fan a believer in what he and the Auburn Tigers stood for, which had been missing in previous years: toughness.

Again, Marshall had to do something that Cam never did at Auburn. He had to lose and deal with a loss. He had to take the burden of a loss, already heavy with the expectations of a fan base hungry for improvement. But it was the defining game for Marshall and the Auburn offense. It marked the kick off point of the most dominating and improbable offenses in the history of college football. It was the development of the most formidable rushing attack we have ever witnessed. While Auburn, known as Runningback U, has one of the most storied legacies of rushers, it hasn't witnessed an option based rushing attack that Marshall would command for the 2nd half of the season. While Trey Mason stole the spotlight for the year, leading to his drafting into the NFL, it was truly Marshall who struck fear into defenses.

2 weeks after his first loss, Marshall exploded onto the Rebels as he ran for 140 yards and 2 TDs while throwing for another 93 against a good Ole Miss defense. And for the rest of the season, he went into "kill mode".  He threw when he had to. He ran when he had to. Yards and TDs piled up in a most improbable fashion. Take the UT game, for example. Marshall completed 3/7 passes in a 55-23 win. The offense had started the year as a balanced attack, shaky, and frequently unpredictable and evolved into the most predictable and dominating offenses of our time.

While the season closed with a heart-breaking loss to FSU, one couldn't help but notice the amazing development of the young man wearing #14. Just in the month between the Iron Bowl and the National Championship, the growth of his game was evident.

What an amazing journey it has been for Marshall. A Georgia Bulldog true freshman at corner one year, to a community college phenom, to the Plains as a starting quarterback who orchestrated some of the most mind blowing and incredible plays in an unforgettable season. As a fan, it has been a humbling experience to have judged someone's character and ability so willingly only to have him blossom into such a fantastic player who becomes a leader of men.  It's just as easy to point at a kids decision and label him a troublemaker as it is to watch a kid play and say he won't amount to a winner. Perhaps what makes him one of my favorite players is that his willingness to compete and win, despite the expectations and odds. Just when he looks to be out of it. Just when things look impossible, Marshall confounds the odds in such a spectacular and improbable fashion. If there were ever a player that you shouldn't tell what they can't do, Marshall is it.  He took what could have been a career ending situation at UGA as a corner and turned into a preseason Heisman contender at Auburn as a quarterback.

2nd chances aren't for everyone. Some people never get them and some people squander them. And some people take the opportunities that are given to them and turn them into something beautiful, amazing, and improbable. No one could ever have imagined such an improbable series of events.While we all grew with him and healed together during the 2013 season, it is easy to look at 2014 and the potential greatness and to lose sight of just how special and improbable 2013 really was. It wouldn't have been so without Nick Marshall, the most improbable starting QB to wear the AU on his helmet.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


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For a fan that had grown to love the punishing defenses that Tommy Tuberville had fielded, the years of 2008-2012 were painful to watch. Even in 2010, the defense managed to make stops and even game breaking plays, a la Nick Fairley. Yet the majority of the game play was fairly pitiful. Reactive play where the defenses seemed to play on their heels. That 4 year streak culminated in record lows for an Auburn defensive unit in 2012.  Do you remember when we played "Crazy Train" because the defense was unstoppable?  My, how things have changed. The last few years, we hear that song and we scream just hoping for a stop. It used to signal the opposing team that it was 3rd and long. Again. It was time to punt. Again. Every inch requires blood and bruises. But it hasn't been that way for some time. There was something missing. I didn't know who it would be, but Auburn needed a player to rally behind. A player that would inject that head-hunter mentality. A player that might get beat once, but would hit you so hard you didn't want to do it again. Case in point: Jr. Rosegreen against Georgia in 2004.

It was January 5th, 2011. Auburn was less than a week from playing for the National Championship and I found myself watching the Under Armour game on ESPN for the 2nd straight year. I admit that I was watching to game primarily to watch future QB Frazier play with a future NFL center, Dismukes. During a cut in the action, a player, surrounded by his family, committed to Auburn.

The players name was Robenson Therezie. And I had never heard of him.

But, he was a future Tiger, and future NFL talent or not, I love all my Tigers. I did some quick research on him, finding him to be slightly out of the top 10 in the Nation at his position. At the time, his commitment was overshadowed by future teammates such as Reese Dismukes and Quan Bray and other future NFL stars like Clowney and Clinton-Dix. I couldn't help but notice, however, that on the list of Auburn commitments were names like Enrique Florence, a prototypical safety whom everyone had all but penciled in as a future Tiger star at safety. Going by the stats offered by Rivals and other recruiting services, this kid Therezie would never see the field.

Bored with the UA game, I continued to research him...bringing up some of his highschool highlights. I was immediately impressed by his head-hunter mentality and ball skills. While highlights are frequently deceiving, I could tell that this kid had something that Auburn's defensive backs had been missing since Rosegreen and Rogers had stepped off Pat Dye field for the last time. He had a toughness and meanness about him. He was first to the ball. He wanted to punish running backs and receivers. And when he had the ball in his hands, he was untouchable. What made him different from the other players that I had watched on film wasn't his measurables. In fact, at 5-9, he was significantly shorter than the prototypical players ahead of him in the rankings. So, unlike many of these highly ranked players, he couldn't use his monstrous stature and elite speed to cover for bad form. No. He would have to do it the old fashioned way.  It was his meanness and physicality. His tackling form was terrific. His pursuit angles excellent. That was something that was rare to see on film.

