Thursday, February 19, 2015

Product Review for Emerson Go Action Cam

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If you are reading this review, you know that I like to video nearly all of my outdoor adventures. Whether it's fishing, hunting, skiing, or just using it as a convenient way to capture family memories, these pocket cameras are the way to go.

Regardless of which you use, you need to read my writeup on the tricks and tips of using these cameras:

Tips and Advice for Videoing Your Fishing Trips

Of course, there is the issue of cost. The number 1 name of pocket cameras is GoPro. And, I have learned over time that you are usually best served to buy the top of the line model. If you buy a GoPro and all the hardware you need, you are looking at a $500 investment, which pushes a lot of people away. 

The best option I have found, price-wise, was the Emerson Go Action cam. Here is a direct link to the Emerson sales page on Amazon:

The first thing that will stand out to you is the price. At $52, it is drastically cheaper than a GoPro. It comes with most of the tools you need, just as the GoPro does. And, like the GoPro, the most notable item missing is the most useful and flexible one: The suction cup mount, shown below. Now, this is the GoPro name brand. There are much cheaper options. But, this one is hearty and well worth the money. I have two. Just make sure you keep a close eye on the hardware, as it gets loose and is easy to lose. 

Ok, so let's talk about the camera. First off, my uncle got this for me for Christmas, so let me thank him for that.

Here are the specs for the Go Action Cam, which only comes in 1 model:
  • 720P HD Video Allows You To Shoot High Resolution Videos For Your Extreme Sport Actives
  • Includes Waterproof Case, Camera Shield, Bike Mount, Helmet Mount, Helmet Band
  • 5.0 Megapixels Provides Crystal Clear Images With 4X Digital Zoom For Higher Focus
  • 1.77" Color LCD Display So You Can See What You Are Shooting
  • Rechargeable Lithium-ion Battery, Micro SD Card Slot For Memory Expansion

Unlike GoPro, who only adds a digital viewing screen to their higher end models in the GoPro Hero 4, the Emerson has a color screen. This allows you to easily select your settings and set your viewing angle without guessing or having to review prior footage. 

Speaking of settings: the Emerson is much more intuitive with the menus and button selecting techniques. Where GoPro uses a series of 2 buttons to scroll and select, The Emerson has a "menu" button, an "up" and "down" button to scroll, and it uses the "capture" button on top of the camera for "select." It also highlights your selection to let you know exactly what you are selecting. In my experience, this is preferable, as you can unknowingly change settings or delete files from a GoPro without ever knowing what you selected. 

The camera comes with a maximum 720p video resolution, which is the lowest resolution you can use on a GoPro. The GoPro has up to a 1080p resolution. To be honest, I use the different resolution options on the GoPro to widen or shorten the viewing area only. I don't see much of a functional difference in the video resolution in terms of quality. I do see drastic differences in file size and battery life, however. The Emerson only has a few other choices.

Like the different models of the GoPro, there are only a few framerate choices and each are dependent on the resolution. For example, there are no frame rate choices under the 720p. Under the 480 resolution, you can select 30 or 15 frames per second. Honestly, I wouldn't bother using anything OTHER than the 720p resolution. The rest are too low to bother with. At least on the GoPro, you have some flexibility to dictate file size and battery conservation and still have useful settings. 

The Emerson has a 5MP resolution camera for still shots, as compared to the 12MP resolution for GoPro. That's a fair disparity, though I never use the still shot capability, anyway. 

The Emerson uses an internal battery, as opposed to a removable battery in the GoPro cameras. I don't like that, because you will have forced downtime to recharge. With a GoPro and a set of batteries, or a hard-wire kit such as the Cam-Do HardWire setup, you can shoot all day. So, personally, I don't care for that. That being said, the battery holds charge EXTREMELY well between uses. I charged it after Christmas and it still had enough charge to shoot a vacation 2 months later. 

I have not tested the waterproof case for the Emerson, but I will say that it doesn't look as sturdy or hardy as the GoPro waterproof case. Additionally, you cannot get a "skeleton" case, which allows you to protect the camera in a case while getting sound. That's a big bummer to me. Additionally, the side of the Emerson, which is used to access the memory card and micro-USB connection, doesn't have a waterproofing panel like the GoPro uses, though most GoPro users lose it. 

The Emerson does have a digital zoom. It is very functional for really zooming in on something close. It is not useful at zooming something outside of a 10 yard range. The picture quality degrades drastically with use of a longer shot. In my use, it is perfect to pull the view in close onto a fisherman on the deck of a boat from the mounting point on the console or the engine cowling. It would be useless for zooming in on action further than the front of the boat

I haven't done much dropping or battering of the Emerson, but I have with the GoPro. Judging by the reviews I have seen and the fact that 1 of the 2 cameras my uncle bought were DOA, I don't imagine the Emerson will stand up to beatings like the GoPro. 

The Emerson doesn't handle motion nearly as well as the GoPro. I don't know if it's an internal stabilizing software or a hardware issue, but the Emerson is jumpy while the GoPro produces smooth video under dynamic conditions. If you plan on set shots, then it won't matter. If you plan on mounting on a bike or car....good luck.

The Emerson doesn't use wifi as the GoPro. While the wifi drains battery on a GoPro, it is an invaluable tool. 


The Emerson is inferior in most every way to a GoPro. However, it is a designed condition, which keeps the cost down per unit. The camera is very functional and is a great buy for those on a budget, or who may want a sacrificial camera. I do acknowledge that there are some issues with manufacturing causing DOA conditions, but mine was not. The image produced is acceptable. The use of the unit is easy. And, for the price, it makes a great addition to your collection, though I wouldn't use it as a primary source of footage. 