While I am no talent scout, I do pride myself on being able to separate these type players. Unlike the elite, Therezie, couldn't jump over people. He couldn't outrun everyone. And he couldn't run over the biggest players. So, he made up for it with terrific fundamentals and pure aggression. That was something that I loved to see. I, of all people, know that not everyone is gifted with elite size and speed. You get what you get. All you can do is work on the things you can change: aggression and discipline. As he committed, I could tell there was something about him. He knew he wasn't most highly rated safety committed to the Tigers. He didn't expect to be handed the starting job. But he would outwork and out hit to get there. I think that's why I immediately liked him.

Auburn commitments won the day for the Under Armour All-American game and Auburn went on to win the National Championship. But I didn't forget about him. I saw something in him that Auburn needed. Toughness. Auburn defenses had missed that toughness for the last couple of years.

Therezie exited the spring of 2011 down the depth chart, as I expected. He saw limited action in every game in 2011 as a true freshman. Impressive though it seemed, he frequently played behind fellow true freshman Enrique Florence. Even though he didn't have many stats...recording only 17 tackles with one for loss, he was always around the ball when he was in the game. He may not have been the first to the ball, but he always had a way of sticking his helmet in there, sometimes when he shouldn't. I recall him recording a personal foul for a late hit on a sideline early in 2011, but I couldn't be mad. On a defense that rarely did anything to slow down opposing offenses, Therezie was always trying to find a way to punish the offense. I liked it. I wanted to see more of it, especially when the players ahead of him were frequently beat on the pass and could barely drag down running backs from behind.

He played in 11 games in the ill-fated 2012 season, even moving to tailback to shore up the thin depth chart, though he remained on the roster as a DB. He showed improvement in 2012, but still didn't see the field as much as his freshman year. On a defense that would ultimately become the worst defense in the history of Auburn football, I was confounded on how a player as hard nosed as Therezie wasn't on the field. That defense couldn't stop a bloody nose and rarely showed any toughness. I figured it was because he wasn't that prototypical size, being 5-9 and 212. Maybe it was because  he wasn't grasping the game play concepts that van Gorder was teaching. He must not be fundamentally sound, as van Gorder frequently pushed. And yet I would rather see a player on the field playing with raw emotion and little technique than what I was watching. Ultimately it didn't matter how or why, because this defense was terrible and it showed zero signs of turning around.

Seemingly minutes after the 49-0 beating to Alabama, the old regime was gone...despite having been there only a short time. In comes Johnson with his 4-2-5 scheme and the Star position. Not knowing much about Johnson or the 4-2-5, I did some research. What made the defense work? The Star. A hybrid player. A player who didn't EXACTLY fit anywhere and doesn't do anything perfectly.A player with a little bit of everything: size, speed, ball skills, fundamentals, and aggression. A player that can track down a long ball from across the field, break up a sideline throw, smash a receiver across the middle, walk up in the box and pound a running back, or even blitz off the edge. Even before Johnson set foot on campus, I knew EXACTLY who I would play in this position.  Yet, it wasn't 27 that the coaches raved about coming out of spring practice and it wasn't 27 that won MVP of the A-Day spring game in 2012. Though it was a player in the Star position: Justin Garrett. Number 26, just one off of 27.

Not to knock Justin Garrett. Other than seeing him miscast as a weakside linebacker in his first few years, I didn't get to see him exhibit the play that had coaches excited coming out of the spring. I certainly trusted the coaches, and if they say that he was the man, then he certainly was. I also knew that if 26 was the starter that had them excited, they had the countries best backup in 27.

Then Garrett went down with an injury in the fall. I know a lot of fans were fairly distressed, especially withe the Mike Leach Air Raid attack coming to Jordan-Hare. I don't want anyone to be injured, but I couldn't ignore the providence in the injury for one player. #27

Leading up to the game, I wrote my Washington State Preview. What did I say in it?

"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."

How did Therezie respond in his first start?  Two gorgeous INTs, one of them a game breaker made in the endzone. So one player single-handedly tied the INT season total for the entire 2012 team in one game. And every Auburn fan heaved a sigh of relief. But would he start all season?

With Garrett's impending return from injury looming from week to week, Therezie turned in one of the best half seasons that I can remember for an Auburn secondary player. A few plays come to mind.

Who can forget the Pick Six off of Bo Wallace ? Check it out! 

I remember where I was when he picked that pass off. I was sitting in my chair with a cold drink. A streaking Therezie came from off screen and snatched Bo Wallace's pass. With his smooth Cadillac stride, he broke the game wide open with the 8th longest INT return in Auburn history. Meanwhile, I had jumped out of my chair, spilled my drink, and made the living room to hallway to kitchen to living room circuit three times, screaming like a kid on Christmas.