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Presidents' Day in Gatlinburg 2015

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Here is the video from our visit to Cade's Cover

I started the long weekend off the right way....sorta. John and I fished Chickamagua. We didn't catch much, but we did get the lay of the land on our way to a few small catches. You can read the fishing report here:

But, on the way home, I got a text saying the baby was sick with a stomach bug.....GREAT! Stomach bugs suck anyway, but I really wasn't looking forward to heading the Gatlinburg with a kid with the runs. But, we paid for the trip months ago. After a trip to the doctor, they sent his "blood" work off for cultures. It would take 48 hours, so we wouldn't know WHAT he had until we were well on our way.

In the meantime, we tried our best to keep a diaper on him. But, he is 2.5 years old and likes to play. So, poop for everyone. Everywhere. All the time. 

We made a stop to see my sister and brother in law in Chattanooga and spent the afternoon with them. While we were there, we received a phone call from the doctor who told us he had "shigella." They called us in a prescription at the local Walgreens. On the way out of town, we stopped by to pick it up. Even though we called it in 2 hours ago, we were informed it wouldn't be ready for another hour. No thanks. We requested it be moved to downtown Gatlinburg, next to where we were staying. No problem. Right?

Since we weren't going to make it into town until fairly late, Alyse called the Walgreens to make sure it would be ready. Yes, they said. We told them we would be in town at 8. "Oh. That isn't good for us. We close at 7." 7??? On a Friday night? Ok. So Saturday morning? Nope. They are closed. :Facepalm:

We had it moved to Pigeon Forge. 

They came through for us. 

While we were there, we hit up Huck's Catfish Cabin, which Trip Advisor had suggested. I am not much for catfish, but the review said that they had "bottomless vitils" which consisted of slaw, white beans, and onions. It sounded like Cock of the Walk in Auburn, which I LOVE. So, we stopped in. The joint was POPPING at 8pm on a Friday night. I mean, SLAMMED! I was surprised how many families like ours were eating. Additionally, they had live music. I didn't catch the man's name, but he played guitar and harmonica and featured a lot of covers from Waylon to Dylan. He was excellent. 

But, they sat us quickly and had our vitils on the table as soon as we sat. The slaw is some of the best I have had. The beans were terrific. I was hoping for pickled onions, but they weren't. however, they went well with the white beans, which featured smoked ham. Terrific. 

I ordered the fried chicken fingers while Alyse ordered the fried catfish. The food came quickly. The 2 entries fed all 5 of us, with some help of the vitils. The tenders were hand-breaded and delicious, as was the catfish. The price was very comparable. The service was good. 

We finally made it to the condo where the weather was dipping into the teens. We couldn't spot an office to check in, so we assumed we used the elevator located in the parking garage to gain access. Access denied, as it took a code to open. Which we didn't have. We knew nothing of codes. Luckily, some nice people told us about the codes we would need and let us onto the elevator so we could get these kids out of the code. We didn't have the owners contact I was nearly certain that we were screwed...especially since there is no one on site that we could talk to. Luckily, Alyse got someone on the phone and gave them the correct info. We got the codes. Whew. 

After a long soak in the hot tub, we got the kids asleep. 

The next morning, we ate breakfast in the condo before heading to Cade's Cove. It's a LONG drive from Gatlinburg, but it is gorgeous.  The road twists and turns up the mountain with the river running adjacent. Now, I didn't get to see too much cause the road is narrow. And also because tourist do tourist things. 

Like, stopping on a hairpin turn to take pictures of their kids underneath an overhang covered with ice-cycles. So many dangerous things....and I was the one who puckered up. Maybe because I nearly ran over the mommyographer.  

There are many parking spaces that you can pull over and check out gorgeous waterfalls and rapids. The road was in great shape....just REALLY narrow.

We finally got to Cade's Cove. While we didn't see any bears, we saw a plethora of deer. At one point, we were watching 4 bucks chasing a doe (and chasing each other). We watched them spar and frolic. But, again, tourist do tourist things. Like jumping out of their cars and stalking after the deer to get pictures. Hey, don't worry about chasing them away from us people in our cars....where we are supposed to be! Or the mom who decided to parade her 5 year old boy to see 2 sparing bucks up close. Sorry. End rant.

The Cove was awesome! What a pretty drive! Only issue is, you better pack a sack lunch. It's a long drive to get there and a longer drive around the park. No restaurants the whole trip. Just a few snack machines, which weren't working. It's a perfect place to camp, however. 

We headed back to town and stopped to eat at Smoky Mountain Brewery, which we ate at on New Years Eve way back in 2009. 

It's right on the strip and it is simply fantastic. Naturally, they brew their own beer, which you can purchase by the glass....or even to go....with their growlers, mini-kegs, or even full kegs. Their craft beer is awesome. I like the Appalachian Pale Ale. It is a very hoppy brew with a crisp fruit finish. It will definitely wake you up! 

So, we chowed down on their amazing food. While we ate, we watched Auburn beat Georgia in basketball on one of the many TVs located all over the dining room. 

I can't say enough about this place, but I really don't have to. It stays busy ALL DAY. It is a must visit. 

We took it easy on Saturday night, as the trip to Cade's Cove (and all the food we ate) slowed us down.

Sunday morning we ate at the Pancake Pantry with some friends who happened to be in town. After seeing the line out the door, down the sidewalk, and behind the building the morning before, we decided to go EXTRA early. Initially, I was going to drive and park, even though it is less than half a mile from where we stayed, but parking in Gatlinburg sucks. Bad. There is ZERO public parking and they want money EVERYWHERE. So, I dropped Alyse and the kids off at the door and drove BACK to the condo. Then, I hoofed it in the 11 degree/stiff wind weather. Luckily, my H2o XPRESS jacket came through for me. I stayed warm, except for my nose, which froze and fell off. It is currently being sold at one of the tourist trap junk stores. Check out my review of it:

Product Review for H2O XPRESS® Men's Softshell XTREME Fishing Parka and Bib

We got right in the Pancake Pantry, although it was packed to the gills, which is saying something since they have wall to wall tables with little to no room between. Be prepared to have 4 other tables' worth of people knowing what you ordered. 