How improbable could it have been? A kid that wasn't the highlight of his recruiting class....or even at his own position on his own team. Wasn't a starter in his first two years and entered his junior year as a backup at Star to an emerging superstar. Yet, when fate gave him an opportunity to rise above, he did so in the most amazing fashion. And so, the man they call Cadillac ended 2013 with a team leading 4 interceptions, 6th on the team in tackles, an AP All-SEC honorable mention, and perhaps the best accomplishment....the Zeke Smith Award as Auburn's Defensive MVP. Along the way, he made every single player on the field know he was around as he distributed sloberknockers wherever he could. I can just envision opposing receivers watching videos leading up to their match-up with Auburn, making notes on where 27 was at all times. And, avoiding him if possible.

The 2013 defensive squad was a far cry from the Auburn defenses that I grew up loving. It still gave up points and yards. Ultimately it gave up a National Championship when it couldn't stop FSU with just seconds left on the clock. But the building blocks for fashioning an elite defensive unit are on the Plains now. There is no questioning that Auburn continue to church out NFL talent, but the talent on the field hasn't quite translated to a cohesive Unit.  

It's time for a Unit punches offenses in the mouth with hard, physical play. It's time for a Unit that looks at the failures from last year and wants pay back for each and every yard. A Unit that realizes that it must make the most of it's chances, because you don't get many. All this Unit needs now is leaders and game breakers.

One of those players with the toughness and grit made himself known last year. A player who punishes. A player looking to take any pass to the house. A player who plays with raw unbridled emotion. A player we cue up Crazy Train for.  A player to erupt 87,451 fans with a single hit and can turn the tide with one play. 

And so, we have Therezie. A kid that didn't have the prototypical NFL measurables. A kid that wasn't a premier recruit. He wasn't a gamebreaker or even a starter in his first 2 years. He was penciled in behind a future super star in 2013. And then the opportunity came, and he made the most of it. Unquestionably.

That's what makes Star27 my favorite defensive player.

Read more about Star27 on his Auburn Bio. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Apiculture: Tap Into A Valuable Renewing Resource

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I want you to think about the most expensive liquid per unit volume that you can. What different liquids came to mind? Gasoline or other petroleum based products? Sure. I am sure many of you thought of bottled water, as crazy it sounds, it is up there.

But no, that's not the liquid I am thinking of, though all of those are certainly expensive. This liquid is sweet. It's extremely useful.  It's fairly hard to come by. It is commonly referred to as "liquid gold". Have you figured it out? It's honey.

Many of you are raising your eyebrows at that. But, when is the last time you went to the grocery store and bought the small honey bear shaped bottle of honey? I know, most of the time we don't even check the price of many of the products we throw into our shopping cart these days. Fact is, they are all expensive, but that small bottle you just paid for sells for between $5-8. That's right. Go check Amazon right now. Just type in "honey" and see what comes up. You will see that the price per ounce is between $.33-$.50 an ounce.

That’s $42.25 a gallon. Assuming we use the cheapest unit cost. How do you feel about gasoline and bottled water? Doesn't seem so bad, does it?

Now, it's true that the average person doesn't use much honey throughout the year. But is it because they don't like it that much, or that they just don't buy that much because of the price ?

Growing up, we ate honey every single day. Now, I was blessed to have been raised on a functioning farm that featured a set of tended bee hives. Now, we didn't do the tending. We rented out the land that the beekeeper used in exchange for product. Because we usually had a steady supply of honey, we featured it regularly in our diet. We had it on toast every morning (and sometimes after other meals). It was used in BBQ sauces. My grandmother used it in salad dressings, which we ate usually twice a day. It was used in many dessert recipes as a sugar substitute. After all, why buy a bag of sugar when you have a renewable supply?

As time marched on, the beekeeper neglected the bees on our property. The supply dwindled and eventually disappeared. Having become used to the supply, my father set out to do something about it. He knew next to nothing about apiculture, but he knew the resources were out there. Indeed, there were. The internet is a great resource, if you choose to believe it. Otherwise, there are a lot of books and printed literature on the subject. Dad subscribed to both and dove right in, ordering all the stuff he needed to get started. The first thing he had to do was rehabilitate the beehives and the colonies and get them healthy. He quickly discovered that it was mostly neglect that had caused the colonies to develop problems. The man-made hives were rotting and broken, which had led to disease and easy access for predators.

He used his carpentry skills to rebuild and replace the hives. He cared for the bees. And within the first few months, he harvested his first bunch of honey.

The amazing thing was just how much money came out of these few hives. We just didn't realize just how much liquid gold a healthy hive could produce. I will say this, the old beekeeper was certainly doing well when the hives were healthy. I remember that we would a handful of quart jars each year, and we were happy to get those. The first batch dad harvested yielded 3 gallons. If dad sold that batch at market prices, he would clear $100 after the cost of a case of jars ($25). Now, understand that the market prices are certainly driven by overhead, shipping, and all that other stuff that a private grower doesn't have to worry about.

What happened next was what really got me thinking. Dad had all of this wax left over from his harvest. Being ever creative, he came up with some terrific uses of the wax, though none of them should surprise you.

The first thing he did with the wax was fashion homemade candles with it. He added ground cedar wood, commonly found on our land, as a scent. Each hive produced several candles.

Additionally, with the addition of some essential oils such as lavender, he formulated different balms and lotions. Of course, I didn't care much for them, but my wife sure did.

I did, however, love having a steady supply of honey.  I was able to do what my parents and grandparents had done when we had steady supply years ago. I featured it in my own BBQ sauces and marinades. I used it in glazes and salad dressings. And, of course we ate it on toast and biscuits all the time.

That was all great, but a series of events made me appreciate apiculture and think of it as a real resource for making money on the side as a hobby or even in an EOTWAWKI situation. I had a friend from Wisconsin over one night for some BBQ. He was watching me make a glaze for some chicken and he noticed that I was using copious amounts of honey. He noticed that I wasn't pouring from a store bought jar, so he asked where I had come up with it. I told him about our families history with the bees and how we were now producing it regularly again. He immediately asked if I would sell him some. He was willing to pay whatever we wanted, even offering $25 for the quart jar. Taken aback, I asked him why he wanted it that bad. He went on to explain that he had terrible allergies and that local honey was a proven way of inoculating yourself to the effects of local pollen on your sinuses. Of course, I didn't charge him anything. I just gave him some. But it started me thinking about the value of honey as a renewable resource. The idea was further fortified as I read "Alas, Babylon" a few months ago.

In a barter and trade situation, most everyone will only have a fixed amount of resources to barter with. Few people will have the ability to produce a valuable staple on a regular basis. And, honey is a resource that doesn't take much manpower to operate. You need a few special items and a few hours a month to ensure the health of your hives and to harvest and process the honey and byproducts. While honey may not seem like a necessity and more of a luxury, I challenge you to think a little outside of the box, as the protagonist in the aforementioned literary work thought.

Man will always want alcohol. Throughout history, alcohol has been a staple of man. Whether it is a a vice, a hobby, or a survival technique, man will always want alcohol. We see many Biblical examples throughout the bible, from Noah to the parables taught by Jesus. We see it used by explores on the high seas to stave off the affects of water stagnation and contamination. Obviously, there are many medicinal uses. Though alcohol will always be a sought after commodity, not every man will have the ability to produce it. Alcohol based on honey is unique in that the bees do all the hard work, as opposed to man tending a vineyard, orchard, or cane grove. While the bees make the main ingredient, the man can be doing other useful things to provide and protect. It is one of the few products that is stable over time. Meaning, storage and spoilage is not an issue as it would be with other consumables such as crops. If the demand is low or the supply is high, the producer can simply store the excess for another time, which can't be said for other products.

That isn't to say that alcohol is the only product of apiculture that is valuable. Candles will be one of the most important consumable housewares that all people will need. And, it will be one of the things that the average person will run out of first. Face it, the work doesn't stop when the sun goes down. While many houses have a fireplace that could provide light, most people (especially here in the South) won't want to have a roaring fireplace between the months of March to October.  Additionally, light will be needed in more places than the living room. When the sun goes down, people still need to see to eat,  wash dishes, mend clothes, go to the bathroom, etc. Apiculture provides a renewable source of valuable wax to make such candles. Again, another product that doesn't take man much time to produce, but provides a necessary product for the family as well as a valuable commodity to trade or sell.

Candles and honey aren't the only two valuable products that can be harvested through apiculture, though they are easily the two most visible ones. There is at least one other valuable things that apiculture offers that you may not have considered because it isn't a direct product.  Perhaps the most important thing that partaking in apiculture can gain someone is the pollination services offered by bees. In case you missed that part of the 3rd grade, pollination is a requirement for growing anything. Though other insects do aid in pollination, the amount of pollination done by these insects compared to a local hive of bees pales in comparison. Having a hive even remotely close to your orchard or garden will ensure than the maximum amount of pollination will be achieved. When you think about all the things that can (and do) go wrong every planting and growing season, this is one aspect that you can control. You may not be able to control the weather, but you can at least ensure that the maximum numbers of plants were pollinated.

Whether you are looking for a new hobby, a way to make some money at your local farmers market, or you are looking to prepare yourself for the EOTWAWKI, apiculture is one of the most valuable and overlooked ways to achieve any of these goals. In it's most basic form, it provides honey, one of the most expensive liquids per unit volume, and a favorite at the table for millions. Honey can be used to produce alcohol, one of the human necessities, which would provide you and your family with an extremely useful product for your own use, or a renewable product to sell or trade. The biproducts from apiculture are extremely useful in making items such as candles and balms. The bees themselves are a blessing for anyone striving to grow crops. And even though apiculture provides all of these staples, it is one of the easiest things to learn and implement on your homestead. But, it is an art that is dying out in today's culture. Though most people don't have the land or ability to participate, we should all understand what apiculture provides to humanity and what its decreasing participation is doing to our world.

While I haven't strapped on the suit myself, I love watching my dad and my kids!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Fishing Report for Wheeler 6/21/14

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Sadly, it was so tough that I didn't take any vids...sorry folks! 