I had the red raspberry crepes. The kids had pancakes with chocolate chips. Alyse had standard pancakes. We added bacon and sausage. I can't speak for them (though they all destroyed their food) but mine was AWESOME. I only managed to eat 2 of the 3 crepes. I wish I would have taken pictures. Alas, I did not. 

By the time we left, the line was out of the door and down the block. Insane that people would wait out in the cold for an hour. But, I guess it's worth it to them. It was certainly good! It's worth the stop. Go early! And, they only take CASH!

We also hit up the Ripley's Aquarium since we had a couple of free tickets. The price for the 3 kids was $34, which wasn't TOO bad. We check out the Tennessee Aquarium and wanted to find a new one. This one isn't as big, but it has a great salt water tank with SHARKS!

Then we hit the road! 

Fishing Report for Chichamagua 2/11/15

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The 'Chick has been hot the last couple of years. Don't tell anyone, but it's no surprise to me, really. All of the Tennessee River lakes are hot. It's just a question of what you are going after and when. The river system is wonderful fishery that supports a plethora of great fish. The focus has been on Guntersville over the last 5 years because of the ability to catch massive sacks of fish.. Once word got out ( I blame the elite series event that Skeet Reese won), the lake became a Mecca. It would appear that the same thing has happened to the 'Chick after the FLW tournament last year. 

To be honest, I am tired of Guntersville and the pressure it has been under. I have been for years. I know that admission sounds like a poor fisherman making excuses. Sure, that's some of it. I'm not a good fisherman. I never really claimed to be. But, the G is hammered every single day of the week. The ramps are ALWAYS packed. And manners are completely tossed aside on that lake. That doesn't mean the fish aren't biting. A casual look at the tournament results for any major event say otherwise. But, the fishing HAS gotten harder for the average fisherman who can only afford to go once every few weeks. I have said it many times, but Guntersville is the only lake I have ever been to where I can go an entire day without a bite. 

So, I will stop whining about it and just say that we wanted to try somewhere new. With 60 degree weather mid week, we decided that we would try the Chick. According to Mapquest (or whatever we used) it was a 2.5 hour drive. At 2.5 hours, we were approaching Chattanooga and still had 30 minutes to go. Just keep that in mind. So, we pulled into Chester Frost Park around 10 and hit the water. I was surprised at the number of boats on the water, as it was a Wednesday. There were a BUNCH. But, what surprised me even more was the water level. It appeared that the water level was down 4 or 5 feet. I guess I should have done my homework. 

Come to think of it, I didn't do ANY homework. I knew nothing about the lake other than multiple people said "it fishes small." I didn't really know what that meant. So, I brought a small selection of baits I *thought* would work. Now, to be fair, I selected them based upon my fishing partners patterns. I had a lipless crank, a square bill, and a bama rigged with PTL Swinging Hammer. Now, we had a plan....and it didn't really involve wacking the fish. Now, we would be happy to do that....for sure. But, this was a scouting trip. We planned to put the trolling motor on "high" and get the lay of the land. 

We started fishing around the ramp, at a nearby stump flat on the creek channel. There were seagulls swarming on bait, which we marked in 14 feet of water with the electronics. No takers.

We jetted to the main river and fished the main point adjacent to the creek channel. We didn't mark any fish, so we made a few casts before moving on. 

We noticed that there was a pocket across the river from us with a creek channel swinging near a bluff before terminating on a nice flat with a lot of laydowns. Now, the laydowns weren't in the water because of the water level, but I mentally marked it as a prime area to fish at full pool. We fished it out, without getting a bite. 

After fishing a few similar areas, we gave up on creek channels into flats and headed up river. 

I am not a "bent poll pattern" kinda guy, but when we had fished 5 spots without seeing a boat, then passed a cove that held no less than 6 boats, I thought it best to stop and check it out. It didn't take long to figure out WHY. The flat came off the main river channel from 20 feet to less than 2....covered with scattered grass. It was the first grass we had found all day. We fished it out, but it had all been fished by all these boats already. Most of the boats started right on the channel and worked to the back, where most of them were currently. We didn't want to disturb them, so we just watched. 

Every boat we saw was throwing a lipless crank or a hard jerkbait. I didn't bring any of the later, nor did I bring any soft jerkbaits, which has become one of my favorite you can read here:

Twitching Soft Jerk Baits in Grass

We did see one fish caught before we moved on. That was a far-cry from the ZERO bites we had. 

We went up river another mile or so and fished a rip rap dyke by the nuclear power plant. Nothing there, but we did notice that another cover we passed was also filled with boats. I started thinking about "fishes small" and how this fit in. So, we had fished a 3 mile stretch of lake, had seen zero boats in every place except 2...which were covered up. We took that as a sign, and sat down to look at the GPS map. Sure enough, the 2 coves had something similar. They were both flats with gradual depth-contour changes without a deep creek channel. That was different from every other cover we fished, which featured a deeper creek channel running directly adjacent to bluffs before turning into a flat. 

We found a similar area just up river from us and decided to try it out. This one didn't have any bass fishermen in it, but it did have 3 crappie fishermen who were fishing the 12-15 foot contour line. As we idled past them, we marked a lot of bait fish. When we got to the next contour line, the bait disappeared, but we picked up individual fish. Continuing to the next (and final) contour line, we were drawn into fishing because of the amazing number of subsurface stumps. 

On my very first cast in the area, I had a hit. It was small and I assumed it was crappie. But, it wasn't! I nabbed this pale little guy. 

 Monster? No. But it was something. 

Seconds later, John nailed a similar size fish on a lipless crank. 

We fished the pocket for the next hour and caught 6-7 short fish, none with any size, but the bites were regular. We were even able to recycle the spot and continue to catch them. 

At 1pm, we had to make a decision. We hadn't caught any size. If we left RIGHT THEN, we would be home around 7. I had been getting texts that one of my kids was sick. So, we decided that we would stay in our wive's good graces and head home. 

On the way home, I started thinking about the trip. We fished a lot of the same spots from 10-12 without a bite, again, the aforementioned landscape. We made a change based upon the 2 spots we saw boats in and caught fish. So, that solves the "fishes small" debate. But, what had me stumped was, why the short fish?

I analysed this a bit further. We had a 2-day warming trend the days before that culminated into a 62 degree day. We passed bait in the 12 foot depth. Then, larger fish who didn't seem to be holding onto structure in 10-5 feet. Then, short fish in 5-2 feet. Then it hit me. The fish were staging to spawn. We were catching the males who had moved up. All of them were very pale because they had been sitting off the next contour line. When it warmed, they moved up. 

Of course, I slapped myself because we had idled over the females without a 2nd thought to them.

Naturally, the VERY NEXT DAY a new 'Chick record was caught. But, I'm not bitter AT ALL.

Doesn't matter. I fished a new lake. Got the lay of the land. And caught a fish.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Upon Further Review: Auburn's Understated Need a WR

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It's been 6 days since National Signing Day kicked off. Unless you live under the proverbial rock, Auburn finished with a solid class, according to the recruiting services. But, if you read any of my posts that are about recruiting, you know that I care very little about stars and rankings. I care about filling needs with solid players. When it comes to that, Auburn had a need for another game-breaking receiver. It's no news that Coates bolted for the NFL with a potential first round draft pick. Luckily for Tiger fans ,we kept Duke Williams, which helps deal with Coates' loss. 

However, it wasn't that simple, was it? Auburn lost more than Coates this year. Quan Bray had been a chain mover for Auburn all year. Obviously, he moves on from Auburn. Though Auburn has a plethora of players on the roster who are wide receivers, they are looking to Ricardo Louis to fill Coates' place as a blistering ball hawk. I have my doubts that he can fill those shoes. Coaches have raved about Stanton Truitt, but he hasn't made an impact for Auburn. Regardless, you have to continue to recruit each position each and every year. in my own personal opinion, a player either has it, or they don't. And, no one on the team has exhibited the need for a playmaker who can outrun absolutely everyone on the field, attack the ball in the air, and win those 50/50 battles. It isn't just about size, speed, or ball-hawking talent. You have to add in ferocity, determination, and a willingness to work on the finer aspect of your game such as route running. Combining these traits is tough, which is why I have some legitimate concerns, going forward. 

This is the reason I wrote this post 2 weeks ago:

Auburn's Understated Needs of 2015 Signing Day: Wide Receiver

At the time, Auburn has Jason Smith and Kerryon Johnson on the list, added Ryan and Javarious Davis. I do believe Smith could turn into a fine receiver after he flirts with QB. I think Kerryon Johnson is as versatile a tool as Auburn has ever had and keeping him recruited was a huge deal, which is why I wrote this article MONTHS ago.

I, of all people, believe that you can't judge a player based upon their physical appearance. However, it is almost a necessity in the SEC for a successful receiver to eclipse the 6 foot mark. After all, SEC corners ain't no joke. They will all be just as athletic and fast. 

That got me to thinking about making this article. Like I said, I had legitimate concerns that Auburn wasn't filling some of its needs. It all comes at a price, right?  But, as I saw it, there wasn't a receiver on the list that I thought filled the need. When Auburn flipped Darius Slayton from UGA, I...and everyone else....was fairly surprised.  But, he wasn't listed as one of those blue chip recruits that everyone hoped to land. In fact, Auburn slipped down the stretch after it landed Cowart and failed to nab any of the remaining big names. 

Over the next few days, I read all of the Auburn beat reporters' thoughts on this last round of recruiting. It wasn't Slayton's rankings that initially intrigued me. He is listed as the #19 WR in the country and the #31 player in all of Georgia. To those that care about rankings, this guy isn't worth a second look. But, his physical stats had me at least a little interested. He is listed as 6'1" 175. His 40 is listed at a blistering 4.4. But, I don't pay attention to many of those measurables until they are did get me to look at his recruiting page.

Numbers don't tell you much, so I decided to do a little scouting. I pulled up his highlight videos. The first one wasn't very good quality and by the look of his play, it may be from his junior year or earlier. By the end of this first vid, I found myself completely unimpressed. It seemed to be the same play over and over. He would run. The QB would throw it as far as he could. And Slayton would come down with the ball. Touchdown. Most of the plays, he was making catches with his body instead of his hands. After the catch, he displayed good skills, but went down fairly easy after first contact. The video also featured some good sweep plays to him where he did show off some good moves and speed. He made some difficult catches on the sidelines and elsewhere on the field, but they were far and few in between. He seemed to be a pure deep threat, using pure speed to win. I was fairly unimpressed. While this whole post is about Auburn's need for just that, you can't just use pure speed to win in the SEC. 

Because highschool games don't feature the best cinematography, many times he was off screen when the ball was snapped in the first video. Then, I watched the second video, which was a much higher quality video that featured whole field view. I had a completely different perspective, both because of the video quality and what it showed, but because of the evolution in Slayton's game. 

You can see it here, courtesy of  

I realized why the first video was so mundane. He was blowing by everyone. It appeared that opposing defenses we either failing to game plan for him (possible if it was his junior year) or they were simply getting toasted. But, either way,  it was HOW he was doing it that I didn't see in the first video.  In his highlights that took place inside the 30 yard line, he ran some of the most brutal routes I have seen....I mean, ankle-snapping routes. It threw the coverage into complete disarray, leaving him wide open on post-corners.  It was obvious that the play call was predetermined to throw to Slayton because I didn't see that discipline outside of the 30. 