The MFC had a tournament scheduled for Wheeler out of Ditto 2 weeks ago, but nobody could make it. With Dittofest the next weekend, we moved it to this past weekend. I really wanted to fish it, but as of Monday of that week, the Skeeter still wasn't fixed and there was little hope in sight of getting it fixed. 

Way back in March, Josh and I were rocketing upriver after blasting off for the NATA Open on Guntersville. After a few miles, I noticed that the speed was dropping off slowly. By the time I got to the mouth of Roseberry, the RPM wouldn't climb above 4500 RPM and the boat couldn't stay on plane. 

The following week, I did some research and found that this was a common problem with the Yamaha OX66 motors. The issue was that there were a handful of things that could cause this problem. Initially, I started simple by pulling out several of the fuel filters. I did find the VST filter to be clogged as well as the fuel/water separator. Thinking that the issue was possibly solved, I hit Pickwick up the very next weekend for a MFC tournament. The issue didn't go away.

That following Monday, I dropped it off with my good friend Chris. He worked on it as best he could while working 2 other mechanic jobs. He replaced all the filters and diagnosed it as a high pressure fuel pump. So, he replaced that and I picked it up on a Saturday. The following day, Alyse and I hit up Wheeler only to find that the problem persisted. I dropped it back off. 

A few weeks later, after replacing every diaphragm and filter, the issue still persisted. And, I had this tournament coming up. I really wanted to fish it. But, Josh was out of town and my boat wasn't fixed. I asked to take his boat, and he was ok with it, but I didn't want to go that route. I could take my boat, which did operate ok at low speeds, but it wouldn't make a long run.  I didn't want to take on a non-boater just to put-put around Ditto, so I opted to take Alyse. The only option I had was to pick the boat up and see if I could fix it myself. So, I took off Friday and dug into the motor.

I had read about a simple test for the low pressure fuel pumps, which were the most likely cause of this issue. Sure enough, that was the case. In a few hours, I was headed to Wheeler to test it. The boat rocketed out of the hole, hit 60 and still had pedal left, but that wasn't really the test. Would it hold speed after 5 miles? It did. Excellent. 

Alyse and I scrambled to find a way that she could fish with my, eventually finding a babysitter who would spend the night Friday night. 

We left the house at 4:45 and BARELY made to the water in time to blast off. And that's when the decisions began. 

If you recall, I had found....wait...that's not right. Josh found and caught a NICE bag in the 2nd Annual PEO Bass Classic the weekend before. Ditto is a good haul from Decatur. I wasn't sure I wanted to trust the boat that far. Even if I did, the return on a check for that long of a run was really a wash. And that was assuming I got a check. That left me on the upper half of the lake which is incredibly current dependent. And, June is a bad time for that. The last few weeks, there hasn't been much of any current around the Ditto area. Case in point is that Josh cashed a check in the Thursday night wildcat with 2 fish. And last week, we fished all afternoon and caught one nice fish....but it was nice! Check it out

My 3rd and final option was to run to the dam. At least I would head upriver, so if I had any problems, I could drift down river. But, it was also a good run and the money just wasn't there. 

So, I decided to try and nickle and dime a limit out of the Ditto area. 

Everyone in the club knew where I would head, or at least they thought they did. I wanted to save my favorite spot for when the sun came up. My favorite spot is a sunken bridge that always hold fish, but it really comes alive with current. The weather said that there would be some storms when the sun came up. Additionally, I figured the greatest draw on current would be around lunch time. So, I saved that spot for later on. I wanted to have a limit of some sort early, just in case. 

So, I headed to Butler. Initially, that looked to be the right choice. The fish were schooling hard on baitfish on the outside of the entrance. We went after them with topwater. Though they would hit and slap, they wouldn't catch a hook. When they did, it was an 8-11.74 inch fish. It was very frustrating. I went to a Strike King series 3 and Alyse threw a Luhr-Jensen speed trap. The first cast, I had a solid hit. The fish jumped a few time and I saw that it was a nice 15 inch fish, just the type fish I wanted to catch early. But, we didn't have the net out and he threw the hooks at the boat.
We both caught a few fish, some small bass with white bass mixed in...but zero keepers. When the schooling died, we moved into Butler.  We fished there until around lunch. However, we didn't have a single bite on the inside.

Frustrated, I decided to make the run to my favorite spot. I pulled up and scanned the area with my Humminbird 798. I found the bait with fish on them and we dropped the trolling motor. I went deep with a Strike King 6XD while Alyse probed the middle of the water column with a series 3. On her second cast, she bagged a keeper. I had a solid hit while probing the submerged rocks, but after a few seconds, the fish came off. I made a few more turns on the reel and it hit again, only to come off! Minutes later, I swung a nice 2 pounder aboard for keeper number 2. 

Another hour and we didn't have another bite. The sun was now very high and we were both hot and sweaty. I strapped the rods down and we made a run down river where I found and caught some fish the day before while testing the boat. This spot was just down from the Army rec area where there are some barge tie ups. Between 2 of these was a deep hole where largemouth and spots were ambushing bait, which were holding onto a rip rap bank. Several minutes of hard cranking and we had nothing. 