Outside of the 30, he was getting to the outside and using pure speed to get vertical. Mostly, He blistered the defense and the QB hit him in stride with a nice over-the-shoulder catch. Other times, he was completely outrunning his QB and had to come back to the ball. This also threw the defense off, which allowed him to come back and make an easy catch. So, while initially I was disappointed by his hands, I quickly figured out that was WHY he was using his body. While he did catch passes across the middle, he was timid. 

To be a game-breaking receiver, you have to be able to take those dig and slant routes at full speed and in stride. Sometimes you might just get the 1st down. Sometimes a busted coverage means 6 points. In all cases, you have to be willing to run the route and take the hit. He will have to work on that, though I do admit that he is more of a vertical threat, anyway. 

But, then the second video showed me a lot more than that. He was contested a lot more in the 2nd video, which made him fight for the ball. He displayed very good concentration, coming down with contested balls...and even some balls where the defender was able to get hands on it. He attacked the ball in the air instead of waiting for it to come down. 

Another massive difference I saw was that he had a killer instinct with the ball in his hands. he would fight for extra yardage, and some times that larger frame found him bounding off of would-be tacklers and into the open field. He never went down at first contact. 

Speaking of open field, Slayton has some cold-as-ice moves and a rare top gear. He has as good of lateral speed as I have seen in a taller kid. He could easily traverse the width of the field and explode up the field seamlessly. 

While he doesn't have protypical size, he fits the mold. And, though he is listed at 175 (and is probably more like 165), don't be surprised what this kid weighs in at after a year in a college strength and conditioning program. He has the frame to hit 190. 

Slayton has the ability to run some crisp and brutally efficient routes. He can snap defenders ankles with his cuts. But, he has to show the discipline to do so on every play, not just those that are destined to go to him. He has good speed in lateral and vertical running, making him a potential punt returner. He has the speed to burn, but while Auburn needs that speedster on the outside, he won't be able to outrun ever one, every single time. He has showed flashes of ability to make tough contested catches as well as those back of the endzone or 1st down marker tight-rope catches that Jeremy Johnson has the ability to throw. 

One of the great things about Coates was that he was better when he was contested. He loved to be dominate. He fought for extra yards. He fought through pass interference. 

I had some very real concerns that Auburn didn't currently have a player on the roster, nor committed, that could fill that void. Granted, Coates is a 1st or 2nd round talent and they don't come every day. But, Auburn doesn't need another Coates, just another player like him. 

Slayton has these skills. He has great speed in both directions. He can run terrific routes. He attacks the ball and fights through contested balls. And, he looks to have a real competitive streak. He needs to work on his consistency in route running. 

While I didn't think Gus would be able to fill that need, it looks like they got exactly what they needed.

Monday, February 9, 2015

Squirrel Hunting 2/5/2015

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With deer season behind us and turkey season over a month away, my dad must have been going through withdrawals. Additionally, I had been striking out on you can read from my last trip. So, when he asked if I wanted to go squirrel hunting late Thursday afternoon, I was all for it. I was doubly hooked when he told me we were going after fox squirrels. When I first started hunting them (back in the 90s), we had a good number of fox squirrels on our place. But, due to tornadoes destroying their habitat, we didn't have enough to warrant shooting them. So, it has been the better part of 2 decades since I popped one. Fox squirrels, if you didn't know, are much larger than their grey a factor of 2 or 3. They are less dependent on trees and spend more time on the ground. Dad told me that a place on our family land in New Market had a ton of them and that we would be going after them. He even sent me this picture:

As you can see, there were at least a couple of them local.

Of course, I had to leave work after hitting the gym (yes, we have a nice gym at work, and I am trying to work on my fitness, per New Year's Resolutions) and grab my hunting stuff.

After I ran home and grabbed my 10/22, I realized that I was out of ammo. No, I  don't mean out of .22 all together, just the stuff I like to hunt with. In my 20 years of squirrel hunting, I have come to the inevitable truth that squirrels don't just taste tough. They ARE tough. I have used a lot of different ammo, but I have found that standard 36 grain round nose ammo will just punch holes in them without being fatal (that is, unless that hole is in a head). The first one I ever killed ended up with 7 holes put through it. I have missed several kills, and not from missing the squirrel, but because I hit it and the squirrel was able to find a knot hole or nest in the tree. However, if you use hollow points, the additional shock and surface area gives you a large advantage. If nothing else, the shock will knock them out of the tree, which may do the deed for you. Using the right ammo is one of the main reasons I have had such success hunting in the last year. You can read about one of those trips here.

Local sporting goods stores such as Academy, Gander Mountain, etc are frequently sold out. When they DO have ammo, it is frequently plinking ammo that is ridiculously high. Though I detest going to Larry's Pistol and Pawn, they are the only place that consistently has exactly what I want: CCI mini-mag HP. And, once again, they came through for me. They were offering 500 rounds of the aforementioned ammo for under $50. Again, this isn't cheap ammo. This is very high quality hunting ammo. I may or may not have picked up a WASR-10 AK47 while I was there....which was the reason it took me an extra hour to meet dad.

When we met up, we had around an hour to hunt, which isn't much time....but it was better than nothing.

Unlike my typical trips where I walk fire lanes and roads, we were hunting for these guys who were very local. So, we set up camp to wait for them. I climbed up a metal stand and waited.

In the distance, I could see plenty of grey squirrels playing. Dozens of them. Unlike our place in Harvest where the majority of the trees are young (due to the tornadoes), this area is an established forest featuring massive trees that housed 5 or 6 different squirrels. And, on occasion, I would see that many on one tree. I was getting antsy to climb down and go after them, but I realized that these trees were 100 yards or so into the woods and I would not be able to slip up to them as I can in Harvest, by utilizing the roads and trails. So, I waited.

Minutes later, I heard a squirrel rummaging in front of me. Every once in awhile, I would spot this little grey squirrel, who would pop out from behind this tree 10 feet from me just long enough for me to put the scope up. Then, it would dart back behind the tree. It would emerge on the other side and repeat the process.

Concentrating on this little guy allowed a fox squirrel to slip up from behind me. In fact, had dad not texted me, I might never have seen it. As expected, it stayed on the ground, which made it hard to shoot. These little 36 grain bullets deflect off of anything, so I held my shot. It made a circle from behind me and eventually ended up on the road directly in front of me. However, it was a long shot.

Now, my 10/22 is a lethal little rifle. As you may recall, I built it last year with a lot of good parts. However, I sighted it in for only 50 the vast majority of my shots fall well under that. Even so, I took a rest and shot. The squirrel took off and crossed the road where it bounded into a tree. As it barked at me, I lined up another shot. And another. And another. The gun simply wasn't sighted in for that range, which was pushing 75 yards.

The good news was, I had it treed. As a kid, this was usually a disappointment. When they get into a tree, it's hard to find them. They get flat. They get into corners. And, they aren't afraid to move around the tree and keep you on the wrong side. As a kid,  I would get impatient and move on.

With 2 solid years of experience on my hand (referring to becoming a serious squirrel hunter the last two years), having them in the tree was now a massive benefit. I popped out of the tree stand and ran(Yes, ran. The last thing I want that bad boy to do is start tree hopping). When I got there, I knew he hadn't moved trees because there wasn't a nearby tree to jump to. What I was worried about was if he would go down the backside of the tree and take off running on the ground.

Slowly, I would scan the tree, up and down. I look for anything irregular. Sometimes you see their ears sticking out. Other times you see their fuzzy tail. They are sneaky dudes, for sure. And this one was a wily one. For 20 minutes I moved around the tree. The tree was fairly small in diameter, so I wasn't sure HOW he was evading me. I assumed that he was just moving around as I moved.

Eventually I called for dad to come help.

I got still and asked dad to move around the tree. Sure enough, he scrambled to stay out of sight of dad...not knowing I was there.

I lined him up while taking a rest on the tree next to me and made a clean headshot. Deff not the biggest fox squirrel I have ever seen, but he will eat good! While we didn't get any more shots off, getting one of these rare guys was worth the hunt.

And, getting to spend time with my dad is always worth the effort.

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Upon Further Review: Auburn's Understated Need at Center

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Yesterday was National College Football Fans Watching ESPN In Their Office Day. Also known as National Signing Day. Or #NationalSigningDay or #NDS2015 or a handful of other names. I was right there with you...sorta. I took half a day off for termite inspections for my old house, which I just sold. Nope. No termites, thanks for asking. 

After the bug man left, I headed to work. That was shortly after Auburn nabbed Holland. At that point, Auburn was smokin' hot and had several huge recruits left to announce.

But after I got to work, Auburn whiffed on the remaining big names. Maybe I should have stayed home, eh?

There are two topics I want to discuss in this post, which go back to articles I wrote last week (that few people read). 

There two were:

Auburn's Understated Needs of 2015 Signing Day: Center

I will happily discuss the rest of the recruiting class, but I felt that these two positions were two positions that the Auburn coaching staff didn't seem to be able to fill, despite having needs. 

Today, let's talk about the need at center.

In regards to center, Auburn lost a rarity in a 4-year letterman and future NFL player, Dismukes. Coming out of highschool, he was an obvious SEC-talent with his high motor and mean streak. He was a player that I felt could have come out last year after the road grater performance that was the 2013 Auburn Offense. I felt that Auburn needed him back worse than even Tre Mason, and I even wrote a whole piece on it. However, nothing could keep him another year, with his eligibility expiring. Losing him is one thing, but not having a capable replacement for him is another thing entirely. Auburn has been unable to develope a replacement center for Dismukes in 3 years. Dampeer may turn into a good one, but he is not a premier SEC-player.....yet. And, who does Auburn have behind him? No one. Auburn needed a smart, athletic, and tough recruit. Personally, I wanted someone fit for the position coming out of high school, not a converted player. 

Initially, Auburn had no one on the list going into signing day, though they had a chance with Kaleb Kim from Georgia. Kim at 6'3" 280, is the 5th best center on the 247composite rankings. He was the last uncommitted premier center on the group and Auburn landed  his signature.

Kim WAS an Auburn commitment, though several websites didn't have him listed as one. I happened to be following one where he wasn't listed as a commitment. 

You know that I don't really care for stars, so I decided to watch some of his highlights. 

My quick thoughts? 

The first thing I noticed was that his highlights showed him playing tackle, not center.

Kim was bigger than 95% of the kids he lined up against on film, almost comically so. This presented some issues when it came to pad level. Ideally, I would like to see linemen utilize hand placement and arm strength to beat opposing players who aren't in the same size range. Doing so allows more efficient movement. That is, once the player on the first level is defeated, disengage and move to the 2nd level. Furthermore, using this technique keeps opposing players from locking up in close quarters and using superior size as a leverage. Instead, I saw Kim constantly leaning on players. While his superior size easily overwhelmed other players, it frequently came at a cost of him falling on top of his opponents during the play. Instead of being able to engage multiple players every play, he would take himself out of the play. When he played against someone in his weight class, he was frequently out-leveraged. Again, he tried to use his mass by leaning on a player. If the player was strong enough, they could defeat Kim by using his 6'3" frame against him. 

I thought he struggled more with pass protection than run blocking. During pass plays, he frequently let defenders engage him too close to his core. I want to see a lineman engage a pass rusher at the maximum distance and dictate where they go. 

However, he has very good speed when pulling on run plays, frequently setting an edge easily and efficiently. 

At times, his footwork was very good. There were many plays were it was designed for him to engage a player and then pull. This required him to utilize choreographed steps. When substance such as this was required, he did very well. Unlike highschool, most every play will be like this in college, so it was good to see a player who understood footwork. 

Despite seeing his reliance on size and weight in engagement, I did see an aggressive player who wants to finish plays. The footwork and hand placement can be taught.