Frustrated, I spotted an area that Alyse and I had fished last year in September and had scored one of my best days on Wheeler. That was the first and last time I fished it, though we caught a good limit off it. We headed over to give it a try. It's about 100 yards of rip rap bank. Along that bank are 4-5 spots with bigger rocks that jut out into the river. These rocks end right at the ledge. The spot paid off immediately as I swung a keeper aboard on a series 3. I recalled catching a nice 3 pounder on topwater in a very specific point between two large rocks. So, I tossed a Sammy over there and a fish annihilated it! Alyse netted me a nice 3 pound plus fish.

So, we spend the rest of the day searching for a 5th fish, but ultimately we couldn't find one that measured. But, we had a fish that I though could legitimately complete for big fish. Plus, if I struggled, most everyone else would too. I did catch this though...

And, a free Normal crank bait AND a new jig!

Turns out, we came in with 6 pounds in 4 fish, which ended up being good enough for 2nd place. It took 10 pounds to win, which came from the dam. Our big fish went 3.37 while the big fish came in at 3.47! Ouch!

The good news is, the boat works. We both caught several fish. It does mark the 2nd time that Alyse and I have won 2nd place! If you don't recall, check out our Trip on Pickwick!  Ironically, in both tournaments, we had only 4 fish and she caught one of the keepers. All things considered, that's a good streak! Don't tell her I said this, but I am so glad that we were able to fish together, even if it cost more to pay the babysitter than we won.

It sure ain't about the money, though. She is becoming a good fisherwoman and she ain't bad to look at!

Best5Zach Garden Update 6/23/14

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Here is my last Best5Zach Garden Update

Welp, time for an update!

All the hard work is just about to pay off! In fact, we are in the period of max growth in development.

That also includes massive intrusion of grass and weed! Man, I am constantly in the garden weeding. That's been especially brutal with the weather we have had. It's been muggy and 90+ every time I have been in there. Just thinking about work in the garden had me breaking out into sweats!

I guess the plethora of rain, sun, and fertilizer has been just as good to the weeds as the veggies! So, I do the best I can with 40 tomatoes and 20 or so peppers. In fact, I broke out the weed-eater the other day just to knock them back. Luckily, the cucumbers and squash have such huge leaves that the weeds can't grow as well under them as they are getting shaded out.

Here is the good news:
More and more tomatoes pop up in the bushes. Some, like the Early Girls, are almost fully grown and will be turning color any time now!

The okra is about 18 inches tall now. I am really surprised by how well it has done this year. Last year, I had to replant 3 times before they came up. Last year, I had to soak the seeds for 3 days. This year, I planted them directly without any prep and had around 30 plants come up and survive. My grandmother says that the constant rains caused this.

So far, the grubs haven't killed my squash yet. We are still trying to figure out how to keep this from happening. Everything we read says that if the stalks can get tough enough before the grubs get to them, they can't bore. But, how do you do that? Articles suggest covering the the young plants with cheese cloth to make them grow stronger. But, we didn't do that.....Last year, it wasn't until we were picking the squash before they grubs got to them, so I have my doubts that it is an age thing.

I planted 10 purple peppers last week, which boost the total number of pepper plants to around 30. However, they aren't doing that well. I think I waited too long to transplant them. The rest of the peppers are doing great.

Cucumbers are starting to run now and are putting on flowers!

Anyway, here is what you came to see:
We even had our first blue berry! 

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Review for Jay Posey's "Three: Legends of the Duskwalker"

As many of you may recall, I am frequently a visual buyer. When I shop at book stores, I usually pick up books based upon the cover, even though we are all aware of the old saying.

Luckily, we have an Amazon app that allows me to see the reviews. I do caution about judging books on these reviews alone. But, if it's 4 stars or higher and has been reviewed by 50 or more people, it's usually safe to give it a try.

So, I was at B&N before a work trip (the only time I ever frequent such places anymore). I saw the cover and it didn't have a title that disgusted me. I can't really quantify WHAT that means, but if it has a name that is obviously meant to be catchy, I usually put the book down. But the title was simple. The reviews were good and the description said this:

"The world has collapsed, and there are no heroes any more.
But when a lone gunman reluctantly accepts the mantel of protector to a young boy and his dying mother against the forces that pursue them, a hero may yet arise"

The editorial reviews said:

"Stark and powerful, THREE is a stunning debut. Reinventing the post-apocalyptic western as a journey across interior badlands as dangerous as the cyborg-haunted terrain his hero must cross, Posey has crafted a story that is impossible to put down."
- Richard E. Dansky, author of Snowbird Gothic

"Three feels like the result of tossing Mad Max, Neuromancer and Metal Gear Solid into a blender. If you don't find that combination appealing, then I do not understand you as a human being."
-Anthony Burch, writer for Borderlands 2 and Hey Ash Watcha Playin

"Jay Posey creates a vivid and mesmerizing world whose characters are so real and so flawed that you'll recognize them immediately.  An unforgettable read."
-Peter Telep, co-author of the #1 NY Times Bestseller Against All Enemies

"A post-apocalyptic road yarn sure to yank your trigger and tug at your heart."
- Matt Forbeck, author of Amortals and Dangerous Games

"... there’s no doubt that Posey is someone to defi
nitely watch as a rising star with this debut."

Why not. I gave it a try.

The book started very similar to most post apocalyptic works featuring a scavenger/survivor. It portrayed a hard, razors edge man who only looked after himself. Three has a past that has given him all the tools he needs to provide from himself, whether that's scavenging or taking jobs. In this case, he has a bounty to collect. He strolls into town with his loot and is trying to spend some down time. Sound familiar? Try "Waterworld" and "Book of Eli".

But, he finds himself offering help to two strangers despite a lifetime of experience telling him to walk away. Each step he takes down this path draws him deeper into the plot of a conflict not his own. What starts out as helping two innocent strangers in needs leads down a darker and broader path than he could have imagined. And, he finds himself being pushed from a loner without a need to help anyone at anytime to a man devoted to becoming a hero, despite himself.

What I Liked About This Book

  • There isn't a long lead in period into the action. You are given a glimpse of Three and his personality, then it leads immediately into the plot. 
  • That glimpse is brief and gives you the very basic information about Three. I don't like that authors try and reveal the character all at once in the beginning of the work. It's perfectly ok to reveal a character bit by bit. It gives a lot of anonymity of the character as well as surprise as you don't know how they will act all the time.
  • There is a lot of useful vagueness to the world. You get the impression of only seeing what Three sees. That isn't a lot, but it's just enough. 
  • The world is a very hostile place. Many times, as per the aforementioned movies, the world is only dangerous for everyone else. The hero always seems perfectly adapted
  • There is a lot of hand to hand combat and very few firearms. It gives a lot of realism to the fights
  • Heroes get hurt. In most works, the hero either never gets hurt, or when he does, it's nicks and cuts. Not this book
  • There are a lot of unanswered questions. These are about a multitude of subjects. Why is the world like this? Who is Three and why is he the way he is? What are the Weir?
  • Posey KNEW he would be writing more, so he left a lot of questions out there. I love that. Don't show all your cards in one piece then try and capitalize later. 
  • The world created was very unique, though it seemed to me to be borrowed from places, like "The Matrix"
What I Didn't Like About This Book
  • Like most every work, the hero bends and breaks his own rules. I don't just mean why he helped Cass at all, but a lot of the decisions in this book were backwards from how he would have done things
  • I disliked the end of this book. Read it and you will see why. 
  • Even though Posey liked leaving a lot of loose ends, there seemed to be way to many ends that were tied in the end. Many of the ends were obvious.
  • I have a hard time believing a character can change so rapidly after spending his whole life doing the OPPOSITE of what he does in the book.  

The book was non-stop action. I actually read it far faster than I typically read other works. The book was gritty, which I loved. The world that surrounds the plot is unique and unforgiving. Three is a unique character. He is a hard, razor's edge man that does have a code to live by. I'd love to read more about him. I will be picking up the other two books in this series soon. The plot twists and turns, sometimes contorting to the edge, but for the most part, keeps you guessing throughout. 

3.5 Stars

Misfits Softball 6/12/14

So, last year I took the GoPro to one game. I made a little video. It wasn't great, but it was fun and my teammates loved it. Go watch it. Misfits 2013

Now, as you watch this vid, listen to the commentary. There is gold all throughout. Like, layered gold.

This team really loves playing together and we have a great time. Additionally, we aren't too bad either.

If they were happy with last years vid, they will love this one. I've already been told I have to bring it to every game.

Anyway, sit back and watch us win 18-1. Some good hitting. Some good fielding. Some great comedy.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Fishing Report for Wheeler/ Army PEO Org 2nd Annual Bass Classic

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I have contemplated how I would start this blog post off. Just thinking about it makes me laugh. Or sigh. Or shake my head. Or some combination of the three. So, rather than:
1) try and make excuses 
2) take the high road and be humble
3) I'll do what I do best. Give you an honest accounting.

So, Josh's wife works on the arsenal and she caught wind of this tournament that was being held. So, since Josh was eligible, we decided to fish it. It was out of the Hard Dock ramp in Decatur.

I have never done well in Decatur. I wouldn't even say I've "struggled" on that end of the lake. I've never caught much of anything. Now, I've only fished it a few times, so I had high hopes that I could break up this nasty streak. Josh has fished there a good bit and has had some good days. So, at least I felt like we had a chance.  After all, it was ledge bite season and we had proven that we can flat catch them on ledges in Wheeler or Guntersville, as you can see by clicking those links. Ledges are right in my wheel house. Because I can crank as well as anyone. I mean, I can cast. And I can turn a handle. Anyway.....

At blastoff, every single boat in the tournament rocketed down river and got on a ledge. That included the massive 100 boat tournament out of Ingalls as well, though they had a later start than we did. Since Josh and I didn't have any spots marked, we idled around until we found a spot that the thought looked really interesting. We fished it for about 5 minutes before we noticed that there was next to NO current. We don't know much about ledge fishing and even less about ledge fishing Wheeler. What we did know was, if there is no current, there is zero chance of catching fish. 