What can't be taught is the cerebral needs of the position. That is, all of the presnap stuff such as coverage calling and snap count....not to mention the snap itself. Without seeing him at center, I can't judge him.

Additionally, being bigger isn't always the best thing. Auburn can't change the fact that the kid is 6'3". Typically, coaches want a center to have a lower center of mass, which is not something Kim has. Post snap, the body automatically raises. Kim will present an easy target for a DT or noseguard to out-leverage. Additionally, you aren't looking for a 300 pounder. You need a player who can move on their feet well. That being said, every single one of the top center recruits listed were over 6'2" and over 270 pounds. Kim, at 280, was the second lightest. Now, all of these kids will reshape their bodies over the next year. Of the guys I have seen, he has one of the better chances of transferring into a lean center capable of superior footwork and multi-level blocking. Remember, these kids have to block 320 pound nose tackles and 225 pound speeding linebackers equally well. 

I can't complain too much.Designated centers are getting rare these days, especially in the form of SEC-caliber size and talent recruits. Coach Gus Malzahn nabbed one of the few ones out there and the only one that was in the Top 5 at the position, as per recruiting services. He has the physical edge and motor. Will he be teachable? Coach did exactly what he needed to do. Despite a list of committed centers, he managed to go out and get one of the best. I do think the kid needs a lot of work, but Auburn had a need in this recruiting class and it was filled with one of the better players in the country. 

What 3 Baits You Should Be Throwing on the Big G in February

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First off, you don't need to remind me that I am not a pro. I am not even a successful or accomplished fisherman. But, as Tommy Boy once said, "I can get a good look at a T-bone by sticking my head up a bull's behind, but I'd rather take a butcher's word for it." Of course, I took the liberty of editing some wordy-durds out of that quote because we are family friendly around here. Seriously, though. Between my limited success,  following the sport via social media, and doing some old fashioned gossiping, I have come to get a pretty firm idea of what you should be throwing in February.

February has become (perhaps) my favorite month in fishing for many reasons. Chiefly among them is that the average fisherman isn't going to brave the cold. Yes, I am aware that our winters are mild and tame compared to a lot of places around the country, but to us, 25 degrees is pretty dang cold. On the upside, here in Alabama you can get a few days among the cold where the temps can get in the high 50s, causing a warming trend in the water. When this happens, the fish shake off the winter funk, at least for a few minutes a day. Then, you get one of the other perks of February fishing....the bites from the big fish. That's right, though the bites might be far and few in between, your chances for hooking into a prespawn momma over 5 pounds in much higher. Though the bites are down, the average size is way up. It is this month alone where you will see massive sacks being weighed in. At any local tournament, you shouldn't be surprised to see 25...27...and 32 pound bags weighed in. I am not talking about big dollar tournaments. I am talking about local wildcat tournaments! Unless it has been an awfully slow day, don't show up to the scales with under 20 pounds! Of course, I admit that I fall into that category of fisherman that usually doesn't bother showing up. Of course, I have to admit that all the REALLY GOOD fishermen are out this time of year. And, there is no other lake in the country that has many pros on it at one time as the Big G. And, they have not problem fishing against you in any tournaments. 

While I have struggled to win any larger tournaments, the last two years have seen growth in my game where I have gone from barely catching a limit of squeakers to weighing in sacks with no fish under 6 pounds.  Of course, the struggle has been getting the 5 bites I need, not finding the right 5 fish among the small fish. 

Take the MFC Club Tournament on Guntersville last year. We had found a spot that was consistently holding big fish late in the day after struggling for 6 straight hours. We averaged 1 bite every hour, but simply ran out of time. The results were still enough to get us a check as we weighed in 3 fish for over 18 pounds. We returned the next week to fish NATA Open and we fished the same spot all day. The fish were there, as were other fisherman. Once again, we came up short on the bites we needed, but not because they weren't there feeding, but because we were competing with boats on either side of us, all whom we saw catch fish over 6 pounds. we also missed one over 8 pounds. 

Between these two trips and other February trips over the last 2 years like the SNUFISH Tournament in 2013,  I have noted a common trend: I am using the same baits. That doesn't mean I haven't tried others...cause I have. Say what you will about me, but I am a versatile fisherman. I've cranked ledges. I've throw the A-rig. I've tossed a jerkbait. And while I have had limited success with everything I have thrown, there are 3 baits that I have used, in very specific ways, which have turned things around in the last 2 years. So, though I listed the limited traffic as one of my reasons to fish this time of year and the ability to catch BIG FISH...the thing I love the most is the simplicity of the fishing. I know what I am going to throw and when I am going to throw it. 

The 3 baits I am going to have tied on, and throw almost EXCLUSIVELY (I will give a few standby) are:
  • Lipless crankbait
  • Square bill crankbait
  • Texas rigged lizard
I will tell you the specifics on the baits later.

This time of year, I target 8 feet and shallower. I am looking for expressways next to the buffet lines. That is, creek channels and ditches that are adjacent to spawning flats. I also target points, but Guntersville fishes quite differently than a lot of lakes. The points I find success on have one of the aforementioned creek channels running along one side. You can locate these areas on your map (and you should) before ever leave your house. 

Lipless Crank
When I approach an area that I plan to fish, finding the new and emerging grass is foremost on my  priority list. I will put the trolling motor on high and fan cast a lipless crankbait around until it snags new green grass. Again, finding vegetation isn't what you are going after. This time of year, there is a lot of dead grass. Find the new grass. When you find it, you will know. I will then slow down and use my lipless crank to probe the area and find the edges of the grass. As I work it, I will slow my retrieve speed to just slow enough to touch the top of the grass. Occasionally I will snag a piece. Normally, this is an aggravation to fishermen. In this case, it is usually just the action you need. When I encounter a snag, I will pop the bait free. I am not applying steady pressure to remove it. I am jerking it through. 9 out of 10 fish will hit after the jerk. 