We talked it over for a minute. If there was no current to make them bite deep, where WOULD they be biting. Well, fish are always biting shallow. Additionally, the water was up a good bit. We decided that our best bet would be flipping. Again, a technique that I have just now started using with any repetition. Josh is a good bit ahead of me in that department. But, there is only one way to get better....

So, we rigged up and hit the duck weed. It took precisely 5 minutes and twenty seconds to find out that we had made the right decision. Josh set the hook into a fish. Hard. And, even though it turned the fish sideways so that I could see it, the fish pulled back just as hard. After a few turns of the reel and a flip, Josh boated a 4.29 pig.  Finding fish that size on Wheeler has been hard, at least for for us and nearly everyone we know. So, having it in the boat early was amazing. We normally spend all day looking for a hawg as we cull up ounces at a time with smaller fish. 

Well, it was a start. Now we needed to see if there was a pattern. 

It didn't take long as Josh quickly snagged a short fish only a few flips later. And another 15 minutes, a solid keeper comes flying out of the duck weed. 

So, there was definitely a pattern to it. Now I needed to get into the action. I had been flipping a lizard, which is my go to flipping bait. But Josh was using a beaver bait, so I matched him and went back to work.

Another 3 fish later and I hadn't had a bump. Not one. I asked what size weight he was using and he said a 1/2 ounce tungsten. I was flipping a 3/4, so I thought maybe it was falling to fast in front of the fish. So, I retied to a 1/2 ounce weight.

Wait, that isn't right.....

I asked JOSH to tie me a snell knot since I didn't know how to tie one yet (I told yall, I don't flip much). So, while he was tying my line, I flipped with his rod. I tell ya, it was 2 flips in and I boated a fish. I should have stopped right then and mirrored EXACTLY what he was throwing. Down to the flipping skirt he had tied on. But I didn't. I didn't think the fish would care that much about a reaction bite.

But bbbboooyyyy was I wrong.

Josh proceeded to put on a clinic all day, flipping up fish after fish. I never had a bite after catching the one fish on his rod. He culled up. Then culled up again. And again. And again. Until we had what we figured was 12 pounds.

Meanwhile, I was a hood ornament. I tried the front of the boat, even. Thinking they were just seeing his bait first. But no.

It wasn't to be. And that was ok. It was fun being the video guy. Sorta. I mean, after he had caught 10 fish on me, I wanted to be able to blame the fish.

The only thing I DID catch was a lot of grass. And nearly caught a 1/2 tungsten weight to the face a few times. But hey, you can't snag every bite. Right? At least I have these awesome reflexes that saved me.

I also was able to sit down and enjoy the ham sandwiches my wife sent.

We talked about how we thought everyone else would do. Though we hadn't moved all day, we never saw ANYONE else fishing shallow. But, if we turned around and looked to the channel, we saw tons of boats. But, they were facing a multitude of directions, which meant there was no current. Sure, we knew someone might have caught a good sack, but the chances of us getting run out by everyone without ANY current were slim. We didn't want to have big egos, but we couldn't help but think that the flipping bite was potentially the only day-long pattern on the lake. And no one seemed to be doing it. The other thing we noted was the amount of bait that was in the cove we were fishing. Before we ever blasted off, we had discussed how there was probably a shad spawn with the previous night's full moon. That seemed to be correct.

At 1pm, he suggested that I flip a jig, since it also has a skirt. So, I did. And guess what. I had a hit.

We were about to move spots for the last time and hope that MAYBE I could catch THE fish. After all, it wouldn't be the first time that I only caught one fish in the sack. But, I have a talent for catching THE fish in the sack.

But, the battery was dead. With a few minutes until weigh in, we had to kick the trolling motor in high gear to make the weigh in on time.

So, we gathered up our fish and headed to the scales. We noticed that there were a LOT of blank spots on the board. I spotted the big fish, which went 5.2. I knew ours(his) wasn't that big. And, we were really sweating that someone might have ALSO found decent fish but had a REAL kicker. This guy didn't, however. He had only weighed one fish. So, we weighed in and recorded 11 and change. A little off from what we thought we had, but not by much.

A line of boats came in and weighed. There were a few 6 pound bags. A few 9s. And a whole lot of nothing else. But, the last two bags came in. One was another 9 pound bag and the other went 12 pounds.

But, we took 2nd place. Well, Josh did. But he was a man about it and didn't ride me too hard. He tried to give me credit for SOMETHING. But, fact was, I didn't even have to net a fish. I did absolutely ZERO to help our chances. I was pretty beat up about it. I told him just to keep the money.

He wouldn't have it. After accepting the check he said "buy me a drink at the Hard Dock and we can call it square." Well, can't beat that deal. So, we headed over to the Hard Dock, which was picking up. I bought us a drink, made a toast by telling him I was proud of him and he really did well, and we loaded up and headed home....

But not before I called my wife and listened to hear make fun of me for being a hood ornament.