When I find the edges, I will then continue to fan cast through the vegetation with the lipless crank, again using the technique described above. Every few casts, I will change to a yo-yo retrieve where I will allow the bait to fall, pop i up and reel, let it fall, and repeat. Again, the majority of the fish will hit on the drop. 

To accomplish these retrieves, I typically use a 7 foot magnum cranking rod with a 6.3:1 reel spooled with 30-50 pound braid. The braid cuts through the vegetation as well as allowing you to rip the bait through without stretching the line. 

I use the XCalibur XR50 and XR75 baits almost exclusively. I use a handful of colors such as Rayburn Red, Chartreuse Sexy, and Gold and Black Shiner. My color selection depends on the water stain and the sky condition. The cleaner and clearer the water and sky, the closer I want to natural colors. In some rare cases, I will go with other colors such as sexy shad for extra clear days, or royal red for heavy stain. Keep in mind that the grass filters the water wonderfully. So make sure you pay attention to water color in each specific area. All of that being said, in early February, I throw the Rayburn Red almost exclusively. 

Square Bill
If I am not finding the fish in the midst of the foliage, I will work the outside edges and adjacent areas outside of the foliage with a square bill. Square bills are one of those baits that can catch fish year round. But, it really excels this time of year because of its ability to move a lot of water with its wide wobble, deflect off of cover and ability to cover lots of water quickly. Though it is a very good heavy cover bait, fishermen are always hesitant to throw it around grass (or any crankbait) because of constant fouling. But, as we said earlier, getting into the grass can be your best friend. You just have the have the tools to work it through. My plan is to encounter JUST ENOUGH grass so that I can constantly be popping it through the grass without actually fouling it. I accomplish this by using 17 pound test flourocarbon on a 7 foot medium heavy rod and a 5.4:1 reel. The heavy gauge line helps keep it high in the water column while also providing the tensile strength to be popped through the grass. While most of my bites with the lipless are on the fall, the bites on the square bill will be vicious and hard. You won't have the ability to horse the fish through the grass like you will on the lipless because of the braid. With these hits, you will have to pop the fish hard to get them on top of the grass. 

There are a few specific bait brands I like:
  1. Spro Little John
  2. Xcalibur square bill
  3. Strike King square bill (the KVD 1.5, for example)

The former brand offers a little more uniqueness in its retrieve and sound, as it has a tighter wobble and a coated tungsten rattle.  However, it is very light and doesn't cast as far. The other two are almost interchangeable, though the XCalibur comes with better hooks and the Strike King comes in a silent model. In all of these, I am going to throw one of 3 colors: A red craw(Rayburn Red), Chartreuse Sexy, and Sexy. The latter is reserved for especially clear water, high skies, and tough bites. Now, here is a little homework for you: there is another brand that I firmly believe works better than the 3 brands listed. I reviewed it on this blog. Go find it....Merry Christmas. 

In all cases, I swap the front hook for a red #4 or #2 trebel hook. I want the fish aiming at the front hook. This will reduce the number of short strikes.  Additionally, the front hook is normally right below the D-ring to tie the bait onto your line.  After a hookup, it won't allow the fish to use the bait as a lever to get off. Lastly, with the rear hook free, you will sometimes get a hook into the side of the fish, further securing it. 

Texas Rigged Lizard
With this last bite, it bears a bit of caution. My uncle always told me that keep moving, despite how good you THINK the area looks. When you get a hit, anchor down. It is always possible that you simply bagged a random fish. But more often than not, you have found a group of fish. If I am fishing with a partner, I will have the front boater continue to throw the 2 crankbaits while the backboater throws a Texas rigged lizard. Now, you may like different creature baits better, and that's fine. But no plastic bait has caught me more fish than the Powerteam Lures 6" Gator. Over the last 2 years, every fish over 5 pounds I have caught in a tournament (it's not THAT many, but I would guess around 6) has been caught on a Gator. I peg my tungsten weight at the hook. If you don't only the weight itself will fall between clumps of grass. Later in the year, I like the lizard to have a slow fall as I work it, but during this time of the year, I want it to pop on the fish's head and surprise it. I typically use a 3/o hook on 17 pound flouro and a 7" medium heavy to heavy rod. 

There is no real magic to using a t-rigged lizard. You work it through the grass however you can. The only issue you are going to have is when when you pull the bait through grass and let it settle, many times the fish will hit it on the fall. When you take up slack, it may only feel like another clump of grass, initially. Sometimes the fish will shake and you will know it's a fish. Other times the fish may simply spit it out. To combat this, I use an attractant. Now, the PTL Hog Tonic isn't made to attract fish TO your bait. It is formulated to make fish HOLD ON to the bait with amino acids.  And, it does that spectacularly. Again, going back to the number of 5+ pound fish I have least 5 of them were surprise hits. Luckily, as I tightened the slack, the fish didn't spit the bait out because of the Hog Tonic. Again, pick your poison when it comes to this bait. I like the 6" Gator. You may like Zoom or Yum. You may prefer other creature baits. But, one thing I can tell you is this: there are exactly 3 colors to throw and two of those are completely interchangeable to me. I will throw a junebug or watermelon green flake. 

What's Next in the Rod Box
There is only 1 other bait that I MAY go to. I may go to a swimbait on a belly-weight hook (if foliage is thicker) or a lead head. Additionally, I may go for a swim jig. My go-to bait is the PowerTeam Lures Swinging Hammer. The warmer it gets, the more likely I am to throw this bait. 

I am not guaranteeing you anything with this writeup. So, don't think you are going to go out the first trip of the year and load the boat based upon this writeup. But, it works for me. Through experience, I have learned that I can drastically simplify fishing in this month of the year...even down to a specific water column, foliage condition, and a 3-bait selection. If you stick to this approach to the lake and fishing, you will find success. It's exactly what I will be doing all of this month.